1980 training miles, 48 Saturday mornings, 8 pairs of running shoes, endless packets of gu, and countless loads of laundry later..

GetAttachmentI finally crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon!  My race did NOT go as planned.  But if I’ve learned anything along the way it’s that you cannot plan everything out.  You have to go with the flow.
I was feeling so great in the days leading up to the race. Even though I knew I’d under trained (a month long illness in March really set me back mile wise) I thought I’d have a good race. A strong one. I loved the anticipation of and preparation for it. Marc’s cousin, Marisa (who was soooo good with our kids last year when everything happened at the finish line) was running this year too, so she came up on Saturday. We had a great time with her that night, and even more fun at the expo on Sunday. I love the expo! The kids love the expo – well at least they love all the free samples!  We strolled down to the finish line like we had the previous two years for a photo op, but this year I refused to step on it. This time I figured I’d leave that for the next day.
On Monday Marc left early with Marisa so she could catch a Wave 2 bus. I followed later after I’d dropped the kids at our friends house. We met up on the Common and loaded ourselves into the bus, along with Marc’s Samaritans teammates. The bus ride out was fun, but the traffic was crazy. I was starting to worry that we wouldn’t arrive on time but of course we did. We had just enough time in Athletes Village to stretch, grab some last minute food and head to the start.
The weather was warm, the sun was strong. I decided right from the beginning to take it easy. I thought I’d go out slow, take in the sights and sounds and save my energy for when I’d really need it. So Marc and I ran together for a little while which was nice, but his long strides can’t keep him at my pace for long. We agreed to meet at the finish. Running slower was a good way to experience the race- at first. I high fived so many little kids, and I think I read every single sign held along the way, or posted on other runners backs. They were so inspirational! I followed one woman whose shirt was telling me “you can do this!!” for a while. I thought YES I can do this! I AM doing this! It was great.
I loved running though Ashland and Framingham. I loved the little kids and the bikers partying on the sidelines. I loved the energy from the crowd. I was feeling happy. I couldn’t stop smiling. I felt GOOD. It felt great to see my friend Eric at Mile 11. I was thrilled to see other friends just before the scream tunnel at Wellesley College. I had fun in the scream tunnel… maybe a little too much fun. I think I high fived and woo-hoooed a bit too enthusiastically because right after that I started to think, wow I am tired. I can’t catch my breath. But my body still felt good. Legs were ok. I adjusted my breathing and my pace, and kept going. But it was starting to feel tough. I couldn’t tell if I was thirsty or if I’d had too much to drink. My stomach was woozy. When I saw my kids and Kathy and Kate at mile 16 I had to stop for a few minutes. It seemed like a good idea to hang out there for a while. In all honesty, right then all I really wanted to do was hop in the car with them and go home. But that pit stop rallied me a bit and I kept going. I was feeling good again when I saw Tina in Lower Falls and Justin at Newton Wellesley Hospital. Seeing them made me happy, and running happy always helps.
I’ve always hated that stretch in Newton before you make the turn. I think it’s the anticipation of what’s to come. The dread of the hills. This year I felt ok. I had a second wind. But then all of a sudden both my quads seized up. I have never felt such a sudden sharp pain like that. It literally dropped me to my knees for a few seconds and I thought- what the hell was that? But I got up and kind of jogged through it. But it kept happening. From mile 18 through mile 26 it would subside when I walked, then happen again when I started to run. It was really awful. The pain was breathtaking. I thought about going to a medical tent, but I didn’t want to waste the time. I only wanted to get to the finish. I knew I’d be walking most of it, but I wanted to keep moving. Get to the goal.
A few years ago (when I ran Providence instead of Boston) I never would have allowed myself to walk. Never would have considered it no matter what. Even last year I refused to walk. A few times last year I let myself walk through water stops but never out on the course. This year I didn’t have a choice. But it wasn’t so bad. I got to talk to other runners. I got a lot of encouragement from the crowd. Little kids offered me oranges (and they never tasted so good!). I stopped worrying about my time. I just wanted to make it.
Anyway, I made my slow progress up Heartbreak Hill and then limped, walked and sometimes ran my way through Brookline. When I hit the 40K mark I knew I was going to have to rally. My new goal was to run from the spot I’d been stopped at last year to the finish without any walking, no matter what my quads were doing. So that’s what I did. At the Mass Ave underpass I picked up my pace. My legs were screaming at me! My lungs were bursting from the effort, my eyes were tearing from the pain, but I was running. I made the turn onto Hereford and my heart just swelled! The crowds were insane!!! The noise was deafening!! I turned onto Boylston and forgot all about my legs. The cheering was incredible!! The spectators were joyous!! I thought about last year. I thought about my husband and how close he was to everything last year and how happy he must have been when he was on Boylston this year. I thought about Lingzi Lu, Martin Richard, Crystal Campbell and Sean Collier… I thought about all the people that were there last year and all the people that came back this year. The brave victims who are still struggling to heal because of what happened at the very spot I was passing. And then I saw my friend Mindy- my running partner, the person who sacrificed Saturdays and endured long, bitterly cold and snowy miles with me to help me get here. She was standing right where she had been last year, because she needed to do that. And I thought THIS is what it’s all about. It doesn’t matter that my pace was way off, that my legs were on fire, that it wasn’t my best race. I was finishing something that needed to be finished. For me, but also for so many others. The yellow and blue line was getting closer and closer. And I thought- we are all still here. We have done this. We have taken back our race. And then I was done. I crossed. After three years of trying, after obstacles both small and large, after everything that had happened between when I first set the goal and that very moment, I did it. It was done. Finished.





One response to “1980 training miles, 48 Saturday mornings, 8 pairs of running shoes, endless packets of gu, and countless loads of laundry later..”

  1. Mary Kate Ellenton Avatar
    Mary Kate Ellenton

    I always knew you were the balls – you never had to prove it. I see it here in writing and I am in awe. Thank you for owning that finish line. It’s yours. If I were as ballsy as you, then I’d wear that 2014 Finishers Medal every day. 🙂

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