The 122nd Boston Marathon
Updated: Apr 20, 2018
This race epitomized what I’ve said dozens of time about running having it’s ups and downs. The women’s champion, Desi Linden, in a post-race interview, said her plan was to “ride the wave”. The first American woman to win the Boston Marathon in 33 years! Her plan was to ride the wave. She thought about dropping out. Seriously sort of planned on dropping out. That gives some perspective to my race. I wrote much of this Monday after the race. Well after the race, a shower, some food, and relaxation. But, I didn’t want to post until I’d really thought about it. Had a little time to objectively think about the experience. But not too much time to dull the raw emotion of it.
It was really cold, really wet, and really windy. I wore layers to Athlete Village. For those who are not familiar, this is where all the non-elite runners hang out until the walk to the corrals. A couple of fields outside of a school with tents and Port-a-pottys. And tens of thousands of runners. Layering included a trash bag and a poncho. Grocery bags over my shoes. Anything I could do to stay as warm and dry as possible before the start. I stripped down on the walk to the starting corrals to shorts, tank, arm sleeves, gloves, and hat. Opted to keep the poncho. It seemed to help to not have the cold rain directly on my skin. On the walk, thought about my goals again. The A goal of 3:10 was unrealistic. The wind gusts could stop you in your tracks. The B goal of a PR. Maybe, but unlikely. The C goal of 3:20. Doable.
Made it to the corral with only two minutes before the start of the wave. Fine with me. Less standing around. Off we go!! Wave 2 of the 122nd Boston Marathon is headed to Boston! The first bit is all down hill. My poncho was long, so kept getting wrapped up around my legs. Easy fix. Bunched up the end and tied a knot. 80s t-shirt style. My splits were 7:46 and 7:38 for the first two miles. This is usually the too fast part of the course. That throws A and B goals out the window. And, C goal is teetering on the edge. The conditions were harder than I gave them credit for. Decided then to just go with it. Run by feel.
That decision was really weird for me. I’ve never not had a time goal in a marathon. Even it is an “easy” time for me. I still kept the C goal of 3:20 in my head. Sort of. Didn’t check my splits. Planned on simply enjoying the experience of another Boston Marathon. That, also, turned out to be a tall order. The weather was brutal. Relentless rain. Sometimes light, sometimes hard. Sometimes pelting rain straight in my face. Steady wind. Strong gusts. Cold. Really cold. Feels-like temps in the low 30s. The saving grace really was the crowd! The folks who stood for hours in those miserable conditions just to cheer on strangers!! The girls in Wellesley are always entertaining. A guy in front of me stopped for more than one kiss. Brought a smile to my face. I kept that poncho on. Every time I thought about taking it off, the rain would pick up or a strong gust come across. Nope. Not losing it. Checked my watch again at the halfway point. On pace for 3:18 or so.
The hard part was yet to come. More frequent bands of heavy rain. The Newton hills. My hands were going numb. Without being committed to a time goal, I lost focus. It made this the most mentally difficult marathon I’ve ever run. A few awesome patches of spectators picked me up. I gave high fives to a bunch of kids. Then, I had to pee. I seriously considering just letting it fly, so to speak. But, without commitment to a time goal, what’s a 20-30 sec detour? No worries. Easy stop. Enter into Newton hills. This is a tough mental and physical part of the course on a good day. Medical tents started to look inviting. But I stuck it out. Desi Linden said she kept taking it “just one more mile”. I didn’t know at the time that was the winner’s mindset, but I was doing a similar thing. Just an hour plus behind her. And, without the media coverage. Then, I needed go. Number 2. (As a side note, it makes me feel a little better that Shalane Flanagan, American elite, NYC 2017 Marathon Champion, needed a potty break.) Only once before has this happened during a race. And, then, I sucked it up and survived the final 4 miles because I didn’t want to lose the time. Today, why suffer? Make the stop. Oh, that was more difficult than anticipated. Dealing with a poncho (yes, I still had it on), soaking wet tank and spandex shorts with mostly numb, gloved fingers. Not easy. Not quick. That mile split was 9:06 (I checked after the race). Good thing I had conceded any time goal.
I was back on course a little before mile 20. Just in time for Heartbreak Hill. Mentally, I had found some resolve. Owning my decision to run by feel. Living the moment. Let’s do this final 10K. It got mentally easier each mile. But, not physically. I hurt. From the cold. I was freezing. Head to toe. Things hurt. My hands. My arms. My legs. Not the normal I just ran 20 miles hurt. A different hurt. My splits slowed, as did my spirits. And then, the Citgo sign. One mile to go. Only one more mile. Under the overpass, and up the other side. I could see the right-hand turn onto Hereford. I finally ditched my poncho. Need to have my bib showing for those race photos. I did pre-order, after all. Up Hereford, left onto Boylston. I slowed down to soak it in. The struggle of the past 3 hours was worth it. No matter how miserable I felt. The crowd did not disappoint! I teared up. I’ve never teared up in a marathon. Ever. I savored every step on Boylston. Listening to the cheers. Seeing the finish line inch closer. I didn’t care about the clock. I’d only glanced at my watch once since halfway. I knew I had slowed, but I was finishing. I was persevering through the toughest race conditions, physically and mentally, I’d ever experienced. On one of the most challenging courses. I crossed the finish line, arms raised. Then I cried. Relief. Accomplishment. Appreciation. Owning it. Living it. Being it. A Boston Marathon finisher.