Now that I’ve gotten the very emotional, still a little bit in shock, Boston recap out of the way, I also wanted to write a breakdown of race day and the actual course from a runner’s perspective.
Before I start, I’d like to acknowledge that this may only be interesting to approximately five people out there. But I personally love reading race recaps, and I’ve never written one before. Plus, I’m not ready to stop talking about Boston yet, but I’m pretty sure everyone in my life is ready for me to stop talking about it. Let’s call this a happy medium.
Also – I got an almost 40-minute PR so, I’m going to write about it. Sorry, not sorry.
Leading into the race, I was a nervous WRECK. I checked the weather forecast 100 times a day (a conservative estimate), talked to anyone who would listen about what I should wear for each weather scenario and reminded the people meeting me along the course multiple times about the importance of them bringing gear bags for me along the way. (Spoiler alert – the only thing I ended up taking from them was water bottles and energy chews.)
When I woke up at 5AM the day of the marathon to lightning, thunder and torrential rain, I thought I was going to have a heart attack right there in my bed. My fear of not finishing (again) outweighed my fear of the weather, however, so I got out of bed, stretched, got ready and my mom drove me to Hopkinton, where I took a shuttle bus to the start.
Luckily for me, the rain halted well before I made it to Athlete’s Village. But that’s when the humidity set in. Riding the bus into the village, the windows fogged up on the inside so much that I couldn’t see out at all. That was when I knew, being a runner that historically performs much better in cold than in heat, I had to throw out any ideas of time and simply focus on, as my mom always says, “finishing and feeling good.”
All in all, my time in Hopkinton flew by – aided by two things. First, they moved up Wave 4’s start time, so we sort of skipped the corral thing and pretty much hit the course right after Wave 3. Secondly, my brother was a police officer working at the start line. Being able to say hi to him before the race began helped my nerves significantly, as did pointing out to bystanders just how handsome he looked in uniform. (Yes, he wanted to kill me.) In fact, I was so busy waving to him as I jogged toward the start line that I seriously didn’t realize I’d crossed the pad and officially begun the race. No kidding… I was still holding my headphones in my hand when I had a literal “oh, shit!” moment.
And then I was running the 2019 Boston Marathon!
Miles One – Ten
Oh man. I was running the Boston Marathon. It was happening. I’ll admit to getting a little teary as I began the race, only because I couldn’t stop thinking about how different I felt this time than three years prior.
When I ran (and DNFed due to breaking my hip on the course) Boston in 2016, I don’t remember a lot of it except those first few minutes after I crossed the start line. I remember feeling excruciating pain with every step. Pain that, in retrospect, probably meant I should have halted as soon as I crossed that starting pad. But I didn’t – which is a story I’ve told ad nauseam. Getting to start this marathon and not only feel good, but feel strong, was unbelievable. I flew by the biker bar grinning widely, because not only was I doing it, I was enjoying it.
My goal was to pace around 9-minute miles throughout the race, and my first few turned in around 8:59. That was a little fast, but nothing like the “don’t go out too fast” jitters I’d been warned about, so I felt pretty comfortable with the time.
However, one thing I realized quickly was that the heat and humidity was going to be a problem. By the time I hit Framingham center, I could feel myself sweating through my singlet, which was earlier than usual for me to get overheated on a typical long run. Compounding the humidity issue was that the promised cloud cover seemed to have evaporated and the sun was BEATING down on me. It was preferable to cold, wind and rain, I reminded myself, and instead I focused on getting fluids into me, forcing myself to hit up every water stop.
I met my parents in Natick center, right around mile ten, and I felt GREAT. I was so excited to see them that I actually sprinted a few yards to where they were standing, give them hugs and high fives, and grab my water and energy gels. I felt so good, I didn’t want to spend too long standing there, so I returned to the run pretty quickly after.
Miles Ten – Fifteen
Here’s where things got a little tricky. Overall, I still felt good. I was nervous about my hip, but didn’t even feel a twinge of pain throughout the entire race. But right around mile 11, I started to get shooting pain in both of my feet.
Now, normally my feet start to ache by the end of a long run, which I’ve sort of started to think is inevitable. But this felt different – each step felt like I was getting stung by bees across the entire top and sides of each foot.
I knew my boyfriend and two of my best friends were waiting for me just outside Wellesley Center, and that would mark right about the halfway point. I did my best to ignore the foot pain and make it to them, which again, predictably, gave me a boost. Almost immediately after I saw them, I saw a girl with a sign that said “You’re more than halfway done with the Boston Marathon!” It may have only been true by a few feet, but just seeing that being held aloft made me feel good.
Still, my foot pain persisted. And then – a lightbulb went off. I’d been so nervous before the start that I’d tied and retied my sneakers a hundred times, worried about the laces coming loose. What if I tied my shoes too tightly? I thought, and then I literally started laughing out loud.
I quickly dodged to the side of the course, bent down, loosened my laces, and started off again. And boom – the foot pain was entirely gone, never to return. Best 15 seconds I spent all race. (Moron.)
I was tracking for a sub-4 finish when I saw my boyfriend and friends, which they told me after. Thank god they didn’t tell me then, because I probably would have focused on that instead of finishing and feeling good.
Because when I hit the Newton Hills, those fuckers slammed me with the proverbial wall.
I ran those hills. I ran them a million times in two Boston Marathon training cycles. And still, they kicked my ass on race day. There’s just no replicating the conditions of a race – the weather, the emotions, the crowd – and for whatever reasons, the Newton Hills were where my wheels came off a bit.
Of course, it was also when the sun felt like it was the highest in the sky. I could feel my shoulders and arms roasting, and knew I’d end up with a brutal sunburn at the end of the day. There was nothing I could do now, though, so instead I turned to a more pressing task at hand: hydration. Just as I passed the Newton firehouse (the unofficial base of the hill, I’ve always thought), I saw some spots dancing in my vision and felt a little dizzy.
Oh, hell no. I wasn’t going to pass out from dehydration when I’d made it this far. Instead, I grabbed everything I could from spectators – orange slices, water, popsicles – and made sure to hit up every water stop I saw, usually grabbing two cups.
By Newton Wellesley Hospital, a firefighter had opened a fire hydrant to create a mist effect. If you’re reading this, god bless you. That was the best two seconds of my race day.
On the hills themselves, there was nothing to do but grit my teeth and keep moving. I kept reminding myself that the pain would abate once they were over, and then I’d pick a spot ahead of me and focus on just running to that spot. Then, I’d pick another. Somehow (God? Beyonce? Thinking about Tom Brady being at finish line?) I made it to the top of the hill, where I saw the Mahans, two family friends, and was probably the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.
If you make it to the top, you’re home, my mom had told me over and over. As I passed the mile 21 market, it was time to take it home.
Mile 21 – 26
Here is my hot take: the miles from BC to the Citgo Sign are the worst in the marathon. Worse than the hills.
I honestly don’t have a lot to share from these miles. My feet hurt. My sunburn hurt. I felt like I was running and running and running and getting nowhere. My energy started to dip, and my enthusiasm all but bottomed out.
This was when I started talking to myself, dedicating a mile to a specific person, and somehow, I eventually saw the Citgo sign in the distance.
Running through Kenmore was the second moment I teared up. I was still early enough (thanks, PR time!) that the crowd was HUGE. I’m talking six to seven people deep in spots, all of them roaring and screaming and most of them h-a-m-m-e-r-e-d. The nice day might have roasted me to a crisp, but at least it meant the spectators got some quality day drinking in!
Before I knew it, I was turning onto Hereford with just .2 miles to go.
Just kidding, that .2 down Boylston was the longest goddamn .2 miles of my life. The finish line felt like a mirage. It wasn’t getting any closer! How was that possible?!
The crowds were loud and screaming here, too (so loud I absolutely missed my entire family, sorry guys), and I had tunnel vision the entire way. It was happening. It was happening. Holy shit, everything hurt.
The clouds had rolled in, and the rain started almost at the same time I crossed across that finish line. But they called my name as I ran across (which was amazing and unbelieveable) and nothing stopped me from probably the biggest smile I’ve ever had on my face. I’d done it. I’d finally run the Boston Marathon.
It was a journey three years and a hell of a lot of pain in the making, but it was worth every single step. I’d do it all again for the out-of-body feeling I had when that medal was finally placed around my neck. I was a Boston Marathoner, and man, did that feel good.