THE Boston Marathon. My third attempt at this storied race. The whole weekend leading up to the main event is so jam-packed with events and expos that you have no time to even think about the 26.2 miles. But finally, what I’ve been waiting for: the moment when there’s nothing left to do but run. I live for this. Loaded in the corral, waiting for the gun. Months of training all leading up to this moment.
Mile one was crowded and off pace, but this was okay and part of the plan. I knew I could make up time later and had to save something for the hills, not trash my quads in the first few miles. The crowd never thinned so it took about 4 miles to work up to goal pace. I took my first gel at mile 5, and it did not go down well. Usually I can suck them down with no problems, but it tasted too sweet and syrupy, hard to swallow. I chased with a few sips of water trying to wash the taste away. About 5 minutes later my stomach started cramping. I thought it was a side stitch (unusual for me), tried to breath through it, and eventually it went away. The same thing happened after choking down half a gel at mile 10. And then again at mile 14. This was not good.
I made it to the half in 1:30, right on target. My plan was to hold steady until the hills, and then go by effort on the ups and pick up speed down the other side of the four Newton hills. Unfortunately this is not what happened. I started to feel tired around 15 miles, knowing my effort level was too high for the pace. My dad, his wife, and my aunt were waiting at mile 16 to cheer me on. I asked them to bring Coke for me, thinking it would give me a mega boost like it did during the 50 miler. My stomach had other ideas though. I couldn’t get down much of that sweet magic rocket fuel before feeling like I wanted to puke. I did end up getting it all over my gloves and shirt though, so it didn’t totally go to waste.
The wheels began to fall off at mile 17. My pace started dropping pretty drastically up the first hill. The legs felt like lead. It was probably due to lack of fuel, but the thought of taking another gel made my stomach turn. I tried to make up time on the downhills but even that was a struggle to get up to goal pace. The pelting rain picked up again around this time, adding insult to very windy injury. After painfully cresting Heartbreak, knowing I had a long downhill into the city, I tried to get the legs back up to speed but mile 21 ended up being my slowest at 7:32.
I tried to feed off the energy of the crowds through Cleveland Circle. Those BC kids were going wild, despite standing in the rain and wind for hours. I knew I was far off pace, but I had visions of getting a second wind and blasting through those last miles. Each slow mile that ticked off made me realize my goal was slipping away. At that point I was just hoping to hold onto a PR. The crowds helped ease the pain and I tried my best to keep a smile on my face through the gusting wind. As hard as I pushed, my legs would just not go any faster. I was freezing cold and started pleading with myself: “Okay 4 miles to go. That’s barely 25 minutes of running. You’ve hurt worse. Come on, just a little faster.”
My mom and Pon were waiting in the rain at mile 24, and my sister and brother were waiting at mile 25 with a hilariously insulting sign. That gave me a big mental boost. Eventually I passed the “One Mile to Go” sign, turned right on Hereford, and left on Boylston. The finish line was in sight. Yet oh so far away. I mustered up a pitiful kick and tried to finish strong. Crossing that finish line was so sweet. 3:04:52. Not what I wanted, but almost a 3 minute PR so I couldn’t be mad.
As soon as I stopped running the uncontrollable shivering started. The amazing volunteers handed me water and wrapped me in a space blanket. I had to make my way over to the family meeting area but made a stop in the medical tent first. I was shaking so much, and my hands hurt so bad, that I was sure I was on the verge of hypothermia. A nice cop in the med tent poured me a cup of coffee, but my hands were trembling so violently that I ended up spilling it all over myself. Hilarious, in retrospect. I left the tent and shuffled to the meeting spot. Sitting was impossible because my hip flexors would cramp almost instantly so I crouched behind a window ledge and a kind lady blocked the wind on my legs with her umbrella. I felt quite ill at this point and had to focus on slow breathing so I didn’t puke all over the sidewalk. My mom and Pon finally fought their way through the crowds and security check points to find me in my zombie-like state. They peeled off my soaking clothes and bundled me up in multiple layers. It took almost an hour before I stopped shivering, and another few hours before I could get down any food. I was drained.
Some medals are harder won than others, and this one was particularly challenging. Last year’s Boston was the best race I will probably ever have, so expectations were high for this year. But with the weather and my stomach issues, it didn’t happen. And that’s okay. I know not every race can be magic, and some are going to hurt more than others. Things could have been a lot worse. I mean, I got to run The Boston freakin’ Marathon! For the third time!
People have been asking me what my next marathon is, where I will break 3 hours. To be honest, I was so sure I would get it at Boston that I never considered a backup plan. It’s left me in a bit of a funk, unsure of where to go next. I need some time away from the roads to heal and refocus. My next big race is the Tamalpa Headlands 50K in August so I’ll be spending long Saturdays out on that beautiful dirt. And then we’ll see what the Fall brings in terms of marathons. But for now, I am relaxing and soaking in the accomplishment of one monster weekend.
I want to end with a HUGE thank you to every single person that wished me luck, sent messages of encouragement, and braved the elements to see me run by for .3 seconds. I love you all and your words of support got me through this race.