Before I really start, let me clarify that the Boston Marathon isn't just a race, it is a 26.2-mile-long party--and I'm not kidding. I felt like I was running along a parade route. Spectators lined both sides from start to finish, and there was music blasting, live bands, a couple of drum lines, dozens of neighborhood parties, signs, bounce houses, horns, megaphones, whistles, balloons, cheering, clapping, people spraying the runners with garden hoses and handing out oranges, water, popsicles, ice, etc. I had my iPod, but half the time I couldn't even hear my music over the cheering crowd; hundreds of thousands of people watched the race. It was unreal.
Awesome vacation with the family in NYC and then Boston, where we used almost every transportation method available (plane, taxi, foot, subway, bus, shuttle, train, amphibious vehicle). Check.
Increasingly nervous checking of the Boston weather forecast as every day the predicted temperature got higher. Check.
Email from Boston Athletic Association informing participants that the heat would be in the red zone, and they strongly encouraged participants not to run if we: undertrained, were only used to cool weather, had several underlying conditions, were not extremely fit, were sick in any way, etc. Check.
Second email from Boston Athletic Association reiterating that it’s going to be incredibly hot (mid to upper 80s) and if you can say yes to any of the listed situations, you should not run. And they really mean it. Check.
Third email from Boston Athletic Association telling us again (in case we missed the first two emails) that it’s going to be very hot, and if we do decide to run to understand that this race is not one for personal records and that it will be imperative to adjust accordingly, i.e. hydrate well and slow down. To quote the email: “Speed kills.” Check.
Call out to friends online for good vibes because at this point I’m getting nervous. Check.
Overwhelming encouragement and support from the best friends in the world. (Thank You!!) Check.
Carb loading because I dragged my family out for the race, and I’m completing it, Dangit, even if I have to walk the thing. Check.
Revise race goal to finishing in under four hours and not needing medical attention. Check.
Getting up at 4:45 a.m. on race day, and tiptoeing around hotel room to get ready. Check.
Catch a ride at 5:30 a.m. to the subway station with fellow runner and his wife (thanks nice couple from upstate New York whose names I can’t remember) so I don’t have to pay for a taxi. Check.
Ride the subway downtown and read newspaper left on the seat with a front page picture of 2nd place woman’s overall winner last year collapsed across the finish line and in need of medical help. The article speculated about the medical attention that will be needed for this year’s race. Check.
New onslaught of nerves. Thanks a lot, newspaper. Check.
Follow the crowd out of the subway and see the line of school buses stretching as far as I can see to shuttle runners to the start line. Check.
Getting on the bus and sharing a seat with a really nice woman named Janet, who shared the elevator-pitch story of her life (born and raised in Alaska, moved to Boston, then to upstate New York, has two kids, this is 2nd Boston), Boston Marathon tips, and her SPF 50 sunscreen. Check.
And it was on the bus to the start when I realized that I was going to experience something a little different. You see, we had a police escort. The police shut down the freeway to allow us to get to the start, and then opened it back up again after the buses passed through. That was a first.
We unloaded at the Athlete's Village in Hopkinton, which is the whole campus of the town's junior high and high school, with an unreal number of port-o-johns (isn't that so East coast?) lining the perimeter, some really large tents, and an announcer playing music, telling jokes, and directing race traffic next to the jumbo screen.
The people kept coming, along with some costumes (dear person wearing the large Elmo head, I hope you didn't end up in the hospital), the large banners, and the lines to the port-o-johns. It's a good thing the waiting area is so nice, because you're there for a long time. Eventually, like cattle being herded into a chute, 20,000 of us dropped our stuff off in the buses that would be waiting at the finish line and filed into the road lined by metal barricades. That's where I saw my first spectators.
We kept shuffling toward the start line, and eventually got there. This is what it looked like almost 2/10 of a mile from the start.
And at this point I could hear music and a commentator. Spectators lined both sides of the street, cheering and whistling and blowing horns and clapping and making noise. It was a great send off. And the cheering and spectators lasted the entire race.
The first two miles were hot hot. As in, "Oh my gosh, are you serious?" hot. After that, I think I got used to the heat--or at least my body realized that we were seriously going to run 26 miles in it (the highest recorded temperature along the course was 89 degrees). I drank water and Gatorade at every water station, and settled in to enjoy the experience.
I have to give a big shout out to the 10-year-old girls in Newton who were the first to give me ice and to the Buddha guy who was handing out orange slices. A big thank you to the firefighters who opened a fire hydrant, and to all the spectators who sprayed us with water.
I missed the hubby's text saying where to look for him, the kids, and our friends from New York who drove over for the race, so we missed each other at mile 6. They did, however, get to see the Elite Men group run by.
They waited at mile 17, anxiously looking for me...
Then they loaded up on a free BBQ, and collected free pom poms, clappers, cowbells, and a jump rope. (Remember at the beginning when I said it was a party?)
Meanwhile, I continued on my way to Heartbreak Hill and beyond. Heartbreak Hill isn't that bad, not when you run the hills around my house. But it comes at mile 20, so you're pretty tired by that point. I think I passed more people on that hill than the rest of the course. The spectators just got thicker as we got closer to the Finish line, and at the end you round a corner and go down a block past a massive church like this one.
Then you turn another corner and all of a sudden you are hit with this wall of sound and people lined up on either side in every available space and in front of you is the giant blue and yellow arch that declares FINISH. Just a side note, to get in the bleachers at the finish you have to have a ticket, and to get within a few blocks of it, people camp out overnight. I'm serious.) So I start to sprint (I can't believe I could sprint still) and make it across the finish line. A line of orange-jacket-clad volunteers cheer me on, and I step aside to pull my phone out of my fuel belt with fumbling fingers (because your fine motor coordination is only working marginally better than your math skills) and turn to take a pic. A nice volunteer asks if I'd like him to take one of me and I probably alarmed him with my effusive thanks.
I am so happy! I did it!
3 hrs. 54 min. 13 sec.
And no medical attention required!
(Unlike the dozens of people getting wheeled away on wheelchairs and puking lemon-lime Gatorade on the curb. It will be a really long time before I can drink that flavor again.)
Fifteen or twenty minutes later, my husband calls and they finally made it to the finish by subway. I literally outran them. We meet up and I get a "good job" hug.
You see the look on my face in the next pic? You can tell I was still suffering Marathon Brain.
For those who like statistics, I finished 7329 overall out of 21554, 1882 out of 8966 women, and 1364 out of 4580 in my division. That's not too shabby. :) The volunteers were great, the crowd was ah-maz-ing, and it was a total blast! I would definitely do it again. I have to thank all the friends and neighbors who talked me into running the race. I thought of you all during that 26 miles of heat, and the encouragement from everyone helped keep me going.
And here's the fancy finisher medal, which is hanging in a prominent place in my room. I earned that puppy. I might just give it a name and sleep with it under my pillow.