This picture basically sums up my Boston experience:
A face full of pain and a mind full of joy! The 118th Boston Marathon was hands down incredible. It was painful. It was sad. It was inspiring. It was overwhelming. It was amazing.
From the time my friend Vicki and I got in line to load the bus to the start line all the way til the moment I crossed the finish line, everything about this race and experience had a “we are all in this together” feel. A marathon has a great potential to be a very lonely race and experience. Running in general can be a lonely experience, especially when you are out there for 26.2 miles. However, the Boston Marathon made me feel like I was part of something much greater, and there was never even a second when I wasn’t being encouraged by fellow runners or fans along the course.
I spent the majority of the weeks leading into the race hoping and praying that my foot could make it through 26.2 miles. I was not incredibly optimistic, though. The 10 miler I had done the week before really crushed my confidence. I hadn’t felt pain that bad before, and I knew that if I felt that during the marathon, I would need to stop in order to keep my peroneal tendon from tearing. Standing on the starting line of the Boston Marathon, I thought to myself, there is probably a 30% chance I will make it to the finish line, but here goes nothing!
Well it went. And it was not nothing. It was everything. The first 8-9 miles were mainly downhill and I just went for it. My coach told me to go out in the 6:25-6:30 range, which is exactly what I did. I made friends with other runners on the start line and cracked jokes as we ran through town after town. I “ran into” two guys I ran in college with and chatted it up with them for a few minutes. I smiled a lot. Thanks to my friend Vicki, she made us t-shirts with our names on the front, so I got more “GO CARRIE” cheers than I have ever gotten in my life! That was awesome. I think I will wear that shirt every race I run from here on out.
Then I hit mile 9. And I had this very odd thing happen. My thighs locked up. It was out of nowhere and it had never happened to me before. Ever… Mile 9 out of a 26.2 mile race is not ideal timing to have your thighs lock up. I tried massaging them as I ran. That was awkward and did not work. I tried stopping to stretch them out. That made it worse. I paused at a med tent and asked if they had any Icy Hot I could put on my legs. “Icy Hot? What? No. We have Vaseline?” was the response I got. Oh dear. If there was any positive side to my legs locking up, it was that it masked the pain from my foot. It of course slowed me down, and made the last 17.2 miles insanely painful, but at the same time it allowed me to look around and half-enjoy the experience. I knew I was going to finish. Especially once I passed the 13 mile mark, I knew there was NO WAY I wouldn’t finish. It was going to be painful. It was going to be slower than I wanted. But I was going to finish the Boston Marathon – and that made my heart feel really good.
My family and friends stood at mile 24. I knew they were tracking me on their phones so every time I crossed over one of the timing mats, I smiled knowing they’d see that I was still running and that my foot hadn’t gotten so painful that I needed to stop yet. Just before I got to them, I encountered heartbreak hill. Leading into the race, this was supposed to be my toughest moment. However, because the pain in my thighs hurt so bad running on flat and downhill surfaces, uphill was actually a “break” for them. My pace going UP heartbreak hill was about a minute per mile faster than my pace for the rest of the race. Ridiculous. Stupid thighs!!!
Anyway, my friends and family made me tear up, in a good way. They carried hand-made signs and shouted encouraging words louder than anyone else out there. I smiled, waved, then pointed to my thighs and gave a whiny pain face to let them know what I was going through. But to them, it didn’t seem to matter! They were just happy I was finishing – as was I!
Some pictures of my amazing sign-holding friends:
Megan and Colleen
Megan, Jessi, and Colleen by the famous Citgo sign!
And some more race fun:
Fist-pumping down Beacon Street!
Pain face. Attractive.
All in all, I went into the Boston Marathon not certain I was a huge fan of the distance. It was only my second marathon ever. And after it was over, I wanted nothing more than to sign up for the next one. I am now a Boston “lifer”. I will run that marathon every year I can qualify for it. This was the first of many. Now I know what I’m getting myself into in terms of the “course beating up your legs” aspect. Yes, it’s a fast course, but only if you train for it right. I will do a lot more downhill training next time. I will also make sure I do not get injured 3 weeks before, and will not take the 4 days before the race completely off of running. I will wear a belt next time that I can store my Gu’s in so I don’t have to run with them in my hands. I will bring a mini water bottle that I can use to drink out of instead of pouring cups of water all over my face at each water stop. I will pack mini Icy Hot packets in my belt to use IF the muscle lock-up happens again.
The most important take-away is that finishing the Boston Marathon is an out-of-this-world experience. Vicki finished as well, and although her time was not on target for what she wanted, she felt the same way. Finishing is what it’s all about. Soaking in the encouragement from the sidelines is the point. Running FOR Boston is what it’s all about. There was no “I” in this marathon. It was an “us” race. We all did it together. The runners, the fans, the city of Boston. I will be back, Boston! Next year, and the year after that, and maybe the one after that, for as long as I can qualify for it! Thank you for making me fall in love with every step of the Boston Marathon.