There are 3 weeks left, everybody. Three weeks until the biggest physical effort of my entire life. Three weeks until all of this crazy training and sweating and pain pays off. Three weeks until I can devote myself to all of my other hobbies. Three weeks until the 114th Boston Marathon!
In celebration of the momentous occasion nearly being here, yesterday I completed the SECOND largest physical effort of my entire life (currently in first place until April 19th!) and ran 21 miles from Hopkinton to Boston College along the official course! After the insane monsoon 19-miler of two weeks ago I was totally freaking out about this run, terrified that I would once again hit the wall at 17 miles and have to crawl up Heartbreak Hill, which was the culmination of the course. Friday night, despite going to bed at an extremely reasonable hour, was less than restful.
Bright and very early on Saturday morning I woke up to meet teammates Nandi, Kelly, and Brandt at Alewife Station so that we could arrive at BC for 7, where we would board buses that would bring us to Hopkinton. (Thank you for driving, Brandt!) I sat next to Nandi on the bus and did my best not to let my jitters manifest in too much fidgeting – Coach Rick warned us that this is a fine way to waste energy. Luckily my teammates provided some much needed entertainment and distraction in the form of whistling, crossword puzzles, and an argument over whether “Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah” is the same song as “I‘ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad.” (Click the link if you care to find out the answer to that one – let’s just say that my position was LARGELY correct but in the end I have to give the points to Todd and Nandi.)
When we disembarked in Hopkinton the day was bright, sunny, and horrifyingly cold. Apparently March has decided to go OUT like a lion this year, manifesting in 20° temperatures that most of us were ill-prepared for. As my fingers froze into icicles and I was bemoaning my lack of gloves, a girl from another team mentioned to our friend Peter that Saucony was giving away FREE gloves at the tent behind us. Hot dang! Not only could I warm up, the gloves were really nice! Score one for unpreparedness! We then more comfortably waited for teammates Jess and Lisa to get off their bus, and set off around 8:30. Despite the cold the day was gorgeously sunny, and once we were truly underway I warmed up considerably.
As with the 19 miler I ran with Lisa and Teresa, and we added Jess to our merry band – it was her first time trying the run/walk and I hope she found it useful! While it felt silly with folks breezing past us in those first ten minutes, by the time we hit mile 10 or so it was definitely worth it – my legs still felt fresh and good, the run felt comfortable and easy. We were maintaining a 10.5 minute mile on average – while I’d love to be faster I think this pace will see me through to the finish line with a smile on my face in a way that keeping up with Kelly and Nandi at 9.5 will not. Our little group kept up a happy conversation throughout the entire run, so I believe it was a comfortable pace for us all. We were continually either just in front of or just behind Todd, giving a spirit of friendly competition to the day.
At various points throughout I kept saying “I feel great!” and then immediately chastising myself that we hadn’t really gone that far yet – only 6 miles, only 10 miles, only a half marathon. After all, we had to go 21 – and the Newton Hills awaited us at the very end. For those of you who don’t know, the Boston Marathon runs a course that is largely downhill until you reach Newton, where the hills loom suddenly and constantly for almost 4 miles. This can be the undoing for many a runner – the urge to go as fast as you can on the downhill is strong, but you’ll burn out your calves and your energy and have nothing left for the hills. I saw many people walking Heartbreak, and one poor soul sitting on the sidewalk, massaging life back into his calf. I was determined not to go down in a blaze of irony and so tried to keep myself in check.
When we reached Newton, however, and I still felt good I knew I had to take those hills with everything I had left. By the time we reached Heartbreak there was only about 1.5 miles left and I went for it, charging up like the devil himself was after me. Jess, who had been sidelined for three weeks with a cold, proved that she’d made an awesome recovery when she caught up to me. I felt great, like all of my training, the myriad hills of Somerville, the rain and snow and slush we ran in, the horrible stiff legs, was all leading up to this. We passed Nandi and Kelly, already finished with their run and with my camera in hand, to kindly take this:
(Jess looks a bit more dramatic, but you can tell by my dimple that I am grinning ear to ear!)
As we crossed the chalk finish line and accepted our plastic leis from a volunteer, I felt an incredible sense of joy because I knew if I had to, I could keep running. I will do this all again in three weeks and I WILL finish the next five miles, I WILL cross the finish line, I WILL take my medal and I WILL do it with a smile on my face. I may not be the fastest, but on April 19th I plan to run my own race my own way. What more could I want from this crazy journey?
Right after we finished I forced as many of my teammates as I could find into a sweaty, salt-stained photo. Thanks, you guys, for keeping me sane and smiling!
From left to right that’s Jess, me, Kelly, Nandi, Lisa, and Todd, some of the best teammates a gal could have! (Besides myself, of course. I can’t be me AND a teammate at the same time. That would require some sort of clone – or perhaps a wormhole?)