Alert: This post will be quite long, and probably a bit mushy.

Yesterday was the hardest thing I have ever done. Yesterday was the greatest day of my life. Yesterday I ran the 114th Boston Marathon, and I had so many wonderful people with me, and cheering for me, I can’t even believe it. My goals were to finish, to do it smiling, and to do it in under five hours. I’m going to try to recount some of my experience for you.

It started bright and very early on the Boston Common. Nandi’s husband, the Baby Panda, was kind enough to get up very early to drive Nandi, Kelly, and myself to the Common to catch the buses the B.A.A. provided to take us to Hopkinton. We met a portion of the rest of our team (and Meghan!) at Lisa’s lovely apartment across from Common, then all trooped out to get on the bus. There was a line, so we started walking, and walking…and walking…
That picture gives a tiny inkling of the size of the line. By some miracle we somehow spotted another, shorter line, and then a wonderful bossy woman told us to go to the fountain, where we could get into an individual bus line! The line we chose ended up being…directly across from Lisa’s apartment. It was like being in a cartoon. After a brief drama in which it looked like we were going to lose half the group to a full bus (thanks to the kindly bus driver who assured we didn’t!), we were on our way!

After about an hour (plus another half hour just to pull in!) we arrived in Hopkinton, at Athlete’s Village! Hurray! The first thing we did, as any sensible person would, is head straight for the Porta-Potties. The next thing we did was to head for the back field (the Village is set up on the grounds of the high school) and the Boston Partners banner, where we were to meet the rest of the team and our fantastic support crew – Minh, Miki, Judy and Pamela from Boston Partners. Thanks for being our sherpas, ladies!

Here’s Kelly, Nandi, and I waiting for Wave 2 to be called!
Team I Heart Grueling!
Kelly, as ever, looks amazing, Nandi looks adorable, and I kind of look like a squinty-eyed wreck, but I assure you, I felt good!
Soon enough it was time to head over to the corrals and get going! We left our bags with the ladies and walked the half mile or so to the start. Once we were underway it was a good 15 minutes or so to get over the line – there were that many people waiting to run. There was this amazing sound of thousands of shoes slapping the pavement all at once – somehow quiet and loud at the same time. Hopkinton seemed to be filled mostly with the folks who lived there, and they quickly set the standard for the entire day – more cheering and hand slapping than I could have imagined.

Lisa started with me, and we marveled at the gigantic snake of people that stretched before us. We employed run/walk from the outset and after an initial fumble found a good rhythm for it by timing them to the water stations, which came every mile. These were a sea of discarded cups, slightly terrifying to navigate due to the mushy paper pulp that the thousands of feet had churned them into. If that weren’t bad enough, the Gatorade made the road horrifically sticky – my right shoe took on a rubbery, springy quality that lasted for the rest of the run.

As we wended our way through the 8 towns of the marathon, the excitement and cheers continued. I made it a point to try to high five any little kids who seemed to left hanging. At mile 12 we reached the infamous Wellesley scream tunnel. For those of you who don’t know, the ladies of Wellesley College are pretty much out en masse to scream for the marathoners going by. The noise was unbelievable – we could hear it coming from about a quarter mile away! High fives and signs for free kisses abound on this stretch – and since it occurs just before the half-marathon mark in Wellesley, the energy boost is much-needed.

Sadly, at mile 14 I abandoned Lisa in favor of a pit stop. I was hoping to avoid this, but decided to lose the minutes in exchange for a happier run up Heartbreak, which was looming in another 5 miles. Luckily the wait for a Porta-Potty was quick and I was soon underway again – but now suffering from some rather nasty pain in my chest, thanks to the allergies that apparently decided to kick in just then. I took my inhaler, but the final 12 miles were spent breathing at half-capacity. In better news, that was also when I saw the first spectator cheering for me, specifically, rather than me, generic runner – the one and only Hillary Chazen, our recruitment manager, was jumping up and down like nothing I have ever seen. It was a huge boost!

As I pushed through the miles before Newton I began to feel a bit of soreness in my legs, as well as a tiny bit of sadness that I was now alone. I munched my pretzels and focused my attention on how I would run Heartbreak. Another boost came at mile 16.5 – not the Powergel station, which I bypassed in the favor of my own, real food, but in the form of my mom, screaming my name, and my dad and sister, taking pictures and beaming. I stopped to give them a quick hug before soldiering on.

Waving to the family!

As I hit the fire station that marks the start of the Newton Hills I was definitely beginning to flag. Oddly, however, the hills didn’t feel as hard as they did on our training runs – the middle of the road made them seem smaller and more rolling. As I toiled I was surprised to hear my name (my real name; I’d put my nickname on my arm for crowd encouragement). I turned and, after a squinting a moment, realized it was my friend Abby jumping up and down! Thus emboldened, I ascended Heartbreak and pushed through the friendly and very drunk students of Boston College and Cleveland Circle.

At 22-23 further encouragement awaited – the amazing team of Nandi’s mom, sister, and our friends Sarah, Maggie, and Nadia were waiting for me with cow bells and some of the loudest cheers yet! Shortly after that I saw Jess and Emily, cleverly placed on the left with no one around them so that they couldn’t be missed. At this point I was running farther than I ever had in my life, my legs and chest were aching, and I needed to see these people.
Here’s red-faced me at mile 22! Picture courtesy of the amazing Maggie Taney!

Just lovely.

Now I was just trying to make it through each mile. As I hit mile 24, I told myself, “You made it this far, and it’s only two more miles – might as well finish!” At the same time, the wonderful Aime Goldberg, superfan and running inspiration, popped up to spur me on. I noted the Citgo sign and knew that despite the pain, I was going to make it. The crowds at this point were huge, and everyone was so encouraging.

Finally, it happened. I took that historic right on Hereford, left on Boylston. There was my coach, waving me over for a high five. There were Mr. Menace’s parents and uncle in the stands, shouting my name. I raised my head, put a huge smile on my face, and crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 4 hours, 56 minutes, and 14 seconds – all three of my goals reached. Mr. Menace, Gary, Dan and Elise, his parents, my co-workers, Jess and Emily were all waiting to see me walk into our after party at the Westin in the most amazing show of support I have ever felt, and I was finally done.

I know this is a long post, but bear with me, I’m going to make it longer, because I have a lot of thank yous.

Thank you to everyone who donated money, whether it was a dollar for a raffle ticket, entry to trivia, or straight up cash. We raised $4,751.60 for Boston Partners in Education!

Thank you to all of my cheerleaders, both on and off the course, for all of your support throughout training and on that day. You saved my life.

Thank you to all of my teammates – you made all of this running and craziness fun! Extra-special thanks to Lisa, Jess, Todd, Peter, Laurelin and Brandt for all of the rides, support, and being my running buddies.

Kelly, you get your own line because you were not only a teammate, you were an amazing team manager, and my one and only hill buddy. Thank you for slogging to work with me every morning.

Nandi – my teammate, my heart. I am so amazingly proud of you and everything you triumphed over. Thank you for inspiring me to do this.

Gary – thank you for running trivia and handing out water and making donations and being my cheerleader and all around being amazing!

Mom, Dad, Kate, Kelly and Julia – thank you for all of the support, and for being proud of me! I love you guys!

Mr. Menace – my love, my best friend – you have put up with so much and done so much and been the greatest support a lady could have. Thank you for being in my life.

When It was All Over


10 responses to “WE DID IT!

  1. An amazing post! I am not embarressed to admit that I got a little emotional when reading it. You deserve all the accolades that come your way. I’m just happy that I got to be a part of it along the way, make some new friends in Laura and Kelly and was able to be their at the end to help celebrate your accomplishment. Well done!

  2. amazing. i have no words. well, besides these three:

    WE. DID. IT!

  3. Yay! I loved reading it from your perspective. Congratulations on such huge accomplishments.
    Also, I will send you a separate email, but you won the month membership to all of the Healthworks Fitness Centers in my raffle! 🙂

  4. Gary and Laura said it, and agreed. Amazing accomplishment. You frickin rock.

    Regarding the last photo–I can’t quite tell you how much it meant to me that you came and grabbed me to snap that photo at the end of it all. Seriously. It takes a lot to touch my heart, but that did.

    And special thanks returned to my fellow Hill Person as well. =)

  5. okay, just wanted to let you know that i have read your post again and cried again. nandi, you are amazing. who EVER would have thought we’d be here?! but we ARE here, and my many thanks to you not only for taking this journey with me, but being its peerless leader and hill conqueror. i am in awe. you kept me going more than words can say!

  6. Christine McGrath

    WOW! What an inspiration you are Erin! This is an amazing success story and I’m so happy to read all about it. What a sense of accomplishment …. be proud of all the steps you took in training, be proud of your preperation and be proud that you accomplished everything you set out to do, even with a smile on your face! ….thanks for this emotional blog! I fully enjoyed reading this… thank you!

  7. Vincent McGrath

    Is there not a better feeling than crossing that finishline! It creates such an amazing feeling of acomplishment, as if you can do anything you want to do!

  8. Congratulations on an amazing accomplishment. You are an inspiration!

  9. Bonnie McGrath

    We are so proud of you! Christine kindly forwarded me your link. I loved your story and pictures.

  10. nandi — watching you, laura, and kelly was so spectacular!!! i’m so proud of all of you and amazed by your accomplishment!!!

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