The Boston Marathon
It was early June when I started this and mid July when I finished and I still feel like I remember every detail. I remember distinct faces along the course, and prominent dips it the road... It's taken me a while to sit down and write this post. Maybe it's because I've spent the last 10 years trying to get to the Boston Finish Line that now that it's over I need a break from it... Or maybe it's that I've been waiting for another set back to write it so I can remind myself how far I've come... Or maybe I've just been busy AF and haven't had a chance. Whatever... I'm here now... Lets recap this thing!
Spoiler Alert! I FINISHED!!! I could write an entire post on the pre-race marathon (AKA waiting for the bus from the common to the start, the lines to the bathroom, the walk from the ahtletes village to the starting line... more bathroom lines... the walk up the hill to the starting line.... etc etc.) But aint nobody got time to read that. I was with my friend Linda and we went for the whole experience and lets just say... we GOT THAT. So I'll start my official recap from after the last bathroom stop....
One thing I always knew about the Boston Marathon was that it isn't a PR experience. There's so much energy centered around getting to the starting line of this point to point that it's in most peoples best interest to train for the best, but keep in mind theres energy being expended at every turn for hours before you even get on the line. For me, I was going to need every bit of energy I had since I anticipated taking as long as 8 hours. Of course I hoped it didn't come to walking the whole thing... All those weird cramping things I had occur leading up to the race had me nervous. Linda and I were seeded in the second to last and last corral of the second wave so we sort of took our time getting to the start. Its a chip timed event and I wasn't interested in being in the crowds and Linda wanted to get everything right before she started so when we got to the start it was incredibly anticlimactic. Everyone just ran to the start and kept going... Except me. I walked.
The start to -3.1 I had a list of checkpoints I made for myself based on what I was able to (or unable to) accomplish in the last few years. Although I only planned to drop out if I was dehydrated or hypothermic, I still had checkpoints I created for the journey to make it a little bit more enticing to just make it a little bit further to your next checkpoint. Check point number one was to make it to the start. I didn't mean to get emotional but I teared up. "Goal one complete" as I walked over the starting line nearly by myself.
It was quiet. I was nervous. I tried to calm my heartrate that was easily elevated by the stress and fear of something going wrong. I knew I couldn't walk the whole thing and eventually was going to have to get up the courage to run so after a few minutes of walking I did just that... and after just a few more minutes of running I chickened out and walked again. Theres a teeny tiny little incline just at 1k, and I was like "NOPE! Can't do that yet" This was my PTSD talking and it wasn't an enjoyable start... I committed to a 5 minute run 2 minute walk and went on with this pattern for some time. Before I knew it At this point a boy on crutches and I were back and fourth. When I walked he'd pass me then I'd run and pass him. This went on for what felt like forever. I was completely convinced I'd be with him forever but before I knew it... the sound of his crutches were overtaken by the sound of footsteps from the third wave.
Mile 3.2-9 miles
I had been dealing with a bit of imposter syndrome the whole weekend and in athletes village. As most people know Boston separates out waves by colors. If you've got your name on your bib, you've made it. You're elite status... But those red bibs are quite sought after... the white bibs too. You can feel people sizing you up based on bib and I had a decently middle of the pack white bib but here I was hoping to finish before dark. It felt weird.. But when those blue bibs caught up the imposter syndrome faded and I thought about all those unused red bibs I had in my drawer at home. The Wave 3 passing me was HARD! It wasn't hard in a humbling way it was hard in a traffic-jam sort of way. I was walk/running so I was putting up my hand and yelling "about to stop!" but everyone has headphones on, no one is looking, everyone is stressed... and I didn't have time to worry about my legs because I was just trying not to get stepped on. I had one guy tell me to "move" and "get out of the way" and thats when I really didn't feel like an imposter any more. I was like "now wait a minute! I earned my spot on this road the same as everyone else! Just because I'm walking at mile 4 doesn't mean you have to be so rude!" ... I did mentally prepare myself for this feeling so it didn't come as a surprise... it actually served more as a distraction because before I knew it I was at the 10k mark. I thought I heard my mom cheering but never saw her... later found out she was there.
I knew there were a lot of people tracking me… either to see me fail, out of curiosity, or because they were unwaveringly supportive. What I didn’t learn until later is my tracker glitched at 10k, so people thought that was it for me… but I assure you I was moving right along. Framingham was probably the most boring stretch of the course. This is about where all the blue bibs settled in and were running a similar enough pace to me (when I was running) that there was a natural flow.. and it was also where a couple yellow bibs caught up. Likely charity make runners who were running their first marathon but were actually quite good. It didn’t take long for me to be in recognizable territory. I had done a handful of training runs on the course starting in various locations, I had run through Framingham before and remember my husband handing me water near the train station. Long way to go before I saw him this time (around 30k) but it made me smile. My next “checkpoint” was mile 9. The furthest I’ve run since I qualified in 2019… I oddly don’t remember hitting this milestone exactly… But instead I remember getting to Natick and then the 15k mat and I knew I had surpassed my checkpoint.
15k to 13.1
My next checkpoint is Half Marathon. This next stretch was so hype I just really enjoyed it all. Natick and Wellesley are probably the area I trained the most so I felt even more familiarity. I remember doing a training run years ago on this part of the course. I stopped SOOO many times in the first 4 miles because my “shoes were tied too tight” (code for my feet were going numb) I had a big workout I had to do for the hill sections so I was trying to ensure I got my shoes just right before the workout began. EVERYTIME I’d retie my shoes my feet felt less numb and so It reinforced this idea that it was my shoelaces being too tight… but really, in hindsight, I now know that stopping made it so my calves weren’t repeatedly flexing and compressing my arteries and nerves… so while I retied my shoes feeling returned to my feet. Then a few minutes later I’d be numb again and loosen my shoes even more, than retighten them since they were too loose then loosen again because my feet would be numb. I ran a 21 miler averaging 7:20ish pace where my pickup sections were in the low 6:00’s like this. For the workout portion I’d ignore the numbness as much as I could but then if it turned to pain I’d stop and retie between pickups. … … so as I ran through these sections, I’d have flashbacks of where I’d stop to tie my shoes and kind of laugh at how silly all that was. Man… the length O went to believe the problems in my legs and feet were within my control is so crazy in hindsight. I’d get emotional thinking about it while I was out there.
Wellesley is LONG. When I first got there I was underwhelmed but man it just went on forever…and in a good way. My splits were getting faster. My run sections were sub 11 minute pace for 7 minutes and my walks were only 2 minutes long. So my average pace each mile had gone from mid 13s, to high 12’s to low 12’s to sub 12’s…. Doesn’t seem like a big deal when you consider my race history, but Sub 6 hours was 13:40s so I’ve got pretty good momentum at this point. From a strategic perspective… there was never a “pace yourself the race is long” approach, that’s why I incorporated walks to begin with. I knew that no matter how smart I ran the beginning, In the end it wouldn’t matter. With my lifetime experiences, my natural cardiovascular fitness was way ahead of what my legs could do… so Pace wasn’t going to be the factor that breaks me, if it wasn’t my calves, it was going to be the length of time I was out there. I had no doubt that after a certain amount of “time on feet” I was going to struggle. My goal at this point was to be as close to the finish line as possible when that happened. This was a “bank time” situation… The “faster” (relatively and within reason) I could go in the beginning the closer I’d be to the finish when I hit the “time on feet” wall. Time on feet, time in the sun, time not having real food…. All of those factors were going to get to me in a way that just has never mattered before. It would be uncharted territory… but making it to the halfway mark still feeling good was beyond anything I imagined. The way my legs had been cramping and needing walks, cramping and needing walks across the last few runs leading up to the race… I really expected to be cramping and walking the whole way…. But by this point the crowds were insane, I had momentum… the few early “scares” with my legs I worked through and felt like I understood and could keep that issue at bay. At this point I felt truly free. I was running so free from worry in a way I hadn’t for almost 7 years. I just no longer felt like my calves would be an issue… and … I HAD FUN. I Cried because I WAS HAVING FUN…. RUNNING. I never thought….NEVER thought …. I could experience that again.
13.1 - My husband
My next checkpoint was my husband-somewhere in the 30k mark… but I also had smaller less concrete checkpoint of longest time running, which was my qualifying time of 3:23ish. When I hit that I wasn’t quite at the hills yet but close. I took out my phone to document and checked my texts. I only allowed texts from my siblings and husband to get through and my brother and sister were tracking me and were in a group chat so i just let them know as I approached the hills that I always intended to walk the hills- don’t be alarmed when it slows down a lot! I took advil hoping that that would push back fatigue a bit as my knees were starting to hurt, and then I continued on. So many memories on the hills but what I didn’t remember was how much of it is actually flat! So I mostly walked the hills but whenever the hill felt like it evened out even just a little I’d run. So at this point my intervals were 5 minutes run, 5 minute walk, 3 minute run, 2 minute walk, 1 minute run, 5 minute walk…. Really random…. At this point… I just knew I was having a great day and nothing could take that away. I couldn’t wait to see Matt to just say “I’m doing so good!” And so Even though I planned to walk the hills I ran where I could without much additional effort and got to Matt as quick as I could!
It was really nice to see the whole on tent stand when I came, but honestly I didn’t stop long. I was up against “Time on Feet” and standing chatting counts as time on feet. On to the next checkpoint!
To Heartbreak to BC.
After I passed Matt, I will say the crowds thinned. I’ve spent so many years spectating in this area that I was aware many people had left… and now I’m realizing how close I am but yet how far. I was getting in my head a bit but heading into heartbreak I saw one of my friends and one of my coworkers. It really made me feel better! Once I got to heartbreak hill I decided to walk the whole thing and just chill out. I was approaching my last check mark before the finish and felt like I needed to regroup because the next mikes weren’t going to be as methodical as everything behind me. I allowed myself to walk and work on self talk. I noticed walking that people passing me were only making small ground on me but expending more energy so Ibfekt good about my decision to walk. The people running around me now we’re mostly charity runners with names of loved ones and pictures on their back. They were all doing this for something bigger than themself, and I pulled from that for my own journey. I had connected with so many young people with fpaes that really couldn’t see a path forward; one thing I’ve been grateful for is that this condition didn’t get too bad for me until I was at an age where I realized there was more for me no matter what happened… but the youth paes impacted (usually people are between 15-22 year old, I’m a bit of an outlier) . I felt like finishing could really bring hope…. It took me a little over 7 minutes to walk i heartbreak and at this point I knew any running I could do was better than walking since there weren’t anymore hills. BC WAS CRAZY… I ran my longest interval down the hill through the BC crowd (8 minutes) and it was the last interval of 7 minutes I could run. This is when it started getting tricky.
This wasn’t a checkpoint… but this was by far the hardest part for me…. From BC to the finish I mainly remember this one really hard section after BC that my mother later pointed out is known as “the graveyard”…. There’s a cemetery, a small hill that feels like a mountain, not a lot of crowd support because the green line is right on the course so it’s not a great place to spectate, kinda smelly, legs too dead to dodge the bumps in the road and not trip on the railroad tracks… try as I May it was here that I realized I needed a new walk/run plan or I’d be walking far more than running. My new plan was to hit split… run for as long as o could tolerate, check my watch and see if I could pick myself to the nearest round number, then walk a minimum of half the time I ran. That was the plan. Once I turned left over the railroad tracks and away from the graveyard I felt a bit better having a plan.
CITGO to Brookline to Boylston
Technically I had no more checkpoints after BC, just wanted to get to the finish… but a few other places jump out at me. From the citgo sign on it was just insane crowd support and insane will power. I mostly stick to my plan to walk only half the time I ran but I broke that a few times for photo opps and i did check my phone and text my family. All I remember is a blur of absolute happiness and absolute grittiness. Every tenth of a mile felt HUGE and insurmountable. I remember running under the bridge right before Hereford and thinking about my husband getting pulled off the course for dangerous dehydration that year it was 90s… and it made me realize what a feat this was. I didn’t train at all and I’m about to finish this shit actually feeling pretty good! My legs weren’t sore necessarily… just so tired. My heartrate was insanely high because at this point i was just so so tired. But I felt no specific pain point which was just so amazing. Seeing Hereford was just unreal. It surprisingly came up quicker than I thought… maybe because Boylston is so long, but WHAT A RUSH! …
Boylston to the finish
At this point the competitor in me wanted to keep the pedal to the medal and run the entire Boylston street… but it’s SO FAR! Could I have done it? Probably! but the person that struggled to even run for a minute felt like I should soak it in, enjoy, and celebrate… so I took out my phone, videoed, walked with my hands up, cheered, and just celebrated! Holy shit I made it!
It took me forever to write this, I’m still in absolute shock that this happened… but life has twists and turns and surprises at every corner. I’m looking forward to getting this blog more current and sharing where I’m at now (mid July! 😅), but for now I’m just trying to appreciate how far I’ve come and accept every next challenge head on like I always have.
Welcome to my blog! I've been blogging for a long time on various platforms. My intention has never been to reach the masses, but rather to give myself a chance to reflect and journal. I feel it at least challenges me to be somewhat coherent, however you can expect ramblings and grammatical incorrectness here!
I've recently been diagnosed with CECS and fPAES and had it treated with BOTOX of all things... So I suspect to see more and more people looking for answers with that in the future and hope to continue blogging so there will be easy to access follow-ups as that was helpful for me.
NOTE: Apologies that some of the pictures incorrectly load sometimes. I try to keep up with the glitches, but can't always! Hope it doesn't impact the blog experience for all the PAES visitors.