On Monday morning, my friend Les dropped me off in Hopkinton. My friend and fellow runner Rebecca and I had planned to meet up and sit together while we waited for the race to start, but we couldn't find each other. I spent more than an hour waiting in line for a porta potty, and I expect that she was doing the same thing in line for another porta potty. I was starting to get nervous, because I couldn't find my running buddy, Afton, either. We finally found each other around the time we were walking to the corrals. Les kept me very warm-- I was wearing her entire DI pile-- my race tank, a long sleeved t-shirt, a big sweatshirt, a shearling coat, running shorts, velvet pajama pants, heavy socks (which would come to haunt me later on), gloves, a stocking cap, and a huge warm cozy thing that we warmed up for me before we left. All of it (except the shorts and the tank) ended up getting discarded along the race route.
The first few miles were amazing. I've run four marathons before this one. The first and fourth (both in Kingwood, Texas) had virtually no crowd support. The second, Country Music, had fairly good crowd support at times, but other times there was no one cheering. St. George had pockets of fans, but definitely nothing consistent until the last few miles. But at Boston, there are screaming fans the whole 26 miles. Afton had her name on her shirt, and had people call out "Go Afton" literally thousands of times. A girl named Eve ran behind us, and I swear I'm still hearing "Eve," "Eve," Eve." Eve was way popular.
The first mile was a little bit slow as the group found its pace, but we ran the next ten or so miles at a 7:35-7:40 pace, which I felt was going to be a little bit too fast to maintain, but it was too loud and too crowded for us to powwow and talk strategy, so we kept going at that pace. When we hit Wellesley (the halfway mark) we could hear the roar of the crowd well before we could see them. There were hundreds (thousands?) of girls with "kiss me" signs. "Kiss me, I'm a senior," "Kiss me, I'm Asian," "Kiss me, I'm Gay," "Kiss me, I'm a biologist." There was even a cute boy with a "kiss me" sign. I settled for a high five from him, but if I hadn't wanted to break my pace, I may have considered it...
We passed Team Hoyt around mile 17, just as we started hitting the hills. I really wanted to pat Dick on the back but figured that he must get patted and prodded the whole way, so I restrained myself. But I was so close to him! It was really cool.
The Boston Mormon contingent was waiting just before mile 19. They had orange slices and water in Dora the Explorer Dixie cups and a big sign that had my name on it. It was really, really fun to have people screaming my name! They had a cheering section of about 30, and my friend Elisabeth and her son were waiting a couple of blocks later.
After that, the fun was over and we settled into the hard work. We hit hill after hill after hill and the hills were tough. Our pace started to slow. Afton and I had agreed that she might need to walk during the later water stops, but I kept running at a slow but consistent pace because I was afraid that if I walked, I might never be able to start running again. Heartbreak Hill surprised me because it wasn't extremely steep, but it went on forever. That's when I was really happy that there were lots of people to cheer us on. Climbing up that hill with no support would have been so much harder.
Speaking of support, I often think of running a marathon as kind of a solitary endeavor. I often run alone. But I decided with this race that it takes a village to get someone through a marathon. Eddie was a single parent for four days. My friend Annie kept my kids for a long day on Monday. Leslie and her boys drove me all over New England for the whole weekend. Elisabeth drove from Boston to Western Massachusetts and back. Thousands of people volunteered and passed out water and orange slices and drove buses and did hard work behind the scenes. Thousands more spent a cold, windy day cheering us on.
Speaking of cold and windy, the last six or seven miles were both. The hills got really tough, and then the flats got really tough, and then the downhills got really tough. We saw a sign that said something like "sorry legs, the brain has taken over" and that definitely applied in the last few miles. When we saw the Citgo sign, I knew we were in the home stretch, and when we passed it and rounded the corner, I felt a final burst of energy. Then we rounded the very last corner and could see the finish line (way off in the distance). I kept thinking, "I can't believe we're finishing the Boston Marathon!" Afton's sister called out her name a couple hundred miles before the finish line, which was really cool. We grabbed hands at the finish line and I started sobbing. It was overwhelming to want something for years, to try and fail and try again and then, after a year of waiting, to accomplish a goal that once seemed impossible.
We finished at 3:32 according to the race clock, but when our watches dinged 26.2, the clock read exactly 3:30:00. My watch read 26.48 miles when we crossed the finish line, probably because we did a lot of weaving in and out during the first few miles of the race when the pack was really tight. Even according to the official clock, Afton had a 7 minute PR, which is amazing for the Boston Marathon. It was definitely a harder course than I've run before.
I'm surprised at how good I feel today. My quads are slightly sore, and one toe blistered badly (I could feel it before the end of the first mile, which is always a bad thing. If it hadn't been a race, I would have stopped and adjusted the seam in my sock, but I just left it that way. I'll probably lose that toenail). But overall I felt strong, even after the finish.
*thanks to Ellen Patton for the pictures and for organizing the mile 19 crew!