Marathon Challenge – Part 3……Boston!

Marathon Challenge - Part 3......Boston!

I can’t believe I am writing a race report on the Boston Marathon.  It has been one of those items on my bucket list for so many years that I actually can’t believe I’m able to check it off the list.  Hopefully it is not my time to die just yet……..The bucket list continues to grow and I need LOTS more time.

Anni and I left from St. George on Thursday night to catch a red eye out of Vegas directly into Boston.  Red eye flights seem like such a great idea when you book them, but about an hour into the flight when it is 1:00am, desperate for sleep, you really contemplate the greatness of your booking decisions.  I hoped to catch a little bit of shut eye, but even with a Tylenol PM, that just wasn’t going to happen.  We landed at Logan Airport at about 7:00a EST.  Boston welcomed us with banners and signs and there was no doubt that this is a city that LOVES its marathon.

Welcome to Boston!

We were pleased to find that our hotel was only 10 minutes away from the airport and right off the subway line.  It honestly, was the PERFECT place.  I have to give a HUGE thank you to the staff at that Holiday Inn Express (69 Boston St.).  YOU GUYS ARE AMAZING!  They even had a clean room for us and checked us in just after 8:00 in the morning. We had a hot breakfast and crashed in bed for the next few hours.  We needed our rest since we had a date with the Red Sox at Fenway Park later that evening.

The days flew by while we were in Boston.  I got to reconnect with family I hadn’t seen in years and we indulged in everything from cheese steaks to onion rings to Hobbs Popcorn.  It was awesome and IT WAS YUMMY!  We scaled things back in the eating department on Sunday, the day before the race, just in case you were getting concerned.

Hmmmm.....Fenway Cheese Steak

Sunday was our marathon prep day.  We had seen the official “Boston Marathon Jacket” everywhere we went in the preceding days and we were definitely in the mood to slip on our own Boston apparel.  Unfortunately, when we got to the  Expo, most everything was SOLD OUT!  I honestly couldn’t believe it!  We were lucky to find the few items that we really wanted and skid-addled  out of the Expo as quickly as we could.  There were so many people there it was hard to enjoy it.  We’ve learned our lesson that the Expo needs to be done FIRST!  Next time…..I’m going on Friday!

With bib numbers and Boston swag in hand we headed back to the hotel to commence the pre-race preparations 🙂  I love Anni!  What I truly love about her is that she is as anal as I am when it comes to pre-race prep.  I think it took us 2 hours running back and forth in the room to determine the appropriate combination of sports bra, fuel belt and top.  It was hilarious.  The funniest part about it was that neither of us thought anything of it.  We just continued to jog back and forth until we had it just right.  We decided to nix the pre-race dinner back downtown for a quiet, albeit slow, Applebees dinner next door to the hotel.  We just didn’t have the strength to cram our bodies on to the subway again that day only to wait in another line for cold noodles and salad.  I’m so glad we did.  We were relaxing in our beds in plenty of time to attempt a good night’s rest.

Bib numbers in hand...Ready...Set...Go!

The Boston Marathon is not the largest marathon in the country, but it is still HUGE.  27,000 of us needed to get downtown and onto school buses to be taken to the start line.  It was going to be interesting.  We were suppose to be on our buses by 7:00 a.m.  We woke up at about 5:00 to dress, eat oatmeal and get ready.  The problem was……the race didn’t start until 10:30!  I’d never started running at such an odd hour.  We packed an additional breakfast of peanut butter and honey and sipped on Gatorade (that would come back to haunt us).  I knew I was going to have to continuously fuel all morning until the start.  Sipping and nibbling was the name of  the game.  Our hotel had a “Good Luck” sign out and water and gatorade waiting for us as we boarded the shuttle over to the Subway.

The ride downtown was quick and we got off into a sea of runners and school buses.  We were lucky to have a beautiful day.  The prior days had been drizzly, windy and cold, but today promised to be sunny with a wind at our backs.  Temps were expected in the upper 50s.  The morning wasn’t too cold either.  I was grateful for the pleasant weather while we stood in the mass of people waiting to board our bus…….it would have been pretty nasty in the rain 😉

Anni's first choice for a race hat.

The shuttle bus pick-up was one of the best examples of organized choas I had ever seen.  Thirty or so buses would line up.  Volunteers would fill the buses to capacity and they all would depart together, only to be followed by thirty or so MORE empty buses.  It was amazing.  We were on the second set of buses we saw and quickly headed to the start line.   This is where the trip got interesting…….

I’m familiar with shuttle buses to the start of a race.  We do it a lot down here in St. George.  I figured it was going to be a lot like the St. George Marathon trip…..about 40 minutes back up the race course.  Nope!  The ride was an hour and 10 minutes!  Remember I mentioned the whole sipping on Gatorade thing.  Yeah!  We had line of buses with over hydrated people on them.  One girl behind me was in so much misery that she actually had the bus pull over so she could drop her drawers on the side of the highway.  I wasn’t quite to that point yet……..but I was getting close.

We pulled into the Athlete Village in Hopkinton (which is really a middle school and high school football field) and headed straight for the Port-a-Potty line.  I picked the wrong line.  As Anni steadily moved closer and closer to relief, I found myself not moving an inch.  What was taking so long???????  I was now the girl in desperate need.  I found myself cursing people under my breath when they would take too long in the Pot.  Didn’t they realize how badly I had to go?????  I FINALLY got my turn.  Whew!  That was close.  Anni and I made our way to the field only to stand in another bathroom line.  We might as well.  We didn’t have anything else to do.

Shuttle Bus Frenzy!

I had fully expected that we were going to be freezing and bored out of our minds in the Athlete’s Village, but after three bathroom lines we were going to be late to our starting corrals.  We dumped our gear bags on the appropriate “gear bag buses” and headed down the 3/4 mile long starting corral.  Yup!  Almost a mile walk to the start!  We weren’t alone, that’s for sure.  We all just trudged our way down the road hoping to catch some kind of visual of the actual start line.

I don’t really know when we actually started the race, but eventually I found myself running along through Hopkinton.  It was a beautiful start.  The morning was a bit breezy, but the temps were perfect.  I dropped the majority of my layered clothing right away and was comfortably making my way through the rolling downhill of the first miles.  There was only one problem.  I had purchased a pouch for my fuel belt at the Expo to hold all my GU, Clif Bars, phone, headphones, etc.  I had a pouch, but it just wasn’t big enough, so this one looked perfect.  Yup!  Nope!

Hopkinton Start

All of the sudden I heard a crash behind me and realized that while I was running the zipper of my new pouch was working its way open and dumping all of its contents.  The crash I heard was my new IPhone hitting the pavement.  The biggest problem was picking the darn thing up.  There were so many people crowded around that I could hardly see the phone.  I bent over just in time to launch the poor guy behind me right over my back.  I’m so sorry to him, but I had to pick up my phone!  Adam would have killed me.  I also salvaged most of the GU that had fallen out.  I zipped the darn thing back up and continued.

I didn’t get another mile before I felt the pouch let go AGAIN!  My headphones were the only casualty this time (since I had moved the phone to a more secure location).  There was no saving them.  They were gone.  I was hoping that I wasn’t going to regret it, but I wasn’t going to worry about it.  I have only run one or two races WITH headphones so I figured I was going to be just fine.  I also realized that no one around me had headphones on.  This seemed so strange as I am usually in the minority of people who DON’T use an IPod during races.   Just a few weeks ago in L.A. I couldn’t strike up a conversation with anyone because they were all plugged into their music.  This was the complete opposite.  Only a few seemed to be wearing headphones.  I could tell that this group of runners was different.

A tribute to the course courtesy of Nike Town Newbury Street

Another difference in this group was that no one was particularly chatty.  On most races you find someone to chat with for a few miles at a time.  It just happens naturally.  I was doing my usual chatting, but was getting very little response.  I thought it was just me until Anni confirmed the same thing.  No one seemed to want to chat.  I can’t tell you if this group is more focused  due to the fact that the majority of them are probably faster than your regular marathon group or what?  It was like pulling teeth to get a friendly response.  Not that the group wasn’t friendly…..just busy doing their thing…….or maybe there is a completely different reason……..

I found that I really didn’t need anyone to chat with as the miles passed by because the crowds were so engaging.  I swear that every man, woman and child in the area surrounding that course comes out to the event.  They hold water, popsicles, orange slices and licorice.  They cheer and support you EVERY step of the way.  I’ve never seen crowds like this!  They were amazing.  Every neighborhood was having a party and they were sharing that party with every one of us running the marathon.

The first few miles rolled on by for me.  I had to make a quick potty stop (too much hydration again) at about the 10K mark, but I was feeling good.  Anni and I ran the first 10K together but then settled into our own paces.  I didn’t have a Garmin or anything on, and I was just running by feel.  I had no intention of this being an AMAZING marathon for me.  I just wanted to experience the dream.  I was there and I was running on one of the most prestigious and well-known courses in the world.  I was just doing my thing and enjoying every step.

Enhance this and read it! Another Nike Town tribute.

The course passes through distinct cities and neighborhoods who bring their own flair.  I have to say my favorite was Newton.  This is at a point in the course where things have turned up………Up hill that is.  Between mile 16 to 21 you have a serious of hills that end with the infamous Heartbreak Hill.  I had no clue what these hills were going to look like so I just put it out of my mind and enjoyed what was going on around me.  You take a right hand turn (one of the very few turns on the entire course) and you pass by the Newton Fire Station.  The music was playing and the crowds were cheering.  The hills were feeling amazing and I couldn’t believe that I was closing in on the 20 mile mark.

I continued to climb the hills and came to the realization that I may actually be on Heartbreak Hill.  I have to say, I was…..hmmmm……disappointed isn’t the right word……..Surprised maybe…….Surprised at Heartbreak Hill.  Honestly, it didn’t feel like much of a hill at all.  I felt strong and powerful.  I don’t think my heart rate even went up more than a few beats.  At one point I even turned to the woman next to me and asked if this actually was Heartbreak Hill.  She looked at me with a little disdain and said, “YES!”.  There was no heart break for me on that hill.  I was eating it for lunch!  🙂

At the top of the hills you head into the city.  You never really get a view of the city, you just find yourself there.  You pass by the rowdiest of crowds at Boston College.  I’m pretty sure that those kids began drinking when the Elite’s passed by and hadn’t even thought about slowing down.  They were crazy!  I LOVED IT!  Just when I was starting to feel the fatigue in my legs, BC carried me through.

The final four miles were not passing as quickly as I would have liked them too.  I was getting tired and starting to feel it.  I knew that I had been running well and was going to be close to my PR of 3:37.  I actually was amazed!  I had no intention of running this race so well.  I pushed through the fatigue and the Brownstones of the Back Bay to see the Citgo sign at Kenmore Square.  I knew I was almost there.  Bolyston street was just a few blocks away.

Boylston Street Finish 24 Hours Prior to the Race

Anni and I had seen the finish the day before and I knew that it was going to be an amazing experience filled with spectators.  Unlike Heartbreak Hill, Boylston did not disappoint.  The crowds were so deep that you couldn’t see the shops behind them.  Spectators screamed and runners teared up.  It was a beautiful moment!  The large blue finish line was approaching fast and I couldn’t wait for the end to come.  It was as sweet as I could have imagined.  I raised my hands above my head in the sweet completion of a dream.  Anni followed a few minutes later and we headed straight for the subway and our ride home.

We walked from the Subway to the hotel on our tired legs and were greeted by our hotels, “You Did It!” sign.  The front desk took a picture of us with our medals and mylar blankets for their scrapbook and we collapsed into our beds.  It had been a long day.  A good day…….but a LONG day!

Taking a picture of myself right after the finish!

Boston knows how to put on a marathon!  From the shuttle rides, to aid stations to the MANY, MANY, MANY volunteers…..THIS TOWN KNOWS HOW TO PUT ON A RACE!  They change traffic and parking signs to marathon language that makes you smile.  They close major roads and arteries and reserve them for some of the best athletes in the world.  It truly is an amazing spectacle.

You think that once you qualify and run your first Boston Marathon that you will be done, but you soon realize that you have just begun.  You want to go back.  You want to stand in those lines and fight the crowds at the Expo.  You want that “Jacket”.  You want to run down Boylston with your head held high and your feet flying underneath you.  You have to qualify again.  You have to get into this race.  It becomes more than you ever expected.  In this race you become a true marathoner…….A Boston Marathoner!


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