"I look so ready, I just might win!"
I got on the Blue Line at the Wonderland stop in Revere, Massachusetts a little before 7am. Nothing about the station seemed extraordinarily wondrous, but it was the closest to our hotel so it did its job. The train was pretty crowded. I thought everyone in the state had off on Patriot's Day? Less than half of the passengers were runners. The runners were easy to spot because 1. they were wearing running clothes (I swear I was Sherlock Holmes in a previous life. If there was such a thing as reincarnation...and if there was such a person as Sherlock Holmes...) and 2. they were holding their official Boston Athletic Association ziploc baggie. My baggie contained another plastic baggie to keep my phone dry. The iPhone case I bought on Amazon was missing the key waterproof screen protector because that's how online purchases turn out for She Is Out Running (boohoo); the little freebie anti-chaffing stick I picked up at the expo the day before; a bottle of orange Gatorade that I was nursing (Hydration was important, especially given the warm forecast...cough cough...whatever); and two Imodiums (self explanatory). I asked the running couple sitting next to me what stop they were getting off at to board the buses. I was already told three different stops (Copley Station, Boylston Street, and Arlington) by three different sources, all of whom were 100 percent sure of themselves. The running couple and I chatted a little. They were from Bend, OR and she was running her first Boston. She was fast. I knew this from her lower-than-mine bib number (Elementary, my dear Watson). The blue train stopped at Government Center where we transferred to the Green Line, an older version of blue trains. Old subway cars...hmm...
The green line moved at a snail's pace and was even more crowded than the blue. Definitely more runners on this train. We only had a handful of stops to Boston Common (depending on whom I believed), but for some reason (the conductor said "traffic") we kept stopping momentarily in the tunnels. This is not fun for the claustrophobic. I know this because I'm claustrophobic. Apparently, so was the runner next to me who started to get verbally panicky which makes us quiet claustrophobes even more panicky...but silently. We decided to get off at Boylston. We saw the buses immediately upon exiting the station, but still had to cross the park to board. The panicky runner's husband suggested she and I ride the bus together, but I pretended not to hear this and made a beeline for the porta potty.
I originally told Kin that I would ride the bus with him and his wife, but the buses were packed and just standing there. It was already 8am. If I waited for the 8:45 buses, I'm not sure when they would actually leave. It was an hour to Hopkinton and I knew I would start walking to my corral around 9:45. I decided to play it safe and get on a bus pronto. A funny woman from Alexandria, VA sat next to me. She was pleasant to talk to and the ride went smoothly, except for the time the driver stopped short on the highway and almost plowed into the bus in front of us. Besides this, the ride was uneventful.
Once in Hopkinton, I again made a beeline to the porta potties. The Athletes Village was packed and the bathroom lines were long. I remember in 2014, I had just enough time to get on line, pee, and then head straight to the corral. Today, I stood on line for about 30 minutes. It seemed like everyone knew each other and I kind of wished I had waited for Kin and Nancy. After I did my business, I grabbed a cup of coffee and found a spot to sit in the sun. Despite the warm weather, it was pretty breezy in the Athletes Village. I chatted with a nice older man. This was his fourth Boston. He was from upstate NY and also faster than me (as I deduced from his bib number...sleuth). Pretty much everyone I met was faster than me. I checked my watch and it was almost 10am. The emcee in our section was rambling on about nothing, but never announced for the waves to head over to the start. Odd. Upstate Faster Guy and I decided to head over on our own. Good thing we did, because all of Wave 3 were making their way to the corrals, too. We wished each other well and I found my spot at the back of my corral.
Wave 3 Corral 3
My training this cycle was pretty lax. I skipped a bunch of runs (long ones, too) and started pretty late. Instead of an 18 week cycle, I think mine was 12. Big no-no on my part. Sometimes Momming and Life gets in the way. Up until that moment in my corral, I thought I still could make a go for a PR (sub-3:30), even if it meant a death march toward the end. However, at 10:45am standing amongst the other 3:35 runners, I realized today will most likely not be that day for me. I was already sweating and I suddenly had to pee again. "Good luck, runners!" or something to that effect was announced over the loudspeaker and suddenly, we were off. Light jog over the start mats and the reality hit me then that I was once again running the Boston Marathon. All of the pre-race hullabaloo was just a distraction from the task at hand. As I was taking it all in, the bouncing seemed to take aim right at my full bladder. Someone else must have been experiencing the same discomfort. I watched as she ran to the side of the road, in plain sight of everyone, she squatted, pulled her shorts to the side (not down) and let it go like Elsa from Frozen. Could I be so bold? Nope. Just in time, I saw a handful of porta potties off to the left. I ran over to them, as did some others. Politeness was not a factor. Empty john, every runner for himself. I waited for what felt like minutes until I could get to one. Whoosh! Done! Get back out there!
The first few miles were all about finding your groove and pace. I felt good because we were going downhill. You of course don't realize this might be a mistake until Mile 22, but who's thinking about Mile 22 at Mile 2? Not I. The crowds are excited and so are the runners. A DJ is blasting "Sweet Caroline". A woman shouts this is her favorite song. A few runners sing along, "Oh oh oh!", but not all out, almost as if they know there's a long road ahead and belting out Neil Diamond at the top of their lungs might be something they'll regret later on. They may have been right.
We're running through Ashland, then Framingham. Framingham seems to go on forever. I see a giant Canadian flag on the right which makes me think of my new Canadian friend, Peter from the Runner's World forums whom I met the day before. I spot a Seldon Hills shirt. I say hello because I'm from Long Island. He has no idea who I am or why I say hello. I pass him. A couple of miles down, he passes me. I don't see him again until I see his picture on Facebook the next day. He finished 8 minutes ahead of me. I pass La Cantina, the restaurant where we ate on Saturday night with my brother-in-law. It was recommended to us by a Runner's World Online member. Let's just say, my Italian father would say, "No" which is Italian for "No".
Finally, we get to Natick, home of The Emerging Runner and Hansen Electrical Supply. The owner of this shop sits atop a ladder and invites the runners to admire themselves in his large storefront mirrors. How do I look? Marvelous, according to him.
The half marathon mark is in Wellesley. By this time, I had given up on the clocks at the mile markers. I forgot my Garmin at home so I kind of was guessing my pace, but really had no idea. I think I was around 50 minutes behind the clocks, maybe. Right when I was wondering if maybe the Wellesley girls had decided to stay in as some form of protest, I heard their screams. The famous Scream Tunnel was in full force and it was fantastic! This is right around the time where you might be questioning this whole marathon thing. The Wellesley girls will not let you down. Their signs for kisses were some of the best I've seen. "Kiss me, I'm from Texas", "Kiss me, I'm gay", "Kiss me if you voted for Hillary", "Kiss me if you hate Steve Bannon", etc. These were my type of fans! Thank you Wellesley for your enthusiasm! I might still be on the course, if it weren't for you.
So I casually mentioned the weather a couple of times. It was hot. There was nothing casual about it. The forecast said high of 70 that morning. It actually went all the way up to 80. 80 feels like 100 when you're running, especially without shade. I'd like to say this played a big part in my performance, but honestly, my sub-par training I think had more to do with it than anything else.
The spectators were an amazing boost throughout all twenty-six point two miles. They handed out water, Gatorade, oranges, ice cubes, wet paper towels, etc. You needed it, they likely had it. Motivation lacking? Their signs and shouting more than made up for it. My favorite were the ten mini-trampolines lined up on the sidewalk with ten children jumping up and down on them to the song "Happy" by Pharrell. These New England fans treat the runners as though they were Tom Brady coming back from the Super Bowl. A couple of open fire hydrants didn't hurt either.
Newton is next. With Newton, comes hills. Four of them, I think. Every time I climbed a hill, I asked someone if it was Heartbreak because I knew Heartbreak is the last one at Mile 21. I made sure not to walk up any of them (however, I strolled through every water stop...), just for my own satisfaction. I finally scaled all of them after what seemed like an eternity. The rest of the race is downhill. Sounds easy, right? 5 miles of downhill should be cake. Not at the Boston Marathon. Those last 5 miles are the toughest. By then my quadriceps were jell-o and I felt like I was dragging an extra 50 lbs. I heard someone yell, "Go, Taconic!" behind me. I turned around and saw my Upstate Fast Guy buddy from the Athletes Village. He was not doing well. He said he might stop at the medical tent. I asked if he wanted me to stay with him, but he insisted I keep going. I felt badly leaving him (Later I looked him up and saw he thankfully finished). Then my new Canadian friend appeared out of nowhere! Yay!! It was so good to see him. He was spent, too. He's a 3:18 marathoner, but the heat had gotten to him. What do you expect? He's from Canada, after all! I was kind of hoping he would say, "Let's walk the rest of the way", because I was exhausted, but he insisted I keep going. So I kept going. Slowly, but surely. The rest is a blur. Citgo, right on Hereford, left on Boylston, and then the Finish Line. Once I crossed, I checked my Strava on my phone which read 3:4x:xx! I quickly texted ER to get my time. Unfortunately, Strava was way off. Official net time is 3:53:57, my second slowest time. I guess I hit my C Goal: Another BQ (barely).
Peter & Me when there was still hope.
My second Boston Marathon (7th marathon overall) was both wonderful and disappointing. The thing I love about marathons is the adventure. It's truly a physical and mental odyssey from your first step to your last. Will I do it again? You betcha!!
My family met me at the finish. They spent the day at the Science Museum. We stopped at Friendly's on the way home for Fribbles. While I rest my sore legs for the next couple of days, I plot my race to Redemption so I can have yet another shot at that unicorn....