Yesterday morning, I was strangely calm. I also felt very much like being quiet. When I awoke and got dressed, it hadn’t quite hit me yet. I was getting dressed to run the Boston Marathon. I collected all my tokens, my two bracelets from my running partner & friend Allison, the medal that my mother brought me to wear, that belonged to my grandfather, awarded to him for his service in the Korean war, the necklace from my father, put on my rings from my husband, I looked everything over, I had a piece of everyone. I collected my phone calls from best friends, one of which (Katie) brought me to tears, she’s the only one who has seen it all, my mortality fears, rising to occasion and falling to the wayside. I read countless texts, e-mails, notifications on Facebook, inspiring quotes from friends, and saw many photos of me, posted by friends showing support. I had my coffee and ate my breakfast, saw my husband marvel my motions, kissed him and my kiddos goodbye and made my way to the bus; where I didn’t flinch at the prospect of what was about to commence. I don’t know where it came from, perhaps it was just the spirit of those I’ve lost, keeping me composed. Perhaps it was the fact that I knew today was just going to be hard, no matter what, so I might as well just keep it together. The weather said a high of 64. which ended up being 72, after training in only freezing temperatures with a small handful of 45 degree days, I knew what was coming. It was going to be messy. But even still, I wanted it to be beautiful.
Once the gun went off, I didn’t quite grasp what was before me. So I just ran. The spectators were there from the start, hundreds of them, thousands of them and at that point, it was easy to get lost in it. There was shade from the trees on either side of the road so the heat was bearable, plus it was only 11:30 and as the miles ticked off and as I ran my 9’30”-9’40” pace through miles 1-6, I thought: this isn’t so bad. At mile 7, the heat started to creep in, we were in the open street now and the sun was beating down on my face. I had opted to just wear my Maine Track Club singlet which left my shoulders, neck and a lot of my back exposed, even still, I was sweating heavily. But I kept chugging along. I slowed down to a 10’00-10’30 pace from miles 7-13 and thought, “Christ, this is terrible.” I stopped to use the bathroom at miles 7 & 10, which ate up like 10 minutes because of the lines and then there was no toilet paper so I almost had a meltdown. I only peed every time I used the port-a-potty but drip drying just isn’t for me. By the time I approached water stop 14, where all my Roasters were, I was completely delighted to see friendly faces. The road had been hard and lonely prior to that and I needed them, I needed them SO badly. Thanks to James, Alan came running over, and his smiling face just took away all my fears. Kate’s hug kept me grounded. Everyone else yelling my name gave me much needed inspiration. And of course, seeing and hugging Allison gave me the focus to move on. I walked through the rest of the water stop, just trying to pull myself together. “Just get to those Newton hills.” I thought. But for miles 15-20, it didn’t matter what I did for pace because the bathrooms stops just broke down my time. I had to stop almost every two miles and they took forever. Runners at this point were struggling and taking such a long time in the bathrooms but I had no choice, I didn’t feel right if I didn’t go, having drank so much liquid. Heartbreak hill seemed more like 3 miles than the .6 everyone told me about and at this point my watch was just breaking my heart.
And then, the real trouble came…..
At mile 20 I felt bad. Really. Really. Bad. I couldn’t see. I was light headed, I started seeing spots when I could see. It just felt like my body was breaking down. I knew it wasn’t my heart, it had nothing to do with that. I hadn’t taken much for chews because my stomach was so upset and the sugar was more than it could handle but I was hungry. I also was trying to be careful of how much water I consumed as to not over hydrate. At this point, I felt pressure on my bladder but I couldn’t actually go, which added even longer times in the bathroom. Over the course of the coming miles, there were periods where I almost came to a screeching halt, but I was nervous that if I didn’t keep moving, I would come crashing to the ground. I tried everything, I took oranges from spectators, thank god for them, a popsicle at one point, I took ice and chewed on it. It worked for a moment but at mile 25, I thought I might be done. I was genuinely worried it might be over. But I knew I was close, so I grabbed my water cup tight, and just shuffled on. Too close to let it go now, I thought, even if your time is in the toilet, you just have to get that medal. I called Josh somewhere in this mile, which the thought of doing prior to this day I just couldn’t conceive, and he gave it to me straight: “You better run down Boylston St. You didn’t come this far to not finish strong. Dig deep. I know you can do it.” And he was right, he’s always right. I saw Hereford St, the most beautiful street sign in the world and although it took everything I had, made the last left with a final jet for the finish. I saw Paige scream my name which gave me so much strength and then found my family, right in front of the Lenox. I stopped to give my kids a kiss, to read my mom’s sign and to hi-five Josh, then I turned and made a bolt for that finish line. Which felt like the greatest space in the world. I had no music on, I had taken my headphones out at mile 13, the music was just making me feel worse. So there was no finish line song blaring except for the one I carried in my heart.
To say that this was hard would be an understatement. The distance was fine, it was more than fine. I have no fears about the distance. The heat just killed me. It just, completely made me fall apart. Regardless, I got to that finish line when at times I didn’t think I could. For 26.2 miles I thought about all the wisdom shared with me by my fellow runners and just tried to do the best I could to make it through. I wasn’t as emotional at the finish line as I thought I would be because honestly, I just felt like shit. I’m hard on myself, I am. I had a goal in mind and I didn’t make it, it will take a few days for my mind to let that go. All my training told me that I could do this in a decent time, every long run was fairly good, I wasn’t ready for this to happen, but it did, so now I just need to embrace it and let it go.
However, regardless of time, or state of mind or sickness in body, I will say this: I’ve been told most of my life I couldn’t do this. I’ve been told countless times I wouldn’t live to see a day like this. I said my goodbye’s early in life thinking that I had to. And now, at 30 years old, I crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon. If I felt anything yesterday, it was release. I felt a freedom that I didn’t think was possible. It was like someone removed the shackles. Not once during the 26.2 did I feel scared for my heart. I may have felt scared for other things but honestly, that was a relief. I will never speak of this again because I don’t think I’ll ever have to. It will always be something I live with but it will never again be something that I fear. The Boston Marathon gave me a peace I didn’t think I could ever achieve and for that, I am most thankful. I have already decided I will return next year, in whatever capacity I have to. If I have to raise money, I’ll raise money but I will come back to Boston and I will get redemption. I will come back to Boston because I can. One year ago, I stated: “My hearts no match for my spirit” and now I know, I was absolutely correct.
Cheers to all that finished yesterday. All my fellow Boston Marathoners make me proud.