Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Boston Marathon 2013

I've thought about writing about the marathon for months and just never got all that far.  I'm registered for the 2014 Boston Marathon, so I've been thinking about the training and that day a lot lately.  I planned on writing about the marathon a lot.  I thought about it the days before and during the race. I tried to remember different things that happened and at which mile, when songs came on, crowd signs, etc.  While this isn't the post I had planned on writing, this was my experience.

So let's start with this information- I had not run for two weeks before the marathon.  I have no good reason and no explanation for this.  I worked out. I mean, I taught my classes.  But no running.  I was sick for a bit and couldn't get to my 20 miler (chest cold) and then just... ya know  Nothing.  

Friday, April 12th, I drove into Boston to pick up my race packet. 

Nerves setting in.

So busy...

The finish line

Aaaaaah! It was just three days away!

I spend some time walking through the expo.  I bough an official Boston Marathon sweatshirt and stuffed unicorn (a kid in a stroller told me that that one's name was "Ralph").  I looked at different socks, shirts, stickers, shoe charms... so many things.  I needed to get myself a new sparkley blue headband and a super hot fanny pack.  You know how they tell you never to try anything new on race day? They even mean headbands. I'll get to that later.

Spike! Oh.. um, Ralph.

You can see the fear in my eyes. 

That weekend was spent worrying, setting my stuff out for race day, checking it 2000 more times, seeing a show, and eating carbs (so many carbs).  The night before, I tried to get to bed early, but I didn't sleep very well.

I got up nice and early that morning.  I wanted to make sure I had some coffee and some breakfast and some time to relax before heading to Ram's "Magic Bus" with the Shamrock running club. It was an early start, but my wave didn't run until... 10?

Winston has no idea why I'm awake.

Breakfast of champions...? I ate more on the bus, don't worry

I got dressed... posed for a picture (it might have taken a few)

That's fear.  And awkwardness. 

And we headed out for the bus.  It was a little cold (better than hot!) and I bundled up and settled in.  I was pretty nervous, so I spent a lot of time looking at my phone, checking Facebook and texting with friends to keep my mind of the miles ahead... even though we were all just talking about... the miles.  So many miles.  We made it to Hopkinton!

So many people!


I hung out on the bus until I got word that my teammates (Brad and Kristin) had made it in from Boston.  We stretched, we chatted, we waited for our wave to be called.  We slowly made our way up to the starting line.  There were people outside on their lawns giving out hair ties, vasoline (chaffing), water, and sunblock.  There were people already clapping and cheering us on, people holding signs.  I was already starting to get emotional.  And I was cold. SO cold.

We made it to the start line and just had a few more minutes to wait.  Brad, Kristin, and I wished each other well because we knew our speeds would be very different.  And we were off!  We were running the Boston Marathon!  For the first mile or so, I saw more people peeing on the side of the road and in the woods than I have ever seen in my life (this is presented without comment).  

I knew I had some people that would be cheering me on on the side. I wondered if I would actually be able to find them.  Right away, I saw Anthony and Lisa Huntington (who snapped the picture below).  I waved and heard "You go baby girl!" from Lisa and almost started to cry again.  :)  

I'm the one turning around.  And smiling because it's only been, like, a mile.

So it turns out, the best non-running advice I got was the write my name in big letters on my shirt.  I know it sounds silly, but nothing makes you feel more like a superstar than the Boston Marathon crowd cheering your name as you pass. (and it took until mile 15 before I got my first mispronunciation (it was Shana).  Pretty impressive.)

The first ten miles honestly flew by.  I recognized the streets of Ashland, Framingham, and Natick as we ran through. I remember some of music that played (Kate deLima's suggestion, "Thrift Shop" turned out to be a good one, because it was pretty fuckin' awesome).  

You know what's hard?  Pacing your high fives.  So many adorable kids and encouraging adults.  That was some other advice I was given, "Don't high five every kid in Hopkinton".  It's hard advice to take.

Do you want to know the weird thing that happens when you run at my pace? You will eventually get passed by all of the people in costumes.  Somewhere around mile 9 maybe, a whole bunch of hamburgers started to pass me (a gaggle?).  Dora the Explorer and I spent most of Framingham and Natick taking turns passing.  At some point, I was passed by a banana holding up a speaker.  I sort of snapped this picture because, I mean... come on.

Just before the halfway point is, what I think was, my favorite part of the marathon, Wellesley College.  I had heard about it, but there was really nothing that could have prepared me for the amazingness that is the ladies of Wellesley.  The signs! The screams!  The high fives! The kisses being offered!  Signs that read "Kiss me I'm____" ("in a long distance relationship", "Italian", "a lesbian", etc) and "Finally some men around here!"

Right after Wellesley, I remember thinking "I like half marathons".  It's a respectable distance that doesn't disrupt your life and you still get a medal and snacks.  And I would have been done.  And my toes were really starting to hurt.  I said to a couple around mile 15 "This was a terrible idea!"

Random words of advice and wisdom from other runners flashed through my head.  "When you see the fire station in Newton and make the turn, that's not Heartbreak Hill".  Ok, so there was the fire station and then some hills.  My details start to get fuzzy here, but I know I started to be offered some beer.  I know I saw my friend Katie.  And I saw the awesome people from Stoneham Theatre.  That took me a couple of seconds to sort out.  I heard them and I heard my name and waved, but it took some time to register that I actually knew them!  The hills continued.  I took a little walking break here and there (more than just the water stations) to pace myself for Heartbreak Hill.

I have to admit that I didn't run Heartbreak Hill before that day.  I should have, probably.  There are a lot of hills in Woburn and Winchester on my normal routes, so I reasoned that I was doing a pretty good job of training for the hills in the marathon.  I still had nightmares about it.  In those dreams, I came to pretty much a wall of a hill that I had to climb on all fours.  It kept getting higher and I rarely made it to the top.  I kept going up the hills in Newton that I thought preceded it and thought "Wow, this is a little bit further away than I thought".  I looked over to my right and saw a sign that said "YOU MADE IT UP HEARTBREAK HILL!"  I stopped and asked the young guy holding it "Wait. SERIOUSLY!?"  "..... YEAH!"  I cried.  I was going to finish.  I kept running.

The Boston College area is a very close second to Wellesley.  They are excited and they have beer and they are so proud of everyone!  A lot of them were yelling out "name on shirt, I love you!"  I'm pretty sure that I always yelled back that I loved them, too. I needed to.  I was tired, I was so sick of my peanut butter GU and Gatorade and water and I really wanted their beer, but I knew it wasn't a good idea.  I kept running.

Very very soon after Boston College, the police officers on the route started to look different.  They weren't nervous, but they weren't watching the runners.  They were diverting us on to the sidewalk.  One of them said "We're stopping the race ahead".  I was so confused and SURE that I heard him wrong.  I kept running.  Another officer said the same thing and that's it.  I stopped to ask a concerned (and quiet) on looker what was going on.  "There was an explosion at the finish line".  Surely I heard him wrong.  There were still spectators.  We were all still running.  He must have been mistaken.  I took my phone out of my running belt and it was dead.  Keep running.

"We're moving the finish line" said another officer.  "What happened?!" another runner asked.  No answer.  I passed a woman and a soldier on the sidewalk offering use of their cell phones.  I took them up on it.  I tried to call Kevin, but his phone was also dead.  I tried my parents, but cell service was just stopped.  I didn't know what to do.  My plan was to run for as long as I could because people that I loved were at that finish line and I had no idea how to find them or if they were ok.

It was a few miles of "We're going to stop ahead" before they actually stopped the race.  I was just before Kenmore Square where I knew Corey and Sarah and the Lynn crew would have been.  We just were stopped. No other instructions.  I looked around and saw a Whole Foods across the street.  I knew that I was going to have to eat something and get some water.  I was so grateful for my fanny pack running belt and last minute decision to through $20 and my credit card in.  Whole Foods let me use their phone.  Still no answer from Kevin, but I left another message.  I managed to get a hold of my sister at my parents' house.  I could barely hold it together.  I asked her to please post on my Facebook wall to let everyone know that I was ok and to see if anyone had heard from Kevin.  She said that James was acting as a point person and posting any news he received.  She had read that Kevin was with Aimee and friends and was safe a little while before.  I told her I was going to try to walk back and find a meeting area.

I walked up to the bridge into Kenmore where an officer told me that I would have to go around another way.  I was shivering at this point.  It wasn't all that cold, but I had lost a lot of water and was covered in sweat.  I was just in capris and a tank top with wet hair and no mylar blanket.  I walked around a little more and ran into another officer that told me and another runner there would be buses running up Comm Ave to bring us to a meeting area and the buses with our bags at the Common.  He gave me a long sleeved t-shirt and apologized for not having a sweatshirt.  The other runner, George from Florida, and I walked up to Comm Ave.  He was up from Florida and needed to get back to his family at his hotel.  He spoke with them and knew they were ok.  We got to the bus stop and waited a few minutes.  "They're not coming", he said.  "We've gone this far, want to just walk?"  We walked.

It was long, and man it was windy.  We still didn't really know what was happening.  We were sore, we were cold, we were scared.  On Beacon Street, people were sitting outside of their apartments offering people a place to rest, a phone to use, and something to eat and drink.  We passed some other runners walking the other way with their yellow bags who told us that the buses were now on Newbury St.  George and I parted ways as he went back to his hotel and I went to the bus.  The volunteers at the buses gave me back my bag, but told me they were planning on setting up a family meeting place at the Common still.  I put on all of the clothes from my bag and took a mylar blanket and kept walking to the Common.

I was pretty disoriented and I can't imagine what I looked like.  I was tired, I was crying, and limping a little.  People I passed randomly offered use of their phones and help, but I really didn't know what to do.  I got to the public gardens and a swat team was surrounding a school bus.  No one knew anything about a meeting area.  I made it to the Common and wandered around.  When you are lost and scared EVERYONE looks like someone you know.  That day, everyone looked like Kevin or Corey Jackson (for some reason).  Every time I realized it wasn't them, I cried, but kept walking.

I decided to find a place to stay put because I wasn't sure I could keep walking.  I made it to the Panera Tremont and decided that I would call Kevin and hope that he was going to find a charger for his phone.  What's funny is, I was so confused, that I really thought that even with everything going on, Panera wouldn't let me use their phone if I didn't order something.  Of course, they let me make a call and asked what else they could do.  I tried Kevin's phone and it rang.... but no answer.  I tried once more and he picked up!  I could barely form words, but it turned out he was right down the street.

He parked his car, practically on the sidewalk, and ran in.  I have never been so relieved in my life.  I broke down, we hugged, I'm sure we made people uncomfortable.  The manager teared up and asked if we were ok, if there was anything else we needed.

We got in the car to drive out of Boston and I was able to charge my phone.  As soon as it powered up, it was ringing.  I called friends and family back and could barely hear what they were saying because my phone kept beeping with text notifications.  I answered all my texts, all my Facebook messages and posts, and emails.  I felt so bad for not being able to do it sooner.  I checked in with friends I knew had been there and they were all ok.

We didn't know what to do, so we went to Chili's for food and beer.  Seriously.  Chips and beer, that's all I wanted to think about.  The televisions in the lounge were all silently replaying the events from that afternoon.  I learned more about what had happened.  Our waitress noticed my BAA sweatshirt and asked if we had been there.  A neighboring table overheard and bought us a round of beer.  They didn't want us to know who they were, so we made a big cheers and thank you gesture hoping they would see.

The rest of the week was kind of a blur.  Kevin and I both took Tuesday off to spend together.  I went back to classes Wednesday (completely unable to participate).  I saw Stoneham's production of Millie featuring one of the our runners, Brad.  I can't believe he was able to to the entire show that soon after.  Here's something to compare it to:  He did the entire show full of dance numbers as if he had not run (and finished) a marathon two days before.  I groaned when I stood up at intermission. We got together with friends for dinner and drinks.  We were grateful that people we knew were ok.  We weren't part of the lockdown area that Friday, but we stayed in, glued to television and Facebook to make sure people we loved were alright.

The next week, the BAA organized a place for people to pick up their bags and medals.  Part of me felt strange about it, but I wanted to go in and get the medal.  I went in, unsure of what to expect.  There was a room full of yellow bags and about five volunteers checking off numbers and handing out medals.  They had a mini finish line and insisted on placing my finisher medal on my neck and then taking a picture.  I cried and one woman told me she was the "Official hugger".  The BAA is a wonderful organization.

I'm really honored and excited that they are letting us all run again next year.  I only know a little bit of what to expect.  I know a little bit more about how to train and about what not to do.  I know that I'll probably cry a lot.  And I know that we're all going to finish.