Boston · BQ · BQ dreams · family · goals · grateful · marathon · race recap · vacation

Boston 2019 Race Recap

It was 10 years ago, in 2009, that Jared and I ran our first full marathon.  I finished in 4:28:33 @ 10:15/mile.  It was an impossible dream then, but that’s when qualifying for Boston became a whisper of a goal in my heart as I chiseled away at my finish times.  For over 10 years, I’ve poured my heart into running, because for me, running is magic.  It’s far more than races and finish times, so I hope it goes without saying that Boston is so much more than my 26th marathon, but here is a recap of the day as it played out.

What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as who you become in the process.”

Leading up to Boston, there was a lot of talk about running for fun versus running for time.  It’s no secret that I trained my heart out and wanted to run the race of my life, but I didn’t want a time goal to steal the joy of having finally made it to Boston.  On the plane from San Diego, I spent some time considering how to have the best of both worlds and came up with a race plan.  I texted this to myself:

6:00 AM – When my alarm went off on Marathon Monday, the first thing I heard was the pounding rain.  Then there was thunder.  The storm continued as I drank coffee, reviewed my race plan, and started getting ready.  I’ve run marathons in the rain before, but that thunder was intimidating.

7:30 AM – I was so nervous, I barely remember saying goodbye to my mom (Leo, my sister, and brother were still asleep).  Jared, my dad, and Liv drove me to the busses taking runners to Hopkinton.  Traffic wasn’t bad, but the rain was steady, pooling in the streets around us.  I was reluctant to get out of the car and face what I believed was going to be a soggy day, but I pulled up the hood of my poncho, and jogged toward Boston Common, pausing at the corner to wave goodbye.  This is it.

8:15 AM – I wove my way through the crowd of rain-soaked runners and climbed onto a bus that was boarding.  I found a seat between three ladies, who (just like everyone I encountered in Boston) were incredibly friendly.  I ate a Larabar and did my best to stay calm as we drove for more than an hour to the Start.  Our bus driver was a jovial older man, with a thick, black mustache, and a laugh like Santa Claus.  As we waited to get off the bus, he popped on the PA to congratulate us, sharing that he volunteers to drive runners every year, because we are his heroes.  He went on to say we’ve done something he’s never been able to do in “conquering the body.”  He spoke of the sacrifice, deprivation, drive, and sheer will he knows we all possess.  I wasn’t the only one in tears.

9:30 AM – Now off the bus, the rain had stopped, but it was windy and cold.  Athlete’s Village was a muddy, sinking swamp, blanketed with rain gear, ponchos and trash bags, discarded clothing and shoes left behind by runners from the earliest waves.  I snaked my way through the mess, grabbed a cup of coffee for warmth, and hopped in line for the porta-potties.  The lines inched along slowly as I chatted with two other first-timers and ate my second Larabar.  We were still in line at 10:25 — 15 minutes after I was supposed to have lined up with Wave 3, Corral 3.  Internally, I was freaking out.

10:35 AM – With less than 20 minutes until my wave was set to take off, I rushed out of the swamp, and found an abandoned poncho to plop down and change out of my mud-caked throwaway shoes.  It was already warming up considerably, so I stripped off my sweatpants and long-sleeves, chucking them into a donation bin.  I ate my first Gu as I jogged to the Start Line, nearly a mile down the road.

10:48 AM – I was already sweating when I ducked into Corral 3, two minutes before the Wave 3 start time.  I did a few leg swings, fired up my Garmin, and then we were off!  I kept thinking: I’m running Boston!  I’m actually running the Boston Marathon!

  • Mile 1 – 8:13
  • Mile 2 – 8:06

Hopkinton (Start to 1.90 Miles) – The first two miles out of Hopkinton were a blur.  I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat.  The brightly colored sea of runners around me was unlike any other race I’ve experienced.  We had all qualified for Boston with similar marathon times, so we were all running at similar paces.  Also unlike any other race, the spectators already crowded the streets, cheering their hearts out as though we were elites in the final miles.  The energy and excitement was electric.

  • Mile 3 – 7:57
  • Mile 4 – 7:46
  • Mile 5 – 8:02  *Gu #2

Ashland (1.90 to 4.95 Miles) – Part 1 of my race plan was to start in “neutral,” coasting the downhills at an easy pace.  But I was so overcome by the excitement of actually, finally running Boston that it was hard to tell if I was keeping my effort “easy.”

  • Mile 6 – 7:40
  • Mile 7 – 7:44
  • Mile 8 – 7:49

Framingham (4.95 to 7:52 Miles) – I took my second Gu and focused on shifting into “first gear.”  Part 2 of my plan was to keep my effort conservative, so I could run strong through the Newton hills in the later half, but I knew I needed to work if I was going to hit my time goals.

I was elated to spot my whole crew at Mile 6.6.  I raced by them with my arms outstretched, yelling: “I’m running BOSTON!!!!”  Not surprisingly, that was my fastest mile of the day.

  • Mile 9 – 7:56  *Gu #3
  • Mile 10 – 7:57
  • Mile 11 – 8:01
  • Mile 12 – 7:43

Natick (7.52 to 11.72 Miles) – I felt nauseous as I tried taking my third Gu between Miles 8 and 9.  I worried the late morning start and extra fuel wasn’t agreeing with me, but also considered it could be the warm weather.  I started grabbing two waters at every aid station and distracted myself with everything around me: The river of runners hadn’t thinned out at all, and the crowds of spectators only seemed to multiply.

At Mile 11.2, I found my family again.  I saw Liv first, her arms outstretched like wings, just like mine.  Right behind her was my brother, holding Leo, who had a giant chubby-cheeked smile across his sweet face.  I wanted to scoop them up for hugs, but flew past with quick I love yous, promising myself I’d see them again, soon.

  • Mile 13 – 7:50
  • Mile 14 – 7:56  *Gu #4
  • Mile 15 – 7:58
  • Mile 16 – 7:51

Wellesley (11.72 to 15.93 Miles) – Around the halfway point, I came to the Wellesley Scream Tunnel, another iconic aspect of Boston that words simply cannot do justice… The screams were deafening, raising the hairs on my arms.  I made my way to the right side of the course to high-five as many students as I could.  I briefly considered kissing a Wellesley girl, because you only live once (!!!!), but the mama in me thought better of it since I was just coming off a cold, haha!

  • Mile 17 – 8:24
  • Mile 18 – 8:19
  • Mile 19 – 8:24
  • Mile 20 – 8:21

Newton (15.93 to 21.35 Miles) – Part 3 of my race plan was the most daunting.  I wanted to tackle the Newton hills with confidence and strength: strong uphill, strong downhill, remembering that this is what I came for — to challenge myself, to be a part of history, to earn that unicorn.

This is it, this is it, this is it, I repeated to myself.  I knew my pace was slowing as the sun blazed down on us.  I focused on maintaining my effort as I charged up the first of four hills at Mile 16.

I repeatedly reminded myself that I trained for this — that I run longer, steeper hills every day — but boy, there was no distraction from the difficulty of these miles.  On the uphills, my legs felt heavy, like I was dragging them through mud.  On the downhills, my whole body ached.  I tried to let go, and fly, but I caught myself worrying my goals were slipping away.  Then I remembered: “I am running the Boston freaking Marathon!  That IS the goal!”  And I found my smile again.

At Mile 19.3, I spotted my dad.  When he saw me, he pumped his fist, excited and proud.  It reminded me of my first qualifier at the LA Marathon in 2016, where I saw him on the final turn, with one, maybe two tenths of a mile to go.  He’d pumped his fist that same way and it gave me life.  I had a lot further to go this time, but I was ready to put up a fight as I headed up the notorious Heartbreak Hill.

I kept my head down as I made the half-mile climb.  I told myself I was a machine, begging my legs to go go go, but it was my slowest mile of the day.  I was overjoyed as the road leveled out and threw a high-five to a man holding a poster that promised we’d made it to the top.  But then the road descended steeply and my quads screamed.

  • Mile 21 – 8:47  *Gu #5
  • Mile 22 – 8:14
  • Mile 23 – 8:27
  • Mile 24 – 8:24

Boston to Brookline (21.35 to 24.70 Miles) – These miles are hazy (they always are), but I was hanging on for dear life.  The nausea was creeping up on me and I had skipped my fifth Gu at Mile 18, so I did my best to choke it down at Mile 21.  I knew I wouldn’t get to the sixth gel in my pocket, but I tried to stay focused on my plan.  The sun burned down on us and I kept grabbing double waters at each aid station.  I glimpsed at my Garmin and knew sub-3:30 was off the table, but a PR (< 3:33:22) was still possible if I could keep my pace in the low 8s.  Hang on, hang on, I begged my body.

In theory, downhill running is glorious and easy, but in the last five miles of a marathon, it’s downright painful.  I remembered Ryan Hall’s advice from the Runner’s World event the day before: get outside yourself.  I thought about my family, I counted dogs along the course, and I cycled through my mantras, settling on Liv’s favorite: Never give up.

I’ve traveled through Europe and Hawaii, seen cathedrals, waterfalls, and mountain scapes, but that Citgo sign at Mile 25… most beautiful sight in the world.

That last mile and a half was indescribable — a limbo between wanting to fast forward and freeze time, to memorize every detail.  Physically, I was wrung-out and spent, fighting for each forward step, desperate to be done.  Emotionally, I wanted it to last forever — you’ll never forget your first Boston, I had heard so many times.  I willed myself on, soaking it up, taking it all in: This is it, this is it, this is it.

  • Mile 25 – 8:18
  • Mile 26 – 8:36
  • Last 0.37 @ 7:39/mile

Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston – The Finish Line in sight, I heard Ali, her friend Colby, and Jared’s parents to the left of the course, screaming their hearts out among the masses of spectators.  Hands up, wings out, I crossed the finish line, and became a Boston Marathon Finisher.  Finally, finally.

Garmin Finish – 26.37 miles, 3:33:44 @ 8:06/mile

The Finish Line euphoria washed over me, a flood of joy so intense it felt like shock.  A medal was draped around my neck by a lady wearing a “Life is Good” shirt.  I grabbed water, downing one bottle, then a second.  I paused for photos, and floated through the finisher’s chute, which my dad had warned me would feel very long.  A heat sheet was draped around my shoulders, snacks placed in my arms.  I wandered forward in a daze.

When I finally made it to the family reunion area for letter “L,” clouds had rolled in and the winds chilled me.  I lowered myself onto a ledge and sat watching families reuniting all around me.  And then I spotted Jared’s giant smile through the crowd.  The rest of the world faded as he hurried toward me, Liv’s hand in his.  He says my face lit up before I burst into tears.  It was probably 20 or 30 minutes after I finished the marathon that I really absorbed the accomplishment, wrapped up in that hug of a lifetime.

Official Finish – 26.2 miles, 3:33:41 @ 8:09/mile

Big, fat drops of rain spilled from the sky as we made our way through the streets to find my dad.  It was poetic that the same three who dropped me off were the same three who brought me home.  Liv held my hand in the backseat as I started sweating and trembling.  The color drained from my face and I was slammed with the nausea of dehydration.  We made it back to our Airbnb, where I lied in a heap on the cold bathroom floor.

Eventually, I made it off the floor and spent the rest of the day with my family.  A Boston Marathoner.

The next evening, buried beneath my sleeping children on a six hour flight back to San Diego, I listened to the marathon playlist I never really listened to during the race.

I spent those final hours of our trip submerged in gratitude — for all the love and support I’ve received through this journey — for all the miles and early mornings, the drops of sweat, and moments of self-doubt — for every ache and pain, every disappointment and breakthrough, every long run and load of laundry… Grateful, because it is all worth it.

Boston changed me and humbled me in ways I can’t describe.  Very simply, I finished stronger than I started.

Boston Marathon 2019 – Rundown:

  • Official Finish Time:  3:33:41 @ 8:09/mile
  • Time since my last Marathon:  10 months ago, I ran Rock ‘n Roll San Diego in 3:33:38 — Only 3 seconds difference!  That blows. my. mind.
  • Lifetime Marathon:  #26
  • BQ:  #4
  • Spectators:  12!  I had 10 family members join me in Boston!  Jared, Liv, and Leo flew with me from San Diego. My parents, brother, and sister drove from Cincinnati.  And Jared’s parents and sister flew from Chicago!  Ali’s friend, Colby, and Run Yoga teacher, Cara Gilman, were also cheering for me!
  • Pre-Race Fuel:  coffee, ginger chews, Larabars, Nuun, and 1 Gu
  • During Race Fuel:  Nuun, 4 Gu energy gels, plus Gatorade and water from aid stations
  • Favorite Post-Race Treat:  a gluten-free glazed chocolate cake donut from Kane’s!
  • Favorite Song:  “Stand by me” by Skylar Grey is the only song I remember hearing during the race (I really didn’t listen to music, because the spectators were that awesome the whole way!)
  • Favorite MantraFly!

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