My running has taken me to new cities, new trails to explore, and new limits both physical and mental. There've been highs (the PRs) and lows (the injuries). There've been the mornings where the last thing I want to do is lace up and other days where I simply can't wait to get out and feel sorry when it's time to come back inside.
But above it all, I persevered and did so with the unbelievable support from family, friends, fellow runners, and strangers alike. That's what brought me to the line in Hopkinton yesterday and the motivation to get me to Boylston street 3 hours 9 minutes and 25 seconds later.
So much happened over the last three days since I last blogged that I felt it best to break this recap into several parts so as not to feel rushed to compress it all, and God knows when it comes to writing, brevity is not always my strong suit. With legs propped up, fresh from a massage, but still tender to the touch, here's what transpired...
It's no secret that the week leading up to yesterday was torturous. "Will my IT band hold? Will I have to walk 20, 18, 13 miles of the race? Why does this hurt now? Where's the ice? etc." None of this really changed when I got up on Saturday morning. However, I'd sort of come to terms with the injury. I was going to Boston no matter what and would take whatever the race gave me.
Rachel and I got to BWI and quickly realized we were not the only ones headed to Boston for the marathon. The camaraderie of the race had already begun. As we moved through security, running sweats, jackets, shoes, all moved along the conveyor belt, and even the famed-Boston jacket. Rachel and I exchanged a smile, already knowing that we were part of something special, or as Joe Biden might say, "This was a big f'ing deal."
First thing was first, though. I was starving and ready for my second breakfast so we had to walk from the A terminal to the B terminal to find the Starbucks to get oatmeal before making our way back over to the A terminal to catch our flight.
It was at this point that I saw a couple people wearing THIS year's Boston finisher jacket. I'm pretty sure I've made my feelings clear about this in past posts, but just to reiterate, I can't think of any worse joo-joo, mojo, karma, or what have you than wearing the t-shirt (or in this case jacket) of the race you're about to run before you've actually completed it. Perhaps I'm just too superstitious, but that just seems like you'd be condemning yourself to some horrible GI incident for pissing off the marathon gods. I digress.
When we lined up to get onto the flight, the Southwest crew earned major points by giving a shout out to all the people going to beantown for the marathon. And then the real bonding began. Like alcohol, I find running to be one of the great equalizers. If you run into another runner, one whom you've never met, it's so easy to use running as an icebreaker. We started chatting with a man who never could quite qualify for Boston, but was on his way up to cheer on his daughter who was running her first Boston.
We landed in Boston to typical New England weather: cold and dreary. I graduated from Holy Cross and remember when October came around, we essentially said good bye to the sun until March or April. It was cold. It was wet. It was Massachusetts. Nothing had changed.
My father-in-law drove out from Providence to pick us up and we made the family rounds for the afternoon, ten of us gathered around a small kitchen table in Medford, eating lunch and talking marathoning. All was well until Rachel's Uncle flung a chair into my knee, causing a collective gasp to go up from the room. No one was harmed.
Later that night, Rachel and I met up with some college friends to hang out and grab an amazing dinner in Jamaica Plain. We were doted on the moment we walked in. One of our friends whom we went to see worked at the restaurant and ensured we were well taken care of. I watched in jealousy as Rachel and our friend Rosa downed pints of beer. "Wait for the Chimay, wait for the Chimay," I kept repeating to myself. When my salmon arrived on a bed of lentils and pureed eggplant, I was lost to everything but my appetite.
Our friends were so excited for me. They had so many questions and I took relish in being able to talk about running, the process, the training, the nerves, the excitement, and the build up. I remember watching an episode of The Soup where Joel McHale quipped that there's nothing more boring than listening to your friend talk about their marathon training...wamp wamp. Most importantly, they wanted to know what my number was and what I'd be wearing so they could look for me on the course...it would prove a fruitful conversation for late in the race.
What I hadn't anticipated was the number of strangers who came up to me to ask if I was in town for the marathon. The weekend offered several congratulations and good lucks that it was impossible to not feel like you were apart of something so large both in the running community and the city of Boston.
Sunday, my dad arrived. After grabbing breakfast, it was finally off to the expo to pick up my number, packet, and yes, the coveted jacket. Having run only once in the last eight days, I thought it might be a good idea to walk to the expo from Cambridge (1.2 mile each way) to stretch things out a bit. The IT band felt the best it had in a week so my spirits lifted. Runners passed by us along the Charles River and we wondered if it was people getting in one last run before the big day or simply Sunday runners out for a jaunt.
Once we crossed the river, the city was abuzz with people and you could feel the energy in the air. Similar to the plane ride, it was one of those ah-ha moments that made it feel special. We were in the company of people from all over who'd gotten to Boston in different ways, by qualifying in different cities, and were there for the same reason.
Rachel played photographer and captured a ton of great photos I didn't even know she had taken of me: getting my number and diving into the throng of people sifting through jackets. Like piranhas to prey, people swarmed to the teal and yellow racks. Well, wouldn't you know that there were no more larges left and the medium sleeves were just a little too short. So, we branched out among the expo looking for a large in ANYTHING. My dad came across a fleece-lined pullover and I found the finisher jacket in black (which I think is a sharper jacket, anyhow). We held them up, studied them both, then decided, "What the hell, you only run your first Boston once, let's get both."
The rest of the expo was pretty crowded and we got frustrated sifting through the crowd so decided to go find some lunch instead. The sun had come out but the hope of a nice day quickly washed away as the sky darkened and opened up again.
I fell asleep in the afternoon watching the Phoenix/Detroit hockey game, while my dad read through the marathon program, and Rachel did school work.
Somewhat refreshed and certainly hungry, we walked down the street to Legal Seafood (rumored to be serving a special pasta dinner for runners) and had an early dinner. After that, it was back to the hotel to pin that beautiful blue bib on my singlet, lace my championchip through my shoes, and prep my food and running accessories for the morning.
My dad held out as long as he could, but went to bed soon thereafter. But before he left, he passed me the phone for one last chat with my mom. We shared what would become a tension-relieving laugh about making sure the alarm was set correctly a la the Seinfeld episode when Jean-Paul misses the marathon because, was it the a.m./p.m.? "No, man. It was the volume!"
Rachel and I didn't make it much longer, hitting the light at 9:45 to dream the dreams of fleet feet and nimble IT bands.
Check back in tomorrow to find out how grossly underprepared I was for the athletes' village in Hopkinton.