The Race (aka, the good stuff, in case you’ve opted to bypass Part 1. Click HERE for Part 1.)
I didn’t realize that I totally missed the start of my wave by going to the bathroom for a second time. By the time I got to the starting line, runners were literally just trotting into the starting chute and starting to run. I had missed the pop and circumstance and the national anthem…but I didn’t have time to worry about that. I took a deep breath and slowly jogged through the starting mats. It all seemed very anticlimactic.
“I’M DOING IT. I’M RUNNING THE BOSTON MARATHON,” I thought to myself.
I ran down the opening hill and wasted no time slapping hands with spectators. I didn’t realize there would be so many people in Hopkinton! And everyone was so excited to be there! High fives for everyone! They’re cheering for me! Yahoo!
Miles 1-5: 7:25, 7:21, 7:21, 7:22, 7:22
I didn’t warm up for the race. The “easy” pace I naturally run at home is between a 7:20-7:30. Since the plan was to stay right in that range for the first 5 miles, I thought I’d be okay just using the start of the marathon as a warmup. And I was right: the first 2 miles felt sluggish, but doable. I reminded myself that this was just a warmup, and sometimes I don’t truly feel “on” until mile 6+ in some of my runs.
I also faced the challenge of being a bit faster than the wave I was in. My qualifying time for Boston was a 3:22, putting me in the 4th corral of wave 2. Since I also insisted on that second bathroom trip, I essentially found myself starting with people from the 7th and 8th corrals from wave 2. I didn’t stress, though, and avoided slower runners by picking a straight route on the far right side of the course that allowed me to sneak by most everyone without wasting too much energy.
literally sneaking along the edge of the road.
I noticed that tons of families were offering orange slices on the side of the road. I had never eaten solid food or fruit during a run before, but since it was a bit warm, I decided to see how it’d go. I grabbed my first slice around mile 3…and it did not disappoint. It tasted GOOD and I felt a little burst of quick energy. The juice from the orange was cool and refreshing against the quickly rising temperature.
As good as the orange tasted, it couldn’t mask the fact that I had to really pee. Again. In Part 1, I discussed my peeing issue and inability to pee my pants while running. (Because if you’re running and you REALLY want to PR, you just go in your pants. NBD. At that point, it’s mostly water anyway.)
And then something magical happened at mile 3.
I BEGAN PEEING MY PANTS. There were so many people and so much commotion…I just gave it a try…AND I PEED A LITTLE. I smiled to myself and thought how clever and sneaky I was.
And then that something magical happened again at mile 4.
“Hehehehehee! I can’t wait to see Josh and tell him I peed my pants!”
I couldn’t believe I hadn’t figured out how to do it before then. Let it be known that this Boston Marathon was VERY important for me, not just because I ran a huge PR. –but because I peed my pants while running for the first time ever. I also peed my pants at mile 6, and then again at mile 8. Simply put: it was incredible.
Miles 6-13: 7:14, 7:13, 7:14, 7:13, 7:21, 7:15, 7:13, 7:15, 7:13, 7:15
Like I said: I’m a metronome. I think it has something to do with my rowing background. During this section, I repeated, “lock it in,” to myself over and over, and I tried not to think about anything except running an even pace. “Remember. This is what you’re good at.” Needless to say, I was anxious to get to the part where I’d need to push myself. I tried to not look at my watch so I wouldn’t count down the miles.
^^deep breaths. locking it in. feeling fresh as i iz.
I took my first two gels at miles 6 and 11. I felt encouraged that my legs felt great and zippier than normal. I also kept eating orange slices whenever the opportunity presented itself to me. And since I was running on the far right side of the road, I was hitting the water and Gatorade stops pretty frequently and making a point to take more than just one sip of the liquid. I also passed several Oiselle teammates, which was really exciting, and chatting with them was a nice break from thinking about the course.
Josh had told me to add in 1-minute surges every few miles along this flat portion. He didn’t want my legs to fall flat once they needed to really WORK later on in the race. I tried my first surge around mile 3 or 4, but I didn’t like how it felt. It actually made me tired, which concerned me a little bit. I tried another surge around mile 6 or 7, and I just didn’t love how I felt again. I felt like I was wasting energy and my legs didn’t feel particularly great…so I stopped. After some of the ridiculously hard workouts I did during training (HELLOOO 20 milers embedded with a tempo AND a fartlek in the middle) I trusted that I would be ready to work and climb up the hills later on in the race.
At mile 10, I passed Team Hoyt—the dynamic father and son duo where Dick Hoyt pushes his son, Rick, in his wheelchair for all 26.2 miles of the marathon. I burst into tears and thought about how amazing the sport of running is, and how incredible it was that I was part of such a huge event.
The Wellesley Scream Tunnel made the final mile of the first half go by quickly. As we approached the girls, several people around me said, “I hear them!!” –and so did I. There was a dull roar of screams that floated above our heads as we got closer and closer to the girls. And when we got there…it was insane. The men running around me literally just stopped. Many trotted over to the Wellesley girls and started kissing them. It was such a spectacle; I was just hysterically laughing the entire time. I was scared to give them high fives. I thought they’d be mad that I didn’t want to kiss them….so I stayed to the left and let the dudes get their jollies in.
First Half – 1:36:04
I smiled. The plan was being executed perfectly. And then I said out loud to myself, “alright Mary, let’s get to work.”
Miles 14-16: 7:04, 7:05, 6:57
I was only planning on being around a 7:10 in here, but 7:05s felt SOLID, and the course was just getting exciting! My legs started to hurt and feel tired just before the halfway mark, so I embraced the pain at the half and welcomed the shift of focus from an even/steady pace to a slightly faster pace. I like going faster and pushing myself.
I took my third gel at mile 16. The gels were settling really well in my stomach and I was making a special effort to keep drinking at every water stop. Since it was getting hotter, I also made sure to dump a cup over my head. I also kept snacking on oranges and an occasional watermelon slice, which I think made a huge difference. I’ve definitely never eaten so much during a run before, and I think it worked to my advantage here.
Somewhere in this bit, I also ran into Stacey, one of my Oiselle teammates. I met Stacey last year at the New Jersey Marathon—and our paths seem to keep crossing! I asked how she was feeling, and she commented about the heat, and she wasn’t doing as well as she had hoped. I told her I was feeling strong, and I got a huge burst of motivation as I pulled away with her yelling, “go chase down that time, girl!!!!!”
^^HAI MOM, I’M RUNNING THE BOSTON MARATHON!
Miles 17-20: 7:05, 7:07, 6:56, 7:05
I was [literally] peeing my pants in excitement when I finally got to the Newton Hills. In all honesty: I had approached the race as a 16-mile warmup to the final 10 miles. It was finally time for me to let it rip!!
Mile 16 ended on a steep decline, so the incline of mile 17 hit me like a ton of bricks. That first incline was ROUGH. Like, really rough. And that’s when I got mad. “This is just fucking stupid,” I thought. “There’s no way that I’m letting this get away from me. I trained all winter for THIS very moment. I canNOT fuck up now.”
As I climbed each hill, I reminded myself to work the hill and not let let it work me. And I thought about how much hill training and work I had put in this winter. The hills were MINE. I was hitting them perfectly on pace, and I was ecstatic. They didn’t feel nearly as bad as some of the Connecticut hills I ran this winter. Could it be that I’m actually starting to be a decent hill runner?!?! …Preposterous.
At mile 19, I was excited to unexpectedly see Josh. He had told me he’d be on the course just after Heartbreak (“so you better get your shit together for when your run by”) so I didn’t expect him so soon, at mile 19. Sadly, I had to wait to tell him about my peeing extravaganza until after the race.
Mile 20 was where I learned that Meb had just won. Someone had written on a big sign, “KEEP GOING! MEB JUST WON!! 2:08!” All the runners around me cheered out “MEB!!! YES!” and the news seemed to bring a little spring back into everyone’s step. At that moment, I didn’t realize just how huge it was that Meb had won…but looking back, I’m thankful that the spectators told us. I wondered how Shalane did, but knew I’d find out soon enough.
Mile 21: 7:19
And just like that…I hit Heartbreak Hill. And it was as bad as everyone says it’s going to be. It was just terrible. It kept going and going and going. But I knew that I’d be home free one I got over it!! Thank goodness there was a lot of commotion around me, because I was definitely doing some out-loud pep talking to myself.
^^justtttt running up a hill, talking to myself. NBD.
Josh had told me to take note of how many people around me would just wilt away on the hills…and he was totally right. As I gained power and momentum through each uphill, most everyone around me couldn’t keep up. I plowed my way up heartbreak hill, and when I crested the top, I smiled from ear to ear
I was ready to rock and roll.
Miles 22-26.2: 6:52, 6:50, 6:48, 6:48, 6:50, last .47 @ 6:22 avg
I took a deep breath and barreled down the backside of Heartbreak. I had my fourth gel at mile 21, and my stomach was surprisingly still okay. My feet, on the other hand, were on fire and I felt like I was floating above the crowds. I couldn’t feel my legs anymore. At that point, I was just ready to work the final few miles. I knew I’d be under 3:10 if I just finished smart.
“Chill out, Mary. You still have to finish this thing.”
Passing by BC was a complete blur, as was seeing Robin and Gabe at mile 24. At some point, someone was handing out banana halves, and I actually stomached most of one, which I was really excited about. I only looked at my Garmin 1-2 times, but I was running consistently between a 6:45-50, so I knew how important fuel was. I had an extra gel in my bra from mile 19, so I ripped it open and slowly sipped on it for a mile or so at mile 23. I figured as long as I could keep food down, I might as well keep eating it. I did NOT want my legs to seize up.
At one point, there was a guy in front of me who dramatically slowed down at the water stop. I, too, had to put the breaks on, and I felt my quads locking up as I did. “No no no no,” I thought, “Must. Keep. Running.” I knew that if I stopped running, I wouldn’t be able to start again. So I pushed on. I kept thinking, “holy crap, how am I seriously running 6:50s in the last 5 miles of a marathon??? wtf is happening??” …but I went with it because that pace, somehow, felt sustainable.
Another memorable moment was when I went for the same water cup as a girl running next to me. It was the last water cup in the row, and I got to it before her, and I saw that she was upset. I took a quick sip and gave the rest of the cup to her…I felt bad that I had grabbed it right in front of her. At that point in a marathon, you really just need to work with the people around you to get the job done.
The last 2 miles seemed like an eternity. I was so ready to stop running. My vision was starting to get a little blurry and I was hardcore riding the pain train. At mile 25, I saw Jenny in front of me. I knew something must have been wrong because she had started quite a ways in front of me. I said hi to her, and she gave me a look of dissatisfaction back. As I inched away from her, I looked back and saw her walking. I tried to encourage her to keep going, but I don’t think there was much I could say at that point to make her feel any better, unfortunately.
I pushed onward in the final mile. I saw the Citgo sign, but my brain was so fuzzy, I barely thought twice about it. The crowds were out of control, and before I knew it, we were taking our right on Hereford, left on Boylston.^^after the right on Hereford and MAJOR pain face. WTF. no one told me Hereford was an effing hill.
And then I saw the finish line.
I started crying and I felt like I was stumbling through the street. I said out loud to myself, “NO. Not now. Get your shit together you idiot,” and I made myself stop because crying = not being able to breathe. I gave everything I had in the final stretch, and crossed the line with the biggest shit-eating grin of my life.
^^looking like a huge dork. long hair don’t care.
^^reaching for the watch. standard.
I crossed the line, looked at my watch, and started hysterically laughing.
FINAL MARATHON – 3:08:34
I DID IT. Finally. The goal that had been hanging over my head for months…shattered. Crushed. Demolished. Holy fucking shit I did it!!! I BROKE 3:10.
I quickly did the math and realized it was another 14 minute PR. In just a year.
I stumbled to the curb and sat down and started hysterically crying. A medic came over to me and asked if I was okay. I blubbered, “Yes…I’m okay…I just PRed by 14 minutes…AND TOMORROW’S MY BIRTHDAY.” Completely overwhelmed with emotion, I buried my head with my hands and just sat there crying. She responded with, “I see. So these are happy tears??” And I slowly nodded a pitiful, “yes,” in response.
We sat there without speaking and I appreciated the silence. I wondered to myself if she had been there last year during the bombings. I wondered if she was thinking about them too. I thought about how wonderful the day was, and my heart broke when I thought about last year…how all of that happiness vanished in a matter of seconds. I thought about how lucky I was to be part of such a huge event and I felt so much happiness to be at the finishing line of a race that I’ve admired for so many years. After a few minutes of silence, we both got up. I thanked her for volunteering and proceeded to full on ugly girl cry as a friendly man put the medal around my neck. THE medal. THE Boston Marathon medal that I spent countless hours of training and effort towards. It was mine. I was finally a Boston Marathoner. I was finally a part of this prestigious event that was so much bigger than me, and I was so so proud.
I stumbled through the rest of the finishers’ chute in a complete haze, hoping that the medics wouldn’t plop me into a wheelchair and claim that I needed to lie down. I had priorities. I needed to get to Gabe and give him a kiss and tell him that I DID IT!
A year ago, all I wanted to do was qualify for the Boston Marathon. And I did. And I started this unpredictable running journey that brought me where I am today. And after so many miles, workouts, and hard work, it’s just totally surreal to me that I am a Boston Marathoner. I am unbelievably happy.