“Everyone who finishes the Boston Marathon has their own great moment in sport. Each of us on this day has achieved greatness.” – George Sheehan
I came, I saw, I BOSTON! People speak of southern hospitality but I have never felt a warmer welcome than I did in Boston. Everyone in the city was welcoming to the runners from 93 countries. The entire city shut down over the weekend for us runners to fulfill a dream and goal. Boston is now part of the top three experiences of my life; getting married, having Sloane and running Boston!
Our arrival was a long one. We (my mom, mother in-law, Shane and Sloane) left Louisville at 6am and arrived in Boston around 9:45am. I tried to eat on Saturday morning but I couldn’t keep anything down. I was too excited and scared to think about anything but running Boston. We dropped our bags off at the hotel and walked to the expo. As we approached the convention center we could see workmen setting up the finish line area. We snapped a couple of pictures as I stood on the finish line imagining myself crossing and completing my goal. I felt sad, happy, excited, elated, and scared all at once. I had an overwhelming amount of fear, which is something I have never felt before a race. I am not sure if the fear was the thought of not meeting my goal, being in pain along the way or the thought of my dream coming to an end. I have been so focused and dedicated to Boston I almost felt a since of loss. As we enter the expo there were people in every direction. It was tough to maneuver around everyone with a stroller and a baby. Our mothers stay behind to deal with Sloane as Shane and I made our way up the 2 flights of stairs and into the expo. I felt tears surface as I handed my I.D. over to receive my bib and race day information. The guy who handed me my bib was asking me question which I could not answer in fear I would cry. All I could do is smile as he handed me my place among the 26,000 runners in Boston.
Upon entering the expo I was completely overwhelmed, it was wall to wall people and apparel. There was not enough space to house everyone. My husband and I picked up a few Adidas Boston Logo swag before I had enough. We tried to see the entire expo but it was packed forcing us not to have an enjoyable experience. It was stressful trying to move in-between the thousands of people. I normally love big expos but Boston was a bit much for my personality. Before making our final exit we saw the Team Hoyt booth. I felt the tears coming again. I was so touched by the devotion a father can have for their son I could not help but tear up seeing him in person. My husband and I wanted to get a picture but the crowd was too great to make our way up to his table. We snapped a photo from where we stood, not fighting the hoard of fans. We finally made our exit to meet back up with our mothers and Sloane. We found them playing in a clear area on the third floor. We watched from a far as my mom played a game of cat and mouse with Sloane (one of her favorites).
Saturday night we walked around town checking out the city of Boston and ate dinner at a nice restaurant where my daughter entertained us. She is a great traveler. She brings a smile to my face every time I look at her. She is a constant reminder of why I run. It was nice to spend time with my family away from Louisville. We become caught up in our everyday hustle and bustle that we forget to keep in contact with those most important to us. I am so thankful our moms could join us on our trip. They helped out with Sloane and kept me calm leading up to race day. Our mothers our very different personalities but get along great. My mom is the loud fun grandma who is always ready to play and run around. Shane’s mother is more reserved and helps calm my daughter. They are both great grandmothers (or Gumby I should say). Shane’s mom stuff little trinkets in her purse and randomly pulls them out when Sloane starts acting crazy. My mom is always willing to step in and take over when she can tell I’ve had enough. Once again I would not have been able to run Boston without the help of our moms; they are amazing and unselfish women. Thank you mommies, we love you very much!
We decided to attend Palm Sunday Mass at Our Lady of Victories. The church was beautiful and Father John was warm with a sense of humor. Before mass began he welcomed all the runners and invited us to stay after mass for a special blessing (he assured us he gave the best blessing in town and the runners he blessed finished the fastest). Besides chasing my daughter in and out of church, mass was just what I needed the day before Boston. Father’s words helped calm and relax me. As I walked up for communion I noticed an older lady ahead of me. She was dressed in a blue track suite with Zoot transition shoes on (of course they matched her outfit). I thought to myself, “Awesome!” Her appearance made me joyful. She was old and I knew she was in the city of Boston to do one thing, RUN. As mass ended Father motioned for the runners to walk to the front of the church and welcomed our family members to take pictures. As we stood there he blessed us with kind words and holy water (he told us he lives for this moment every year, he loves throwing holy water on the runners). A man to my right shook my hand and said, “I saw you chasing your daughter back there, she already has great form. I think you are raising a future Boston runner.” I giggled and replied, “I hope so. Chasing her has been a crucial part of my training.” Moments later the woman standing to my left hit my arm and said, “Do you know who that is?!” She pointed to the older woman wearing the track suite. I had not yet seen the woman’s face just her back side. She stood extremely tall and straight with a thin frame. I shook my head no. As the woman in the blue track suite turned around I knew exactly who she was, the IRON NUN! She is an endurance icon. When my husband and I first dated many years ago he was training for his first half Ironman in Florida. He spoke of the Iron Nun often. He was convinced if she could do it, he could do it. The night before he left for Florida I gave him a good luck card. On the inside of the card I drew the Iron Nun swimming, biking, running and crossing the finish line. She has inspired my husband for many years. When Father John concluded our blessing I motioned for my husband to come over, I knew he was going to be thrilled and moved to meet her. He walked over with the camera in hand as I told him Sister Madonna, the Iron Nun, was here! I could tell he was beginning to tear up when he saw her. An 82-year-old woman he had never met but has inspired him to continue on to become an Ironman for the past 5 years was now standing before him. We both walked over with watery eyes and introduced ourselves to her. She had a warm smile and a firm hand shake. She blessed each of us personally and took a few photographs with us. We were in the presence of greatness. She looked amazing at the age of 82! She is my inspiration to never stop running. Shane and I returned to our moms and Sloane and told them about the extraordinary icon. Both of them started crying. What an amazing Sunday morning! I could not have asked for anything more. I was now ready to run.
After mass our moms headed back to the hotel to put Sloane down for an afternoon nap while Shane and I headed off to Fenway Park. The Red Sox were playing the Blue Jays at 1:00pm. We walked to Fenway in the cold rainy weather enjoying time with one another. I love having our daughter but she makes it impossible for us to spend time together. I can’t remember the last time Shane and I were alone until our walk to Fenway. We listen to all the local fans talk about the Red Sox, they were hoping for a W. I love listening to them speak and the slang they use. We all speak English but we speak it in many different ways. I took in the smells of the ball park food, the sights around Fenway, and all the people running around having a good time. We entered through Gate C and found our seats in the bleachers. Our seats were incredible for the price. We were directly behind the bull-pin and facing home plate. As soon as we set down the clouds gave way to blue and sunny skies. Everything was working in our favor. We enjoyed the first 20 minutes of the game without saying a word to each other. I giggled and turned to my husband, “It’s so nice not chasing Sloane and just sitting here.” He agreed and held my hand. We were finally able to apprecate each other’s company. Once more we took a million pictures of the game and all the pitchers warming up in the bull pin. It became a joke to us. Every time a pitcher started warming up I told my husband to photograph them because they maybe famous. He would laugh and snap away. The Red Sox got their W; 8-1.
The moment I had been waiting for finally came Monday morning at 5am. I woke up before my alarm went off and began getting ready. I was scared once more. After I was dressed and packed for the post race I began to tear up. I was sad that my moment in Boston was going to be over within the next couple of hours. I had live the last 6 months of my life for this day. I loved having something to look forward to and work hard for. Shane took more pictures as I set on the bed in tears. I finally got myself together, gathered my things and headed for the buses. Boston is a unique race in the fact all 26,000 runners must be bused to the start of the race in Hopkinton (26.2 miles away). I was glad we made it to the buses before the big rush came. As I boarded I looked out the window to see thousands of people waiting in line. The line went back further than the eye could see. I was extremely grateful to be on the warm bus. I sat next to a young girl who was running her 4th Boston. She offered a lot of great advice. We talked about life and other things not including running. She had a calming vibe. I soon forgot where the bus was taking us. When we arrived to the Athlete’s Village I was amazed at the size of the area. There was a huge welcome sign as we entered. Once more there were people everywhere. As I entered I noticed large white tents covering most of the area housing food, water and Gatorade to athletes. Adidas had a booth set up where Boston participants could write their names on their bodies and get Boston tattoos. They passed out shoe strings along with other souvenirs. I am so thankful they were nice enough to write my name on my leg (you will find out later why this was such a great idea). Athlete’s Village was freezing, the wind was brutally cold. The veterans were smart; they packed sub-zero sleeping bags and mats! As I walked around I was envious of the warmth they had. The sun was shining but the wind was bitter. The ground was too wet and muddy to sit on forcing me to continue to walk around. It was cold causing me not to warm up properly. My muscle and joints grew tighter with each minute that passed. We arrived in the village around 7:45am and my wave did not leave until 10:20am (a long time to be out in the cold before a race). I met people of every age, race, and gender. They all offered different advise and encouraging words. I listened to conversation around me. I heard a lot of runners from Canada and the North speak about their treadmill training. I was shocked at the number of people who trained for Boston via treadmill (last time I checked few treadmills have a downhill option). I felt sorry for them because I knew they would be hurting late in the race. Their reasoning for treadmill training was the cold weather. I know Kentucky is not Canada but we had our fair share of ice storms, snow storms and below freezing temperature. I never missed a run outside. Running outside prepares the body in a different way than controlled treadmill running.
After hours of waiting in the village my corral was called to the starting line. I couldn’t wait to start but I did not want to remove my warm clothing. I stripped down to my running gear and placed my bag holding my warm clothes and post race goodies to the volunteers on the school bus (all athletes can check 1 bag on the buses which are driven to the finish line where the participants can pick them up. The buses are numbered by bibs, a great system). As we walked to the start line I met a man from California. He appeared to be in his early 40’s, this too was his first Boston. He pulled out his ipod and began filming. He asked nicely if I would like to be part of his documentary of Boston. Of course I agreed. He interviewed me as we approached the start. It was so cute to be a part of a stranger’s experience. As we crossed the start line I lost my friend to the thousands of other runners around me. Everyone took off fast because it is a downhill start. I kept reminding myself I wanted to race smart and start slow. I was not racing against other runners I was racing against my previous PR (3:38). I kept my feet underneath my hips and slightly lend forward as I headed downhill. I watched my pace closely the first 3 miles (I maintained an 8:30 pace). After 3 miles I increased my pace. The race was more liberating than I could have ever dreamt. There were a lot of people in a small area, which I am not a fan of but other than that everything was perfect. With each stride the sun grew warmer and warmer. The people of Boston opened their arms and raised their beers to us as we ran by. We passed a motorcycle bar filled with men in leather duds with long hair and crazy beards. They were blaring heavy metal music and yelling to the top of their lungs. Their support satisfied me. During the run I told myself to take it all in and remember every street sign I passed and every smile I saw(of course this is impossible). I spoke to no one the entire 26.2 miles, I took every inch of the race in. Within the first 6 miles I passed by Team Hoyt. I slowed down to run alongside the amazing duo. I was filled with emotion. I kept telling myself to keep it together. It was impressive to see a father filled with such determination to push his son a marathon distance in order for his son to feel pride. I felt privileged to have the opportunity to run next to them for a few moments in Boston. Thank you Team Hoyt for your inspiration.
The girls of Wellesley were my favorite! I could hear them from a mile away! My skin grew with goose bumps as we approached them. They all held up signs, “Kiss me I am Jewish, Kiss me my boyfriend’s running, Kiss me I’m from CA, Kiss me I’m awesome,” and so on. I looked to my left as I passed by the 1000+ women of Wellesley. My eyes filled with tears once more as I thought about the effort these women put into cheering us on. The girls of Wellesley left a lasting impression on me. They were the loudest fans on the course. The image of them leaning over the cattle gates, fist pumping, signs waving, voices yelling will forever be engrained in my memory.
I was doing what I wanted to do, run smart. I felt like a million bucks as we hit the half way point. My legs felt strong and my breathing was not labored in the least. I had a lot left in the tank. I knew the Newton Hills were nearing and the day was progressively getting warmer which forced me to exert more energy. I ran under an 8:00 minute mile on flat areas and slowed to 8:11 going downhill (I wanted to save my legs for the last kick). Boston was the toughest easiest course I have ever run. My training was on point. I spent hours studying the course during my training. I incorporated the right amount of downhill work. The hills of Newton were not bad compared to the hills I had been running in Louisville. It was the loss in elevation from the start of Boston to the finish. I am glad I was prepared because those who were not ended up walking most of the hills. I was shocked at the number of runners walking. I thought to myself, “You came all the way to Boston, to walk?” These are determined people who fought to qualify and who fought to register. These are not the type of personalities to give up. I never once stopped or walked. I wanted to kick Boston ass! I was here to run and that was what I was going to do! No matter the battle, downhill, uphill, heat, cramps and so on, I was in Beantown to RUN. The Newton Hills were not as bad as I had anticipated; all that was left was the famous Heartbreak Hill. I knew it was somewhere in between mile 20 and 21 but I wasn’t exactly sure where it was. I was half way up it before I realized I was on the infamous hill. I only knew because there was a picture drawn in chalk of a broken heart. After I finished Heartbreak Hill I began to gas it. I dropped under an 8:00 minutes pace the remainder of the race. I couldn’t believe how strong I still felt. My training had paid off. I was on my way to finishing and nothing was going to stop me!
Boston College was entertaining to run through. All the college kids were painted up and drinking beer. They were nice enough to pass out beers to the runners. I took a small drink and it was delicious! As I ran by, I threw my arms into the air fist pumping away as if I was Snooki from the Jersey Shore. The college kids loved it! They began yelling louder. Some of them began screaming my name. I am so pleased I had my name written on my leg. There is nothing like hearing hundreds of people yell your name during a race. At that moment I wanted to be a professional athlete. There is no better feeling than having strangers support you and your dream.
After Boston College the race was almost over. I wanted to savor ever last moment I had on the course. As we headed down Hereford Street towards our final turn on Boylston Street I went for my last kick, I ran a 6:45 pace the last half mile. The crowd was going crazy coming into Boston. When I made my way onto Boylston Street my eyes glossed over and my heart melted. People were everywhere! I heard my name coming out of the mouths of thousands and I was pushing with everything inside me to the finish line. Once more I threw my arms in the air waving to all those around me. I was smiling ear to ear, it doesn’t get better than that moment. I crossed the Boston Finish Line in 3:32 a 6 minute PR (qualifying me for 2012). During my final kick I was able to push to a 5:01 pace. Soon after I crossed I noticed a man to the right of me hobbling along. I walked over to him and asked if he needed help. He looked at me with pride and declined politely. He informed me that he had twisted his ankle at mile 16 on a loose water bottle but he didn’t want to quit. He never walked or stopped. He kept going through the pain and to the finish line. This is what running is all about; giving everything you have inside to fulfill a dream. I felt as if I gave all I could but I was not in pain. The Boston Marathon has changed my perceptive about running. Not once during Boston did I want to quit or give up nor did I ever think that it was hard. The entire run felt astonishing. I trained, I followed a plan, I ran smart and I ran with my heart. I have never walked away from a race pain-free and completely at peace with my performance until Patriots Day Monday April 18, 2011. I was honored to have my great moment in sport history. Thank you BAA for keeping the Boston Marathon going year after year. What an unbelievable experience!
By the way – I carried my daughter about 6 blocks back to our hotel (because she only wanted mommy and she had no idea I just ran 26.2 miles), climbed 24 flights of stairs and walked about 2 miles post race. I think staying active helped my recovery. The following day I woke up with a little pain in my feet and some tightness and that’s it.
Minutes per MileAvg Pace
Overall – 8458 out of 26907 (Top 31%)
Gender – 1735 out of 11462 (Top 15%)
Division – 1298 out of 11329 (Top 11%)