Blood, sweat and tears: Boston Marathon 2017 recap

Six days later and my brain is still swimming with thought and emotion.

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Blood, sweat and tears. Literally.

I spent 18 weeks running 908 miles in preparation, hell-bent on a PR, which, admittedly, isn’t the easiest feat. Boston is not a PR course, but I planned to try anyway. My training paces were aimed at a 3:25.

My Boston goals:
•A goal: A PR of 3:25:XX – 7:45 minute miles
•B goal: A BQ with enough cushion to run in 2018, about a 3:30 – 8:00 miles
•C goal: Finish happy, healthy, and uninjured

During the weeks before the marathon, I was voraciously hungry and fatigued. I did what I could to eat nutrient-dense foods and get extra rest, minimizing stress and focusing on pre-race recovery.

We flew into Boston at 10 p.m. Saturday, so it was straight to the hotel and to sleep. This left only one day in Boston pre-race to pick up my bib and explore the expo. I get nerves before races so I wanted to minimize my time in Boston before.

The expo was huge, but for as packed as it was, everything flowed smoothly. You could tell this wasn’t their first rodeo. We didn’t stay long, just long enough for me to snag a few items.

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Fast forward to Monday morning. My alarm went off at 5:30. I woke up and had a protein bar and coffee, then got dressed. Weather was warmer than predicted. I walked outside to wait for our Uber and wasn’t chilled at all, wearing only a tank and shorts. This was a terrible sign.

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About to make our way into the city. Hiding my nerves behind a smile and giant, disposable aviators.

We took the T into the city and arrived at Boston Common. Derek came with me and navigated the route so I didn’t have to think, just move. I didn’t check a bag because my support crew would meet me at the finish. A quick porta potty stop and I boarded the buses to Hopkinton.

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A selfie with my #1 supporter before boarding the bus.

Luckily, I met a nice, chatty lady in line and sat with her. (Hi, Krista from Wyoming!) She ran Boston a number of times and talked about the race. The bus ride was long, about an hour. I kept thinking, “We have to run back?”….

On the ride, I ate a Clif bar and Starburst jelly beans. It was tough fueling for a race late in the morning, trying to strike a balance between enough but not too much fuel.

Once in Hopkinton, we were dropped at the athlete’s village, a holding area with food, water and a ton of porta potties. I got in line right away, which was smart, because it took a long time. After that pit stop, it was time for Wave 3 to make our way to the start, another .9 mile walk. I had about 5,000 steps in before toeing the line.

The people of Hopkinton were out to cheer us on on the walk to the start and even had their own aid stations. I was sweating just walking and kept thinking about my goals and whether I should scale back. This heat would be hard to run in and downright dangerous. After debating, I decided to go for my A goal but was terrified it might be too much and the wheels would come off. If that happened, I would deal with it in the moment.

I decided this is the freaking Boston Marathon and I was going to act like I deserved to be there.

The gun sounded at 10:50 a.m. Off we went. As I was warned, everyone went out like a bat out of hell on the downhill course.

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I stuck to the plan and nailed my 7:45s as close as possible. The first water stop was at mile 2. I drank a cup, then grabbed two more and started drenching myself. Keeping cool would be the key to finishing without a trip to the medical tent.

The only downside to drenching myself was having to carry my phone. It was in my Flipbelt but I was sopping, so in my hand it went. Carrying something for 26.2 miles is a bit of a pain, but when I’m running, I enter robot mode and do what needs to be done.

I wrote a short recap on Instagram, and it sums up the race pretty well:

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I was concerned with the amount of effort I had to exert early in the race. Amazingly, my body was able to maintain it.

I called Derek at mile 6 to ask where they were and on which side of the road. They were near mile 25 on the left side, so beginning at mile 23, I hugged the left side. I still didnt’ manage to see them, but the thought of seeing them kept me going through those final miles. Sidenote: this was also another first, chatting on the phone while running. Ha!

So many people were walking starting at Heartbreak Hill. I gritted my teeth, put my head down, and kept running. It was weird flying by all these talented athletes. To even make it to the starting line of Boston is a great accomplishment…

The crowds along the entire course were absolutely amazing. The shouts of “Boston strong!” gave me chills. The best sign I saw was “4 years later Boston is stronger than ever” on the side of a building. The way the locals came out to cheer on the runners and support their city was inspiring. You can feel their fierce loyalty and determination to let love win.

I now know the meaning and feeling behind Boston Strong. I get tears in my eyes typing this.

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Less than a half mile to go. If I wouldn’t have been running, I’d have cried.

If I could use one word to describe the race and experience, it is humbled.

  • The race humbled me. I’ve never worked so hard in my life and felt like junk doing it.
  • I was humbled to run the same course as the world’s most talented athletes.
  • I was humbled to run among police officers, firefighters, military, disabled, and those who lost limbs serving our great country.
  • I was humbled by strangers who gave me water and orange slices. I was humbled by crowds filled with cheers and support.
  • I was humbled by cards, texts, calls, and messages from friends and family. Some of these people could not care less about running, but still offered love and support.
  • I am humbled by how I feel even today – my quads are so, so sore, and my body is tired.
  • I am humbled to be blessed with a strong body and spirit to allow me to accomplish my dreams.
  • I am humbled to say I accomplished my A goal and then some, finishing in 3:22:05, 7:42 per mile.

This was the race of a lifetime, and I am grateful to have experienced it. Early on, I said never again, but now I cannot wait to come back to the streets of Boston and do it all over.

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The best support crew in the world. Again, humbled.

The hype surrounding Boston? It’s all real, and it’s all worth it. I hope every runner gets to experience it at least once in their lifetime.

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