Thought I’d dig this out to get excited about Boston 2014. Hope to write a post soon about this year’s training cycle, where my good friend Zuzka and I are chasing the elusive 3 hour marathon goal. Will update about that craziness soon :).

My Boston Marathon 2009 Experience!

Originally posted Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 8:48pm

I couldn’t stand it any longer by Sunday. The combination of anxiousness about not training (choke…), excitement for the race, boredom from actually not being at a cycling race over the weekend, and actually running out of psets to do, was killing me. I tried calling my mom, my sister, Brandon. What was I going to do until the marathon? Why doesn’t it just get here already. Then again, I don’t want it to get here… I’m not ready yet.

Finally I got a break from this all when Brandon and I went to Mass at 5. Father Clancy said a special prayer for me! Maybe I’ll actually survive this now, I thought :). After that I got another break to work on 004 with Dina, but I couldn’t concentrate and just ended up looking up weird hybrid fruit varieties on wikipedia thanks to Dina’s “apple pear” (which I must get a hold of now!).

I went home to more boredom and not being able to sleep, but finally got distracted by various things: lending my bike, prancing around my dorm, etc.

I woke up at 4:30 to my kukuklock alarm thinking, hmm I’m supposed to do something, there must be a reason my alarm is going off so early. Oh yeah, marathon! I crawled out of bed. I stood for a minute, took a deep breath, and thought about what lie ahead, thinking, the next time I’m in that bed I’ll be done with this and have survived…

I got into my “uniform:” hot pink shorts, tank top, shoes, ribbon, and later gloves. Number, check. Timing chip, check. Powerbar breakfast, check. Ready to go! Off to Kendall and on to Boston Commons to catch the bus.

It was all runners on the subway at 5:30am, easily spottable and carrying their bright yellow addidas marathon bags. I was kind of in a daze. I was just trying to get a handle on what I was about to face. At Boston Commons, more runners. People telling stories of previous marathons, their own personal roads to Boston, their fears, their excitement. In the back of my mind, I’m thinking… yeah my road to Boston, about that. Wow I should have run more than once or twice a week… this is gonna be painful! But then again whenever I tried to run things would start hurting, so at least I accomplished my initial goal of getting to the starting line uninjured, but probably with a huge cost to running fitness! But I’ve been riding for hours every week… maybe that will carry me through… Still I had a sense of guilt and nervousness that I had prepared so much less than everyone else and that I should have for something I valued so much and have looked forward to for so long.

I relaxed a little more when we got on the bus. It was sunrise, so beautiful and cool outside. Ok, this is gonna be an awesome day! I drank some happy juice (caffeinated power edge, for those of you who don’t know my obsession with energy drinks!) and talked to some other runners. But once we got on the highway I went into my “zone,” trying to envision myself on the race course and how I would respond when the pain started to set in. The bus ride was peaceful: Rocky playing in the background, no cars on the highway, just smooth sailing. After a while I remember thinking to myself… “Wow, we have been driving for some time now. Are we really going to run the whole way back? How is that possible?” Really it is hard for me to imagine people running for so long…

The magnitude of things really hit me for the first time when we got off the bus. We stepped down one by one to join a line of thousands of runners, plodding slowly with their yellow bags slung over their back, all on a pilgrimage to the towering white tents of the “athlete’s village” just visible in the mist in the distance. As we got closer I realized the “walls” surrounding the village were actually just hundreds and hundreds of porta-potties! A runner’s dream! :)

Things got a little less magical for the next couple hours. It was 6:45 am. We start running at 10 or after. It’s cold outside. What am I going to do to keep warm/keep from freezing for all this time? Call Megan, check. Call mom, check. Stare at the course map for 45 minutes. Go around to the free power bar booths to keep getting more to keep and pretending I haven’t gotten any yet :). New pasttime: stand in line for the porta-potties. Find other lonely runners. Finally I met a runner from Madison that I talked to for about 45 minutes. How weird, his mom lives in Merrillville Indiana, right next to Hobart! He told me all about his 50 mile ultra marathons, Wisconsin, how he was going to run with an autistic child in a race the next day and I told him he was crazy, the list goes on. I told him about MIT, cycling, triathlon, Megan. Somehow in this way I passed the rest of the time, finding runners to share experiences with, to share fears with, and to stay warm with.

At 9:30 they let us start walking down to the start. Very reluctantly I stripped my warmups and put my bag in the bus. I was this poor little girl shivering and jumping to stay warm, and someone gave me a garbage bag to stay warm. Thank God! I would have frozen before the race even started!

Finally, we got to the line. Oh my God I am about to start the Boston marathon! By 10:15 I actually crossed the starting line and we were off. I have never seen such a thing: a complete ocean of runners flooded the streets, moving as one big amoeba through Hopkington and on to Framingham. I just flowed as part of the ocean. I let it consume me. We weren’t individual runners but part of something larger made up of all of us together. I could not help but run with a smile on face as I took this all in.

By mile 2 I was plenty warm and through away my tie-dyed gloves :( which I’ll never see again. Oh well, wasn’t going to carry them 24 more miles. I continued running in this sort of bliss for at least 10 miles before I realized what was even going on. At one point, I thought, this is going by too fast. We’re already at mile 10, and I actually am sad that so much of the marathon is already over!

A little after mile 10, I began to hear a sort of buzzing in the background. The buzzing got louder and louder and louder. All of the sudden, we turned from route 135 onto route 16, and we were just hit by a MASSIVE wall of sound… indescribable! The wall stayed there for the rest of the race, and I could just never get over it. So many cheers, so much energy, all in once place, at one time.

My attitude started to change with the advent of even more downhills. The entire first part of the course was downhill, and I realize now I should have shortened my stride and lessened the pounding on my poor quads, which at mile 12 started to get angry at me. The right quad left me at mile 12.5, shortly before I crossed the half way point at 1:40. Crap, that’s way too fast I thought. I am not in shape for this and haven’t even been paying attention to pace. And now the state of my legs is quickly deteriorating! Ok stop thinking negative thoughts. I’ve got 13 more miles to enjoy.

More downhill. And then some more. Owwww there goes the left quad! Ok now I am just left with whatever is going to carry me through the rest of the race, and it’s not going to be my legs. I am mentally preparing for mile 16, where I know the Newton hills start. Mile 14, 15. 15.5. Are we there yet? Ooo a power bar station! I just had the most amazing power gel of my life but I couldn’t for the life of me read what flavor it is… but I will find it again! Ok now I have a little more energy! But energy isn’t really my problem, I just really need someone to replace my quads.

Ok we’re here. Mile 16. Uphills! Yay my quads get a little break from all this pounding! And I am passing so many people! And I know where we are, I’ve run this part of the course starting at the Newton fire station at least a kazillion times! Soon miles 16-21, along with heartbreak hill, were conquered. Not bad, really. What was killer was all those downhills. Uphills were actually a welcome break.

Ok pace deteriorating, but I can make it. 5 miles to go. Can I actually make it? What if I just walk a bit to drink this water. Ooo that feels great. Can I just walk the rest of the way? Ok that sounds good, sounds like a plan. Ahhh. Wait… what I am doing? I don’t walk in a race! Ok running, well, plodding. 4 more miles. Ok I’m going to pick it up. If I pick it up it will be over sooner. Wow my form must look funny. Ok faster, faster, faster. Oh no another downhill. Slower, slower, owwww. Ooo another gatorade stop. Maybe I’ll just take a little break. Only 3 more miles. I see the Prudential Center! I can make it. I’m not going to die!

I don’t know if I can make it. But I’ve come so far! I’ll just slow down a little bit for this hill. 2 more miles. I see the Citgo sign in the distance! Once I get there it’s a mile to go. Oh I can’t do this. Why did I ever sign up for this? What was I thinking? “Keep going pink, you’re almost there!” OK I can do it. All these people will carry me through. They’ll make me do it.

The Citgo sign! One more mile. I could even walk this mile and finish. No I’m not going to walk. Keep going, it’s only a mile! But the longest mile I’ve ever had. Oh no, the hump. Over Mass Pike, that Steve warned me about. Ok push through. Ok over the hump. Ok down a little bit. Are we there yet? I might just lay down and die right here. Ok there’s Mass Ave! Ooo Mass Ave what a welcome sight!

Oh only 900 yards to go. I can’t do it. I can’t. I quit. Can I just get off at Mass Ave and go home? No. No. Wait what’s that I hear? Someone is calling my name. Someone just came out of the bridge. It’s Martha!! She’s cheering for me. I turned around to smile and wave. Ok, people I know are here now. Look good, look (and be) happy! Look… well as strong as possible. Keep going. Ok, I’m going to do this! Just keep running down Beacon. What? we have to turn again. Ok fine. Onto Bolyston Street.

I SEE THE FINISH LINE! SPRINT!!! Ok “sprinting.” Oh it is farther than I thought. Ok back off for a bit. Why doesn’t it look like it’s getting any closer? Ok keep going. Is it getting farther? No, definitely closer. Keep going. Ok now it is time to sprint!!!! Go!!!! Close your eyes and hammer!

THE LINE! IT’S HERE! No, wait, it’s behind me! I can walk now! I finished!

Now the real pain starts. Ok look happy, you just finished. But I just want to sit down. And sleep. Wow it’s cold. Where’s my promised foil blanket? Keep walking. So far away!

Yay! Someone handing me my foil blanket and finisher’s medal. A little warmer. What? My timing chip? You want me to like bend down and untie my shoes? No way! Ok I guess I’ll try… Wait, nevermind, can’t do it. Oh thank God someone will do it for me. And then they’ll give me a big warm hug!

Ok next step. Find bag from bus. What!? My bus is at the END of the street, all the way at Boston Commons. Well, back again. This morning I never thought I’d make it back this far. Ok just make it to the bus and I can put on warm clothes. Starting to shiver… ok now starting to violently shiver. Ok now I can put on my clothes. Sweatshirt, check… oh that feels good. Ok pants. Oh no! Ok putting my pants on is impossible. That can wait. At least I have my sweatshirt.

Now what? Oh my God I really want to sit down. But a guy is asking me to dial a number for him on my phone. After trying at least 5 times, getting interrupted by missed calls 3 times, and violently chattering my teeth, we called whoever he was trying to call. It’s hilarious now looking at how hard it was just to make a phone call. Thankfully I had Brandon on speed dial so it wasn’t quite that hard to call him.

Brandon, Cory, Kristen? Where are you guys! How am I ever going to get out of this mess and get home? What??! You guys are at Berkeley and Bolyston? Where the heck is this jewelry shop you’re talking about? Can’t you just meet me here? I’ll just sit down and wait. I can’t make it that far. What? They won’t let non-runners through. Omg… I’ll start making my way there.

Ahh my mom is calling. Ok must sound non-delirious. Hey, mom! It was great! (It really was… just not right now…) Yeah I’m good, just trying to find people. Let me call you back later”

OK crossing the street. Stepping off the curve. One. Two Three… Step. Ahhhh bullets just went through my quads. Stepping up on the other side wasn’t quite as bad… Ok now I”m at Berkeley. Where are they? Ahh I see Brandon! I found someone!! Yay! I’m going to get out of here eventually!

I started feeling much better. I knew I would actually make it home. And by eventually I really do mean eventually. A policeman told Brandon the T was closed, so we WALKED all the way from Bolyston, weaved around through the Prudential Center, then to Mass. Ave, where we FINALLY got on the number 1 bus. That was the first time I got to sit down. So welcome. Thank you so much number 1 bus!

I got to Random, pulled myself up the stairs with my arms, got to the lounge, and collapsed. I really have made it! I’m back at Random! Cory’s here, and Liz-Liz, and Kim, and all the familiar faces.

We chatted about the marathon, about psets, about liquid nitrogen, about whatever. After a shower that made me painfully aware of where I had blisters and chafing, Brandon and I enjoyed some darn good Papa John’s pizza. I guess my marathon tradition is now pre-race burrito, post-race pizza.

I fell asleep that night in Clam lounge at 7pm. I woke up with a fever, sweating, thinking it would be impossible to get up and walk to the bathroom. It took me a full 5 minutes. I hobbled along. But I actually enjoyed the feeling. I finished. I gave everything I could have today. Really, I don’t think I could have felt worse at the end or afterwards. I don’t think, given the shape I was in, I could have possible done much better at all.

After a brief interlude in sleep to eat some chocolate and talk to some friends, I fell asleep for another slightly delirious nap in Destiny. The physical pain in my legs lasted a couple more days, but not nearly as long as my memories of the race and the entire experience will last.

Just a couple finishing notes:

I really want to do this WITH someone, I want to share the experience. It’s cool to tell people, but much cooler to share the experiences with people who experienced the same thing. Hint hint, Megan, Paula, CT, Zuzka, Alon?

After my two marathons, I still have yet to find that “breaking point”… the point where I go from feeling great, soaking in the experience, to wondering if I’ll ever be able to finish. It happens somewhere. You start out fresh. You end miserable (and blissful at the same time). Where does it change? When does your body finally decide you’re crazy? I’ll keep a look out next time. Maybe some time (fall?) I’ll run a marathon and be… oo what a concept… properly trained, like maybe do more than 2 runs a week, and maybe then the last 10 miles wont be quite as impossible, and then there wont be a breaking point. We’ll see :)