It’s been quite a week for me. Coming up with the words to post here has been tougher than I thought it would be. I took a couple of days to let it all sink in so I could reflect a bit, and I’m sure I’ll continue to do that for weeks. For now, here’s my account of my race day.
The alarm went off at 6am but I was already awake, looking at the grey, overcast sky through the window next to my bed. I got up and walked quietly to the kitchen to heat up the breakfast I had prepped the day before – steel cut oatmeal with dried apricots and bananas, OJ, coffee. I put on the outfit I had laid out the night before, complete with pinned-on bib (so I wouldn’t forget it). I tied plastic bags around my shoes and grabbed a few black trash bags to protect me from the predicted rain, wind, and cold while I waited for my wave to be called.
Peter drove me to the shuttle bus in Hopkinton (via Starbucks) and wished me luck. I stepped out into the cold and took a deep breath. I went through security and got on the yellow school bus that would take me to Athlete’s Village to wait for the race to start.
The bus was hot and stuffy – we were all fogging up the windows with our excitement and body heat. After a quick drive we were let out into what felt like much colder air than before the hot bus ride.
Athlete’s Village was alive. The MCs calling people to the Start line were upbeat and managed to cut through the tense and cold atmosphere a bit. I walked directly to the porta-john line to get that out of the way (because waiting in line for a porta-john at the Marine Corps Marathon almost caused me to miss the start).Once that was behind me, I found a spot to camp out for the hour or so left before my wave would be called for the 11:15 start.
I brought a newspaper to insulate me from the cold ground – I wrapped it in one of the trash bags I had also brought so that I could sit on the grass without getting cold or wet. I didn’t sit with my team – it just felt like too much social pressure for me in that moment. I just wanted to collect my own thoughts. I ate the granola bars I had brought for pre-race sustenance (thanks again for the awesome recipe, Lottie!) and tried to just stay calm and warm.
Just before my wave was called, I walked over to the clothing donation tent and shed my insulating layer, handing over the fleece-lined jacket and wind pants that had been protecting me all morning. I kept the trash bag poncho – the only thing left between me and the unseasonable elements.
The walk from Athlete’s Village to the Start line is about a half-mile, which was enough to shake out any stiffness from sitting in a cold field. The rain held off until just after my wave was called, and then crept in slowly and quietly to engulf most of the course in a cold, wet blanket. As we approached the start line I reluctantly removed my garbage bag poncho anyway. I’ve tried running with it and it just makes me uncomfortable. Luckily, we didn’t have to stand at the start for more than 10 minutes before the gun went off.
I pressed the button on my Garmin to turn it on. I had waited until now to be sure I’d have enough battery life to get through the whole race. “Low Battery.” You’ve got to be kidding me,” I muttered to myself. Oh well! I guess I’ll just have to feel out my pace.
Miles 1-4 were about holding back. I kept having to remind myself to slow down, let people pass me, save energy for the final 10K. In the first mile I actually saw (and high-fived) a spectator I knew. I decided this was a good sign.
Miles 5-18 were cold and wet. My plan for the race had been to inch my pace up during these miles, but without my watch I really didn’t feel like I could trust my own sense of pace. I know from experience how awful the end of the race can be if I burn through my energy too fast at the beginning, so I just tried to hold steady. I repeated “My race, my pace” over and over again in my head each time I found myself starting to pass too many runners to early on, or if I started to get down on my progress. My race, my pace, my race, my pace, my race, my pace…….
I was thrilled to see family and friends in Wellesley Center and again at Heartbreak Hill.
As I made the descent into Coolidge Corner, I could just make out the Citgo sign in Fenway. 1.5 miles to go!! Woo hoo!!! Nonetheless, it was hard to make my legs keep going. A couple of speed-walking intervals got me to the Mass Pike overpass next to Fenway Park and then I knew I could make it the rest of the way. I locked my sites on another Team Liver runner who was about 20 feet ahead and just dug in for the rest of the run. Right on Hereford and then left onto Boylston and there it was!!!!! The finish!!! In my head, I was sprinting, and I looked like this:
And it was amazing.
I’ve spent a lot of time on Boylston St. over the past 15 years – as a job applicant, a library patron, a pastry chef, a bachelorette, a commuter. The time I spent there Monday beats all of those other experiences, without question.