I made it through the entire day yesterday with only a couple of instances of getting emotional, but now, as I start writing this, and browse through pictures and tweets from yesterday, and kind of process the whole thing, I am finding myself getting choked up. This was not my fastest marathon (although, it was my second fastest, and my fastest ever trip from Hopkinton to Boston, which is saying something). I will never run a PR when it's 70 degrees outside. But this race, god, I fought. And the entire race - the crowds, the emotion, everything - was so incredibly wonderful. And I will never forget what it meant to run Boston 2014.
The days leading up to the race were a bizarre mix of nerves, excitement, and trying to calm myself down. At work on Thursday, I walked in to find the entire clinic decorated with banners, signs, and blue and gold for me (and promptly burst into tears haha). I think that was when everything sort of became real for the first time. It's a good thing I had a light schedule and not much doc to do, because my brain was off on some other planet. I also had to sit through an inservice at the end of the day and I'm not sure I could tell you one thing that I learned from it...oops. Friday was when the nerves started to hit me pretty hard and my body started playing tricks on me - am I feeling stuffed up? What's going on with my hip? Thankfully, by Saturday my nerves had dissolved into mostly excitement and the thrill of being here and doing Boston - actually racing it.
Suddenly it was like all of the detachment from the my legs and the crowds and the heat and everything became too much and it exploded outward. I was so wonderfully aware of the kids handing out freeze pops (you had better believe I ate one), of the cowbells, of the signs, and of the fact that despite the cramps beginning to overtake me, despite the heat and everything else, I felt strong. As I approached the top of Heartbreak I was overjoyed to encounter a guy in full kilt playing the bagpipes - my New Bedford dream, finally come true! I crested the hill with new vigor in my legs. Sure, I wasn't exactly dropping back down to 7:30 pace, but for the first time in quite awhile I felt like finishing strongly was actually a possibility. Now requalifying was at the forefront of my mind, and I would stop at nothing to run under a 3:35. I ran down the BC hill - how many times did I visualize the race playing out here in my mind? I certainly didn't feel as strong as I had imagined all of those times, but I went back to thinking "let the hill take you" and tried to let the massive downhill do all the work. By this point, my quads were just toast. The cramps in my left leg were starting to move from 'uncomfortable/awkward' to 'ouch', and my right leg was starting to join in. But when I reached the bottom of the hill, I noticed something interesting - strangely, from a heat/body standpoint, I was starting to feel better? The pre-heat exhaustion symptoms of nausea and lightheadedness that I had been feeling over the past hour had subsided and I was feeling somewhat like a normal human again. I continued to pass people at a constant rate, which continued to boost my spirits. Maybe I wasn't moving as fast as I wanted to be, but I was moving faster than a lot of people out there at this point in the race.
Brookline (miles 22-25)
As I passed mile 22 and made the turn at the reservoir, the process that had been in motion over the last couple of miles reached a head, and I went from hanging on to actually turning on the gas a little bit. I definitely grinned as I ran down that hill, coasting off the energy of the throngs of people waving signs, hands for high fives, the noise and energy infectious. I knew in that moment that I had made it past the breaking point, and I was going to make it after all. With the crowds getting louder by the second and the knowledge that my cheering sections were ahead, I pushed on, sending positive vibes to my legs. Strong, push off the ground, fast. I need to take a second to talk about the crowds - now, I've done this race twice and I know that the crowds are completely beyond compare. But the thing that got to me this year was how many times I heard spectators saying "thank you" to us. The runners. Thank you for coming back, thank you for not being afraid, thank you for showing the world what we, as a community and a city, are. And I've never been more proud to be wearing my Greater Boston singlet - hearing "Boston Strong!" "Greater Boston!" "Let's go Greater Boston!" "Alright Boston!" all the way along the course, I think my heart got a little bigger every time. I was too deep in the pain cave during the actual race to fully process it or get emotional about it at the time, but thinking back on it makes me start to tear up a little bit. It was beautiful. The entire mood was just one of such joy, gratefulness, celebration. Because we are here, running together, beneath an azure blue sky.
I stayed to the left side of the road because I knew that's where my friends would be, and sure enough, just before mile 23 I spotted a "hey Audrey, nice legs!" sign and 4 of my Boston Badgers going crazy (apparently one of my friends screamed 'YOU'RE A SEXY BITCH!' but I have no recollection of that lol). And a couple of blocks later, there was Andrew (holding our dog!) and my dad. Words can't express how happy I was to be able to run past them actually feeling strong, even thought I yelled at Andrew "you win, I hate you!" as I went by, in reference to his bet that I would run over a 3:30. One more little hill to crest and then down, down, down towards Boston. My quads were absolute toast. The cramps were escalating to the point where I had to walk for a few seconds to try to massage the left one out (of course, a moment that MarathonFoto just HAPPENED to catch on film, thanks a lot haha). When I started running again after that, I decided that that was it. My leg could fall off mid stride and I would continue running.
The last 2 miles were by far the most joyful, fun last miles of a marathon I've ever run. It was the first time that I've ever hit rock bottom earlier on in a race and then instead of continuing the decline, actually going back uphill. I was giddy with the fact that I had actually picked up the pace again, still passing people after all this time, and I had like 16 minutes left to run. I grabbed a delicious freezy pop from someone - really, isn't there always someone handing out freezy pops on Beacon? And aren't they always the most delicious thing I've ever tasted? At some point after Coolidge Corner, I ran past a man playing "Roll Out The Barrel" on a tuba...not sure if it was the Wisconsin connotations of that song, or just the fact that it was a guy playing the tuba, but I absolutely was grinning from ear to ear. I could see the Citgo sign in the distance, and the steep uphill that precedes it. And I knew that for the first time, I was going to RUN up that hill and crest it with pride. There was a moment - I can't quite remember if it was on Beacon, or running through Kenmore - when I literally closed my eyes for a second and thought to myself: "Remember this. Remember this moment, and how you feel. Soak it in. Because it really doesn't get much better than this." The crowd was somehow managing to become even MORE intense as we approached Kenmore, which hardly seemed possible given how insane Beacon had been. And there it is, the Citgo sign, and 1 mile to go, and this is just going to be the most wonderful mile you've ever run in your life. (I'm actually tearing up as I remember this, no joke).
So there I am, running through that tunnel under Mass Ave when suddenly the roar in your ears is replaced with a moment of silence, like a deep breath. There's a sign overhead that says 1K to go. And immediately my mind is back at the track, at dice workout of insanity, at that stupid mile repeats workout, running strong with my teammates. 1000 meters. 5 laps around the indoor track. Finish it strong. Strangely enough at that moment I happened to come across a GBTC master's runner (who I later found out was live-tweeting every mile) and it was just cool to have that moment of recognition with a teammate. Right on Hereford. I'm passing people, still, after all this time, and I know that the next turn, well, it's happening. At some point I think I took a glance at my watch and deep in my brain processed the fact that I was definitely going to go under 3:35, 3:33 was looking like more of a possibility. As I made the turn my entire left leg cramped for a moment - quad, calf, toes, everything. With a little hitch step, I shook it off - that shit could wait. Because now I'm running down Boylston. I'm exhausted, but I feel like I'm sprinting at full out speed. The sky is the most perfect blue, and beyond, the blue and yellow banners are even more perfect. So many people going crazy on the sides of the road; I can see colors in a blur in my periphery. I pass McGreevy's ('the official training restaurant of GBTC'), and I think of it just as I said that I would. I am running past the places where a year ago there was so much devastation, and today there is nothing but glory. The 26 mile sign passes. The arch gets closer and closer. And the pain fades to the background, and all I can feel is joy, pride, love, gratitude. I sprint my heart out and as I cross that blue and yellow line, I essentially blow a kiss to the sky. I've been running for 3 hours, 32 minutes, and 14 seconds. And I am purely happy.
Some more things happened after the race. I felt incredibly nauseous (actually, my stomach didn't feel right for about a week and a half after the race) and literally the only thing that tasted good to me was beer. So...I went to the Publick House, and I drank beer! And it was glorious. But the stuff that happened after isn't as important as the stuff that happened during, and before. I may not have met my time goal for this race - but hell, I think I know a single person out of the 30+ people I know who did this who did. I've said this before about Boston, but when I look back on this race I'm not going to remember that 'damn, I was training for a 3:20 and I ran a 3:32'. I'm going to remember the guy playing the tuba, the Elon guy in the athletes village, my self-motivational speech that pushed me over Heartbreak hill and back into the race. The insanity of the spectators, THANKING the runners, and blue and yellow Boston Strong everywhere. And I'm going to remember the training that got me there, which, more than ever, I loved. Every single run. And I'm going to remember how unspeakably proud I am to live in this city, to run for my club, and to have this magnificent race be my "home course", as much of a sneaky bitch as it may be. And since I've already got my qualifier for next year...well...it looks like I'll finally be trying Boston in an odd numbered year. :)