Thursday, September 14, 2023

Keep the party alive: Boston 2023 Race Report

It's fitting that as I start to write this post I feel a bit at a loss for words, because that's really how I've felt whenever I try to verbalize my emotions on the fact that on Monday, I ran my 10th Boston Marathon. 10 is a lot of times to do something, let alone something that many people would rather die than do and an equal number of people would die to be able to. Even after 10 times on this particular journey, I still don't think I can fully explain why this race holds such a part of my soul, why I can't seem to say no to doing it when given the opportunity even if my rational brain is saying "please no not again". But I think it has something to do with the fact that my chosen home happens to also be the home of this wonderful race, this spectacular, magical, painful, wonderful marathon, and who would ever pass up an opportunity to be a part of that?

But anyway, on to the story of this year's race. Quite bluntly, I did not particularly enjoy the experience of this training cycle. It felt like a tooth and nail fight between my brain asking my body to please, just give me *something* and my legs, 99% of the time, saying "eh, no thanks". The number of days when I felt like utter trash slogging through an easy run were innumerable, the number of times I told myself I was taking a break from the marathon next year were many. That's not to say I didn't put in the work - because actually, aside from getting sick during the first week of taper, it was a remarkably consistent cycle. It just never felt good, and because I was starting from basically zero I essentially ran out of runway when it came to building fitness in the way I'd normally like. I remember thinking during the first week of my taper, wow, NOW it feels like I'm ready to start marathon training. In fact, the whole experience was such a slog that I actually had myself convinced that I was not going to sign up for next year. "I think I need a break from the marathon," I whined to Andrew, as if I hadn't just taken a year long break not only from the marathon but from really any sort of structured training due to injury (insert facepalm here). 

But then, as it always seems to, Boston rolled around and shot its magic straight into my veins, a magic that sometimes seems to hide itself but is always there, waiting. And I realized I had a particular opportunity that I had not had in an extremely long time, if ever: to truly, ACTUALLY, run with the goal of having fun. That was it. No time goals, no strings attached, no pressure. I had a basic idea of what I thought I was probably capable of given how my long runs and races had gone (3:20ish) but when I wrote out my A, B, and C goals for the race they were as follows: 

A - top 50% of Bostons (basically sub 3:30)

B - relatively even splits


So as you can see, things were very *loose* as far as any sort of goals went. This made for probably the most enjoyable pre-marathon weekend of my life, because I was just completely unbothered. There was the minor detail that I still had to run a marathon, sure, but generally speaking the fact that I knew without a doubt that I was not and did not need to be in PR shape really got rid of most of the nerves I normally would have had about the weather, my commitments of the weekend, work, and about a million other things. My friend Brittany came to stay with us for the weekend and experience all that is Boston which made everything even more fun - getting to see the whole thing through the eyes of someone who'd never experienced it before, as well as spending time with one of my best friends who I don't see that often, was just GLORIOUS. I got to do a shakeout run with both her AND ANDREW which was the most special and wonderful thing, made even more wonderful by the fact that I was not stressing remotely about only running 3 miles instead of 5, or running slower than I usually do, or whatever, because WHO CARES. My only concern was that pretty much the entire week my legs felt inexplicably achy and dead, but I figured a full day off Saturday would solve that problem. We went downtown and browsed all of the popups on Friday before heading down to hit up Vitamin C Brewing with Joy and her new pup! It was bizarrely 80 degrees the entire weekend (I will admit I was grateful that it wasn't 80 degrees on race day...even for a "fun" marathon, I'm not interested lol) so we got to relax outside in the sunshine while drinking delicious IPAs...truly a perfect day! 

Saturday of marathon week is a day I basically have down to a science at this point, and this year was no different. Brittany and I arrived downtown bright and early (and alive, which was uncertain for awhile due to our Uber driver going 65 on Storrow Drive lol), grabbed coffees and then headed to my usual cheer spot for the 5K at Hereford and Newbury. While wandering around I spotted some familiar GBTC jackets, so we chatted with Shannon and Rob for awhile before Joy joined the crew. I LOVE cheering for the 5K - it gives my my little boost of spectating love that always makes me so happy and really sets the right tone for the weekend. However, this spectating experience was made a bit more interesting than usual by the fact that the cops who we assumed were supposed to block the cross street of this very large race had not shown up by the time the wheelchair athletes started coming through. The result was a perplexed Joy and I moving cones into the road and standing there to keep some very perplexed drivers from running over the athletes...all in all definitely a weird situation. Elise eventually joined us and we had quite the dance party and I was dying when I got a text from a former student that just said "I SAW YOU"...another highlight was the guy with mullet and full on 80s leotard workout attire with "I suck at fantasy football" written on his back. LOL.

We headed to the expo which was pretty underwhelming this year - apparently Adidas has basically kicked out any and all potential competitors - and then met up with some other GBTC gals at Tatte for brunch. We finally headed home for a bit - I originally had planned on a more relaxing afternoon, but then was coerced into going to a GBTC reception. Luckily this worked out well, because had I not gone to Central Square earlier in the day I would have missed my opportunity to partake in yet another favorite marathon weekend tradition, throwaway shopping at Goodwill! I was pressed for time but found what I think may be one of the best staple pieces that I ever have before heading to the reception.

On a side note, I did an actual, structured carb load for this race (thanks Featherstone Nutrition) and while it DEFINITELY works and I will be doing it again, the actual experience was horrid lol. The amount of carbs required is in fact so much more than I would ever willingly consume in a day, and somewhere around my 3rd sleeve of graham crackers and 4th bagel I definitely began to question my sanity. While waiting for Andrew and Brittany to arrive for our dinner reservations, I sat in Clover eating a plain piece of pita bread because I literally looked up their nutrition facts to see what had the most carbs in it and the bread was the answer. Thankfully, dinner at our traditional spot of Viale was as always excellent, highlighted by some fantastic wine and some much needed bitching about work for both Brittany and I. 

Sunday dawned, and with it sort of dawned the fact that I was running a marathon the next day. I headed out on my shakeout loop, stopping at Spy Pond as I always do to just take a breath and a moment for myself to celebrate the end of the training cycle. It was weird, considering I never actually felt like I was really "training" or building fitness in any way, but standing there I had to appreciate what I had put in to get to this point. I thought about what it takes to get to the starting line of Boston 10 times - not only the training for those races, but all of the other things that come with being a human in the world that could preclude your ability or desire to run a marathon. Yet somehow, across all these years, through injury, illness, heartbreak, frustration, and loss, I had always made my way back to Hopkinton. I thought about this particularly training cycle, how it would have been really easy to completely throw in the towel or to make excuses.  I had fought to overcome my own mind that kept telling me how washed up I was and just put in the work anyway. I finished Des Linden's book recently and there's a section that really resonated with me speaking about how when she was building her way back she had to just focus on putting in the effort and redefining what a successful workout or run meant to her, beyond the numbers. I kind of wish I'd read those words in February or March, because there were really times where in my traditional sense of running success, I felt like I was absolutely nowhere. But standing and looking out at the pond as I stood at the threshold of another marathon, I could finally appreciate what a victory getting to this start line healthy, as was my original stated goal, really was.

I had less time than I thought when I got back home to organize my stuff for the next day and assemble my race playlist, which definitely swung more "I'm pregaming to go to the club" than "I'm running a marathon" - exactly according to plan. I found myself feeling super anxious, not about the race but about somehow missing my dancers if their competition was running early, so I ended up heading out to Andover earlier than planned and thank goodness I did, because my duet was basically about to go onstage when I arrived. They were fantastic - the best I've ever seen them perform, which really filled my heart. I spent the rest of the afternoon chatting with the other teachers and dancers, none of whom had realized I was running the marathon ("How do you survive it?" asked one - uh, good question kid lol). My soloist went on earlier than anticipated and she was also wonderful in her last competition as a senior! I was happy to head home early and relax for a bit before cooking the usual prerace pasta and jamming out to my playlist with Andrew and Brittany. We selected Best In Show for our prerace movie - not the classic pump up choice but a 100% perfect one in my opinion. I did my nails and alternated drinks of my Hop Rocks beer with Skratch Hyperhydrate, as the humidity forecast was not looking favorable even though the temperature was. Finally, I headed to bed and fell asleep with ease...not sure where the pre-marathon nerves were, but they certainly weren't here! 

Race day dawned and I was up before my alarm, going through my usual prerace routine. I have modified my pre-Boston routine slightly in recent years to basically account for eating a second breakfast, which I think has been a game changer in terms of my fueling. I ate a couple of graham crackers and drank some juice while braiding my hair and getting all my shit ready for the day. The weather forecast was looking pretty acceptable all things considered - 50s and potential rain - and I had planned to wear an old pair of shoes to the village to account for the possibility of wetness or mud. I said my goodbyes to Andrew, Topper, and Brittany and headed out - one of my favorite things about marathon morning is strutting down Mass Ave in whatever ridiculous getup I've picked out to wear to the village as if I look completely normal. This year's selection of a copper crushed velvet blazer was quite possibly one of my favorites, and I couldn't help but giggle as I strode down the street, sipping a can of Linden x Two iced coffee, and jamming out to my party playlist as I made my way to the T. 

The ride passed uneventfully, even with the fuckery that is the MBTA at the moment, and soon enough we were disembarking at Arlington Street. I had a plan to meet Lauren by her bag drop which worked out wonderfully - since it was the wave 2 bus loading time, the wave 1 bus area was super quiet and included a massive line of porta potties with NO lines - beautiful. We dropped our bags and headed for the bus loading area which seemed way less chaotic than last year - the line to get into the area seemed to be moving a lot faster, and in general everyone seemed to have a better sense of what was happening and where they were supposed to go. We headed down the line for one last porta potty stop, laughed at the dance party music that was playing (I may or may not have added Hotel Room Service by Pitbull to my playlist after hearing it over the loudspeakers) and then chatted with a nice woman in line for the buses who was telling us about how she was moving to Australia and so this would likely be her last Boston, at least for awhile. Wild!

The bus ride passed about as quickly as it ever has thanks to having Lauren as a bus buddy. We did some Gu trading, I ate my bagel and cream cheese and drank my Skratch, and we just chatted about all kinds of random was so nice to not be such a ball of ANXIETY! There was a little anxiety when at some point we realized that we had definitely got off the highway at an unusual exit and there were no longer any school buses around...we were kind of laughing as I pulled out my phone to check out what direction we were going and Lauren could see several other people at the front of the bus doing the same. In the grand scheme of things it was a pretty minor episode of getting "lost" but it still amazes me that these bus drivers can't have some kind of training on the route in advance! During this time the radio was also on in the bus and "Take Care" by Drake and Rhianna came on. I haven't heard that song in years but for some reason it was totally hitting right as we pulled into Hopkinton. I couldn't get it out of my head the rest of the morning, and ended up adding it to my playlist and starting the race to it because that just felt like the right thing to do!

We got off the bus to a village full of dense fog, and as usual immediately headed off to the porta potty line. For like the 3rd year in a row, it seemed like all there was really time for was to hit the porta potty, organize your food, and start walking to the start - maybe they've finally optimized the bus loading schedule! In any case, I'm all about not having to hang out in the village for eternity. It was actually kind of chilly, to the point that I pulled out my old space blanket for awhile to use as a cape while we were waiting for the bathroom. Then again, I'll take being chilly while waiting ANY day of the week!! After using the facilities we headed over to the table to drop off our unwanted stuff, kind of cackling as we left what probably amounted to an entire box of graham crackers there on the table. I gave a girl my space blanket and we headed out of the village towards the start. By this point it had started to rain somewhat heavily again, and I kind of regretted giving away my space blanket. I was still wearing my throwaway shoes and had tucked my racing shoes in my blazer in an attempt to keep them dry. Some guy walking next to me made a comment about why I had what appeared to be a single shoe clutched to my chest and I was like "oh, yeah, this is my emotional support shoe..." lol.

We made our final porta potty stop and outfit changes at the last outpost by the CVS. I kept my amazing blazer for the final walk to the start, but otherwise was ready to go. We were kind of laughing at how close we cut it this year - they were calling 2 minutes to the start as we were approaching the general area by the corrals, and we thought there was no way we were going to make it all the way up to corral 4. But somehow we managed with almost no time to spare - we got into the corral as they were calling 30 seconds to the start, moved over to the left (IDK, I love the left side), wished each other luck, and then the gun went off! I'm pretty sure I actually started the race laughing at the chaos of it all and then started singing "I'LL TAKE CARE OF YOU" to Lauren...all in all, I would say that the start of the race definitely set the tone for the rest of the day to come.

Lauren and I rolled through the first couple of miles together in the 7:30s, though I consciously kept reminding myself to hooooold back. I had a very good sense of where my upper limit was given my training, and I knew if I went out in the 7:10 region I was royally fucked, so I cooled my jets and just tried to ride the wave. I definitely think this is one of those things where you finally get some bonuses for maturity and knowledge, because I saw so many people doing the usual Boston thing of just FLYING chaotically down those downhills in the first few miles, and while it's really hard to pull back (and probably would be even harder if I was actually at a fitness to be aiming for a PR) I knew from experience that it was the right thing to do. The first mile actually felt really crowded, which helped to slow my roll, and when Lauren started pulling ahead after a couple of miles I consciously let her go. Even if she wasn't running full out, at the end of the day she's still a 2:50 marathoner and her "easy day" looks a whole lot different than mine! Still, it was really fun to start the race with a teammate - in 10 tries, I've never gotten to do that before!

I think it took me a little while to sort out how I was actually feeling, which in a way is a good thing at the start of a marathon. I definitely didn't feel immediately ready to rage, but overall I felt optimistic. My legs seemed to have shown up and I felt like I have in my better Bostons where the effort and the pace feel like they're a direct match. I bopped around to my party soundtrack and tried to head over and give some high fives whenever it made sense - one of my favorite things was the number of small children who were just HYPED to get a high five. Tons of them were wearing Bruins gear or holding cute signs for Chara, as the Bruins great was running the marathon...and apparently started like 2 minutes behind me! I'm a little disappointed that I never saw him...he's a gigantic man, so definitely would have been hard to miss. The bar around mile 4 or 5 that is always having a rowdy party was in full swing as usual, and I gave some extra rock on arm pumps in their general direction. I don't think I've done the "rock on" hand sign since like...high school maybe but for some reason that became my go to thing to do with my arms as I partied on down the course.

I felt pretty comfortable on the little rollers that crop up in Ashland and the first part of Framingham, and was pleased to see that I had fallen into a pretty steady rhythm right around 7:30s, which felt like the right place to be. I had said before the race that 3:20 was probably my ballpark, and while 7:30s put me a little ahead of that I knew the likelihood that I would be holding that pace in the Newton hills was pretty low. I was correct in that thinking, as we shall soon see. I had quite a lot of fun in Framingham, and decided to take it upon myself to start yelling at the crowds when I didn't think they were being loud enough, literally shouting "COME ON FRAMINGHAM MAKE SOME NOISE!!" as if I were opening a concert or something. I did this several times along the long, ugly stretch by the railroad tracks which both entertained me and kept me mentally engaged during a section of the course that can sometimes seem a little long. Somewhere in here was also a time when I saw a sign that I eventually figured out was for a person named Claire, but it had a photo of a cute dog on it who I assumed was named Claire, so I yelled at the owner of the sign "THANKS CLAIRE....I mean...Claire's dog...yeah..." lol. It was awkward, kind of like when I screamed at the person with the baby head last year. Whatever, marathon brain isn't exactly a 100% functional brain, after all. 

Coming up on the 15K mark I laughed as I always think of the camera they have at this point as such a barometer for the race as a whole - if you have to fake a smile at 9.3 miles, you're having a rough day. Today was not that kind of day - I spent the whole leadup along the lake planning my exact pose which included not only the rock on hands but also sticking out my tongue for some reason...what can I say, I was truly embracing the party mode. The next mile is actually one of the things I am most proud of about this race - I despise the slightly uphill mile leading into Natick Center, and at mile 10 of the race it's just far enough in where you definitely feel the incline. For some reason, it didn't bother me at ALL this year - maybe because I've finally realized that it's an uphill and so there's a reason everything suddenly feels so hard? Anyway, I was in great spirits coming into Natick Center, which was also when I happened to look over and see one of my teammates cheering on the sidewalk! That gave me another boost, and I was grinning as I ran through the town center - 10 miles down. 

The mile after Natick center is also not one of my favorites, however, this year it featured so much entertainment that I truly could not have been bothered by the rolling uphills. Some features included: a literal CHILD handing out cans of beer (apparently at other points throughout the day he had White Claw lol) which I was tempted to take due to my C goal but since I was feeling generally good I thought that mile 11 was perhaps a little early. In fact, I actually yelled at the kid "MAYBE LATER!" lol. I think it was somewhere around here where some people were holding a sign that said "show us a dance move" and I really wanted to do a pirouette or something but the logistics were too difficult, so what I ended up choosing to do was THE SPRINKLER lmao. There was also a person dressed as a coffee cup outside of a Dunkin' Donuts singing "That's Amore" which honestly kind of felt like something out of a fever dream lmao. 

Just as an aside here, I am writing the rest of this post in late June, aka literal MONTHS after this race, because I have been so freaking the remainder of this race report is probably not going to be my best work and some of the parts might be out of order, but by god I am determined to finish this thing! So we left off in Natick, where I was both enjoying the local color and being delighted and also fairly surprised by how good I was feeling. It was pretty humid and raining on and off, but none of that really was bothering me - I couldn't tell if I was just really nailing my hydration and fueling, or if it just helped that it wasn't sunny, but I was generally speaking feeling very comfortable, just the way you want to feel around halfway of a marathon!

I always tend to kind of pull into myself a bit in the Wellesley College area of the course, which for some reason just isn't my favorite, and I did the same this year, staying to the center of the road and just rolling into the uphill. I feel like coming out of the woods and into the Wellesley town center is so utterly MISERABLE when it's hot and sunny, but on an overcast day the sea of people lining both sides of the road always seems to give me a boost. There's just so much sound and color and energy, and when you can cross the halfway point still feeling good there's always a little flicker of realizing that you're probably going to make it. Each mile that I kept in the 7:30s felt like a total victory and with no real expectations I just kept appreciating every mile that felt comfortable. I started thinking about the sections of the course I had to contend with before the hills - by this point in my life, I've really got Wellesley down to some very distinct sections. So I'm going through my mental monologue...OK, after this first downtown section there's the park, then there's the second downtown section, you go by Marathon Sports, and then there's "road".  This made me laugh then and still makes me laugh now, and I don't know why it's so funny to me, but there's this sort of nondescript section between the end of the true Wellesley town and the big downhill, and my brain was like insistent about like, yeah, duh, there's Road. And I just kept saying it in my head over and over and it kept getting funnier, to the point that when I finally got there I was practically laughing thinking to myself, here we are, it's ROAD! And then the big downhill!

Well. I reached the end of Road and began running down the large downhill, and IMMEDIATELY both of my quads seized up in such an abrupt way as to be completely hilarious - in all my years running Boston, I've had meltdowns in a variety of unpleasant ways but never have I ever had The Thing everyone talks about happen, which is blowing out your quads in the first half. And I couldn't help but laugh! Boston #10, and here I am making the mother of all rookie mistakes. The positive was, aside from my quads everything else still felt great. I felt well fueled and strong, I wasn't overheating, I didn't feel dehydrated and mentally I was still in a great place. So I just kind of told myself that the rest of the race probably wasn't going to be very pleasant, but if I was willing to deal with being uncomfortable it didn't have to be a disaster, and I got to the bottom of the hill and set myself to getting through the next 9 miles in the best way I could and vowed to still have fun doing it. 

The good news was, while my legs definitely HURT and were definitely not going to allow me to run under 8 minute pace anymore, they kind of reached a level of unpleasant homeostasis that was, while definitely not enjoyable, perfectly manageable. I climbed the hill over the freeway and sure, did I love it? No! But it was fine. I ran into the unexciting section by Newton Wellesley, and was it amazing? No! But it was totally fine. I feel like this is where the weather really helped me out, because once I get caught in the heat hole there is absolutely nothing I can do and it's just an endless slow decline. But I wasn't hot, I wasn't hungry, nothing specifically was going quads were just tired! And that was survivable, as long as I could keep myself at a level where I wasn't going to fully cramp up.

It was finally time to turn into the Newton hills, which I approached not with trepidation or fear or awe but just a desire to ENJOY the party that the Newton hills are. While the fans are great all the way through the course, the hills are where I really feel like the spectators shine, and this year was no exception. I tried to funnel my fatigue into high fives, fist pumps, and hyping up the crowd - it was getting a little harder to smile and be quite the hype queen I wanted to be, but I didn't let myself lose my party attitude. In a hilarious instance of deja vu, at one point I looked over to the left side of the road and for the second year in a row locked eyes with Alyssa, a girl who I used to dance with and saw in pretty much the exact same instance last year! We both cracked up in disbelief - out of a sea of people, two years running! 

I kept plugging away, generally noticing the splits on my watch and feeling pleasantly surprised that they were staying quite consistent in the 8:0x range. As we approached the second Newton hill I glanced at the running time on my watch and realized with some hilarity that once again, I was going to miss the group of therapists and clients coming to spectate from work - I had told them to arrive around 1 and I think it was 12:45 or something at this point. Maybe someday I'll get it right! By this point rain showers had started to spray on and off, which delighted me, because if there's one thing I love it's racing in the rain. I also started to think about where and how I was going to find someone to give me a beer - I was starting to wish I'd taken the Michelob from that kid back in Natick, because I was starting to get nervous that I wasn't going to be able to find a beer to have!

But then, the most perfectly cinematic series of events occurred: as I approached Heartbreak, I saw a group of people with a giant BEER sign, screaming and handing out cups. For a split second my dumb self thought "no, wait until BC" and then I was like fuck it, if you have TWO beers then that's what happens, and I ran over and grabbed that beer to uproarious cheers from the group. I slammed it back, not even breaking stride (you just can't take the racer out of the girl...) and then looked over to see Cara, one of our old Boston Badger friends, and just started laughing. As warm Michelob buzzed through my system, I began the climb up Heartbreak at which point it suddenly began DOWNPOURING. Joy coursed through every vein along with the beer; I felt so alive and happy and completely in the moment (it was probably around this point in the race that I decided I lied about not signing up next year, lol). As I neared the top of the hill I saw BRITTANY screaming her face off, and I screamed "FUCK YEAH" right back at her.  I later learned that Brittany had screamed "C'MON, BUDDY!" at Kipchoge as he looked to be slowing up the hill, in the way you would yell at an unathletic little leaguer trying to make his way around the bases, and when I watched the video she had taken of this later I was absolutely dying laughing. I crested the hill, as always, in my slowest mile of the race, but with so much happiness in my heart.

BC delivered as always, and with my beer goal achieved I was able to just straight up bomb down the line of students, high fiving as many as I possibly could until my hand and arm were sore from the force of it. The BC downhill was destroying my already shredded quads, but it was filling my soul, and despite feeling like with every step I had to be a little more cautious of my landing to avoid a total seize up, I was running stronger than I ever would have expected to be at this point. Happier, too. When you get down by the reservoir, you pretty much know you're going to make it, and even as the pain and tightness in my legs grew and I became very aware of the overall desire to STOP running, I kept myself moving forward, fist pumping, making hand motions to amp up the crowd. Still a little more time left to party.

The long stretch from Cleveland Circle to Kenmore is always a total blur, whether it's from exhaustion or elation, and this year was no exception. I was quickly running out of energy to party with the spectators although I tried to give a wave or a fist bump where I could, and put my head down and set myself to the task of getting to Kenmore. The one memory that really stands out for me during this stretch is having "Soulja Boy" come on at about mile 24.5, right at the point where I was just so ready to give up, and that ridiculous steel drum intro sent me right back to a college pregame and I couldn't help but grin. It really summed up the entire theme of this race for me - I had taken this whole angsty situation that I'd been in about running and I had blown the whole thing up and for once in my life made it FUN. And I think the older I get and the further my fastest days recede, the more important it is to come back to what my why is for running, especially my why for running this one marathon over and over and over again when there are so many better things and races to do. It's because Boston is the best party you could ever be invited to, and when I have that invitation in my hand I simply don't have it in me to turn it down. 

I could hardly believe it, but I was finally approaching Kenmore, something my quads were VERY grateful about as keeping my legs from not cramping up and sending me flying to the pavement was becoming increasingly difficult with each mile that elapsed. I soaked in that dumb hill up over the bridge my Kenmore, my legs stupidly feeling better with the climb than when I was trying to descend, and then down to the "1 mile to go mark". I knew as I ran through Kenmore that there was no way I wasn't coming back for this next year, no matter how many times I said this was my last one for awhile. For the 10th time, I ran under and up that evil little hill on the underpass. For the 10th time, I turned right on Hereford. There was a guy on this stretch going absolutely apeshit, galloping along the lines of spectators, waving his arms, roaring at the top of his lungs, clearly completely entrenched in the glory of the moment. Hilariously, days after the race I would be scrolling through TikTok and come across a Boston Marathon video that turned out to be THAT GUY (I even found myself in the background of the video! lmao). His hype was the perfect finale to this glorious party as I finally made that wonderful turn onto Boylston for the 10th time.

I felt my legs respond once again as the finish line approached; it never ceases to amaze me how you can always scrape the bottom of the barrel and find *something* left in that last half mile. The home stretch of Boston will forever be indescribable to me. It's sound, and pain, and hope, and life and on this wide street with eyes up with a blue and gold finishing arch in sight, it will forever and always feel like coming home. And at the end of the day, that's why I simply cannot stay away from this race - the feeling of that finish in this city that I love, my chosen home, is worth the fight. And I had proven to myself, finally, that I did not need to run a PR for a race to be joyful, meaningful, and special. I had made the magic in my own way. 

In the preceding miles I had been vaguely keeping track of my overall time and came to the conclusion that I was probably coming in somewhere around 3:25 or 26, which I thought was great - just like I ran in NYC under similar circumstances - and the finish clock as I had run under seemed to support that viewpoint. But I had forgotten that I started much further back in the corrals this year, and so was absolutely delighted to look at my watch and see a 3:23! I had officially achieved ALL of my goals, because I had made my goals match where I truly knew I was with training, with life, and with what I wanted out of the race. You know, you might get slower with age, but I've gotta say there are some kernels of wisdom that definitely can make the sport a little more enjoyable, if you let them. 

I swear the walk through the finishing chute and the march to Clery's gets longer every single year; with my quads out of commission and screaming in pain this one was a particularly slow roll. As I finally straggled up to the corner of the bar, a group of guys at the window started banging on the windows and screaming and fistbumping at me, perfect drunken college madness and the absolutely perfect end to the day. As I descended the stairs towards the GBTC crew, slowly and painfully, the bouncer cheered me on with just as much enthusiasm as the fans that day. And suddenly, all the frustration, all the feelings of falling out of love with running, all of the days when I felt like I was never going to be "as good" as I used to be - none of it mattered. I had finished my 10th Boston, partying and joyful all the way, and with all the feeling of rightness and warmth that go with the word, I was home.

Boston Marathon 2023