After it was all over, I was standing on an elevator heading to my car and a very nice lady, a very nice, very *dry* lady asked me what the hardest part about IT was. I smiled at her, and said (in all honesty) “getting off the bus in Hopkinton.”
As I write this it is Tuesday morning, about 8:30 AM. Twenty four hours ago I was sitting on a Charity Teams provided coach bus, in a parking lot at a Hopkinton school watching ice cold rain fall in buckets outside. Thanks to the fact that I was running Boston as a charity runner, we had been provided very nice accommodations where we would remain until 10:30 AM, when we’d leave the dry confines of the bus and make the (approximately) thirty minute death march from the parking lot to the starting line of the 2018 (122nd) Boston Marathon.
I’ve run a lot of races. Starring out that bus window in Hopkinton all I could think was “if this was any other race, I’d be home right now.” But this was Boston. This was my first marathon, my first Boston, the culmination of 20 weeks of training, and a lifetime of dreaming about this moment. I was about to toe the starting line in Hopkinton.
But first, I had to get off the bus.
It doesn’t matter how good your poncho is, or how expertly you taped up your shoes – when the rain is falling in droves, the wind is ripping at around 20-30 MPH and it’s around 40 degrees there is no way to remain dry or warm. The minute I stepped off the bus in Hopkinton I was wet, and cold, and I hadn’t even started moving yet. All I could think during the walk to the starting line was “I can’t wait to start running.” Because here’s the thing — running is familiar, it’s comfortable and even though I didn’t feel right, and I knew this day was going to suck, I knew that once I started running, I’d be alright.
The funny thing is, I think that was a mental trick that I used on myself to convince myself to just get off the bus, and it worked. The fact is that when I crossed the starting line, and actually started moving towards Boston I did feel alright, the weather didn’t seem so bad, it wasn’t that cold (note: yes it was). For a long time, that mental game I had played with myself helped too — I paced myself pretty well. Here’s my splits for the whole day:
||Time Of Day
Quick aside: about twenty minutes into the race my watch died. I had stupidly plugged it in to charge the night before the race, but forgot to make sure the charger was plugged into the wall (it was not). So my 20 weeks of pace training with a running watch kind of went out the window. Thankfully I had also worked on pacing without the watch, so I was able to approximate my pace without the watch (though it would have helped).
You can see pretty clearly, I finished my first half in 2:03:33 and I was on pace to finish right around where I wanted to be when I got to Boylston. I was still going pretty strong after 30K, and then the wheels started to come off.
I can blame any number of things for what happened as we got into Newton. My nutrition was all out of wack, my stomach was doing somersaults, my hydration wasn’t where I wanted it to be, the cold, the wet, the rain, the wind — there are plenty of reasons why I didn’t run the race I had dreamed of running. The reality is, I ran as hard as I could, I did the best that I could, on this day, I just didn’t have it in me to keep my goal pace (and I’m coming to terms with that being okay).
I made a bathroom stop during the climb in Newton, somewhere before the Johnny Kelly Statute (parts of the race remain a blur). I felt like I had caught a second wind after the break and I kept moving up Heartbreak Hill. Getting to the top of that hill, and hearing the screaming BC students gave me some life. I ran into someone I knew, a friendly face that I really needed at that point, and stopped for a few seconds to chat him up. Sam, if you’re reading this, just know that the idea that I was “82.1 percent finished” ran through my head for the rest of the race.
By the time I got through BC my shoes were essentially water logged bricks. Huge props to Hoka One One Clifton IV’s which stayed dry WAY longer than I ever expected, but once they got water logged my legs had a tough time convincing my feet to keep moving. This is when the proverbial refrigerator got thrown on my back. My goal when I hit the wall was to just keep putting one foot in front of the other (regardless of how slowly), and I did that.
Even as we pulled into Copley Square I hadn’t really started to feel cold. I was wet, and I wasn’t really having fun but I wasn’t that cold. My body was pretty beat up at this point, but I was still moving. The rain started to slow, and running into the city was an amazing experience. As we ran under the highway overpass, and made the approach to Hereford, I did what everyone else did and tore off my poncho and ditched my very soggy rain gear (hell the rain had stopped).
It was as if this act of defiance was the slap in the face Mother Nature was waiting for. The sky opened, and it rained as hard at that moment as it had rained throughout the entire race. My ability to stay somewhat dry (hat tip poncho) was now gone, I was soaked to the bone as I approached Boylston, but it didn’t matter — I was about to finish the Boston freakin’ Marathon. I stayed left on Boylston because I knew the Joe Andruzzi Foundation people would be at Uno’s, so I moved down Boylston looking for Uno’s.
I didn’t realize it heading into the race, but Boylston Street from the turn to the finish is approximately three hundred miles. This part of the race took FOREVER.
I finally saw Uno’s, and I saw the amazing Team JAF cheering by the road, I yelled as loud as I could muster (I hope ya’ll could hear me) “LETS GOOOOOOOOO” and then used every last ounce of me to cross the finish line. As I got there, I let the rain wash over me, and I let the moment just sink in. In the worst possible conditions, I had finished the Boston Marathon.
I have so many more thoughts that I want to express, but I’m going to save those for a different post (this is already getting a bit long).