Boston Marathon: Would I Do It Again?
I love reading race reports because they are a wonderful way to experience a race without participating in it. They can be helpful for future runners to know how to better prepare for a specific race with details on the course, the spectators, the post race celebrations, etc. It's also just fun to put yourself in someone else's shoes and hear their experience.
So without further explanation...
here is my Boston Marathon 2018 race report!
It was the day before the Boston Marathon and I had stupidly decided to fly in that night with my best friend Molly. We arrived barely on time and got to the expo with five minutes to closing. I wiped the sweat off my brow as I walked through security and picked up my race packet. I held the packet in my hands and felt so excited that the day was finally here. The anxiousness didn’t begin yet... at this point I was just pumped to be there on time.
That night my friends and I went to dinner to card load (these friends flew in to watch me run, ILY Johanna and Molly). We enjoyed Asian fusion and a surprise “happy marathon day” cake which was SO CHOCOLATEY and delicious. The meal left me feeling full of both food and friendship. I am lucky to have such wonderful people in my life that they would fly in just to watch me run, and I felt the gratitude on this night.
We looked at the weather report and things didn’t look good (cold, wet rain), but I was optimistic thinking that with a long sleeve on I would be fine once I just start moving.
Falling asleep was rough due to the time change but I was finally able to fall asleep by 12:30am. I don’t believe I dreamed of anything in particular but I remember the bed being incredibly warm and cozy.
I woke up race morning excited to get this thing going. I put on my running clothes and Molly and I walked out to the Dunkin’ Donuts across the street to grab coffee. Immediately after opening the door I felt the burning chill against my legs and my butt felt almost numb. 'Oh crap', I thought. Maybe I wasn’t as prepared for this as I should be. The nerves began.
I drank a small amount coffee but the anxious anticipation was getting to me. I put on the windbreaker that my roommate got me to pack at the last minute (Thanks Jess #IOU). I didn’t feel remotely warm but it was too late. I put on my north face fleece and called and uber to take me to gear check.
The streets leading to gear check were a nightmare of stop and go traffic, so I told my Uber he could drop me off a couple blocks early and I would just walk. Hopping out of the car I felt the coldness again and just continued forward. I saw a group of women in running clothes and plastic ponchos jogging like they were late so I started jogging too.
I started debating how much I actually liked this fleece north face and was I willing to part with it to be able to wear it for the next couple hours. See, the way these runs work is anything you bring to the start line you have to bring to the finish line. If you take off a layer and throw it to the side race officials collect these items and donate them. I didn’t want to lose my north face but I also didn’t want to take it off. I stood in front of the gear check woman for a moment and just appreciated this last second of fleecy warmth before unzipping my Northface and bearing the piercing rain.
Another woman walked by me in a poncho and when I ask where she got it she said she bought it yesterday. Suddenly I noticed a lot of people wearing ponchos and I felt like a Grade A Dummy for not thinking of that. Thankfully I grab a trash bag out of the bottom of the kitchen sink that morning... just in case. So right in front of the gear check lady I took out my plastic bag, ripped a couple small holes for my head and arms, and with as much dignity as I could find in that moment pulled the trash bag over my head and pretended like this was my plan all along.
I then followed all the other huddled up runners, them in their Ponchos, me in my trash bag, and we walked the half mile over to the bus pick up line. At this point I started noticing some very odd and worn down shoes on some of the runners. I also noticed some people had bags around their feet. I look down at my feet and noticed that my shoes were already getting pretty wet. There was nothing I could do now but avoid puddles.
To load onto the buses we had to walk through security check and scuffle another quarter mile passed all the packed buses to the open ones. As we got closer to the empty buses we had options to pick a few different lines and we all slowed down figuring out which line we were going to gamble on. It was so cold and wet I know everyone was just thinking about which bus was going to load first. I decided to jump in the line where the person in the back was holding an umbrella. I tried my best to snake my head into the dry zone of the umbrella without being noticed by the owner. I was noticed but the umbrella owner was kind enough to share (thank you stranger!).
We finally boarded and I noticed the guy next to me wasn’t wearing any running gear. In fact he almost looked homeless wearing pants that were way too big on the waist and short on the length and a ratty Gap sweatshirt that had seen better days. Little did I know he was in on a secret of the Boston Marathon. So here you are, the secret I WISH I had known going into this race: When there is bad weather go to Goodwill and find an outfit to wear during this transition period from the bus to the start line, then drop your Goodwill items at the start line and start your race in dry clothes. I’m not sure where I missed it but I did not receive this memo.
25 minutes later we unloaded off the bus and started walking towards the middle school campus aka ‘athletes village’ to wait for our starting group to be announced. What transpired next is a thing of nightmares.
The first thing I noticed when walking through the athletes village were the hordes of people finding shelter in every possible dry spot. The warm tent I looked forward to on the bus ride over was a disappointing open air circus tent providing zero protection from the elements. The next thing I noticed was the massive line of people trying to stand on the small sliver of concrete to avoid the deep puddles that were pooling and growing by the minute.
Then I saw the field of thick mud that looked like a distant memory of grass. There were at least 100 out-houses lining the athletes village, but between me and these out-houses is this lake of mucky brown mud. People desperate for a pre-race poop were slipping and falling into the mud left and right. An Announcer was pleading over the loud speaker to the crowd to get out of the way to allow other runners to get to the starting line, but no one would sacrifice their precious spot on the dry pavement. Goodwill outfits were strewn across the mud and piled along the sides of the buildings. It was chaos and frankly at this point I was over it.
A few really intense winds blew across the athletes village and I decided to risk the mud and take shelter in an outhouse. Compared to the nightmare outside, the out-house felt like a day spa and I strongly debated staying in there until the race was over and uber-ing back to the start line.
The only two things that got me out of that outhouse and onto the starting line was the fact that I had traveled so far to be there and that my two friends were waiting for me at mile 24.
I took a deep breath and opened the outhouse door ready to get to the start line as fast as possible and start moving. At this point my feet and hands are numb and I wondered if I could possibly break a toe and not feel it. There was a good amount of distance between the athletes village and the starting line so I decided to jog. The amount of trash covering the ground on the way to the start line was obscene. People were discarding their plastic bags for their shoes, their goodwill clothes, and their perfectly good ponchos that I gazed at longingly. I debated to myself if picking up someones wet poncho off the ground and using it for the next couple miles was below me. I decided I wasn't too prideful to use someone else's trash as my treasure, but the poncho probably wouldn't provide significant warmth over my trash bag. Plus my trash bag was growing on me, like I was OWNING that trash bag. The trash bag was me and I was the trash bag.
It was so cold I was losing sensation in my lips and face.
I’m not sure where the actual start line was because it felt like we were crossing start lines with every gate we ran through, but finally someone screams “good luck runners” and I felt pretty sure we were at the start line. Despite the jogging my feet are still frozen. I start running.
The jury is still out on if that was the actual start line or not. Details of my surroundings were blurry and I was mostly focused on trying to breathe in a way that my hot breath would float back onto my face and mouth and give my face feeling again. I was unsuccessful.
THE RACE BEGINS
The first couple miles I was very doubtful. My feet were slowly thawing and I was getting some strange sensations of blisters forming. I now know that this was just my feet defrosting. A couple intense gust of wind hit us in the face and some of the male runners next to me cheered for the wind. That made me laugh, and I realized this was the most ridiculous race I was ever going to run. I started attempting to smile through my frozen mouth. Then I started high-fiving spectators with my frozen hands. The spectators were dense, loud, and gave the most incredible energy. I FINALLY realized "Holy guacamole I am running the Boston Marathon!" and started having fun.
At mile six I went to the bathroom and enjoyed my out-house oasis for a few extra moments. At this point I knew that I wasn’t going to get incredible finishing time, so I decided to just enjoy the race and soak it all up. Literally and figuratively. My running pants were drenched, my shoes were letting water squirt out with every step and my shirt was heavy with rain. The trash bag was doing nothing against the conditions, but it wasn't just any trash bag, it was my trash bag. I let it envelope me with it's aura for a few miles more before tearing it off and throwing it in the trash. #savage
Miles 7 through 12 I made a point to high-five as many people as possible. I remember passing Wellesley College and their energy and enthusiasm was contagious. I was laughing, they were laughing, they were clearly very intoxicated, and it was a grand ol time. Someone was holding a sign that said 'KISS ME' and I made the mistake of reading the sign and making eye contact with the holder, some young college girl. She looked at me enthusiastically. I laughed awkwardly and kept running. I am beyond the years of experimentation and I hoped she didn't take it personally. Then I saw more signs that said 'KISS ME' held by tons of other girls and I suddenly felt less special.
I continued on and tried to laugh through my froze lips when the wind blew rain directly into my face. It felt like nature was fighting to keep the runners back but we were all on a mission to move forward. Heartbreak Hill went by in a blink, in fact the weather was so distracting I didn’t even remember a significant incline. But sure enough I passed a kid holding a sign that said ‘Heartbreak Is Behind You!’ to which I thought no shit? Heartbreak Shmartbreak.
Mile 18 to 22 I bonked (runner speak for 'hit the wall'). It was the classic wall, smacking me in the face and making these next few miles the most agonizingly long miles of my life. The only thing keeping me going was knowing that Molly and Johanna were waiting for me at mile 24. I also prayed to Jesus and literally asked him to take the wheel. My legs were toasted, my face hurt, my hands were cold, and I just wanted it to be over. I tried finding music that would pump me up and sure enough Eminem's 'Till I Collapse' carried me through these miles. Thank you Eminem. And thank you God for making Eminem. Moving on.
Mile 24 was my mental breaking point. I NEEEEEEDED to see my friends. Everything was hurting and their encouragement felt like the only cure. They texted me that they were right outside Trader Joes so I was frantically searching for the TJ's sign. I saw Trader Joes. Then there they were! Like two beautiful angels from the heavens they appeared among the crowd, shivering in their ponchos and cheering me on! I started crying I was so excited to finally be there. I hugged both of them and Johanna said goodbye because she had to make her train so we hugged and took a picture. Molly saw me crying and told me I needed to keep going and started running along the sidewalk with me. I was dying laughing as she was running along dodging the spectators and street vendors to stay alongside me. That right there was a best friend. We continued like this for a mile and a half until I got half a mile out from the finish line and she had to stop at a barrier. We yelled at each other that we would see each other at the finish.
The end of the marathon feels pretty much exactly how you would imagine and words cannot describe. I turned onto Boylston Street and there was just hoards of people cheering at the top of their lungs. I lifted my hands up in victory and the cheering got louder. I felt the weight of the events that happened in 2013. I thought about the victims and their families. I looked at all the people in the crowd, each and every face was beaming with encouragement and pride for the significance of this race. I have never felt more American and was so humbled to be a part of this big moment for Boston. This was a city that took an evil event, rallied around each other, and got stronger than ever. It was emotional and it’s hard to think of this part of the race without tearing up.
And then there is the big finish line arch. All I remember feeling was relief that it was over. I crossed the finish line and turned to the guy next to me and we awkwardly high-fived. Then we waited in line to get blankets, medals, food, and water. Everyone was shuffling around collecting their goodies and my teeth were chattering a million miles a minute. I was so cold at this point that I felt nervous about my health and my body potentially shutting down. A marathon is hard enough, coupled with those temperatures I had no idea what kind of risks I was facing. It took about an hour of scrambling to find Molly, collecting my gear bag, and grabbing the Uber home, until we finally walked into the Airbnb and I went straight to the bathroom and put the tub on to scalding hot water.
There is no feeling quite like the feeling of getting into a warm bath after a marathon. I had never felt so accomplished, strong, tired, desensitized, exhausted, lifeless.
It’s euphoric and disturbing all at once.
And I can't wait to do it again!
Not necessarily the Boston Marathon... but another marathon is definitely on the books (CIM 2018!). I am excited to experience a marathon in my home city and not worry about traveling to and from. Would I run the Boston Marathon again? Sitting in that bath tub right after running it my answer was HAYYYYLLLLLNO. The next morning my answer was no. A few months later... my answer is ...who knows. Running the Boston Marathon was one of the best and worst experiences of my life.
I can’t help but think about doing it again.
Get a full visual recap of my experience (including my Instagram Stories) on my Youtube channel: