Double that feeling. Then double it again, and you still haven't captured what it felt like when I crossed the Boston Marathon finish line on Monday.
From the moment I walked into the Hynes Convention Center to pick up my number on Friday to Tuesday night when I last walked past the bare bleachers, fading finish line and other hints of that incredible journey on Boylston Street, it exceeded my expectations.
I still haven't figured out how to put it into words and capture it all, but I'm going to try.
I flew to Boston on a red-eye on Friday morning. The one good thing about taking a midnight flight is that I didn't have any problem adjusting to the time change. My body fell into step with the two hour (later) time difference. After arriving on Friday, the hubs and I checked into our hotel, showered and changed, then made a quick stop on the way to the expo to pick up these:
The hubs tried to get me a pair last month when they first released them, but they are a limited edition and were sold out within hours of being released. Saucony released another batch Friday morning, and we were able to get the last pair in my size at a Marathon Sports store. They also sold them at the expo, but they sold out quickly!
The energy at the expo was awesome. I picked up my number, bought my jacket and other "essentials."
Saturday the hubs and I went to the Boston Temple.
Then we spent some time taking in the incredible events that took place in Concord. We wandered into a group of US Army soldiers who had just finished the Tough Ruck Marathon. Normally these soldiers "bandit" the race, in full uniform, carrying their fully loaded packs. Because of security this year, they were not going to be able to run on the course during the race, so they organized a more formal event in partnership with the National Parks Service and the BAA. It was incredibly inspiring to talk to them and get to experience a little part of the event.
Sunday morning we got up and drove the course first thing in the morning. Then we hit the expo again for a bit and walked to the starting line for the Utah runners meet up.
Then we attempted to go to the official marathon dinner, but the line was incredibly long. Like at least an hour wait kind of long. I was hungry and getting cold, so we grabbed some takeout and headed back to the hotel.
|This picture does NOT do the line for dinner justice. It was LONG!!!|
And then it was Monday. Marathon Monday. Race day.
I got up right when my alarm went off at 5:30 am, got ready and the hubs dropped me off at my friend Jessica's hotel. This was her third Boston Marathon, so it was great to be with someone who knew what she was doing. We walked to the busses and headed to Athlete's Village. The weather was perfect, and the company helped the time pass quickly.
All of a sudden it was time to line up in our corrals. Jessica and I were one corral apart, so we headed over together and wished each other good luck before I headed to the port-o-potty one last time. Then I finished the walk to the start line, and it was literally time to start running. And then I was running the Boston Marathon!!!
I was overwhelmed by emotion as we ran past the spectators lining the first half mile or so. Then I got into a groove and just took it all in. There were spectators ALL along the course. I don't remember going more than ten feet without someone cheering us on. And the support in the towns was truly incredible. As I finished the first 5k, I could tell my legs weren't as fresh and ready as they have been for past marathons. But I wasn't worried about it because I was there to have fun, to soak it all in. It wasn't about my splits or my finishing time. It was about the experience.
When I hit mile five, I started to get excited. I knew I would see the hubs in the next mile or so, so I really took in the crowds. It was fun to see the signs and give the kids high fives. And then I saw him:
At mile 8 my leg really started to hurt. It had ached a little during the first seven miles, but then it really started to hurt. I wondered if I would need the pain pill I had brought with me, just in case, but worried about how it would affect my stomach. And based on experience, I knew it would make my legs feel kind of weird and unsteady, so I focused instead on how I know I am strong and can run through pain, and I thought about the people who sent me well wishes and prayers. By the end of mile 8, my leg did not hurt at all. I don't talk openly about my faith very much on here, but I have to acknowledge here my complete faith in the power of prayer. The next 17 pain free miles were undeniable proof of its power.
I struggled between miles 14 and 16 like I normally do between 18 and 20. It worried me a little, but I reminded myself that I just had to finish. Even if I had to walk. Even if it took five hours. It didn't matter. That's not what it was about.
I didn't walk. And it didn't take five hours. I read all the Wellesley College girls' "kiss me" signs at the Scream Tunnel. Then I powered through the Newton Hills, which are very different when you run them than when you drive them. I kept waiting to get to the top of Heartbreak Hill but am still not sure which of the hills it was. I guess that's a good thing.
I loved every second running down Beacon Street, crowded with deafening spectators. It made me sad to pass a girl being treated by medics just a few miles from the finish. But then seeing a blind runner and her guide inspired me and pushed me forward.
I turned right on Hereford. Left on Boylston. And then I could see the finish line. The finish line I didn't let myself even imagine ever crossing until I unbelievably began to think a BQ was a possibility last spring.
I thought I would be more emotional as I crossed, but I was just overwhelmingly happy. I made my way through the finisher's area and finally headed toward the family meeting area to find the hubs. I couldn't stop smiling. I had just run the Boston Marathon.
That night I completed the full Boston Marathon experience at the Fenway Park open house for runners and volunteers. Then we headed to the party at the House of Blues.
We got there right as they were introducing the winners. It was awesome to hear Meb talk about how he has spent the past year looking forward to the race and wanting to bring home the win for the U.S. During the race, I got a little teary when I heard someone yelling that Meb had won.
From start to finish, it was a day I will never forget.