Writing a race report about the Boston Marathon is even more difficult. It's hard to do justice to so many things about it and so much is hard to put into words. So much of what makes it so incredible is the emotion. And emotion is hard to translate into words. But I'll do my best to share some of my experience with you.
This year was different from last year in so many ways:
- I didn't go with Scott this year. I flew out by myself on Friday (a whole experience and story in itself and the reason I justifiably loath United Airlines now) and stayed with some amazing girls, including one of the few people I'd willingly share a bed with.
- I was able to attend a cozy little Q&A with Desi Linden and Amy Cragg.
- I ran a slow easy 3.5 miles with my friends two days before the race. I usually take the two days before the race off completely, but I wasn't able to run on Friday because I was traveling, so I decided to do a nice easy run my incredible friends on Saturday morning.
- The pre-race dinner was better than I expected and was so fun! I knew from my experience last year (we didn't end up going because we didn't want to wait in the huge line and I was starving) that the earlier we arrived, the better off we would be. Janae and I got right in, ate some yummy food, and got back to our hotel early so we could sit around doing nothing for a few hours before bed.
- I wasn't injured this year. However, I was reminded I'm a girl the day before the race (5 days early!) and had cramps and achy legs on race day. I had no goal time going into the race and knew I wouldn't decide what my game plan for the 26.2 miles would be until I started running. No matter what, I wanted it to be a positive experience. With the rain and wind and then my added girl/body issues, I knew by the half that I was going to make my focus to have as fun as possible, and I committed to that 110% the rest of the race. I high-fived hundreds of hands, chatted with people running near me, and even took two bathroom breaks because I wasn't worried about time; trying to hold it isn't as fun as it sounds.
- Not having my family at the finish line is hard. I couldn't think about it during the race or I started crying. I wouldn't have gotten to that starting line without them, so it was incredibly hard not sharing the experience with them. When I passed the spot near mile six where I saw Scott last year, I got a little emotional. Then at the end, I kept getting teary seeing all the other runners hugging their families as I walked through the finishing chute.
- Running a marathon in the rain is hard. I've done it before and I'm sure I'll do it again, but it definitely adds an extra challenge. Throw in a constant wind with some 20-30 mph gusts, and it made it even more difficult for this runner who despises being cold. I would much rather run in the heat! And did you know hand warmers don't stay warm after they are soaking wet?
- I shared the race with so many of my friends this year. It was fun thinking about all the other people I know who were running "with" me!
In some ways, it was similar to last year:
- Mile 15 is one of my favorites. I remember thinking that last time.
- My split at the half was EXACTLY, to the second, the same as it was at the half last year. What are the odds of that?!?
- The last five miles are INCREDIBLE. The crowds, the noise, people screaming my name, running through the streets into and around Boston, turning right on Hereford, left on Boylston (which oddly made me cry this time). I felt so strong and happy those last few miles. That is something unique to Boston for me so far. Usually the last four miles of a marathon feel like death.
- I fueled like a boss again this year. Because the race has a later start, I ate more before the race than I usually do. I had oatmeal at the hotel and a bagel while waiting in Athlete's Village. During the race, I had a GU at miles 5, 12 and 20. I drank water at about every third aid station (there was one almost every mile) and each time I took my GU. I had salt tablets with me but never ended up using them. Between the cool temperatures and the elevated electrolytes in the Salted Caramel GU, I felt like I was OK to skip them.
- I think all the Newton hills are tough but not killer. The only reason Heartbreak Hill gets all the attention is because it is last so your legs are ready to be done with the hills. Boston overall is a hilly course. There are only a few short stretches that don't have pretty regular rollers. If you want to master Boston, make sure you are running hills regularly. I need this reminder for myself the next time I run Boston, so I'm documenting it here.
- The people in Boston are great! From the woman who basically insisted on doing a photo shoot during our easy little run on Saturday to the friendly well-wishers on the subway to the volunteers and spectators, the people of Boston are spectacularly friendly and courteous.
- Because I was trying to keep some nagging pain from turning into injuries the last six weeks of my training for this race, I didn't do very many speed work, tempos or hilly runs. These workouts really make a difference in how prepared I feel and am on race day. I can't wait for when I run Boston feeling 100 percent trained and ready to race!
Other things that stand out from the experience:
- Wearing matching shirts makes everything better.
- My sister is pretty great. She took the time to find me on the finish line feed and sent me a screenshot of me finishing. She has no idea how much this effort meant to me. In spite of what it looks like, I was not walking. And I made a point this year to wait until after I was totally across the finish line to stop my watch.
- Reminding myself over and over what an amazing thing it is to be able to run the Boston Marathon.