Better way late than never, I suppose. This is the Boston Race Report I really wanted to write, but couldn’t bring myself to write…until now.
I woke up at 4am race morning. In keeping with the theme of of this trip thus far, I managed a whooping four hours of sleep (I tried to go to bed at 10 pm. That was a fail).
We were staying a bit of a walk from a train station, so I hailed a cab. As I cabbed it to the start I saw a line of long yellow school buses. And it was surreal.
A 7 -11 was open, and I bought myself a hot chocolate to keep warm. An early morning commuter in the 7 -11 saw my yellow marathon bag and wished me good luck. If only I had known…
I waited in darkness outside of Dunkin donuts (which had yet to open), with my earphones jammed in I did a cursory inspection and at down, and prayed that I did not sit where someone had peed.
My girl friend showed up at 6:15am as promised. We made our way to line up for the shuttles. I had made a new friend, a woman named Stephanie from Kansas. She lined up for the buses with us and rode with us. Our friend Kathryn found us in the line up. I was very happy to see yet another familiar face. It was close to 7am before we boarded a bus, which was fine by me. Having done this at NYC I wasn’t keen on sitting for hours in the start village. It was close to an hour bus ride out to Hopkinton. At some point the bus jolted to a stop and I smelled burning tires. I looked up to see a truck about an inch in front of the bus. Yikes.
I also remember thinking how long the bus ride was, and how we would have to run the distance we covered by bus on foot . Not cool. Oh well. Too late to back out now.
At the start village, we bee- lined for porta potties (three times). Found a spot to sit down (primed to block the massive porta potty lineups). We spread our plastic garbage bags on the wet grass. I was in the porta pottie when I heard Wave 2 being called out of the Village. Lovely.
It was close to a km long walk to the corrals – houses were decorated, names of runners written on large banners. I remember thinking this was it. This was what the countless miles, hours of training and sacrifices were for. This was an item being crossed off my bucket list. Too bad I was so dang tired. Along the way, we dropped off bags, and discarded clothing. I remember doing a little hop dance out of my clothing and almost tripping over my own feet. It was a massive traffic jam. At some point, we were halted, as the last corrals of Wave 1 had not yet cleared.. I was assigned to Wave 2 corral 3. Corral number 9 was at the bottom of the hill, so I had to climb a freaking hill to get to my corral. As I was nearing my corral, I heard the announcer going, 8 minutes to start of Wave 2. What??? I had just enough time to re tie my shoelaces, wish the runner next to me good luck and we were off.
I remembered the advice of friends who had run Boston. Enjoy Boston, soak it in and save your PB for another day. And in that first mile I remember thinking, wow, I am running the freaking Boston Marathon. (The photo, however, was taken somewhere around mile 25).
I had no idea of what I was going to run, what I was capable of running this race. I was decidedly less confident than I had been during my last training cycle. So I decided I would run by feel, whatever that meant. I did however, remember to try and run a conservative first half as I’d been warned of the dangers of going out too fast, especially on the Boston course. I hit 5km in under 25 minutes, felt good. Hit 10km in 49 minutes and hit the halfway point in 1:43:18. Wow, I thought, if I keep this up I could possibly match my qualifying time and to date, marathon PB. I reminded myself that it was a long race and it was way too early to be counting on anything. Still, I was optimistic – I usually run fairly even paced marathons and once I even an a negative split.
I felt good ( Read: ok) all the way to Wellsley but somewhere after that – and definitely by mile 16, I was thinking I’m tired and it’s way too early to be tired. And I was thinking – I get why people drop out of marathons. For a fleeting second (and probably one of the few times in my life, I very briefly contemplated not continuing). Then I thought about the marathon jacket I had already bought, the medal, and more importantly, my little sister who was on course. I thought of how I would never live it down if I stopped. I sighed and kept going. Little did I know…
I saw the first of the hills, and something inside me snapped. Normally, I don’t mind hills too much. Mile 16 of a marathon is different. I reasoned that at the rate I was going, I would be just as quick walking as running. So I adopted a run, walk shuffle up the hill and ran down the hills.
The miles from Wellsley to the Citigo sign are a blur. I remember lots of hills and looking at another runner walking up. We smiled at each other – yep the hills are a bitch this late in a race, and then we parted ways.
I remember thinking (and spectators shouting) after Heartbreak hill that it was all downhill.
By this time, my quads were so trashed that I couldn’t actually take advantage of the downhills.
I remember seeing the Citigo sign and realizing it was still a long way to the finish.
At mile 25.5 I had been reduced to a death march. I heard my sister Alli screaming my name, and her friend Louise (who had taken the train in from NYC at 2am to watch – bless her heart). Alli’s sign said run Ristine run (inside joke). Apparently Alli and Louise had been screaming at me for 10 minutes and I had been completely oblivious. I paused, managed a half smile and then trotted off. The last image I have at that point in time was my little sister hanging off the guard rails, snapping photo after photo.
I remember trying to do math the last few kms, thinking of how slow I could still run and still squeak in under 3:30, and then it became, well if I can’t do that, then I will at least try and run a BQ.
I vaguely remembered Alli saying something about staying right when turning onto Hereford, but I was too tired, and at any rate, it was too crowded to do much about changing which side of the street to run on.
And then I noticed the hill under the tunnel as we turned onto Hereford (more hills???). I remember turning onto Boylston street, and the finish was so far away. I ran and I walked a bit, because I honestly did not think I had enough left to run the whole stretch. And then spectators lining Boylston street, screaming, cheering, and of course I couldn’t walk. I willed myself to run the last bit, I flew (ok crawled) across the finish line, never more relieved to be done. No photo op moment, because at least a dozen others crossed with me. I was most likely delirious at this point. I crossed the finish line at 3:35:02 (and yep, my second half was slower by almost 10 minutes than my first – the largest differential I have ever run in a marathon).
After getting a water, and getting my mylar blanket, I made my way to get a medal, and then begged a volunteer to please untie my shoelaces as I could not bend over. I was also busy cramming chips into my mouth.
I marched right past my baggage truck (of course I would), spotted my friend Kathryn waiting for her bag, who offered me a swig of her Gatorade. I accepted gratefully, as this meant I would not have to hike back to the start line.
I found my drop bag and then stumbled to the white changing tent. With numb fingers and stiff legs, I struggled to actually bend over and to able to change into dry clothes. I hobbled out of the changing tent, grateful that I had thought to pack my grey fleece. I had cooled down considerably by this point and it was chilly.
A volunteer directed me to the Family meeting area – the letter “C” simply a few blocks away. I found my family and friends and off we went. My sister wanted to avoid the crowds, so we did not try to leave through the finish area. Small mercies.
I’ll be back to run Boston someday…maybe next year or maybe a little further down the road. I didn’t run my best race but given the training I had, and everything that happened, I’ll take it.