Boston is always special, but Boston 2014 was one for the history books. If I were to pick a moment that crystallized the experience for me, it would be sitting in the athlete’s village race morning while the announcer called for the attention of 36 thousand runners and miraculously got it.
The announcer read out the names of the individuals killed. He called for a moment of silence. A hush fell over the crowd of 36 thousand runners. You could hear a pin drop as everyone in that village remembered.
Other highlights in the athletes village included waiting 35 -40 minutes for a porta potty (not exaggerating), fighting for patches of green space on which to line up our garbage bags, and watching a row of men line up against the fence to heed nature’s call. Two women ran up to the front of the porta potty line up – begging to be let in – their wave was just called and they had failed to correctly judge the length of the porta potty lineups. Porta potty line ups were horrendous, but luckily the two women had butted ahead of a rather kind hearted individual. I really, really had to go at that point and was feeling less than charitable, but I wasn’t about to make a stink. Cops patrolled the area and 4 black national guard helicopters buzzed overhead.
But I am getting ahead of myself…
The night before
My roommates for Boston this year were Lara and Megan, friends of friends. We hadn’t really met each other prior to the race, except through email and facebook. Lara ended up staying up with her uncle the night before the race, which meant Megan and I had the Westin room to ourselves.
We spent the morning wandering the North End and Quincy Market before parting ways with Lara. After a stop at Walgreens for supplies, Megan and I headed back to the hotel to put our feet up for a couple of hours and take a nap. I felt a little guilty, being inside a hotel room on a gorgeous afternoon, but I revelled in the thought of an afternoon nap. I love naps. So this is what the life of an elite athlete looks like.
Later, we head out (on a little train misadventure) to Whole Foods for our pre -race dinner. The supermarket was filled with runners donning marathon jackets fretting over what to eat. I settled on food that (a) had a low risk of food poisoning (b) would not send me to the porta potty multiple times during the race. I was so hungry, I ate dinner out of the little cardboard box on the T- train enroute back to our hotel room.
Back at the hotel, I found Pargol in the lobby, announced that I needed a drink and so we drank. I was fairly relaxed heading into the next day’s race. I knew Boston 2014 would be special and I wanted to both race and enjoy it..
I slept about five hours, about the most I could have hoped for. I rose at 5:20 am and as my roomie and threw open the curtains, we were met with a gorgeous sunrise…
I changed, pinned on my bib to my tank top, and then it was time to force feed myself breakfast.
I had a banana, and tried to tear a rock hard bagel in half (my roomie was laughing as she had a similar experience). The peanut butter I had bought was liquid – so I spooned some onto the rock of a bagel and made myself eat half, before I gave up. I found a container of watermelon I had bought, and then ate a granola bar.
My saving grace was the Starbucks in the lobby of the Westin. At 5:40 am I stumbled onto the elevator. Fellow bleary eyed runners were on the elevator – red bibs were headed for the buses. I was simply desperate for coffee.
Megan and I met Pargol in the lobby at 6:30 am and caught a free shuttle down to the Boston commons where this year, things were operated with military like precision.
The yellow school buses down at Boston Commons were run like clock work. We checked in our gear and corrals were in front of each bus – with volunteers checking bib numbers, waving a flag when the busses were full, and indicating how many seats /were still available. Megan, Pargol and I found seats on the bus for the hour long ride.
Once in Hopkinton, I had time to go to the porta potty twice…and that about took care of our time in the village..
At promptly 10:25 am, I, along with thousands of other runners, found ourselves being herded out like cattle to the corrals. In an attempt to maintain some semblance of order, B.A.A. officials were begging people to exit only when their wave and corral were called. A bit like trying to get kindergartners to follow instructions.
I squirmed out of my throwaway clothes and began the trek. As our Broadway running gang had started in various waves and corrals, I was alone. I could hear chatter all around me, and the residents of Hopkinton had lined the streets to cheer the runners as we marched the 3/4 mile from Athlete’s village to the corrals. It was a bit overwhelming.
With a start time of 11 am…and temperatures of 60 degrees farenheit (not particularly hot, but warmer than I had hoped), I was prepared to adjust my goals. I retied and double knotted my shoes twice in the starting corral. I wondered how hot it would get.
A rendition of Boston Strong played over the speakers. And with a quiet resolve that those who started this year’s race would finish, the starters pistol was fired, and our race had begun.
Km 1 – 15
It was a warm day, and I was mindful of that. Memories of last year’s Boston, and how the wheels began to fall off at Mile 16, were fresh in my mind. The crowds were crazy from the beginning (if I were to guess..10 deep) on either side of the barricades.
I felt like a rock star.
Best sign of the day- “Eye of the tiger, legs like a gazelle.” – I laughed. I kept clicking the km off, and I hit 10km in about 48 minutes. Because I had a handheld, I skipped the first few aid stations. It was not a scorching day by any means, but the sun was beating day on us from the beginning and with very little shade. Runners took off as though they were running 6 instead of 26 miles, and I let them go.
I took to stopping at the aid stations, drinking half of the water, and dumping the other half on me. Mostly, this pattern worked well. Occasionally I managed to choke on the water and spill the rest on me.
These kms still felt good. As we approached Wellsley, I could hear the screams, and a guy just ahead of me was grinning ear to ear, no doubt in anticipation of the beautiful Wellsley girls. I ran some of my fastest kms there, buoyed by the crowds. But too early to count on anything.
At km 25, I rolled my left foot, hard. Hard enough that I limped off to the side of the road, and the volunteers were like, there is a medical station just ahead. My first thought: “Nooo, better not have broken or sprained anything.” I would have been gutted if my race was done at 25km. I thanked the volunteers and said I would walk it off, which I did and cautiously began to run again. Phew.
Good thing, as the Newton Hills were just ahead.
Last year, the Newton Hills had been my undoing, and signified the beginning of my death march. But this year, quietly confident in my training, I knew I could run those hills. I ran the hills. Except the last hill which broke me a little, and I took a brief walk break.
I kept negotiating with myself – one more turn, one more km – and then I could break down. Every time I wanted to slow down, I could hear the crowd screaming, and I had no choice but to shuffle along. I saw the Citi Go sign, and I knew the finish was oh so close yet so far. The hills were almost done. Well, there was one more bump – ok, more like a mini hill to climb before we finished. The last mile stretched into eternity. Finally, I saw Hereford.
As I made the right onto Hereford, I heard the roar of the crowds grow even louder. My heart caught in my throat. It had been the race of my life to date, and to do it at Boston this particular year was more than I could have hoped for. But I wasn’t quite done yet.
Turning onto Boylston, I could see the finish banner. For a fleeting moment I thought, I hope I get to finish. I could only imagine what it must have been like last year, to have been stopped at this point.
The crowds, the volunteers, the people of Boston were unbelievable. I negotiated with myself, to run to the first set of stop lights, then the second. I ran as fast as my little legs could carry me until the John Hancock finish banner was literally in front of my face. Two timing mats crossed. And just like that, Boston 2014 was history.
Finish time: 3:24:51
Age Group 18-39 (1099/6979)