Race Report: The Boston Marathon

caitlin-bibBefore I even begin with this race report, which will be epic so consider grabbing something to drink or a snack or something before you start reading, I wanted to give a huge THANK YOU to everyone who commented, liked/hearted, tweeted, texted, and followed my race online. (Apparently a bunch of my coworkers spent the day tracking me too, which strangely made me feel a little sad that I missed it!)

I can’t even describe how it felt when I finally met up with Brian after the race, and he handed me my phone and said I had about five hours of social media-ing ahead of me. I feel so loved, and I love all of you right back.  Thank you so, so much. Not just for your support during the race, but during all the training and racing that led up to yesterday.

Also, huge thanks specifically to Kennedy Law Racing, which paid my race entry fee, and to my coworkers, who threw a surprise party for me and gave me presents a few days before I left and then who aired a story about me running Boston that night (!).

Also big thanks to Kristin, who really helped me get through some tough 20-milers, and to Brian, for believing that I had it in me to do this well before I believed it myself.

Sometimes I feel a little silly about being so open about all of this stuff, like why can’t I just be like lady who ran a marathon and didn’t tell anyone about it, but as I said on Facebook on Sunday, I have increasingly less chill as I get older and so when I get excited about things I want to share them with everyone.  So thanks for letting me share all of this with you.

So, let’s get on with the race report.

We flew into Boston late Saturday night because Brian took part in a triathlon that morning. Our hotel was a short ride on the Silver Line away from Logan, so we managed to get into our room by a little after midnight, and I was out by 1 a.m.  I managed a whopping five hours of sleep, because apparently the sun rises way earlier up here than it does down in Florida and so it was shining into our hotel room at 6 a.m, but also because I had been having pre-race anxiety dreams that involved blowing up and having a terrible race.  Fun times.

We planned to meet some of our teammates from Kennedy Law Racing at the expo at about 10 a.m. so we showered, had some coffee and got out the door pretty quickly.  The T ride took way less time than we anticipated, so we went to the part of the Hynes Convention Center where they were handing out race bibs.  The lady checked my ID and my runner’s passport, then handed me my bib.

I walked about twenty steps away from the table, looked at the bib in my hands and started crying. I was so embarrassed, so I buried my face in Brian’s shoulder and tried to collect myself so I could continue the process without rocking my best Claire Danes crumple cryface. It took a minute but when you see the photo we took of that moment, you can still see that my eyes are all shiny and bright with happy tears.

BTW I wanted to give a quick shout-out to the woman who made my shirt, which got a lot of positive comments from female runners over the course of the day.  The shirt is from Sarah Marie Design Studio, and I love it. I felt it was particularly significant to wear it for this Boston Marathon, which marks the 50th anniversary of Bobbi Gibb’s now-legendary bandit run. Gibb’s achievement – and the massive inroads women have made into distance running in the half-century since then – was a central focus of much of the race’s promotional materials.

Plus, I’d read Amby Burfoot’s The First Ladies of Running – which is probably now in my top 10 favorite books – in the days leading up to the race. As a result, I spent much of the weekend in a state of total gratitude for the courage and sacrifice of the women who had knocked down barriers so that I – and the other 14,000 female marathoners – could toe the line at a race that so-called authorities once said we were physiologically incapable of running.

After I collected my cool Boston race shirt – seriously, it is really nicely made and the design is super-slick – and my goodie bag, we headed back to the expo.  We still had some time to kill so we went to the Adidas tent so I could do some shopping.

Now, I will admit that when I first saw photos of this year’s celebration jacket, I thought, “Oh, hell no.” It’s aqua with hot pink stripes down the arms and in the photos it looks like it belongs in the wardrobe of a grandma who retired to Miami Beach ca. 1993.  But then I saw it in person on another racer on the T, and my heart softened.  By the time I was in the Adidas section, I decided I had to have it.  So now I am the proud owner of a ’90s grandma track suit Boston Marathon jacket, and I fucking love it.  You will pry this jacket from my cold, dead hands.  (Brian just reminded me of my 2012 Big Sur race recap where I wrote “I will not stop until I have my very own Boston Athletic Association windbreaker” so…mission accomplished! And it only took four years!)

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I love my 90s grandma BAA jacket.

So I got my jacket and a visor, and met up with the other KLR racers: Jill, Corrie and Scott, Keara, and Kristin, with whom I’d run two of my 20-milers and who had paced me to my half-marathon PR in February. We took a bunch of photos and made plans to meet up later on for dinner.

By that time the crush of people at the expo was getting to me, so we left and walked out onto Boylston Street to check out the finish line.  The whole street had been roped off to traffic, and it was filled with people doing last-minute shakeout runs, people taking photos of everything, people dressed in a whole rainbow’s worth of Boston Marathon jackets, as well as many race-specific articles of clothing that I like to describe as “hey guys, I did a thing!” clothes.

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NBD, just hanging out with MEB!

We were walking along, taking photos and enjoying the sights, when Brian spotted none other than Meb!  I quickly scurried over and waited in line for a photo with Meb, who was very kind and gracious and also incredibly tiny. I probably could have picked him up and lifted him over my  head, but that would have been rude, so instead I thanked him and told him it had been a pleasure watching him run for so many years. 20160417_105706_HDRBy this time we were both ravenous, so we stopped at b.good for turkey burgers and ate them outside while watching the crowds.  Everything was decked out in blue and yellow, and all the storefronts had signs that said “BOSTON STRONG” and daffodils in blue containers. I know the race has always been significant to Boston but it’s apparent that the 2013 bombing had made the city hold the race tighter to its chest, that now it symbolized something much bigger and more important than celebrating the athletic achievements of a bunch of running goofballs who have made a hobby out of organized, collective suffering.  My heart swelled with love.

After this, I was ready to get back to the hotel so I could take it easy.  We popped into Marathon Sports, where we ran into Keara, but it was a total zoo so we quickly left, and then we stopped by Trader Joe’s so we could get some staples (bagels, peanut butter, trail mix, bananas, soy creamer) to stash in our tiny hotel fridge. Then we went back to our hotel room, where I proceeded to emotionally melt down on Brian.  I will refrain from sharing the details but I will say that it was obvious that my emotional tachometer was red-lining pretty hard all day long.

Once we sorted my shit out, I made the decision to cancel dinner with my teammates, as it would have meant trucking it up to the North End to eat with nearly 20 people in a small Italian restaurant, when really I just needed to shut it down as soon as possible.  Instead we walked over to Legal Harborside, where I had a gin and tonic, a Sam Adams, a mug of clam chowder, and a lobster roll with fries.  Then we came back to the hotel room and I crawled into my PJs and watched Guy’s Grocery Games on the Food Network until I fell asleep at 9 p.m. I felt bad bailing on everyone but it was the right call to make.

The next morning I woke up ten minutes before my alarm was supposed to go off at 6 a.m.  – which, as Brian can attest, is unheard for me, as I usually have at least one finger on the snooze button at all times – and bounced out of bed. I dressed in my KLR racing singlet, my favorite black running shorts, my Coeur Sports compression socks and my Hoka Conquests, upon which I had written “Boston 2016” in sharpie on the sides of the soles. I finished charging my Garmin, drank my hotel coffee, lubed up my various body parts, and tucked a couple of salted caramel gels and my iPod into the pocket of my shorts.  (I decided that I wasn’t going to listen to my iPod because I wanted to be immersed in the full sensory experience, but I wanted to have it with me in case things got too hard and I needed the extra boost, sort of like a legal PED.)  Then we hopped on the T to Boston Common, where we met up with the KLR racers again and boarded the shuttles.

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The Tampa-area contingent waits in Boston Common to board the shuttles.

Here’s where I’m going to take a second to talk about the weather.  Everyone had been watching the weather for days leading up to the race, and temperatures were forecast to be in the 50s on Sunday and Tuesday, but was supposed to shoot up to nearly 70 just for the day of the marathon.  Then the forecast for race day kept dipping, and when I left my hotel room it was chilly, so I was optimistic that the day would give us great weather for distance running.

The entire ride to Hopkinton, I talked with Kristin about our trips, our training, our gear, etc. At one point I realized we’d been driving for what seemed like forever, and I started panicking a little at the thought I was going to have to run all the way back to where we started.  It was one of those moments where the pursuit of marathon running seems objectively ridiculous – that we all trained hard and paid money (and in the case of some, cheated) just so we could be dropped off in the middle of Massachusetts and run our way back to where we started.  Don’t get me wrong, I love that this is a thing a lot of us do, but I can’t deny that it’s also a little strange.

We arrived in tiny little Hopkinton, and instead of going with all the other athletes to the Athletes Village, Jill led our little contingent to a secret house just off the start line.  I don’t know how much I can say about this beyond that the homeowners are wonderfully generous people who open their home to a handful of racers every year and give them food and a clean place to go to the bathroom and a comfy place to sit.  I was so honored to be allowed into their home – and to play with their gorgeous, friendly, goofy German shepherd – this year.

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Jill, Kristin, Corrie and I toast the Boston Marathon with our glasses of delicious beet juice. -_-

We killed a couple of hours eating, watching the start of the elite waves and talking about pooping.  (No, seriously, this was a big topic of conversation. After you’ve been in endurance sports for a while, you really lose your sense of shame about certain subjects, including but not limited to: pooping, unfortunate chafing, dead toenails, blisters, periods and cramping, bloody nipples.)  I was in the third wave, which started at 10:50 a.m. so at about 10:30 a.m. we made our way to the start.    The waves were massive, each split into eight corrals that were strictly policed by some incredibly friendly volunteers.  I thanked them for being out there, and they thanked me for coming to race, which kind of blew me away.

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Melissa is a cool lady and I am so sorry I only got to exchange 2.5 words with her.

On the way over, I spotted a familiar kit, and it turned out to be Melissa, one of my Coeur Sports teammates!  We talked for about 2.5 seconds and took a selfie, then we were separated again by the sea of neon-clad runners.

Finally we were all sorted into our corrals, and in the last couple of minutes before the horn sounded, I stood in the crowd and tried to let my body absorb the whole experience: the way the sun felt on my face, the clear blue skies, the official blue-and-yellow Boston Marathon banners, the female runner behind me yelling “hell yeah, we’re running Boston!” The announcer mentioned that this was the 50th anniversary of Bobbi Gibb’s race and every woman in the crowd cheered.

I took a deep breath and savored the moment of anticipation that comes right before you get something you’ve desired for years.  It’s a delicious moment, not one we often get to experience, and I wanted to make sure it was thoroughly imprinted in my brain. And then before I knew what was happening, we were off.

HOPKINTON – Miles 1-3

The crowd surged forward and then stopped, then surged forward again, and we started running.  The spectators thinned out pretty quickly as we left Hopkinton, but because it was so early in the race, I was still feeling the buzz of excitement from the starting line. The time when I would rely on the energy of spectators was yet to come.Something I had been warned about repeatedly – by everyone from James Fell of Body for Wife to the various Boston Marathon guides I’d read – was to take it sloooow in the first downhill miles.  Apparently many runners make the mistake of bounding down those first four miles, only to find their quads totally trashed later in the race.  I’d done my last long runs on hills – 15 miles of bridge repeats, 17 miles in Clermont and 20 miles in San Antonio – and I had really put a lot of effort into toughening up my hill-running muscles (no easy feat in my part of Florida, where I can run 10 miles with an elevation gain of eight feet).  But despite that, I wasn’t overconfident. I made a deliberate choice to take those downhill miles slowly.

I had planned to target eight-minute miles, and so once I cleared the first couple of downhill miles, I tried to pick up the pace so I could begin the process of getting myself on pace.  But then I noticed that I kept clocking off 8:20s. Every time I tried to speed up, I noticed I was working much harder than I felt comfortable with during the first part of a marathon. I quickly realized it was the heat.  I’d noticed as I stood in the corral that I’d actually started sweating a little bit, and I hadn’t done more than lightly jog a couple of blocks. So you’d think that as a Floridian, I would be good at running in the heat, right?  The truth is that in all that time, what I’ve learned is that I actually suck at running in the heat.  What I do know is how to manage the heat, which includes revising my expectations for my performance.

I ran a quick cost-benefit analysis: I could either push hard now to achieve my desired goal of sub-3:30 and run the risk of blowing up later in the race and posting a major positive split, or I could drop the time goal and focus on having a strong, steady race, which would allow me to fully enjoy the experience.  It took me about five seconds to choose the second option.  I can always try for a sub-3:30 at another race, but who knows when I’ll get to run Boston again?

ASHLAND – Miles 3-5

The crowds picked up again in Ashland, and I started running alongside the edge of the road so I could high five every kid who put their hands out. I marveled at all the people who lined up in Ashland to watch the race. I’ve raced in a lot of other places where the locals treat you like an annoyance – I’m still irritated by all the Clearwater residents who complained about the Ironman 70.3 World Championships – and so it was amazing to feel like all of these people were excited to have us running through their town.

My mile splits remained in the 8:15-8:25 range – you can see them here – which was apparently what my body felt like doing in those conditions. I still had some mild disappointment over the weather but I got over it pretty quickly.

FRAMINGHAM – Miles 5-8

Something I noticed about the  first part of the marathon is that there were actually quite a few areas where it was really like we were just taking part in a massive group run, with no crowds to cheer us on.  But then we’d come into a town – like we did in Framingham – and suddenly there would be all these people hanging out alongside the road, playing loud music and screaming for us and waving signs.  There was one dude in Framingham who was yelling “You’re all beautiful! Every single one of you is beautiful!” and I couldn’t help but grin.

Weird thing about my short time in Framingham – every time I saw a sign for Framingham, literally the first thing I thought of was Doug Flutie.  What a funny little holdover from my younger days as the former partner of a Boston College student.

Again, my mile splits stayed really consistent.  I was pleased by this, especially since I realized that the so-called flat section of the race course was not exactly flat.  As I crested yet another random little hill, I thought to myself, “These people don’t know what ‘flat’ is.  Come to Florida, I’ll show you flat.”

NATICK  – Miles 9-11

I honestly don’t remember much about Natick, mainly because I was looking for my friend Megan. I got to the landmarks she’d told me about, and no Megan.  *sadface*

By this point I was really feeling the heat.  I was carrying a bottle of water a little girl had handed to me, and was sipping from it regularly.  That’s in addition to the water stops, all of which I was hitting.  (By the way, the water stops were really nicely organized.  I liked that they had gatorade and then water, that the tables were along both sides of the road, and that they were staggered so if you wanted to get around the runners who stopped at one table, you didn’t end up in a bottleneck with the runners stopping at the table on the other side.)  I noticed that water stop volunteers had taken off their jackets and were yelling at us to hydrate.  I was happy to comply.

WELLESLEY – Miles 12-16

At mile 11.7, volunteers were handing out energy shots, which was great as I had already taken the two I carried with me.  I grabbed four – shoved two in my back pocket and two in my bra – and kept moving on.  By this time I could hear the screaming girls of Wellesley, which I was pretty excited about, as I am obviously very pro-girl/pro-lady.

The girls didn’t disappoint.  They held up signs: “Kiss Me I’m From the Midwest,” “Kiss Me I’m Graduating,” “Kiss Me I’ve Been Sexually Frustrated for Four Years,” “Kiss Me or I’ll Vote for Trump.” I didn’t kiss them but I did give high-fives to as many of them as I possibly could. It was the least I could do in exchange for them lending us their vocal cords for a couple of hours.

A radio station caught a great photo of Keara running through Wellesley. Check it out:

keara-wellesley

Keara had a great race. She PRed for the second time at Boston and ran the race in 3:10. I would like to be Keara when I grow up. (Photo/WBUR 90.3)

I was still feeling pretty good through Wellesley, especially on the steep decline that takes you out of town.  I mean, I was starting to accrue little pains and aches in my lower extremities – an ache in my left quad, soreness on the bottom of my right foot – but mostly I felt fine.

I will admit that at this point I started feeling the mid-marathon doldrums, where you realize you’ve been running for 16 miles and you still have 10 more to go. It’s a totally crappy and self-defeating way to think about this, so instead I thought about it in terms of time – that at the most I’d only be out here an hour and a half longer.  I can deal with an hour and a half, right?  Right. (I think.)

I also decided that I was going to do my best to get through the hills of Newton, and then after that I was going to run my damn ass off through Brookline and Boston.  I might not have been able to PR but I could still try to requalify.

NEWTON – Miles 17-20

Oh Newton.  I love you but your hills suuuuuck.

I remembered from a video I’d watched about the course that Newton has four main climbs, including the infamous Heartbreak Hill, but this is the thing about the Boston course – the course is constantly undulating, which left me unsure as to when I’d run the first hill.  Was it the overpass over I-95?  Was it the weird little blip of a hill after the Newton Fire Station?  Fuck if I know.  As I said earlier, even the “flat” spots were hilly.

One of my favorite moments of the race came when we made the sharp right turn onto Commonwealth Avenue.  The Newton Fire Station was set up like it was hosting the biggest dance party, someone was blaring Beyonce, and they had this little tunnel that sprayed cool water on everyone who ran through it.  I totally started to tear up when we made the turn.  Plus, when I lived in Boston, it was right off Comm. Ave. so there was a bit of personal significance there too.

So the hills. Let’s talk about the hills.  Actually, let’s talk specifically about The Hill – Heartbreak Hill.  I’d made it up all three hills, using the strategy of focusing less on my pace and more on an even effort.  This is where you can see my mile splits start to slip, not by a lot, just 10-20 seconds per mile.  This is also where the pain set in.

So by the time I hit Heartbreak, which was full of screaming crowds and huge banners advertising that you were at the infamous spot, my legs were feeling the cumulative exertion from the previous 20 miles plus the three hills that had immediate preceded it. That’s what makes this hill such a beast.  It’s not particularly high or steep; it’s just located at a part of the course that exacts maximum suffering on those who attempt to run up it.

I decided that no matter what I did, I was not going to walk up any of the hills, and I sure as hell was not going to walk up Heartbreak Hill.  I still felt the sting of a triathlon I did in October, where I had to dismount my bike and push it up Sugarloaf Mountain.  I didn’t want to experience that feeling again, not on a hill that was about a billion times more culturally significant than Sugarloaf.

I shortened my stride, trained my gaze about ten feet in front of me, and started counting to one hundred, over and over again.  Out of the corner of my eye I could see that the vast majority of people were walking up the hill. Just total carnage everywhere. At one point I realized someone was arrhythmically banging a drum, and I couldn’t help but think that I would have much rather heard a big sound system blasting something like “Eye of the Tiger” as we worked our way up the hill.  That said, I adored how apparently everyone who lived in Newton was out there cheering for us as we shredded our bodies on their hills.  I loved running through Newton even though the hills destroyed me.

Finally – according to Strava, it took me about five minutes – I summitted Heartbreak. It was my slowest mile yet, but I didn’t give a shit.  At least I didn’t walk.  It was at that point that I realized I likely wasn’t going to requalify, and I was completely OK with that. I was doing the best I could, I was having fun in a really horrible, perverse way, and I’d just run up Heartbreak Hill. I would have been a total fool to be upset about that.

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Suzanne says I was all, ‘Can’t stop, gotta run,’ but I was just extremely happy to see her and also afraid that if I stayed too long I would not be able to get my legs to start moving again.

Fun moment in Newton – at about mile 18, I heard someone call my name and I turned and saw my friend Suzanne!  I ran over to her to get a hug from her, and then I was like, “I have to go. I can’t stop running or else I won’t start again.”  It was so great to see her out there.  I’m pretty sure the boost from that helped get me over that damn hill.

BROOKLINE – Mile 21 through 23

Here’s where the heat finally let up, only to be replaced by a chilly headwind.  I tried to be appreciative of the fact that I was no longer roasting in my black singlet, but a headwind? Really?  Thanks, New England in April.

On the other side of Heartbreak Hill was Boston College, which I recognized from the tall spires of the school’s chapel.  The BC students were lined up three deep along the right side of the road, so I stuck my hand out and ran past them all, giving them high-fives and yelling, “Go BC! Boston College!”  The kids went absolutely bananas for me and leaned way out to slap my hand and to cheer for me.

Sadly, I learned later on that Brian had taken the Green Line out to this part of the course, and had seen almost everyone else we knew BUT me.  I would have traded five hundred high-fives from BC students for one kiss from my sweetie.  *sadface*

This part of the city was where I lived back in the day with my former partner, and I had a lot of feelings as I ran through. Some of them were admittedly not very positive.  I think I had been bracing myself for sadness, but what I didn’t expect was to feel so much anger.  I mean, there were all these people out on the streets, having a great old time and taking part in this long-standing tradition, and the entire time I lived there I had no clue at all about it.  And I got really pissed off that my former partner never clued me in to any of this.  It reminded me of the tiny little lives we led, confined to work and our basement apartment and endless hockey games (nothing against hockey but that was all he wanted to do), and how I had been in this great, historic city but felt like I had no freedom to go out and actually live in it.

I ran angry for about a minute past Chestnut Hill reservoir, but then I was like, “Girl, stop being stupid and get the hell over yourself.”  They call the past the past for a reason – because you move past it. Yes, the past sucked while it was happening, but look at me now.  Not only am I getting to experience the Boston Marathon now, but I’m actually running in the damn thing. I worked hard, I qualified and now I was running in it.  This was not a time to be angry.  This was a time to be proud of myself for what I had overcome.

My life is so much more awesome now – *I* am so much more awesome now – than it used to be, and for that I am so grateful.  And I feel like a large part of that is due to those years in my first marriage, as I’d become acutely aware that I had squandered nearly a decade of my one precious life and I wasn’t about to allow that to continue now that I had another chance to do things differently. I think I’ve done pretty well in that regard.

Anyways, back to the race. As you can tell, my mental circuitry was going a little haywire, and I was really hurting. My plan to lay it all out there in the last miles crumbled, and I slipped to an 8:40/mile pace. I started to feel a jabbing pain on the side of the ball of my right foot, where I have a coral reef of callouses built up over my years of running, and I wondered if maybe I had ruptured a blister.  I tried to ignore it, though, and eventually the sharpness of the pain faded.

These miles passed in a blur.  I was torn between wanting to enjoy the experience – all the screaming crowds and the signs and the pageantry – and just wanting it to be over. The only recollection I have is of seeing a woman standing on an overpass, holding a sign that said “Thank You Bobbi Gibb.”  I managed to run over to her and told her that I loved her sign.  It felt very important to me to let her know that at least one female runner in the field recognized the historical significance of what we were doing.

BOSTON Mile 24-26.2

At some point the massive Citgo sign rose over the horizon like a giant branded sun, and I got all excited at the sight of this iconic landmark.  And I’ll be honest, part of that excitement was because I realized that I was actually going to finish this race.  I knew Boston was a tough course and I had done my best to prepare myself for it, but even so I was surprised by just how tough it was.

I kept running, still steadily ticking off a pace in the mid-8:40s, but that damn Citgo sign never seemed to come any closer.  It was just there, off in the distance, taunting me with its promise of rest and chairs and calories in a form other than energy gels.  The Red Sox fans were streaming out of Fenway, and the crowds were so thick at this point, but again, I don’t remember any of them.

We ran through a little tunnel – which meant yet another decline followed by an incline – and then magically, the Citgo sign was RIGHT THERE.  I knew I only had a mile left.  I started looking for the sign for Hereford as I chanted “Right on Hereford, left on Boylston” in my head. We passed two intersections, and I started to despair that I would never see it, but then! Off in the distance, I could make out the word “Hereford” on a street sign, and my heart started pounding heavily against my ribcage.

We made the right turn onto the little climb – because of course, why not have another climb right here in the race – that leads to Boylston Street, and when I saw the sign that read “Boylston” I started to cry.  But because I was also trying to run uphill while crying, my chest got all tight and I quickly pulled myself together so I could at least finish this thing. It would have sucked to have gotten this far, to have run this entire course, only to walk in the last 600 yards because I couldn’t stop crying.

The final stretch on Boylston was probably one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced. The crowds were screaming for us, making us feel like rock stars. Everything was decorated in blue and gold, and the arches over the finish line seemed so far away yet also so tantalizingly close. Normally when I race, I kick the final stretch, but this time, I slowed down so I could absorb every sight and sound into the very fabric of my being.

I ran past the grandstands and waved at everyone, and as I crossed the big blue and yellow finish line, I pumped my fist in the air in celebration. The race clock read 3:44:32.  It was far short of my goal time but it was also my second-fastest marathon ever. There was no way at all that I could be disappointed about that.

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I DID IT!

POST RACE THOUGHTS

Once I’d collected my medal, food and heat sheet, and posed for post-race photos, I met up with Brian in the family meeting area, and then we hobbled – well, I hobbled – back to the Park Street T stop.  I’m sure I was glowing as if I was radioactive.  I mean, sure, I hurt, but I also felt great. That’s the strange thing about doing these long distance events, how you can find such pleasure in abject, self-inflicted suffering.  I know some jokesters are like, “If it feels good to stop, then why even start in the first place?” but that’s the thing – without the sharp contrast of the suffering followed by the immediate relief, it just becomes your everyday life.

I think there’s something to be said for doing really hard, epic shit. I personally feel like I spend a large portion of my life swaddled in a cocoon of electronic glow and fluorescent lights and maximum convenience, and so making the deliberate choice to step away from all that comfort and inertia into a realm of visceral physical experience – it’s a sharp poke in the ribs that reminds me that I AM ALIVE AND EVEN WHEN IT HURTS IT IS STILL AWESOME TO BE ALIVE.

Later, I processed the race with Brian as I drank a huge beer and ate a bacon cheeseburger, and I realized I felt good about my race, because it represented a significant milestone in my maturation as a marathoner.  I mean, would I have liked to have gone sub-3:30?  You bet.  But I’d had enough experience running these kind of distances to know early on that today was not the day that was going to happen, and I was OK with it.  So instead I adjusted my expectations and made some choices that led me to have a race that was steady and evenly paced the whole way through.  I gather from reading about other people’s experiences that this was not particularly common, and that a lot of people were dashed to bits and pieces against the hills of Newton.

Here’s the other thing – if I can run like that on a hot day on a challenging course, it tells me that I totally have a sub-3:30 in these legs.  I just need the right conditions and maybe a less sadistic course, and I can do it. But that’s for another day.  Today, I’m enjoying the pride I feel in the smart, tough race I ran at Boston.

And Boston!  What a city! What a race!  The whole experience was *~* magical *~* and surpassed my every expectation.

It wasn’t just the iconic moments like the screaming Wellesley girls or Heartbreak Hill or “Right on Hereford, left on Boylston.”  It was all the people – the spectators screaming their hearts out for us, the college students using us as an excuse to throw parties, the little kids waiting shyly for high-fives from runners, the cops and city workers who took time out from their days to cheer for us, even the volunteers who thanked us – they thanked US when we should have been thanking THEM – as they worked their asses off to ensure we had a safe, fun race.

I knew running Boston would be a special experience, but it wasn’t until I was pounding the streets that I realized just how special it would be.Boston, thank you so much.  Thank you for making this runnin’ fool feel like a rock star for a day.  You have my heart forever.

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54 responses to “Race Report: The Boston Marathon

  1. You had a great race. I didn’t get much done yesterday morning because I was tracking you and my other friends. It was so exciting watching your little icons run along the course and seeing the splits pop up.

    You made the right decision to readjust your expectations and had a great race. Someone I know tried to go for it, blew up early on in the race and dropped out. It would have been a shame if that had happened to you after all the work you put in.

  2. Tears. (no chill) Love this recap. Hard epic shit — this race and your history with Boston — there’s parallels there that I’m sure you’ve identified and embraced. Living life a little rawer and weepier has to feel pretty good. You’re a total rockstar. 😀

  3. Congrats!

    If you run Boston again, there’s a women’s health club (“Healthworks”) in the Back Bay that lets any women marathoners come in for free shower/hot-tub/sauna/etc after they finish.

  4. Oh – this gave me all the feels. Reading it, I was so so so very proud of you. And I agree you ran a smart race – that’s the advantage of knowing what to do in heat. Well done you. ❤ And tell me about that #@(&% Citgo sign! It taunts me every freaking day!
    I missed seeing you – we were right near Mile 24, but had to run away before you got there because of a baby nap/ meltdown.
    Running: it wouldn't be fun if it weren't challenging. You know it's true…
    And finally – I have a feeling this won't be your last Boston 🙂 See you again soon!

  5. Great recap of a tough race! I had a lot of friends out there Monday and I heard the same thing about the conditions!

    I’ve never read your blog and I have to ask where you’ve been? LOL! Looking forward to following you. BTW, I’m running Big Sur on Sunday, so I’m heading back to read your recap of that race!

  6. Oh man. When I got to the part where you said you started to cry, I started to cry. Lol! I loved every second of this and mark my words I WILL GET TO BOSTON.

    p.s. I heart your face. Congrats Boston Marathoner!!!!

  7. I decided to start commenting before I’m even done reading because there are so many things making me LOL and awwwweee.

    1. YEAH GURL YOU GET THAT JACKET
    2. LOL Meb is surprisingly tiny and I had an image of you actually bench-pressing him… I think he might go along with it.
    3. I’m not even to the race yet and this is THE BEST race recap I’ve ever read.
    4. OMG you got to wait in someone’s house??? That’s amazing and so nice of them.
    5. Smart choice to pace yourself for the day and watch the hills.
    6. I was in Boston as a spectator last year and we were just before the right turn onto Hereford, as everyone came up the little hill from under the overpass, so yeah, weird little hills everywhere
    7. Thank you for writing all of this! I wish that every major marathon and pro race was treated like how everyone treats Boston; pro athletes and people training for ridiculous forward motion deserve cheering and support just like football players etc do. I honestly don’t know if I will be able to ever run Boston, but it will stay on my dream bucket list!

  8. Pingback: Congratulations, Caitlin! #bostonmarathon #fitandfeminist | Fit Is a Feminist Issue·

  9. Great race report! I’m such a fangirl of yours. I’ve been following your blog for a while now and have drawn so much inspiration and motivation from your writing and accomplishments.

    My understanding, as someone who lives here and was near the finish line in 2013, is that many believed runners would be dissuaded from participating in future Boston marathons. As a city, we take pride in the Marathon and are so thrilled that runners and spectators continue to return year after year. To me, each person running represents not only extreme mental and physical strength but the refusal to bend to terror and hate. So, THANK YOU for being part of that and helping the city regain a part of what we lost 3 years ago.

    Congrats on an incredible race!

    • Thanks so much, Sarah! And thank you for the perspective on the race as someone who lives in Boston (and near the finish line – omg, scary). Boston was something I’d wanted to do even before 2013, but the bombings really solidified that desire to go there and be part of that tradition. Whatever the bombers hoped to achieve, they failed to do so, and quite spectacularly.

  10. This is adorable: “Why can’t I just be like a lady who ran a marathon and didn’t tell anyone about it.” (- from a fellow over-sharer)

    • LOL! People are always talking smack about those of us who overshare, post our training info, etc., but I can’t help it. I get excited. I’m sure that if I were a parent I’d be the kind of person who would be like “HERE ARE 6 MILLION PHOTOS OF MY KID AND ALSO MY PETS.”

  11. I’m so happy for you that you got to run Boston, and that you were able to be so present with it! It sounds like you ran through the gamut of emotions — which is honestly my favorite way to race (albeit not the way that produces my PRs). I’m so glad it was a meaningful experience for you and did not disappoint!

    • Thank you! Yes, it definitely lived up to the hype for me, and I felt ALLLLL my feelings while it was happening.

      BTW I haven’t seen a post in you in quite some time. You’re almost due aren’t you? SO EXCITING.

  12. Congratulations lady!! Running the Boston Marathon is not easy, but it sure is a lot of fun! I’m glad you had an awesome experience!!

  13. Another one of your fangirls here just popping in to say CONGRATULATIONS and to give you a big internet hug. Thank you for sharing your experience and for being a wonderful source of inspiration and imagined camaraderie. From one badass running gal to another, keep on keepin’ on! I can’t wait to read about your future successes.

  14. I’m not a distance runner, but I love reading your race recaps (living vicariously through your cardio?) and this one was one the best. I have often cited the exclusion of women in marathoning and Bobbi Gibb changing in explaining to the girls I coach (in gymnastics) why being strong and capable and female athletes is something to be proud of, instead of trying to hide their muscles outside of the gym. Reading about what it means to you running in Boston, and this year in particular made me tear up because it show how far women have come in sports, and how there are so many women (like yourself!) celebrating that progress while also continuing to fight for even more progress. Congratulations on Boston!!

    • Thank you! I love that you have these conversations with the girls you coach. I think it can be easy to forget – or to not even be aware in the first place – that it wasn’t always considered acceptable for women and girls to be athletic, and maybe knowing that can help them be proud of who they are and what they do. (And definitely NOT hide their awesome muscles outside of the gym!)

  15. I so enjoyed reading this!!! Congratulations, what a fantastic experience. Very happy that it was so wonderful for you. And I love your comment about the past being the past because you move past it 🙂

  16. Amazing recap! It was like we were all there running with you 🙂 Judging from the results/reactions from other Boston runners I know, it sounds like you managed your expectations well and had a fantastic race — all things considered. Way to go with the flow! Congrats on a great Boston finish!

    • Thank you! The more I read about other people’s Boston experiences, the more fortunate I feel to have managed to have a positive one! Sounds like it could have very easily gone the other way.

  17. Totally cried. I just love how thrilled and excited you were to be there – I’d be exactly the same if I ever made it to Boston!

  18. All around awesome! I feel so proud of you (as a longtime reader) – you’ve come a long way both physically and mentally and I think this race showed that. Mega high fives!!!

    • Aw, thanks! I don’t know if you saw where I posted, but I ran my first marathon in just a shade under five hours so I definitely wasn’t always fast enough to qualify! I’m just sayin’. 🙂

  19. Congratulations!! This was really well written (normally I skim read race reports, but yours always hook me in) and I’m in awe of you!

  20. Congratulations! I have loved reading about your progress and was so glad you got to race in Boston–you are an inspiration! (Also, I am getting exhausted *reading* about headwinds and hills at the end.) Rock that loud grandma jacket; you earned it!

    • Hahaha thank you! Yes, the headwinds and the hills definitely got tiring by the end. I still can’t believe I managed to run the whole thing.

  21. So, there isn’t much I love more than sniffling and bawling like a baby at work, but this is the first opportunity I had to check out your race report…oh well, my co-workers really should be used to it.
    Dude, this is so awesome, what an accomplishment!

    • LOL! I’ve tried to silently cry at work before too and it never seems to work out. The sniffles always give me away.

      And also, thank you!

  22. Congratulations!! I love this entire race report. As a Bostonian, and someone who holds this marathon so close to my heart, it’s pretty amazing to read such a well written account from someone who has just run it for the first time. Sure, I always hear things like “it’s amazing!”, or “Those hills, man!”, but to hear your descriptions of all the separate towns, the people, the special moments — that is so very special to me.

    Congrats on an amazing run on a HOT day, and thank you for writing such a wonderful piece about a day that Bostonians hold in such high regard. It’s runners like you that make it as amazing as it is. I was out there cheering all day at about Mile 24.5 — I like to think I saw you and gave you a little push at a moment you might have needed it right before that Citgo sign!

  23. Hi there! I just found your blog on Twitter. What a great report. I loved all the detail and virtually running with you through all the towns. My favorite thing you said was: “I think there’s something to be said for doing really hard, epic shit.” Totally. And to run your second fastest ever marathon in Boston on a day like Monday and that heat- WOW. That is really amazing. Congratulations on finishing strong and relishing the whole experience.

  24. Congratulations! What an awesome recap. You did such a great job. I plan to run Boston next year and your recap made me realize there will be great and not-so-great moments…but it will be an amazing experience. 🙂 It sounds like a tough one that is worth every second. You should be extremely proud of working so hard towards this goal and achieving it! Thanks for giving me extra motivation as I head out for my long run, five weeks out from my next marathon. 🙂

  25. It took me a week to get through this post due to interruptions, but totally worth the read! Congratulations! I think you had the most meditative experience in a run that I’ve ever heard / read about. I have been trying to decide if a fall race for me will be for time or for the experience and your recap was a necessary read for considering what to do. Hahahahaha! I guess I want to be like you when I grow up! 🙂

  26. Awesome race recap. I had similar feelings on the course, but I was so much in the suck I didn’t do high fives or any of the fun stuff. And I walked the hills. I did almost cry making those last two turns as well. And those fucking hills! Endless! I’m sad we were at the expo at the same time and didn’t collide. I also gave in and bought a hideous jacket. Until next time 😉

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