I have about nine million things to say about the past 3 1/2 days in Boston and I honestly don’t know where to begin. Boston is always quite the experience and this year was no exception. It was completely and utterly different than the last time I ran it for so many reasons but there was so much similarity in how tough the race was.
So let’s start from the beginning. Brittany and I got into the city Saturday evening (after our flight was canceled and I’d spent TWO HOURS on the phone with United), we checked into our airbnb place, changed clothes and headed out for a run before sunset. I wanted to get in a few easy shake-out miles and also wanted to check out our neighborhood before it got dark. I am so grateful Brittany was game for a run because I needed it after a full day of travel.
We hit up the finish line and the expo the next day. The expo was overwhelming, as expected. The crowds were so intense you could hardly walk and I was ready to go almost as soon as I got there. I picked up my bib, a Boston hat, some fuel, Brittany showed me my name on the wall and we were outta there.
We swung by the Tracksmith store because I had to see the wicked cool stuff they had going on. 😉 I looked at some of Bobbi Gibb’s artwork (gorgeous!) and the photos of her – as the first woman ever – running the Boston Marathon. Little did I know, I’d be sipping champagne with her on Monday night after the race. More on that later. 🙂 Ahhh, can I just skip ahead?
We went to the Red Sox game because it’s a bucket list thing for Brittany. I ate a hot dog (yes, a freaking hot dog!), we froze our asses off and B was happy as a clam. We met up with Sheri and Jason, gave some pre-race hugs and well wishes, and topped the night off with some traditional pre-race pizza in the north end. That’s my favorite part of Boston, by the way. So charming!
When we got back home, I set out my race outfit, and per usual had no idea where I was going or what time I had to be anywhere until I got a text from Lauren with instructions. I’m so glad I have organized and responsible friends!
I woke up at 5 a.m. Monday morning (2 a.m. San Diego time) and it was surprisingly easy to get out of bed. Race day nerves I suppose. I drank some coffee and made my breakfast to go and then thought: Kate! You need some more layers or you’ll freeze! (Yep, sometimes I speak in third person.) I was super unprepared as always. So I ran to a 24 hour Walgreens in search of some layers but then I stopped and realized, it wasn’t even cold. I was not even the slightest bit chilly. It was way too warm for 6 a.m. and I should be shivering.
I met up with Lauren, grabbed a coffee from Starbucks and we boarded our bus to Hopkinton. Luckily we had loads to talk about because that bus ride is LONG and it begins to make you feel crazy because you know you’ll be running just as far as that drive. It can really mess with your head if you don’t have someone to distract you.
We arrived at the Athlete’s Village, used the bathrooms, then chilled. I never even needed to put my throwaway sweatpants on which I knew was a bad sign. I was sitting in shorts, not even the slightest bit cold. The sun was beating down on us and I tried not to let it discourage me but admittedly I was slightly nervous about how the day would go. I don’t do well in heat. I know this about myself. 45 degrees is my ideal racing temperature.
After what felt like seventeen hours, I eventually said good-bye to Lauren and we lined up in our respective corrals. I was already hot and I literally had sweat between my boobs before we even started moving. Someone sang a beautiful song about the tragedy in 2013, I got teary-eyed and then the guns went off.
We were off and running and I felt ok. My pace was right on target with how I’d trained and I thought maybe the heat wouldn’t be an issue. I started drinking water at the first stop and knew it would be smart to drink every chance I could get. By mile 8 I already started to feel weak. EIGHT MILES IN.
I’ve now run 7 marathons and I have never been weak or tired at mile 8, ever. My skills lie in starting a race conservatively and finishing strong. It’s the way I race. I knew there was no way I went out too fast. Not at all. That wasn’t it. I started trying to figure out what else could be wrong. The heat actually didn’t feel that unbearable. I was drinking a ton of water and Gatorade and dumping water down my back at every stop. My belly was rock solid and full with fluids. Uncomfortably so. I couldn’t be dehydrated.
I ran into Lauren shortly after I realized I was beginning to fall apart. She said my name so quietly, I’m surprised I even heard her. She was not in good shape and told me today was definitely turning into a fun run. I told her I was in the exact same boat and we had to just keep moving. It’s pretty funny we would ever think to call it a “fun run” because it wasn’t exactly fun. We both already knew we weren’t going to run anywhere near the time we expected so we just had to endure the next 18 or so miles and try our best to soak in the crowds and the amazing experience.
Lauren unknowingly kept me from stopping for the next five miles, and trust me, I wanted to stop so badly. A little after the halfway mark she had to pull off for the bathroom and I just couldn’t keep running without her. I was beginning to fall apart. It was so crazy and I was so baffled by what was happening to me. Right after she left me I started walking. I’d kind of lost hope at that point. I walked through a water station, chugged a ton of water, walked some more and started running very slowly again. I was sure Lauren would catch up any second.
Miles went by and she wasn’t back. I could only hope she’d passed me and I missed it. I kept trucking along even though I felt like I could throw up at any second because my belly was so full of water, gatorade and so many random foods from strangers. I think maybe I was starting to get a little delirious because I was taking any food spectators were passing out and eating it all. I had some twizzlers, a piece of watermelon and a freeze pop. Why? I never do that. It was like I was falling apart and willing to try anything to keep me going. None of those things worked.
Lauren’s November Project crew was going to be cheering at mile 18 so I had to suck it up and at least try to look strong for the few people I knew cheering. I have this thing about disappointing people (as if anyone cares how fast I run!) and I felt like I needed to look good out there. I know this is ridiculous but I picked up the pace as soon as I saw some November Project shirts and I waved to Eugene (the cutest little bearded guy I know) and I started to slow down as soon as I passed them. Then I spotted my buddy Nick right past the water stop so I had to perk up again. He had a camera! So I waved and smiled and went on my pretend merry way.
Two miles after that, I was stopped again and this time, I was crying. Not sobbing, just uncontrollable tears dripping out of my eyeballs for no reason. I felt weak and tired and thirsty no matter how much I drank. I was so tired of moving. I wanted a bed. Or a wheelchair. Or just a hole to hide in. I wanted it to be over and I had six miles to go. Trust me, I know how hard a marathon gets at 20 miles, wall or no wall, but it’s even worse when you’ve been struggling for 12 miles already. A part of me almost wished I would get sick so I would have a valid excuse to stop. But I didn’t, which I am grateful for now.
I looked furiously for my college friend Kirsten who lives in Boston because I knew she was out there cheering for me. I could not find her and I kept telling myself to just keep running until I found her then I could stop again. It worked for a bit but then I realized I probably missed her so I might as well just stop. So I did. And I walked. A lot.
The crowds were amazing, start to finish. When I was walking and miserable, spectators would shout such nice things to me like “you still look pretty!” and “don’t give up! you’re almost there!” which I totally appreciated. I would start again anytime someone yelled at me because you know, I didn’t want to disappoint a random stranger. Totally normal.
I knew Brittany was waiting at the finish (thanks to amazing grandstand seats courtesy of Sheri and Wayne Levy, running superstar) and I had to get to her so I kept moving. It sucked but occasionally I’d get a little glimpse of hope like maybe I could pull it together and I would pick up the pace to be quickly reminded that was not an option. These little hopeful moments never lasted more than 30 seconds but they would come now and then.
Finally, finally, finally I made it to the Citgo sign that signifies one mile to the finish. I was so thankful! When I finally saw the finish ahead I gave it all I had. Normally this looks something like a sprint and I try to pass every single person to the finish. It’s the most painful but exhilarating part of a race for me, but it didn’t happen this time. I did my best but it definitely wasn’t my typical fast finish.
I saw Brittany cheering in the stands and I crossed the finish line in 3:43. Not a BQ. Not even close to what I was trained for. I only hoped my fellow Boston Bound Babes had a better race out there. I couldn’t walk down the shoot because my back felt like it was seizing up making it painful to walk. I laid down off to the side in a dirty patch on the curb. I stayed there awhile and eventually pulled myself together to go get my medal and hobble my way over to gear check.
When I was finally reunited with my girls, I quickly learned we all had the same day out there. Sheri and I finished with the same time despite different start times and not seeing each other at all throughout the race. We were trained for the same pace and we finished with the same (much slower) pace. Jenna had a tough day out there and swore off marathons (unless they’re part of an Ironman) and Lauren sadly had to drop out due to vomiting and GI issues. I didn’t pee until 8pm that night so dehydration was definitely at play, likely for all.
It was a bad day for all of us. But honestly, I wouldn’t take it back because I had the pleasure of training with these girls and getting to know them really well in the process. I hope to call them lifelong friends and THEY were what made this whole race worth it. Not the finish line or the medal or the time on the clock. I honestly don’t care that I ran a time much slower than I trained for because the build-up to the race is what I remember most. The planning of our run routes, the texts the night before, the excitement before Saturday morning, the fun conversations had while sweating, and the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction after our long runs. That’s what I enjoyed the most.
These girls right here made every moment of pain, exhaustion and tears worth it. They say it’s about the journey, not the destination, and in this case that definitely holds true. We’ve decided to retire our Boston Bound Babes title for the time being and can be referred to as the Beach Bound Babes from here on out. 😉
I am finally back in San Diego after the craziest travel debacle that involved the airline losing our flight information, barely making said flight, the airline losing my baggage and then Brittany’s car not starting when we finally arrived in San Diego. I still haven’t been home because we were stranded and ended up crashing at Brittany’s dad’s house last night. I went to work in the same clothes I traveled in the day before and my bags still have not arrived but hey, I am so thrilled to be back in San Diego.
That is the end of my ultra-long race recap but it’s not even close to the end of the story. This post is already way, way, way too long so I will save the beautiful end to this marathon story for another post. It’s good – trust me. This whole day takes a glorious turn and ended up being one of the most memorable days of my life. Stay tuned. And if you read this whole thing, you are wicked awesome. (I should probably stop with the Boston accent now that I’m in San Diego…)