It took me nine marathons to qualify for Boston. I ran my first marathon, the 2004 Marine Corps Marathon, in 5:12. Over the next seven years, I chipped away at my marathon finish time, slowly, and with lots of hard work, determination, and a little luck. In September 2011, after an incredible training cycle, I knew I could BQ. I ran the Lehigh Valley Marathon and crossed the finish line in 3:43:46. I was finally a Boston Qualifier! I had dreamed about this day for years, and the dream had finally come true.
|Lehigh Valley Marathon, September 2011, 3:43:46|
To be honest, I was terrified of the heat. Each day I tracked the weather, the hotter and hotter the forecasted temperature became. I was fearful of a DNF (even though I never DNF’d before). Heat is sneaky: It creeps up on you and before you know it, you’re in the medical tent or getting a ride to the finish line.
I had worked so hard getting to Boston, I wasn’t about to end with a DNF. I wanted to run a smart race, enjoy myself, and finish! So I played it smart, threw all hopes of a PR out the window, and ran the race for fun! Here are some highlights along the way:
I was sweating before the race even started! The sun was brutal and the course offered no shade. I decided to run by feel and started out at 8:45 to 9:00 pace, knowing I would slow down pretty soon. I was feeling good, enjoying the crowds in Hopkinton, and taking it all in. My stomach started to feel a little queasy around mile 4. I knew it was from the heat (I had a similar experience last summer). I just tried to ignore it. Thankfully, the spectators were AMAZING! They doused us with water and handed out ice cubes. I would not have survived the race without their support.
After mile 10, I slowed down significantly. I happily walked through every single water stop, filling up my water bottle. A few miles later, I allowed myself to walk when I needed to. It’s funny to see so many runners walking so early on during a marathon. This is going to sound cheesy but I felt a kinship, like "we’re all in this together." The Wellesley girls did not disappoint. I heard them cheering at mile 12. Since all the runners were enjoying the "experience" (the B.A.A. refused to call it a race, but instead used the term "experience"), I think they got many kisses on Monday. Sweaty kisses, that is.
When we entered Newton, I remember thinking "OK, here come the hills". I didn’t think they were that bad, possibly because I was running so slowly (If I was trying to maintain MP up them, I’m sure my tune would be different). Heartbreak Hill is not that bad. It’s just a long climb at the worst time (between miles 20 and 21). The Boston College kids were great. So drunk, but so encouraging.
After mile 21, I felt like I was going downhill all the time. Again, my perception of the course is a little skewed because of my slow pace. Best sign? "Honey Badger don’t care about the heat." Hysterical. Other than being hot (obviously), I felt OK around mile 22. My stomach settled down, my legs felt good, and all the ice and frequent douses with water were keeping me somewhat cool. I was having fun! I knew I’d see my family and friends around Mile 25, so I started to count down the miles until then. Surprisingly, I wasn’t too emotional when I saw them (dehydration = no tears?). I stopped, chatted, got some last words of encouragement, and moved along.
|"Oh, hey there!" I locate my entourage at Mile 25.|
|So deliriously happy!|
|I receive final confirmation on the route to the finish line.|
I felt like I was on the red carpet. I just tried to soak up every last bit of it during the final stretch on Boylston. Before I knew it, I crossed the finish line and became a Boston Marathoner!
My official time was 4:33:50. That’s my 4th slowest marathon ever, but I have never been prouder. I walked a lot (more than my first marathon!) and I was just so happy to finish strong and enjoy the race.
I definitely want to do Boston again. Get another shot at the course on a much cooler day and race it. And once again, embrace the experience. For, with the continued support of my friends and family, I still believe anything is possible.
For more personal accounts of the 2012 Boston marathon, click here.
All our most recently posted stories can be found on the BOSTONLOG homepage.