The day started at 5am, up for breakfast and then off to the Common to catch our bus to the start line in Hopkinton. It is really quite unreal, to see the sheer number of people, buses and the logistics involved in an event of this magnitude. We both grumbled a bit about getting on the bus at 6:30am for a 10:00am race start, but we realized why when the 26mile bus trip took over 2hours! We arrived at athlete village in Hopkinton just before 9am and had time to use the porto john, change our clothes and stretch a little before making our way to our respective starting corrals. I lost track of D on the way to drop off our bags, but I sent him a telepathic hug and high five, all that we needed to say and do had been done and said and I knew that although we would be a long way apart on the race course, we would be together in spirit the entire run.
I made a decision the day before the race that I was going to just run how I felt and not hold back, even though I might pay for it later in the race. I wanted to see what I could do and wanted to give everything I had without holding back anything. My mantra for the day was 'development follows demand'- the only way to see new results and progress is to push the limits, stretch the comfort zone and break through the mental and physical barriers. I knew it was going to hurt and I was prepared to overcome the pain. Good thing, cause it did, and I had to.
At 10am the gun went off, and about 7mins later I made it to the start line. The sun broke through and I was warm enough to take off the sweater I had on and add it to the massive donations for the boys and girls club that were being collected along the start. The race starts out downhill, and it is a pretty steep downhill for about 2 miles. I ran along in the massive 'peleton' of runners, trying to allow the gravity to carry me without resistance. I had a good pace and covered my first 5km in about 23mins. The next 5km were a combination of downhill and flats and went by quite quickly. I hit the 10km mark at about 46mins. The undulations continued and at 20km my legs started talking to me and all I could say back was, we are only half way there... The rolling uphills that cumulate with heartbreak hill were nothing dramatic, but because my legs were already hurting at this point, they seemed bigger than they were. The uphills were a welcome relief from the pounding of the downhill, but I could see my speed slowing and I was beginning to feel nauseous. Mile 20 is where I have always fell apart in previous marathons, and this time it was about mile 23. My legs were in such pain that it literally took every ounce of mental strength I had to continue to push forward. I knew from my time that I needed to hold under 5min kms to break 3:30 and with 5km to go I knew I was not going to make that goal. Despite that, I refused to let myself give up and ease off. I knew that the only way I would finish satisfied was if I gave 100% of what I could, regardless of how fast it was. I managed to rally a bit and get my speed back up, but the last 5km were a true mental battle that I had to fight for each and every step. It is crazy how long that distance can feel! The crowd support was huge- 3-4 rows deep on either side screaming and cheering, but I was in my own world and could barely see or hear them. When I rounded the final corner I expected to see the finish right there, but it was another 800m and it looked like 10 miles! I don't know how or where it came from, but I was able to push myself to a solid run for the last stretch to the finish, crossing in 3hrs 32 mins. Those 2 mins seem so small, but I really could not have run any faster than I did on that day.
Everything they say about the Boston Marathon is true. It is an amazing experience with incredible crowd support and an the energy and intensity of running with 21,000 of the best recreational runners is unlike anything else. It is also an extremely challenging course, it is taxing and grueling and cruel. Even though I knew I would pay the price of the quad tearing downhills, I never knew what kind of pain I would be in for. I have never hurt like that in any race- marathon, Ironman or otherwise. If I could have imagined it, I am not sure I would have had the guts to start.
All of that being said is was one of the most amazing and memorable experiences of my life and I wouldn't change any of it.
I can't say that I am signing up for another go, even though my time re-qualified me. I will have to forget about the pain for a while, and at least be able to walk normally before I can even consider it.
I am happy to have run a personal best on a challenging course, and what made my day truly complete was seeing D after the race and hearing that he not only had a great race, but he too PR'd with a 2:46, beating Lance by 4 minutes and finishing a very respectable 335 overall.
I was so proud and happy for him that my heart felt like it doubled in size. After training together through some of the most stressful times in our lives, through some of the toughest training conditions, and then overcoming the challenge of food poisoning 2 days before the race, his race meant as much to me as my own did.
I am so grateful for my health and the fact that I can compete and train and enrich my life through sport. I am doubly blessed that my life partner is also my training parter and with that, every success is twice as satisfying, and every challenge only half the burden.
Thanks babe :-)