How do I capture the Boston Marathon 2018?
The weather was ridiculous
The race was spectacular
I didn’t want the experience to end
We had been warned about he weather. 100% chance of rain, temperature in the upper 30's and a headwind. It was all about what to wear. My brother, John, who was also running, had the idea of wearing rubber gloves to keep our hands dry. Someone improved on the idea by suggesting we wear them on top of our running gloves. Another friend, Kirk, brought along shower caps for us to put over our hats. The final touch? A plastic poncho that held out the elements to the end.
Runners were everywhere at Boston Commons where we loaded buses to get to the starting line. It looked like a costume party as we wore whatever we could to keep dry but items not important enough to throw away at the start. Some wore plastic bags over their shoes attached with strings they held in their hands like marionettes.
We rode on school buses for an hour to get to Athletes Village. My friend, Kirk and I talked intermittently as we tried to focus on what was in front of us and block out the difficult weather conditions. When we arrived, we attempted to put on dry shoes. But it was raining. When I say raining, it wasn’t the kind of rain where you use your intermittent windshield wipers, or even a rain where you have them on steady. It was the kind of rain where you have the wipers flinging back and forth wildly because it’s hard to see.
Yep, that kind of rain.
While moving along slowly in line to get to our assigned corral, I found a woman with a shower curtain wrapped around her. When I commented on how smart that was, she asked if she should open it up and put it on top of us. I thought that was a great idea and suddenly 6 of us became best friends as we inched our way forward holding up the shower curtain as protection against the rain. Kirk had extra shower caps to give away and I had a second pair of rubber gloves. People gladly took them as the reality of the rain began to soak in (oh yeah, pun totally intended).
We had to hurry to the starting line, arriving after the gun had gone off. Things move slowly in the wind and rain. The chip on our race bib assure that an accurate time will be scored so we had no worries at arriving late. We were running the 2018 Boston Marathon!
The first mile is like running down a 13-story building. I could feel the burning in my quads immediately. This race reveals that uphill is not necessarily harder than downhill. Both challenge the legs in different ways. By the end of 26.2 miles, runners feel pain like no other marathon.
My shoes were completely soaked by mile 2. There was no way to avoid the giant puddles. Fortunately, my feet stayed warm as the constant pounding kept the blood flowing.
In a fierce wind, runners increase oxygen consumption and therefore have more energy cost. In addition, the performance hit of a 10 mph wind is four times greater than that of a 5 mph wind. The wind that day was whipping at 20 – 30 mph so Kirk & I decided to alternate miles drafting off one another.
At mile 12, we began to hear cheers from the women at Wellesley College, a mile down the road. They are famous for giving a kiss to any runner who wants one. I looked into the face of a young woman with beautiful red hair cut in a smart page boy style. She was full of spunk, cheering us on in the blinding rain. In her I saw what I wished I had as a younger woman. Determination. Grit. Confidence. I cried both for my younger self and the joy I felt today. Things had come full circle. Here I was, 57 years old, proving to both her and myself that I too am determined. I too have grit. And I too, have finally found my confidence.
During mile 15, I began to struggle. It was hard to keep up with Kirk and I felt out of breath. I was tired and scared. The wind and rain were so pervasive. There were 11 miles in front of me including the infamous Newton Hills. Didn’t I train hard enough? Is the day just too much for me? Why did I suddenly feel so rotten?
Let me stop and say that I know each mile can be different. Runners can feel exhausted one mile and better the next. I’ve experienced it but at that moment, my mind believed the worst. Kirk asked me what was going on and I told him that was a hard mile. He said it was a hard mile for him too which was so encouraging. He didn’t leave me but said he would follow me the next mile. Within about 10 minutes I was feeling myself again and settled into my stride.
My husband, Mike met me as planned. I scanned the huge crowd as I passed the blue and yellow "17" sign. He saw me first and screamed my name as he pumped his fist under the black umbrella. We made eye contact and the look on his face had a tangible affect. How is it that the love and pride in his eyes could help my muscles feel stronger and my energy level increase?
It’s a true mystery.
It was now time for the serious hills. As Kirk & I took turns following one another, it helped change my focus. During one particularly long uphill stretch, I peeked around his body to see what was ahead. It was ominous. I recalled a runner saying they focus on what is right in front of them instead of the top of the hill. I decided to take this strategy and simply look at Kirk’s back and head. Later it was my turn to lead. I focused on what was directly in front of me, not what would frighten me.
At Mile 21.5, volunteers were handing out Clif shots. If you’re not familiar with what these are, they taste like cake frosting and give your muscles a boost of badly needed energy. I was carrying my own version of this but after struggling to get mine out of a small slit in my flip belt underneath my waterproof vest, cinched by the belt holding my race number with rubber gloves stretched over my fleece running gloves, I decided to take what was being offered. It was thicker than I expected but the mocha flavor was a wonderful surprise. Most importantly, the Clif shot was caffeinated. I stay away from caffeine but at this moment, it was the best little secret I could have stumbled across.
With 5K left, I didn’t want the experience to end. Maybe it was the caffeine kicking in or maybe it was the crowds. I felt like a rock star as people stood in the cold rain to watch. I passed the famous Citgo sign with one mile to go. Next was the steep underpass which taxed my aching legs one more time.
On the last uphill stretch I saw thousands of ponchos and all kinds of plastic gear strewn to the side of the road. It took a minute for me to realize people had removed their waterproof clothing to take the exciting run to the finish with their race number showing for a picture. I decided to ditch mine too. The rain couldn’t defeat me now!
I took the final turn onto Boylston Street. Just 600 yards to go. Unlike other marathons where the finish line was all I could think about, tears came to my eyes as I enjoyed every last step. This could be my last time to enjoy this difficult, character building, privileged experience. I wanted to soak it all in.
It was amazing. It was magical. It was the #bostonmarathon.