Foregoing the race, and embracing the experience

I truly believe anything is possible, if you want it badly enough. For me, qualifying for (and running!) the Boston Marathon was a big dream for many, many years. I’m sure people thought I was crazy talking about BQ’ing when I was still hours (yes, hours) away from my BQ time. But Boston was always in the back of my mind during every marathon.

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

I ran the Boston Marathon on April 16, 2012. It was one of the hottest Boston marathons in history, but let me start out by saying it far exceeded all my expectations. I had the time of my life and loved every (hot) second of it.

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.

The next 1.2 miles were incredible. I think I had a smile plastered on my face the entire time. The crowds got even deeper and louder. Making a right onto Hereford and a left onto Boylston was the best part of the race.

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.

Kristy Campbell
Conshohocken, Pennsylvania
April 16, 2012
Age – 35
Bib # 17983