371 Days to the Finish Line

It all started with a phone call: “Would you be interested in running a race with me? We will have a team of 12 and we will be running across Massachusetts (206 miles) in 48 hours.” Sure, why not, that sounds like fun and it was raising money for a great cause.

The training began, and I realized I had a hard time even running a mile. Over the course of the next several months I began to love running.

After that first race was over, I started running 5k’s and 10k’s. I then decided it was time to take on a half marathon. I trained for months and after finishing two of them, I wanted to see how much more I could do, I wanted to join the 10% of the population and run a full marathon.

To beat the heat, I would wake up at 5:00 am to train, then head off to work. The days were long, but the effort was all worth it in September 2012 when I finished my first marathon. What a feeling. I was excited, sore and exhausted. I thought that was it for me. Over the next couple of days I remember thinking I know I can run a marathon faster and better. Which better marathon to run than the best of the best, The Boston Marathon?

snip Team Hoyt
With Team Hoyt

It was a beautiful day in April. I woke up, did my morning routine, and headed out to the starting line. This was it: I was actually running the Boston Marathon. What an experience, the crowds of people encouraging you and cheering you on.  My pace was good; I was on time to shave 45 minutes off my time. Then tragedy hit. I was stopped at mile 24.33 not understanding what was going on. During the next several weeks, a wave full of emotions fell over me over. I was going to run again. This tragic event was not going to stop me.

I saw the running community band together, and was so proud to be a part of it. I told myself, “I will keep running. I will finish Boston.”

I was invited to run the Original Marathon in Athens Greece on November 10, 2013. I had heard this was one of the toughest marathons in the world, if not the toughest. What an amazing opportunity to go run a race where it all began. I continued running with a heavy heart, knowing I needed to find a race before the next marathon. I decided to choose a race I loved, the Bolder Boulder. Driving up from home, I was calm but nervous. This was the first race since the Boston Marathon tragedy. My wave started and I was off. Enjoying every moment I could. Running up the last hill before Folsom Field had my eyes tearing up. The feeling of crossing that finish line was one of realization. The running community is strong; we were not going to give up.

Training continued for what was going to be a tough race. Before I knew I was on a plane headed to Athens. I attended the opening ceremonies at the Battle of Marathon. I toured the city and learned the history of this amazing city and race. You could feel the energy everywhere. The day of the race was a hot one, 70 degrees and very little cloud cover, and, man, what a hard race. Running into the Panathinaikos Stadium, I knew I was ready to take back Boston.

snip run togetherApril 21, 2014 arrived. I traveled from Colorado once again, this time to take back this race. It was my year, our year. The presence of the police and SWAT made you feel safe, and at the same time brought you back to last year. Would something bad happen, would people be there to cheer you on? The gun went off and a wave of emotions flooded my body. I smiled, took some deep breathes, and was on my way to Boston.

I was absolutely amazed at the number of people lining the streets cheering us on. Many saying “thank you” to the runners. Thank you, why were they thanking us? For a couple a miles I thought about this. I realized this is the heart of the Boston Marathon. Not only are the runners the heart but the spectators. The people who get out of bed early to stand on the street, whether it’s hot, cold or rainy. The people who stand out there for hours, from the first mile to the last. I enjoyed every bit of this race. Looking at as many faces as I could, reading the signs, seeing the families there to cheer on their loved ones and seeing those who were strangers to me on any other day, but not this one. Today we were all family.

snip CitgoIt was at Heartbreak Hill I heard Meb had won! I immediately started gleaming. An American won, an American won the chants went on. I can’t speak for anyone else, but that did it for me. I knew this day would be amazing! Next thing I knew I was at mile 24. This is where I was stopped the year before. This was new territory. Once I saw that CITGO sign I had waited a year to see, my eyes teared up. Crossing the line into Boston, the energy was in full swing. People five rows deep, screaming, cheering, clapping, and smiling. This was it; I was there, the final mile. I just couldn’t believe the crowds, all these people, they made me feel proud to be running, proud to have come back, proud to show the world we are not scared, proud to have taken back this city and proud to be a runner. Crossing that finish line with the biggest smile on my face is the most emotional thing I have done in my life. I am thankful for this opportunity and am exciting for what the future of running holds for me.

“Overcome the notion that you must be regular. It robs you of the chance to be extraordinary.” ~Uta Hagen


Michelle Mahoney
Denver, Colorado
April 21, 2014
Age – 33
Bib # 32693