I was overwhelmed with excitement, telling myself I was here, running the BOSTON MARATHON!

When I first started running in Sept 2010, I never could have dreamed I would ever run in the Boston Marathon. In November 2010, I ran my first race the Santa Clarita Half Marathon and I remember at the turn off from the South Fork Trail onto the two bridges where the half and full split off, thinking no way could I double that distance. I had a hard enough time trying to stay ahead of the guy with the balloons who was pacing the four hour group and two hour half. But it was my sister who quickly had me change my mind to run a full at the 2011 LA Marathon.

I finished my first marathon in 3:35:08 in the pouring rain. It wasn’t until then I found out I was five minutes and eight seconds from qualifying for Boston. It was also then I realized that maybe, just maybe, it was possible. It was around that time I found out that the qualifying standards would become harder. But fortunately for me I would be turning 50 in February of 2013, and the same sub 3:30 BQ would remain for me: I set a goal to run the 2013 Boston Marathon to celebrate the milestone of turning 50. But it wasn’t as simple as I first thought as I failed to BQ in my next two attempts at the 2011 Santa Clarita Marathon and at the 2012 LA Marathon.

My last attempt was the Ojai to Ocean Marathon on June 3, 2012. My time was 3:29:38, a BQ by 22 seconds. I had made it, but would I get in? The new standards and rolling registration actually worked in my favor. I had to sweat it out the first week of registration in Sept 2012, but when I was able to register at the start of the second week, I got in! I was about to realize a dream and a goal come true on April 15, 2013.

Fast forward to April 13, 2013, the day I traveled to Boston for race weekend. I had everything planned out and was about to have the time of my life. I arrived in the afternoon and made it to the Hostel and quickly changed so that I could join the Ultra Running group for a three mile easy jog. I wasn’t sure I was going to land in Boston on time to join them, but happily I did. It was a nice easy run from the State Building and along the Charles River and we decided on the way back to go check out the finish line. We took pictures there as you could feel the excitement in the air and all around the Boston area for Patriots Day and race weekend.

The group broke off and I continued to run down Boylston Street to the Boston Public Garden area and back up to Beacon Street to take a picture of “Cheers” before heading back to the Hostel, where I met up with a few runners I had met from a Facebook group called Boston Marathon 2013, that were also staying there. We found a place for dinner and enjoyed the evening. On Sunday the 14th I met up with Ron from the group and we went to watch the 5K race. We watched them start and then went to the finish line and watched the winners finish from the first row of the grandstand. It was pretty cool to look around and realize where I was as the excitement for the weekend grew. We found out Meb Keflezighi would be nearby at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel for a photo opp. Since we had time before the expo opened we went and got the opportunity to spend a few minutes with Meb who gave us some advice about running the race. We took pictures and got his book that he signed for us and off we went to the expo.

The expo was huge! But it was also so well organized that there weren’t any lines. We got our bib’s, packets, and shirts; then got some gear and wandered around. I got my knee taped up at the KT Tape booth and won a roll of KT Tape. Then we waited in line to meet Ryan Hall. He was also a very nice guy. It was too bad both he and Meb had to drop out of the race due to injuries. I walked around a little bit more (by this time it was super crowded) before heading out to walk to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox game.

I had so much fun at the game, the Red Sox had a no hitter going into the eigth inning before giving up a hit. The people around me in the center field bleachers were so nice. Before the Red Sox batted in the eigth inning I joined the crowd in the tradition of singing Sweet Caroline. That was pretty cool! The Red Sox won 5-0 and after the game I wandered around the stadium to get a picture near home plate with the Green Monster and the Citgo sign in the background. I got my picture and headed back on Boylston Street and went back into the expo at 5:30 a half hour before they closed. It was practically empty, but I wanted to see anything I may have missed.

I walked back passing the finish line knowing the next time I was here would be the next day to finish the race! I dropped off my stuff and continued to the Pasta Party, there was a huge line, but it went quickly. The worst part was standing in the cold due to the wind. Once inside it was great food and I had to have a Samuel Adams 26.2 brew beer! Then it was back to get some sleep for the next morning.

While waiting for the buses to Hopkinton I saw Joe Ogata from my running club and we rode the bus together. It was good to see a familiar face to talk to on the ride to the Athletes’ Village. Once in the Village I saw Elaine Woodward also from my running club. I went to get a massage that took forever in line, and I missed seeing Elaine again as she was in Wave 1 and had to leave for the start. It was cold when we arrived in the Village but as we were to make our way to the start the sun felt nice and it was probably 50 degrees, so no need for gloves or arm warmers as it felt perfect for the start! I dropped my stuff at the bus drop off and made my way to the start. Everyone was so excited! By the time I got to my corral (#5), I had to wait less than ten minutes. I met another runner Jen from a Facebook group, and we decided to start together since we ran about the same times.

The race started and I couldn’t believe the crowds and the excitement at the starting line. I had been warned about taking off to fast. Even if I wanted to I couldn’t as the pack was pretty crowded, but we all were running together at the same pace anyway for the first 5K at least. Whenever we were going on a downward slope, I was amazed to see the sea of runners as far ahead as the eyes could see with all the colors running together. It was an amazing sight to see. At times I was overwhelmed with excitement telling myself I was here…here running in the BOSTON MARATHON!!

Jen and I were running a pretty even good pace for about the first half. I’d get water and Gatorade, but she didn’t as she carried her own, so I ended up losing her around the half way point. At the scream tunnel next to Wellesley College I enjoyed giving the Wellesley girls high fives. I wanted a PR so no stopping for kisses! When I got to the Newton Hills it wasn’t that they were so steep but more that they seemed long. I remember a girl struggling asking me if we had reached Heartbreak Hill yet. I had to tell her I didn’t know because I hadn’t been here before. Someone else overheard and said it was the next hill. When we finally reached the top of Heartbreak Hill we were greeted with a spectator sign that said “You’ve made it to the Top of Heartbreak Hill!”

So it’s all downhill from here right? Not quite. I continued pretty well until mile 23 when I felt the cramping of my hamstring and calf of my right leg. I slowed down but it didn’t help and I had to stop and walk for a minute. When I started up again it came right back and I had to walk longer. I was able to get going again for a few minutes but then the cramping came back a third time forcing me to walk once again. By the time I got to mile 24 I was able to kick it back up into gear. I remember seeing the Citgo sign for the first time but remembered hearing it’s not as close as I think when I first see it. It’s actually at mile 25.2 when you’re greeted with the one mile to go sign. I was able to finish the last two miles pretty strong. I finally reached the Citgo sign and looked to the right as I passed Fenway Park. I knew I was getting close to the finish line.

As I headed down Commonwealth Ave the crowds were getting larger and the cheering louder. I got closer to the famous last two turns “Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston” I gave it everything I had. I took it all in as I made those turns and as I made that left on Boylston Street, I had the finish line in my sights. And even though it was still several blocks away, the moment seemed to go so quick, but it seems like that “Olympic Moment”. I had never seen such crowds cheering us all on to the finish! I crossed the finish line at 2:01pm with a time of 3:38:19. Even though it wasn’t a PR or a BQ, I was happy with the time considering the amount of walking I had to do.

I continued through the finishers’ chute and gathered some water and Gatorade and then waited for a Mylar sheet as it was colder at the finish than at the start in Hopkinton. I continued walking and a volunteer brought me over to get my Finisher’s Medal and offered to take a couple pictures with my phone as I received it. All the volunteers were so friendly all weekend and made the experience so much more fun. I continued on to get my bag from the busses towards the end of the chute. By this time I was at the Boston Public Garden/Boston Common area and decided to head back to the Hostel to shower and change.

The plan was after I got cleaned up, I’d head back to the finish line then go to the awards ceremony on the way to the House of Blues for the After Party to celebrate. That celebration never happened. As I turned off of Boylston at Charles Streeet, I received a text from my wife responding to my finishing time, and I immediately sent her my medal photo the volunteer had taken. The time stamp was 2:49pm, the time the unthinkable happened. I was .6 mile away. Fortunately I didn’t hear or see anything. I got to the Hostel about ten minutes later, and we started hearing about an explosion at Marathon Sports at the finish line. Before I could even get out of my wet running clothes my phone started going crazy with texts, calls, and Facebook messages wanting to know if I was OK. We stayed put and watched the news while we heard the sirens for hours. Since we were being told to not leave, the Hostel brought in Pizza for us so we didn’t have to leave.

My flight was the next afternoon, and I had already signed up for the Samuel Adams Brewery Tour to get the souvenir glass and sample some beer. It was a 3.5 mile walk which I thought would be good to stay loose. On the way back I decided to cut over to the perimeter of the Copley Square/Finish Line area. It was an eerie sight to see the empty streets with all the debris still there. At Boylston Street at the Boston Public Garden area, a makeshift memorial had been started where people started bringing flowers, and across the street was the hoard of media gathered for their news reports. It was a pretty emotional place to be, and quite a different sight from the afternoon before when I was there.

I had such an amazing weekend, going to the 5K and the Red Sox game on Sunday and enjoyed all the marathon weekend festivities. I just couldn’t believe how my perfect dream weekend came to such a horrible end for so many innocent people. I will be back to run the 118th Boston Marathon on April 21, 2014! BOSTON STRONG! I qualified again at the 2013 LA Marathon when I tied my PR and BQ’d 3:29:38. This time was not good enough for me to make the cut for 2014, but am getting an invitational entry. So I do get to go back!

Dennis Lebman
Saugus, California
April 15, 2013
Age – 50
Bib # 13416