“I was too dehydrated to even cry…”

For years I wanted to just qualify for Boston. Unlike some novice runners who say they have never heard of the race, running Boston has been my strong desire ever since my first marathon back in 2006.

After taking nearly three years off from marathons to have my two babies, I resumed my qualifying efforts, and was fortunate enough to become eligible on my next three tries. But then came the change in the registration process, and I was very uncertain if a four minute cushion would be enough. Luckily, and by God’s grace, it was!

While on vacation, I received news that Boston notifications had been sent. However, having no cell phone signal brought even longer suspense, while we drove out of the mountains waiting to get cell phone reception. Finally, I received the long awaited news: I had gotten into the 2012 Boston Marathon! Training schedules were made and travel plans set. I was going to Boston.

Little did I know that a heat wave would hit Boston on April 16th.

Upon arrival, the airport had 26.2 banners up, and I was already in awe of how great an experience this would be. I didn’t appreciate how the whole city celebrates the greatest marathon until I rode the “T,” walked the streets, and saw how the city embraces the event. Flags flanked every street, Boston qualified billboards were erected, and even our room key had the Boston Marathon logo embossed on it.

I went straight to the expo and upon entering, I could barely walk, my eyes filled with tears. I had finally arrived… My bib number 14220, along with a life size poster with MY name on it and a very hard earned t-shirt, was included in the official 2012 Boston Marathon runner’s packet. I purchased the $100 Boston jacket that I had coveted for years. Colors for this year were orange and black, and it fit quiet nicely. I walked the expo and took in every vendor, and was shocked when I met Meb Keflezighi. He was gracious enough to take a picture with a regular runner like myself. We then walked down to Boylston Street to see the finish line that so many have crossed over the years. Craftily painted across the street in the historical blue and yellow was “2012 Boston Marathon.” People were kissing the logo, lying on it, taking pictures, and just being overcome with excitement.

The following day, weather reports predicted this would be the hottest Patriots’ Day in history. BAA began issuing a heat advisory and asking runners to go slow and not try to race the race. Then an unprecedented announcement was made, BAA was offering a deferral to all runners because of the extreme heat. One could defer and run in 2013. I had trained so hard and made the trip, no way was I deferring. Honestly, I didn’t think the heat would be bad because there was no humidity. Also, I’m from Mississippi, which is known for its heat and humidity. However, one week prior to leaving for Boston I developed bronchitis, and began multiple medications. This brought about additional concern. How would my body react to heat and bronchitis?

Monday morning came early and I made my way to the buses. Runners stood in masses on the Boston Common waiting to board the buses. I was able to meet up with friends and take the ride to Hopkinton. We arrived to the Athletes Village and anxiously waited for the call to head to the starting corrals. I remember thinking I was surrounded by fast runners, and how fortunate I was to be in such company. We lathered on sunscreen, and talked about what our “race plan” should be in order to survive the heat. Drop bags were taken and the walk was made to the starting line. People and fans were everywhere. I never dreamed there would be so many spectators lining the streets.

The first three miles are all down hill, and I had “planned” to go out slow because of the heat. With adrenaline, the plan died. Those three miles were too fast and I paid dearly for the fast pace. Bridget Jolly came to check on me at mile 5. The bronchitis was taking a toll on me early. She could tell my breathing wasn’t good and I was extremely hot. She asked if she could call my husband. Absolutely not! No way was I not going to finish, despite struggling so early. My pace slowed and with the heat and bronchitis, the first half was tough.

Finally, I made it to Wellesley College. The girls made me laugh and I even felt like a rock star just for a moment. They were willing to give everyone a kiss. The screaming and cheers were deafening. My pace picked up some but then along came the hill. At the beginning of the ascent, there were flashing caution lights, slow down, heat advisory. I veered off the course several times to run through sprinklers and shower heads. At this point I didn’t care about the shortest route to the finish, I just wanted to get cooled off.

Heartbreak Hill was all I had read it to be. The crowd support was phenomenal from that point until the finish. Popsicles, ice, frozen rags, and every possible drink were available from those fans standing along the course. God bless them! I made it through the hills, and now the final downhill stretch for the last four or five miles. Fellow runners were trying to encourage and support each other any way possible. I had placed a frozen towel down my back in an attempt to cool off my core. Unbeknownst to me, it had fallen out and a girl ran up beside me and slipped it back into my shirt. We were all just trying to survive the elements that day.

I could see the famous CITGO sign and I had only one mile to go. The cheering and screaming were continuous from that point on. I took the left onto Boylston and I could see the finish. I think I was too dehydrated to even cry at that point. I crossed the finish line and I had just run the Boston Marathon! I was draped in a mylar jacket, though no need for it today, and finally I received my finisher’s medal. It felt so good hanging around my neck and at that moment the extreme fatigue disappeared. I was directed down the street to pick up my drop bag and then to the food. I was certainly not hungry and couldn’t drink anything. My husband started screaming my name and finally we were able to see each other. Lying in the grass, I was sad the weather had not cooperated, but so proud to be a Boston Finisher.
Amy Ballard 2mb
While in Boston I purchased a book written by a mother (Michele Bredice Craemer) for her children. Pellie Runs a Marathon is a story that travels the 26.2 distance, telling about the trials encountered along the way. I bought each of my children a copy as a token of my experience in Boston. The message of the book is to work hard and to never give up. Each of my children, ages four and five, now runs a mile and says they are running the Boston Marathon. My hopes are for them to one day see me finish Boston and for them to never give up on their hopes and dreams. I’m thankful that in spite of the heat of 2012, I did not give up, and God has blessed me to return in 2014.

Amy Ballard
Tupelo, Mississippi
April 16, 2012
Age – 35
Bib # 17220