It took me a long time to complete this story. Partly because of finding the time to write it. Partly because I wasn’t ready to let it go, and putting it down “on paper” seemed to make it final.
My first time in Boston! What a beautiful city! Steve and I drove from Ottawa, and daughter Katie took the train from NYC to cheer me on. [Writing this, I’m starting to get emotional already. Sheesh.]
Steve and I made our way to the expo and start to soak it in. Oh. My. God. I can’t believe I was at race kit pick up for THE BOSTON MARATHON. It didn’t feel real! I looked around and saw all these amazing athletes, how can I be one of them?!? I was giddy. Wow!
We had a plan for the weekend wherein we wanted to see a lot of the speakers, go on a tour of the city, and hit up a pub. And we did.
First off we met Christopher McDougall (author of Born to Run) and Scott Jurek (ultrarunning superstar and author of Eat and Run) at the Clif Bar booth. We got there nice and early since we wanted to make sure to meet them! They were SO NICE. And SO TALL. We felt tiny next to them. And looked it too.
They spent far more time than they needed to talking to us, which was so cool. Chris autographed a copy for both of us, and we were on our way. The Boston weekend was getting off to a GREAT start!
On Saturday morning Katie, Steve, and I ran the BAA 5k. They both had great races, but this experience for me was surreal. I kept trying to reign myself in because I had the marathon to look forward to, but it was so hard!! Then at 4k or so I see the Marathon finish line. As I’m nearing it I hear the announcer say “now crossing the Marathon finish line are local heroes Dick and Rick Hoyt.” I look to my right and there they are, right beside me, running over the Boston Marathon finish line. I got really emotional, completely teared up, fist pumped and yelled out “YOU ROCK!!!!.” I don’t even remember the rest of the race. Seriously, it doesn’t get any better.
After the race we went back to the expo to seek out Mike Wardian. This guy is an incredible athlete, holding and breaking records for ultrarunning on a treadmill. Mike wins trail and road races all over the place, and has the biggest love of life. We were so excited to meet him, and spent a good 15 minutes chatting with him at the Hoka booth. I have a big crush on him now.
Oh and yeah, he posted us to his Instagram. Eeeeee!!!
From here we went to the seminar room to hear Dick and Rick Hoyt. Talk about an incredible story. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.
From here we raced to a nearby hotel to meet Meb. I’m not kidding!!
Then outside the hotel we bump into our friend Michelle from Waterloo! How crazy is that?!? We took our photo at the finish line, but refused to cross over, fearing it was bad luck. (I’m told running over it in the BAA 5k is safe, mind you!)
We walked around the expo some more, and since we’d done everything we wanted to for Saturday, we had a bit of fun.
From here we went to find something to eat. We settled on a little pub with live music and had a great time. And I ate my first ever chowder! It was very good!
On Sunday morning Steve and I went for a run along the Charles – it’s so pretty, and lots of runners were out with us, but not as many as I expected. Steve and I had plans to go to the Runners World roundtable and see Sage Canaday, but my stomach was having other ideas. That’s ok though, I wasn’t racing on Sunday! We were watching the weather forecast and it was getting cooler and rainier, so we found a mall and I bought a beanie to keep my ears warm and a throwaway hoodie. With the forecast, my ears were my only concern. We did a bit of sightseeing and picked up some cannoli at Mike’s Pastry.
Race day morning! And my stomach is still a mess! Hurray! So I guess I could have mentioned I hadn’t had dairy in months because it doesn’t agree with me. Um. I was feeling some regret over the chowder and the cannoli! But I was dressed and ready to go!
The forecast was looking a bit bleak, but the rain was supposed to hold off until approximately 2:00pm, and I would be almost done by then. Steve and I took the train to Boston Common where I met up with my ‘Squeaker’ Facebook group, where we would take the bus to Hopkinton together.
While we were on the 8:00am bus, the rain that was forecast to start at 2:00pm began. Thankfully at Hopkinton we found a spot under the tent where we would stay warm. “Warm” meaning only we were somewhat dry. But check out how excited we look? Because we were!!
As you can see from the photo below, I was fully decked out in my hoodie and poncho and the rain had stopped. I wasn’t cold, I wasn’t hot, I was ready to roll!
Our squeaker group got smaller as the faster runners left to go to their corrals, and I thought of all my friends running the race who had already started, and those who were to start behind me. I was super excited and a bit emotional and I really wanted to soak it all in. It was my turn to get into my corral and as always I made friends along the way. The rain had stopped, so I ditched my hoodie, and then just before we got to the line my poncho. We continued to snake through and – bam – the rain started again. I was soaked before I crossed the start.
Pffft, it’s just rain right? I was running the BOSTON! I had a great first few kilometres and tried my best to take it easy and slow down, but whether it was the crowd of runners around me sweeping me in, the crowd on the side of the road who cheered their hearts out in the wind and rain, or me just trying to stay warm, I kept a faster pace than I wanted to. I was feeling strong!
I’m disappointed to say the cold and wet got to me, and I stopped paying attention to the amazing things going on around me. Until I saw a sign that said “Kiss me, I’m Irish,” and I thought, “Cute, me too.” And then I saw another sign that said “I Use Tongue,” and I was taken out of myself and looked around – I was at Wellesley College! I almost missed it because I was so into my own head! I made a conscious decision to snap out of it, ignore the cold and get back to smiling!
Well except for this shot, which is my favourite! From the halfway point, I needed to visit the port-a-potties every 5km or so because I was still sick from the chowder. This picture was taken on the other side of Heartbreak Hill. Look at that sad muffin who needs a bathroom! LOL!
The cool thing was, I didn’t even know I was running the Newton Hills until I saw the sign that said “The Heartbreak Hill is Over,” and I thanked my local “Blair Hill” for getting me ready for it!
Meanwhile, Steve and Katie braved the cold and the rain waiting for me. They were a huge part of my motivation to get this race done and dusted because as cold as I felt, I was at least moving (somewhat, ha!).
Is there any better sign than this one? The slowest and longest mile of my life.
Yeah that lit a fire under me. I’m less than a mile to the finish and I’m pretty sure I hear a familiar voice scream “Mooooooooooooooooooooom”!! I looked over my shoulder but couldn’t see them. Oh wait, you can hear it for yourself:
Isn’t that the best thing you’ve ever heard?!? I love you Katie!! And they got the shot, too.
So the finish line is in sight, and I’m super excited. But some guy is running sideways shoving me into the volunteers! So I speed up and cross ahead of him. I didn’t know what the heck he was doing until I saw the photos. Selfie-guy was clearly busy doing other things at the finish. I was a bit bummed because this is the best of my finish line photos and he’s pretty much on top of me for the remaining ones, but I guess I photobombed his pics too. I laugh about it now.
So we had agreed to meet at the family reunion area, but of course Steve and Katie had to do a mad dash through the crowds to get there. In the interim, I wandered through the finish getting my attractive poncho and snacks. Those volunteers are amazing – everyone was smiling and super excited for all the finishers, opening our drinks and peeling our fruit, when their hands must have been just as cold and non-functioning as the runners’ were.
I continued to wander down toward the family reunion area and every medical volunteer I passed asked me to go into the warming busses because my lips were blue and I was visibly shaking. During the last 15k of the race I wanted to go to the aid stations to ask for plastic bags to put over my hands to try to warm them up (I have Raynauds syndrome and the pain was excruciating) but I was so afraid they would pull me off the course for hypothermia, that I ran with my hands under my armpits or with them against my mouth so I could blow on them. Since I had family waiting for me at the reunion area and no cell phone, and a poorly functioning brain, I convinced them to let me continue on my way. Steve and Katie felt so bad that they took so long to find me, as by the time they arrived, I had been waiting in the reunion area in my wet clothes in the wind for 30 minutes.
From here we walked to Boston Common where I had my drop bag and dry clothes, and when Katie offered to help me change in the warming tent, I told her I’d be fine.
WRONG. I stood there laughing at myself when I couldn’t unzip my jacket, take off my shirt, etc. Putting stuff on was even harder. I came out and because I no longer was wearing my running hat, my poncho hood kept covering my eyes, and I couldn’t push it off without help.
What you can’t see under the poncho is that I was proudly wearing my Boston 2015 jacket for the first time.
We got back to the hotel, I stood in the shower forever, then climbed under the blankets for a few hours until I stopped shivering. My Boston Marathon was done.
And IT. WAS. AWESOME.
[Steve Mahood and Una Beaudry live in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and like to run. A lot. After running off and on over the years after high school, they gradually became more serious, ultimately beginning a joint streak of consecutive running days extending well past 1,200. Follow their blog at Una and Steve Run Daily.]