My early splits were at the mercy of the pack. In the crowd, it was too risky to pass. – Laura Frey (April 15, 2013)

As I tapered the week leading up to the 2013 Boston Marathon, I couldn’t wait for the chance to write my post race report. I was so excited. I was healthy and trained for a sub-three hour marathon IN BOSTON! However, I had only an hour of utter elation post race before the senseless, horrific bombing ripped my heart and soul, and forced me to bury my race. I felt guilty even looking at my Garmin.

But, as the days passed and I saw how strong we are as runners, how strong we are as a nation, it inspired me. My heart will always remain heavy for the victims, but proud for all of the heroes. And I won’t let terrorists steal my spirit…

soloI arrived Saturday night. Sunday I did a shake out run in the morning with my coach and training partner. Then I went to the expo via the T. Green/Orange Orange/Green…let’s just call it the screeching headache. That took about five hours. I was exhausted. A tad freaked because this was not the day of relaxation it was supposed to be. My friends and I all split up and I went to the hotel to rest. Rest means Facebook, email and texting everything Boston. I had many friends running and I think we all were stoked!

I went to dinner on Boyleston with my BFF’s and had a huge steak and baked potato. As I got up from the table, I knew my race pictures would suffer. LOL. I went back to the hotel and slept great.

I woke up around 4:00am. I felt great, calm, excited. More in a tourist sort of way. Like I was going to view this national treasure. I just had to run 26.2 miles to see it. My race thoughts are not your average ones. I’m not going to tell you the crowd carried me to the finish line with a smile. I hope that doesn’t offend anyone.

The Bus Ride and Athletes’ Village
I arrived at about 6:10am for the bus. I waited in line about 30 minutes and left for Hopkinton. Super smooth and easy. Athletes’ Village was also smooth. Nothing major. I met a few more friends there and we hung out until 9:00am. Then I walked to the corrals. It was massive, yet with a home town feel. The corrals seemed very small. There were maybe three or four girls I could see around me. We did the mandatory look over assessment and the awkward hello.

Miles 1-5
The gun went off. Nothing happened. Slooooowly, we started shuffling forward. We walked across the start line and then started to slightly jog. By now I was vomiting in my mouth because my split was just wrecked with this shuffling crap! Calm down… Mile 1 was 7:06. I was torn between running on the edge in the grass and just going with the flow. I picked it up to 6:30 for Mile 2. This was probably because I had a boost of adrenaline from THE FIGHT! [Sorry, I need dramatic font for this incident.]

So I’m running down a freaking hill in a massive pack of runners also going 6:30 pace. It was scary enough but then a man and a five year old child decided to cross through the runners to get to the other side of the street. For real?! Yes! So the guy is dragging his kid and knocking runners over. I was on the other side so I saw it coming. I locked my arms out and pushed the man back and yelled WTF! He goes, “f**k you, lady!” I yelled “f**k you” back. The runners talked about it for a while and then shrugged it off. I figure we were in Massachusetts, with the emphasis on the “@ss.” Clearly, they walk as bad as they drive. [Pardon my rant! But how unbelievably thoughtless!]

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Always in a crowd

Miles 6-10
Total control. I had a Boston pace band and was following the splits to a 1:27 half. I focused on keeping loose and waiting for the real game to begin. Still, I was running in a tight pack. My splits were almost at the mercy of the pack. Occasionally, I’d cut around people, but it was almost too risky.

Miles 11-16
I felt fine through the half. I was actually very calm and felt under-jacked. I sucked down my second cherry chocolate for some pep. Wellesley was everything it was hyped up to be: Exciting, but a little distracting. I just wanted to get to the Newton Hills in one piece!

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Never a glamorous pose but something happens on those timing mats that makes me do that!

Miles 17-21
Finally, an uphill!! I was so sick of running downhill. I felt like I was finally starting the race. Now I needed to focus and do my job. The first few hills I charged up and passed most everyone on the hill. But then I’d crest and slow down. This was fun for a while, but it wore on me. I still don’t know which hill was Heart break Hill. Nothing really stood out. I remember one significant downhill that hurt. I think Boston College was within these miles. Or some college that was screaming so loudly on the right side of the course. At that point I was like STFU, already. I get it, you scream and we’re supposed to be happy. It didn’t work for me. I was irritated and clung to the left side of the road and the woods. Sorry, kiddos.

Side Bar: Water Stops
Or more appropriately, WHERE YOUR TIME SUCKS. Seriously, whether you get water or not, the PACK slows and people jostle. This happens every 6.5 minutes. You trip on cups, get cups thrown at you, rip a volunteer’s arm off. Every mile. That’s why this race felt like 800m repeats with 800 recoveries. Rarely could I pass in the center and keep pace. I ran with a handheld bottle, and if I felt it was too dangerous to reach for a cup I’d drink from my bottle. After a while I got water at every stop. I poured water on my head for about ten miles due to the hot sun. I think I learned a lot and next year I’ll be more efficient and less disgruntled.

Miles 22 to 26.2
Okay, I was sick of running. The “fun” hills in Newton had left their mark. I swore I wouldn’t do this calculation but I did. You know this one: How slow can I go to the finish and still get my time? Fail! But my calculations told me I could slow significantly and still be ok. But I wasn’t about to look like sh#t at mile 25. So I put on my happy face to cover my “I f’ing hate running” face and marched on.

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I tell you Boyleston Street is the longest street ever. I have no idea how this picture isn’t worse. I was done!

I saw the Citgo sign. I was happy again. I tried to run faster, but I was probably running seven minute pace. I turned the corner to the finish. If you’ve ever walked on the beach towards a pier and noticed it never seems to get closer, that is how the finish line appeared. I don’t think I did any turbo moves or anything. I finished though! 2:58:34.

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Due to a popular complaint, I waited to hit stop but they still got a pic of it!

As soon as I crossed the finish line, I saw my sister and BFF’s in prime seating. We hugged and I continued to get my medal and water.

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I never did ditch the gloves…

We met at the family meeting area for a little visit and pictures, and then I had to leave for a night flight home. Apparently as soon as I stepped on the subway, the first bomb went off. I had no connectivity on the subway. I got off and walked to my hotel.

My phone lite up with messages asking if I was ok. I thought people meant my quads. I was like “yeah, I’m good.” Someone said, “Turn on the TV and do a FB status to let people know you’re ok.” It was sickening to see the devastation and to know I was just there. Those people cheered me in… It was too much…

But before all of that, before the first bomb went off, I had already decided I would be back the next year to use my new mad skills at the water stops, and maybe work on quad strength a little more.

However, it’s never as easy as a high five at the finish line for me. Afterwards, I analyzed and ridiculed my every footstep of my race to try and find my take away lessons. My post-race satisfaction was about 50/50 on how I felt about my performance. I’m very upset I didn’t get my sub 2:55. Ok, fine, me and about 30,000 others, it seems. But then again, I’m grateful I didn’t tank so hard like so many other amazing athletes did. It could have been worse.

I guess this is the problem when you only run one marathon a year. It got too hot. I died. End of story. I don’t think there was anything I could have done to help me in the later stages of the race. So for that I feel I did my best. And I still feel like I have a 2:55 Boston in my future!

Laura Frey
Raleigh, North Carolina

[Laura Frey says “I love running and often laugh way too hard not to share it with others. I love this sport and love running with and motivating others.” Follow her experiences on her running blog On Your Left Please.]