F 35 - 39
The Boston Marathon experience is, for the serious runner, the ultimate rush of emotions… excitement, fear, pride, and for first-timers, overwhelming. My first Boston experience is a memory I will hold onto for the rest of my years.
I began running in my 30s and quickly became inspired by the challenge of distance running. I was running just fast enough to be slightly competitive within my age group and in small races. After I completed a couple of marathons, I began to see qualifying for the Boston Marathon as a possibility at some point in my future. When a friend qualified, that was the spark I needed to light my fire. I changed my diet, added some strength training and cross training to what I was already doing, and frankly just ran and trained harder. I qualified for the 2017 Boston at Revel Big Cottonwood in Salt Lake City, and again a couple of months later at the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis.
It is difficult to find the words to describe in the Boston Marathon experience. It begins as soon as you arrive in Boston! Running shoes and Boston Marathon gear on every other person you see! Runners everywhere – and they all look fit and super-fast! I was immediately a bit intimidated. However, everyone is friendly, excited, and it is as if a friendship had already been forged with all of these people. The days leading up to race day are full of opportunities to see the city, visit spots on the race course, meet other runners, and spend ALL of your money on marathon gear!
I was a bundle of nerves on race day. The temps had jumped to 71 at the start. I’m not a warm weather runner – I’ve had some trouble with it in the past, so I was apprehensive. Nerves had given me a migraine, and I was stressing over eating properly and being ready for an 11:30 start. All of that worrying was a waste of my time and energy! Once the race began, my headache disappeared, and I was caught up in thrill of a historic marathon I had earned a spot to run! I did have to dial back my pace to account for the temps, but I was okay with that.
The spirit of the spectators at Boston is unmatched! There are crowds along every foot of that course, and you can feel the love and encouragement coming from them. There is always an outstretched hand offering some sort of fuel – oranges, Twizzlers, potatoes, ice… I think I took some guy’s cup of ice and I’m not even sure he was offering it! Somewhere near Heartbreak Hill, I had a moment where I needed to slow down and collect myself, a spectator reached out, patted my arm and said, “You’ve got this, Jessica, you’re doing great!” It makes me tear up to type that, and maybe only another runner could understand, but in those moments when your grit is almost gone, when you’re giving it everything you have, when you’re looking for what’s left of your beast mode (ha!), it means the world for someone to give you a genuine gesture of encouragement.
“Right on Hereford, left on Boylston” is everything I had dreamed of. The crowd was ten people deep on both sides of the course for the entire stretch to the finish. Their cheers were wonderfully deafening. I forgot about the pain in my legs and tried to soak it in. It was a little bit like an out-of-body experience. I could probably chalk some of that up to being a little dehydrated and exhausted, but I couldn’t believe it was ME, running and finishing that race! Such a very special moment. My only regret is I didn’t take pictures with my parents, who had come to see me run my first Boston Marathon! They don’t love pictures, and I was too caught up in the hustle.
I am thankful for the experience. Although I plan to run again in 2018, I don’t know how many Boston Marathons I will run. I ordered the unattractive race photos because when I’m 88, I want to look back upon these memories and remember when I was young, fit, and did hard stuff!