Though the 2014 Boston was not my “A” race of spring and I hadn’t been training specifically for a marathon, I’d been excited about it for weeks… First, it’s the Boston Marathon! Second, I had really strong feelings about running after being there and seeing the tragedy unfold the year before. And third, I would be running with an amazing group of Bull City Track Club friends, with my dad and my husband there to cheer me on.
We traveled up to Boston on Saturday morning, checked into our hotel, and headed to the expo. After picking up my bib and race packet, I met up with my family at the Convention Center, then walked around Boston for a bit. On Sunday, I had a lovely brunch with my family and then headed out to Hopkinton to check out the start line before checking into our hotel in Milford. After dinner, my family dropped me and Brittany off at our hotel, where we met up with Caren and Jennifer.
I stayed at the same hotel last year. It’s really convenient for getting to the start, but less so for spectators trying to get to the finish, so we had a room for runners while our families stayed in Boston. The only problem was, with the elimination of bag check and no plans to return to Milford following the race, we had to take only things we needed for the race or were willing to part with. It was a little more work logistically, as we had to sleep in the throwaway clothes we were planning to leave at the start, pack an extra set of travel size toiletries, etc., but it was worth the hassle to eliminate any unnecessary race day stress.
The great part about staying near the start is there’s no need to get up early to go downtown for bus loading. Instead, we walked out of the hotel and right onto a shuttle bus at 8:30. This has multiple advantages, most notably the availability of working plumbing throughout the majority of the morning. Last year, the hotel bus was able to drop us off right near Athletes’ Village, but because of additional security measures, we had to be dropped off at a designated parking area, go through a security checkpoint (wands and people checking bags, similar to most sporting events or concerts), and then take another bus the rest of the way to Hopkinton. I figured we would still have plenty of time, but an accident on the highway had caused a big traffic jam, and the security checkpoint line went around a block. The delays caused a slight amount of stress, but not bad.
At that point, my only pre-race concerns were (1) peeing and (2) finding Ellen. Since we were late to our designated meeting spot and only Jennifer had her phone, I figured the latter wasn’t going to happen, but as we made a beeline for the porta-pottys, one of the first people we ran into was Ellen. Hurray! We were all together.
My happiness was short-lived, because when I saw the porta-potty lines I was pretty sure either my bladder was going to rupture or I was going to get a ticket for public urination (clearly I had done a good job of hydrating). Thankfully Caren went to the front and ‘encouraged’ everyone to be more aggressive in moving our particular line forward, so I have her to thank for the fact I didn’t pee on myself or end up in the hospital. [Yes, I just wrote an entire paragraph about peeing.]
As we finally left the bathroom area, they were calling for Wave 2 Corrals 7-9 to depart Athletes’ Village. My listed corral was 6, but Caren and Britt were in 8 and we wanted to start together, so since you can move back but not up, we all headed over to the big Corral 8 sign.
As we walked toward the start line, I realized the temperature had suddenly gotten pretty warm, and wondered if that would be a factor as the day went on. The thousands of runners around us continued to shuffle along, until we finally crossed the start line and were off.
Much of the first half of the race is downhill, so we tried to be cautious and start slowly. The first couple miles clocked off in the 7:50s and then we settled into a pace in the high 7:30s-low 7:40s. It was a little faster than I’d planned, but I made the decision I wanted to stick with my friends through Wellesley and would back off the pace after that. In hindsight, the faster pace most likely played a role in my later struggles, but sharing that experience with my friends was 100% worth it and if I had it to do over, I wouldn’t have changed that at all.
The first few miles went by pretty quickly, filled with chatting, dancing, high-fiving spectators, and reading some of the great signs along the course. Caren, Jenn, and I were all wearing our Bull City Track Club singlets, so countless people shouted, “Go Bull City!” and we thanked every one of them with a woot, fist pump, or wave. There were so many people! Despite having a great experience, around Mile 10 I was starting to feel warm and thought it definitely felt harder than it should for such an early point in the race. Mile 10: 7:34. No wonder it felt hard: I was running too fast. 10-15 seconds might not seem like much, but it can make a big difference in a long, difficult race. I told myself not to worry and just enjoy the moment, and that was made easier as we ran through Wellesley and I read all of the “Kiss me” signs. When we crossed the 25k mat, I wished my friends luck and Ellen and Jenn took off, while Caren opted to stick with me at a more relaxed pace through the infamous Newton hills.
I’d been eating a chocolate cherry shot block every mile starting at Mile 3, and all systems seemed fine until about 16. Suddenly I just couldn’t stand the thought of eating anything else, but I didn’t feel I was bonking so I wasn’t really worried about it. What did worry me, though, was the heat. By Mile 16, I was taking three cups of water at each aid station: dump one on my head, drink one, dump another one on my head.
I told myself to not worry about pace through the hills, and though I’d slowed to about 8:05 pace for Mile 17, I was passing quite a few people who looked like they felt worse than I did. And then I hit Heartbreak Hill. Last year, I lost track of which hill I was on and thought I had one to go, so when I saw the broken hearts drawn in chalk on the street, I thought, “This is Heartbreak? That’s it? That wasn’t bad at all!” Well, suffice it to say I did not think that this year! I don’t know how they did it, but the hills were bigger this time around. 😉
At 35K, I knew it was definitely not going to be a PR day. I turned off the lap pace on my watch, deciding to accept a slower pace and just enjoy the last 10K as much as possible. I high-fived everyone with a hand out, smiled for the photographers, and tried to not look at my watch at all.
I knew my dad, Monte, and Mary were near the 40K sign, and I was able to spot them, which was great. Since by that point I was pretty much jogging, I’d decided to stop to hug them. I normally wouldn’t want to add extra seconds to my time, but I really wanted them to know how much it meant to me they were there to support me. I think they were surprised by that, and Monte yelled, “Go! Go!” Definitely 15 seconds well spent.
With some energy from seeing my family, the knowledge I only had a mile and a half to go, and the amazing crowd support, the last mile, though one of my slowest, was also one of my favorites.
Somewhere in the 25th mile, I passed Larry Chloupek. It is absolutely amazing to see what people can accomplish if they put their minds to something.
As I made the final turn onto Boylston Street, I caught a glimpse of bright orange to my left and looked over to see Jenn. I yelled over to her, but the crowd noise on Boylston was crazy. She took off with a sprint to the finish and I thought it would be nice to finish together, so I sped up too. That lasted about ten seconds, and I gave up the chase, and finished just behind her in 3:31:41.
Last year I had what felt like a Jimmy V moment… running around looking for someone to hug after they put that medal around my neck, so it was great to have a friend there.
We collected our medals, ponchos, food bags, and water, and waddled over to the Arlington Street Church, where we’d planned to meet up with our families and fast teammates who’d started in Wave 1 and long since finished.
I cannot say enough good things about my 2014 Boston Marathon experience. I loved almost every second of it (though my quads might beg to differ), and am so glad I decided to make a return trip.
Durham, North Carolina
Bib Thieves are the worse kind of Boston Bandits!
As a postscript, I had a crazy few days right after the race. When I got the link to “my” official photos from MarathonFoto, I found pictures of four other people wearing my bib number! My guess is they used the bib photo I posted on Instragram or purchased the fake bibs from someone who did. In either case, this made me so upset!!
Thousands of people worked really hard to qualify for Boston or raised a ton of money for charity in order to earn a bib, and many who qualified by a minute or less were unable to register because the race was full, so to use a fake bib to bandit the race is just not right. Not to mention this could pose a serious security threat. These four runners even posed with finisher medals as though they deserved to be there. Obviously they got away with it insofar as they completed the race and took home finisher medals, but in hopes they could at least be identified and disqualified from future races, I posted pictures of the thieves on Facebook and Twitter:
“I hope this will serve as a cautionary tale… It never would have occurred to me someone would do this, so I didn’t think twice about posting a bib photo on social media in my excitement leading up to the race. In hindsight, that was probably naive of me, and I certainly won’t be doing that again. Be careful what you post!”
(I never could have imagined 48 hours later that photo would be all over the internet. The reaction was largely supportive, though there were some pretty harsh comments directed toward me as well.)
[Kara Bonneau talks more on her blog “That was fun… Now what?” about how a Boston Marathon bib will never be “just a number” for her.]