The Sound of Music meets a scene from the Terminator – Laura Frey (April 21, 2014)

I don’t even know where to start!

Boston 2014 was quite possibly the most amazing display of humanity ever. Boston pumped love, perseverance, support, and empathy; every second, all weekend. I have never in my life experienced this type of non-stop caring and selflessness from every single person I bumped into during my entire trip. Everyone wanted to help make the next person smile. It was contagious. It is one thing to read about it or hear it on the news, but the experience was simply amazing. Beyond words, but I will try.

I left home on a flight to Boston kind of freaked out by the incident earlier in the week where Boston police arrested a man for bringing a hoax explosive device to the finish line. I couldn’t handle it again this year. I couldn’t deal with hoaxes either. I was kind of on edge not knowing what to expect.

Sunday Sunrise - Marathon Weekend
Sunday Sunrise – Marathon Weekend

I happen to meet an older gentleman in the airport who was headed home to Boston. We started talking, but then had to board. By chance he ended up sitting next to me on the plane. He has lived in Newton for over 40 years and has cheered for the Boston Marathon runners for just as long. In conversation I asked him, “Are you afraid, at all?” He emphatically said no. He explained how he would not let fear torture him anymore. This was his city. This was their city. He basically explained the term we all know as Boston Strong. He was a honey badger of sorts. I said, “Ya know, you’re right.” I deplaned with a new attitude.

Not as easy as the name implies...
Not as easy as the name implies…

I arrived Saturday night so that day was gone. I awoke Sunday morning and did my shake out run and showered before leaving for the expo. My coach and I met up and went in to get our bibs and jackets, and then hopefully leave soon. That was a fail.

To pick up your race bib, you need your ID. I lost my ID at security in the airport, but I had two other forms of photo ID. So I asked the lady holding my number to accept an alternative form of identification. She said no loud and clear. She sent me to the Solution Center.

At long last, a bib!
At long last, a bib!

Long story short: they said no ID, no bib. My immediate response to this was a complete and total meltdown into hysterical, uncontrollable sobbing. My close friends all know I don’t cry! I later made jokes that I didn’t know why water was coming out of my eyes. LOL. Anyway, the waterworks didn’t sway them. After a few minutes of this, the police started to gather as my coach tried to fix the situation with an escalating voice. I said, “Let’s go. We are not getting arrested for crying!” I went back to my hotel on another $25 cab ride to hopefully find my ID in my luggage. Luckily, I found it in my laptop case!! I could run now! I took another $25 cab ride back to the expo with my bloated face and dried tears and got my bib. YAY!

My day was planned out pretty well by this point and I had to move along. Next, I had planned to meet my new running BFF from Texas whom I met online in a Boston Bound run club. We have motivated each other for 16+ weeks, and ran and compared notes on every painstaking mile. We were beyond elated to run Boston during such a special year. Just as I imagined, Lisa was so sweet, kind and beautiful on top of being a phenomenal marathon runner with a hardcore training program I have admired from Day One.

With Lisa
With Lisa

By now a few hours had passed and my eyes weren’t so puffy. Perfect, because it was dinner time with my gorgeous sister and loving mother who probably expended more energy crewing me all weekend than I spent running the marathon.

After dinner I was ready for bed. I laid out my outfit, gels, and shoes, and prepared my drop bag. Then I passed out, until my 4:00am alarm. But who the heck cares! It’s time to run the Boston Marathon!! Sleep wasn’t needed Sunday night. I had enough energy to run two marathons, so I thought. LOL.

I took a shuttle from the hotel at 5:15 to the Boston Common to catch the bus to Hopkinton. Pretty smooth. Our bus driver accidentally took us to the drop off location for the charity runners. Normally, that would be alarming, but we had three hours to spare so it wasn’t a big deal. Next up we sat on the grass for three hours waiting to be loaded into our corrals. Again, it’s all part of Boston. No one really complains. It was about 41 degrees while I was sitting in the grass, but over the next few hours it warmed up. People started stripping down early. I refused to make any negative weather comments at that point because nothing could be changed. This was my race day and I was going to deal.

Okay, now let’s talk splits, strategy and focus! My official goal was 2:55, but it really was under 2:54. I just couldn’t say it out loud. I felt very prepared and confident in my training and fitness. I was going to do this because it’s what I trained for. It wasn’t a stretch for the shape I was in.

The gun went off and we started to move. This year I was in Corral 4 as opposed to Corral 5 last year. Number four was smoother. People ran! It was all good until the 30K. Then I fought dehydration and the chills on and off till the end. The best way I can describe it from that point on is I felt like I had woken up hung over on a beach with a sunburn and then someone clapped their hands and said “GO, go run a marathon, and now!”

My son's class and my sister's class tracking me. So cool!!
My son’s class and my sister’s class tracking me. So cool!!

I ran through the hills as the sun stole my energy. I didn’t care, I had a gel for that. Around Miles 21 and 22, people started cramping and getting sick. The sides of the race course were littered with runners cramping and crying. It was hard to look at. People who had elite bibs on their back were running eight minute pace. I saw many of my friends trotting along. I always slowed down and said, “C’mon, let’s go!” Some people just stared back at me in pain. It was horrible. I wanted everyone to be happy and run well.

13 mile 25 761557-1318-0010sI did okay through Newton and Heartbreak Hill, but I didn’t fare so well on all those smaller hills afterwards. At one point I refused to look ahead because I didn’t want to see another hill. My splits went in the toilet. My Garmin average pace plummeted. But oddly enough, it didn’t matter at that point. I didn’t do my usual bratty face and stomp home a fail. I kept looking at the crowd. They were willing me and the others with their eyes to keep going. I felt it. I shuffled harder. I saw so many people walking within a mile of the finish. It killed me. I wanted to help.

By now I wasn’t looking at my Garmin for sanity reasons. I knew I had blown my goal but was still sub 3 hour. I crossed the finish line and almost smashed into a wall of stopped runners heaving, hands on knees, just two feet beyond the second timing mat. It was not a happy, joyous time when I initially looked around. People were trashed.

Me (with bun) auditioning for a role in the Walking Dead...
Me (with bun) auditioning for a role in the Walking Dead…

This included me. I didn’t realize how badly I hurt until I tried to walk. My legs were shot. I started shivering so badly that medics kept trying to scoop me up. I smiled and tried to will my shivers to stop and said “No thank you.” Then it got worse. It was obvious I was freezing. I kept refusing help. Then a kind spectator gave me her jacket and her husband’s jacket and piled them on me. She would not accept no. It was embarrassing to shiver like that. I just wanted to be normal!

Keep in mind these events took what seemed like hours. I couldn’t find my family. I couldn’t do anything useful. I wanted by body back! But I had to go to the loo…..

The loo was an experience in itself. After I finished my business, I suddenly learned fried quads do not assist in trying to return to a standing position. I could not get up off the seat! I wanted to cry and bang on the door for help, but decided against that. So I grabbed the pipe in the corner of the john and hoisted myself upright. I have never laughed so hard while in pain and filth, by myself in a john. But in true honey badger style I washed my hands with antibacterial and exited ready for a selfie, like nothing happened.

With my two new srutches
With my two new crutches

So finally, I was reunited with my mom and sister, AKA my two new crutches. I was falling apart even worse. I hadn’t yet had food or water post race. I think my mom ripped a banana out of a kid’s hand and gave it to me. It helped. I was starting to come around. We slowly walked to the Common for my drop bag. Another hour passed. We sat in the sun for about 30 minutes. It was a gorgeous day punctuated with runners on all fours vomiting throughout the Common. It was like The Sound of Music meets a scene from the Terminator.

In cab on the way to the airport
In cab on the way to the airport

I was upset I didn’t get my sub 2:55. (Me and several thousand other runners, it seemed…) But then again, I was grateful I didn’t tank so hard like many other amazing athletes did. I had matched my time from last year. (I am becoming a 2:58 Boston Specialist!) It could have been worse. 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.

From that point on it was a slow hustle to catch a cab, go to the hotel, and then the airport. My whirlwind weekend ended so abruptly. But I had to get my kids to school in the morning. Even after a Boston Marathon, life must go on…

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.]