It's been a busy past few weeks, so I'm just now getting the chance to write this post. To sum it up: Boston was an incredible experience, and I don't think I could have run a better race! I finished in 3:19:13- a marathon PR by over 5 minutes, my fastest and slowest 5k splits were only 1:05 apart, and the second half was a half marathon PR. This on a warm sunny day, on a hilly course, having raced 2 24-hour races in the past 2 1/2 months. I'm normally super hard on myself, but I am stoked about my performance- the fact that it was the 2014 Boston Marathon makes it even more special!
If you have the time to read it, here's the detailed recap:
I woke early Sunday morning for my flight to Boston and arrived there around noon. My parents met me at the airport and I headed to packet pickup. It was really crowded and overwhelming- when the number of people at a race scares you more than the actual race, you might be an ultrarunner! Since it was the last day of the race expo, most small sizes of clothes were gone, and they were out of XS race shirts (even though I had registered for that size, people had been allowed to trade, so I was stuck with a S). A very small issue in the scheme of things, although given the small size of your typical marathoner I think the BAA should have seen this coming!
By the time I had my race number and met back up with my parents it was mid-afternoon, and I just wanted to figure out dinner plans, do an easy 3-mile run, and settle down in our hotel. I had my first race-induced meltdown when I realized every Chipotle in Boston was closed for Easter. With all the traffic in Boston I was super stressed so I asked that we just go to the hotel in Braintree, where I could calm myself down with a treadmill run, and worry about food
later. I'm sorry to say my nerves made me snap at my parents a few times pre-race, despite their awesome support. After my run I was much more relaxed, and my parents found a Brasilian steakhouse nearby that had carry out. I picked up several cuts of beef, ham, turkey, bacon, and some tasty veg- this paleo runner could not have been happier!
I got a decent night's sleep, and after a brief Dunkin stop we headed for the bus pickup in Boston. I had another meltdown when my dad, who was driving, got a little lost on the way...once again, so sorry Dadums! When we got downtown, I asked a policeman if we were close. When he said we were, I said goodbye to my parents, got out of the car and started walking. I wasn't exactly sure where I was going, and meltdown #3 occurred when the volunteer I questioned was even less informed about the buses than I was. Luckily I bumped into a couple of runners and followed them to the buses before my tears got too out of control.
I boarded my bus at 7:30, and sat down next to a woman named Claire from Ottawa, Canada. I enjoyed talking to her on the hour long ride, and she invited me to wait with her two friends until we entered the corrals around 10. I had a great time just hanging out with them, and I think it helped me relax more too. It was just that kind of atmosphere- we were all soon-to-be friends, and no one was really alone! It definitely made the crowd of thousands at Hopkinton less overwhelming.
When it was time to go, I discarded my Goodwill fleece, shoved a bunch of gels in my sports bra (the plan was one every 5 miles), and lined up with Claire in corral 5 of wave 2. We were packed in tight and it still didn't quite seem like I was finally about to run the Boston Marathon, 16 months after qualifying. When the signal came for our wave to start it took about three minutes for me to cross the starting timing pad, but then I was off! I had heard that people go out too fast in the first few downhill miles, but being in the middle of my wave I feared the opposite. I think many people came to enjoy themselves, not to race, so I
had to stick to the outer edges of the road and pass a lot of runners to keep to my goal pace. I tried not to bump into anyone, but there were a few times
I needed to make some pretty sharp cuts to avoid getting stuck (thanks rugby training!).
From the very beginning there were spectators lining the streets- whole families, the children with their arms out to get high fives from as many runners as they could. And looking downhill a sea of runners filling the road as far as I could see. It was a bit scary, but incredibly moving as well! I hit the first 5k mark at just under 24 minutes- perfect for my goal of sub-8 with a bit of buffer. Immediately after I had to skid off the course to tie my shoe- luckily they stayed tied after that, although I glanced down periodically to check. Around mile 8 (I
think...the race is a bit of a blur) we passed through the main street of Natlick- one of the most moving parts of the race for me. It was a tunnel of noisy,
joyous spectators, some holding signs saying "Today, you're the heroes!"...and at that moment, it felt like I was. I got a bit choked up there.
I maintained my splits, and passed the halfway mark at just over 1:40, which was almost the same as Jacksonville, and perfect for my goals. But I was starting to feel a little fatigued, and it was now past noon, and getting hot. I also knew there were some big hills coming up, and I didn't know how much they might slow me down. I had been sticking to my plan of a gel every 5 miles, and water at each station, but now I began drinking a few sips and pouring what was left over my head and the back of my neck. That felt great!
The hills began around mile 15, and I reminded myself to take small quick steps on the uphill, and relax into the downhill to use it as a bit of a recovery.
Glancing at my Garmin showed I was keeping to my sub-8 pace even going uphill, and seeing all the runners I was passing gave me a morale boost as well. Just before 25k I looked ahead and saw my good friend Kelly- she has a prosthetic leg and races in the mobility impaired division (which starts early), so I knew there was a chance I would see her as I passed by. That gave me a huge boost as I yelled "Kelllllllyyyy!", while she turned and we raised our hands to each other :)
Throughout the second half I just kept taking it one mile at a time, and once I passed Heartbreak Hill (which was honestly not that bad and kind of anti-climatic) I knew I could start counting down to the end. I actually enjoyed the second half more despite the heat and hills- the hills switched up the course and kept things interesting, and the runners had spread out enough where I didn't feel overwhelmed.
Once I got to 35k I realized there was a very good chance I would PR- the hills had barely slowed me down. I had scented the barn and was hauling my butt home! The 35-40k was my fastest 5k of the race, 22:57. By 40k, I knew I had a shot at breaking 3:20, if I could maintain my pace. By this point the crowd was bigger than ever, and although I blocked them out a bit to stay focused, all the energy pushed me even harder through my fatigue. At the 25 mile mark I rounded the corner and heard "Lara!!!!!"...my mom isn't exactly known for being quiet, and her voice cut right through the crowd! I couldn't slow down enough to see my parents, but I did turn slightly and wave. It made me so happy to know they were there cheering for me.
At 1k to go we passed under a little overpass- at that point nothing was going to stop me. I turned onto the home stretch and I could see the finish line! My legs were definitely feeling the burn but I pushed as hard as I could until I crossed the finish. I started gasping and crying a bit then, it was such an emotional time. I saw a stranger crying and yelling as he finished...I don't even know if he spoke English, but I put my arm around him, said "You did great", and we hugged. I don't know if I've ever experienced such a feeling of coming together with thousands of "strangers", who weren't really strangers at all. At that point I still wasn't sure of my finish time; since I crossed the timing mat after the start of the wave, the clock wasn't accurate for my chip time. But I knew I had PR'd, run a great race, and been part of an amazing experience.
After the race I met up with my parents and we walked to their car. I had my medal on and was wrapped in a Boston Marathon space blanket, so almost everyone who we passed congratulated me. It was pretty surreal. I was hoping to meet up with an old college friend who lived downtown (and use his shower!), but the road blocks made everything so complicated that I ended up just going straight to the airport. I did at least change clothes in the bathroom, but it still wasn't too pleasant. With a little time to kill I treated myself to a beer at the airport bar, and chatted with a few people there. One of them then bought me a second drink, so I was feeling pretty good by time I boarded my flight!
I didn't get home until after midnight Monday- I had only been in Boston for about 30 hours, but it was more than worth it. I had thought I would only run the Boston Marathon once, but after such a great experience, and since I'm already re-qualified, I'm pretty sure I'll be back next year. Plus, my brother just ran a 3:03 marathon, so it looks my parents can go cheer for both their children next year! I definitely plan to schedule things so I have a good 3-4 days to enjoy Boston next time though :)