The 117th Boston Marathon Race Recap

10:19 a.m., April 15th.  I was looking down compulsively at my Garmin.  I had activated the satellite location finder a few minutes before and it had sprung into action faster than anticipated (it usually takes 5 minutes), so I was worried that it would shut off before I could initiate the timer as I crossed the start line.

Lined up in corral 7 of the 2nd wave, my Garmin was my most pressing concern.  At that moment, the Boston Marathon was still just the Holy Grail of races for marathon runners, an impressive race for some non-runners in the know, and for most people in the world, an event with little to no importance.  In fact, I imagine that very few people outside of Boston or the running community had any idea at all that some 24,000 runners were nervously lined up in a small Massachusetts town called Hopkinton, waiting to embark on possibly the most coveted 26.2 mile journey in all of road racing.

I wish that was still the case. But, we all know what happens next.

I’ve seriously contemplated whether or not I should write a race recap.  After a lot of encouragement, I decided that while these people hijacked our lives and thrusted us into the era of successful “soft target” terrorism in America at 2:50 pm, I won’t let them have a second more.

So, let’s talk about the Boston Marathon as it was at 10:19 a.m.  A simple yet momentous road race that signified determination and achievement to runners across the world.

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Pre-Marathon Monday

Aaron and I flew into Albany on Thursday and explored three different states (and two counties) with stops in Saratoga Springs, Burlington, Hanover, and Montreal before making our way to Boston on Sunday.

We checked into our Cambridge Hotel, and took the “T” (Boston’s public rail transportation system of which I am personally not a fan) across the Charles River and over to the Copely Square station for the Expo. The historic town of Boston slowly came into view as we emerged from the underground, and we were greeted with a sea of blue and yellow jackets…2013 jackets…walking in all directions.  Apparently, in Boston, wearing the current year garb before the race is more than acceptable.  It is expected. It was here that I got my first glimpse of the famed, brightly painted finish line from the other side of the barriers.

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The Expo

The expo was held at Hynes Convention Center right on Boylston which is apparently a different location than it had been held in years past.  The expo is a 3 day long endeavor, but it seemed as if most people decided to go right when we went…at 1:30 on Sunday.  The bib distribution was held in a hallway and the process was pretty painless, but I was sad that they were out of my t-shirt size. TIP: Don’t wait until the last minute to go to the expo. 

When we entered the main expo and I was immediately overwhelmed by the hoards of runners crowding the narrow aisles, snatching up free samples and Boston themed merchandise (EVERY company has special Boston themed merchandise).  Luckily, the Adidas store was the first exhibit, so I was able to locate the Unicorn Jackets and buy myself one. They were well stocked, and none of the sizes appeared to be in danger of selling out.

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In a moment of non-run nerdery, I didn’t look up when any of the elite runners would be appearing (I only obsess over Kara Goucher every day, yet apparently I have no desire to actually see her), but we did come across Katherine Swisher, known as the first woman to (illegally) run the Boston Marathon.  As can be expected, she had a ridiculous line of fans waiting for her autograph, so I snapped this stalker type photo and moved on.

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We exited the expo, and hopped back on the “T” to get to Cambridge. We took the “T” twice during our time in  Boston and both times it took far longer than it should have to get where we were going.

Because of all the driving we’d been doing (from Vermont to Montreal the day before, and from Vermont to Massachusetts that morning), I wanted to do a shake out run (I do this before every race).  Our hotel was right on the Charles River in Cambridge, so we ran a lovely two miles with great views of the city.  All of my body parts felt ok, and overall it was a run that at the very least, reassured me of my ability to run 2 of the 26.2 miles required of me the next day.

We headed back to the hotel, showered at the speed of light, and met Jon, Ellie, Adrienne, Mike, and Susan downstairs for drinks.  If Jon wasn’t my first ever blog friend, he was pretty close, so it was one of those situations where you kind of forget that this is your first meeting.  They all ran the B.A.A. 5-K that morning, and I think just about everyone PR’d! We had a wonderful time talking about Boston (I complained a lot about the “T” to my captive audience), and I hope to meet up with everyone again should we make it back next year!

After drinks, Aaron and I headed across the River to Boston’s North End which is exactly like San Francisco’s North Beach…an entire neighborhood made up of small, family-owned Italian restaurants, aka, carb-load heaven.  I had made reservations about a month in advance at Panza on the recommend of Hyedi. The place was small and packed, and about 10 parties walked in with 7:00 reservations which they obviously couldn’t accommodate, prompting some of the locals to get quite heated.  I love the people of Boston, but they can be quite… high strung? We actually had to share a table with a couple from Sacramento (he qualified at CIM). It was nice to sit next to our fellow Westerners who were refreshingly laid back.

I ate the linguine carbonara with sangiovese (I don’t think that is a recommended wine pairing, but whatever).  The meal was perfect, and my glycogen felt sufficiently stored as we headed back to Cambridge to settle in for the evening.

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Marathon Monday

Despite my 10:20 start time, the logistics of the morning required a typical 5:00 a.m. wake-up call. I’ve never participated in a race that started after 8 in the morning, so I had to plan nutrition, water, bathroom, and supplies accordingly.  At the hotel I drank a glass of Nuun, but held off eating.  I showered, got all of my stuff together, and headed out the door at 6:10.  Aaron went with me into the city because the last thing the world needed was a nervous, sleepy runner trying to navigate the Boston public transportation system by herself.  Plus, he was planning on walking the Freedom Trail while I ran.

I had made arrangements to meet Beth and her friend Sheliah, also from Albuquerque, in the bus line.  She said to look for the tall blonde lady wearing a black baseball hat and throw-away clothes which easily described 30% of the population.  When we emerged from the underground,we were met the with sight of thousands upon thousands of runners waiting for the bus (it took us over an hour to get through).  In some sort of miracle, we were able to find Beth and Sheilah, and we hopped in line.  Sheilah has run Boston multiple times, so she was a great resource.

At 7:30 I ate a Luna bar, and was mindfully sipping water throughout.  Somewhere in there, we came upon a group of porta-potties.  They were emitting a pretty rancid smell, so I was hesitant to use one, but Sheliah assured us that even after we got to Hopkinton (an hour drive), we’d still have a long wait, so using it now was a really smart choice.  I heeded her advice, and it was absolutely the right decision. TIP: Use the porta-potties in the bus line.

IMG_0745 IMG_0744Bus line craziness

By my estimation, school buses from the entire state were being used for marathon transportation.  They would load about 10 at a time, those buses would drive off in unison, and 10 more buses would drive up. The whole thing was being run by MIT students, and it worked like clockwork. I sat next to a man from Utah.  He had run Boston in 2008, and this time he’d brought his brother with him.  They both qualified and they were going to run and cross the finish line together! I hope they were able to do it.

IMG_6402I’m waving!

The drive was pleasant.  I got to see some of the Boston suburbs and multiple crew teams training in the river. You could feel the excitement on the bus as we reached the town of Hopkinton and pulled up to our final destination, the Athlete’s Village.  As a seasoned pro, Sheliah led us away from the herd and up toward the bag check (there was a lot of uphill walking) toward a second set of porta-potties with less people (still about a half hour wait).  TIP: Bring toilet paper because there was none to be found.  Luckily I noticed with enough time to make necessary adjustments, but I can imagine there were some uncomfortable situations.

In a moment of desperation, I decided to pop a couple of ibuprofen.  My calf had been giving me issues for weeks, even driving me to see a specialist, and I had lost my most valuable training weeks trying to rest it.  It hadn’t been bothering me during our last few shake out runs, but I didn’t want to get a few miles in and be in pain.  This isn’t something that I think you’re supposed to do, but if I’ve learned anything, it’s that marathon runners aren’t particularly rational when it comes to racing. And, of course, the pain relief starts fading right at about 3 hours when you need it the most.

I had opted to stop drinking water aside from small sips after 9:00.  I ate a banana at about 9:20 (1 hour before start). We started organizing our stuff, peeling off the layers (it was comfortably warm at this point), reapplying sunscreen and body glide (apparently I did a good job…no chaffing!), and prepping to head to the start line. Gear drop off was fast and easy, and with little time to spare, we started on the LONG walk from the Athlete’s Village to the start line at about 10:00, and we had several Wave 1 runners (10:00 start time) frantically run past us. I’d heard that there was an epically long walk from the Athlete’s Village to the Start Line, and turns out this was not an exaggeration.

Much to my surprise, a whole colony of porta-potties was situated at the start corrals.  These ones had toilet paper and the lines only 1-2 people long which was a miraculous sight!  They also had what I can only describe as “out in the open” urinals…so that was awkward. TIP: Be prepared to see lots of peeing men. 

I parted ways with Beth and Sheliah as we headed into our respective corrals.  I got my Garmin set up, tried to focus my energy, and attempted to pump myself up (I forget what song was playing) as I heard the gun. AND WE WERE OFF!  I remember smiling, completely satisfied, as I started running and waved cheesily at the start line video camera.

Every course guide tells you to start Boston slower than you want to because it starts at a steep downhill.  For the most part, everyone started off slow, and kept that pace for the first half a mile.  But then, half a mile in, we got our first taste of spectating, Boston Marathon style.  And that resolve to keep a reasonable pace disappeared as every runner got caught up in the energy of the crowd.

The First Half

In my head, the first half of the race is a series of snapshots strung together.  It seemed jam packed with new sights and a new town every few miles.  Highlights include:

1) The huge “All in for… (insert town here)” signs as you exited each town.  I liked being able to check each town off a mental checklist as I ran through the course.  And each town takes great pride and pleasure in making sure you remember THEM as the best. I don’t remember why, but I have Framingham in mind as my favorite.

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2) Having about 10 kids jumping on trampolines with inspirational signs, and one at the end, holding up a giant Sam Adams cut-out.  Because what’s Boston without a Sam Adams cut-out?

3) The sheer number of people handing out wet towels/oranges/water/snacks/Popsicles, alcohol, Vaseline, etc. along the course.  These people literally spent their money on supplies for the runners and their day off handing them out.  While Chicago spectators were more entertaining, Boston spectators were far more functional.

4) How “amateur day” the whole thing felt.  Considering this is the marathon of seasoned professionals, I saw many rookie mistakes, like people just coming to a complete stop in the middle of the course (I literally ran into two people who did this).  I also saw more people stop to walk in the first few miles and along the entire course than I saw stop in the last 6.2 miles of Chicago. And men were peeing everywhere.  If we ran by a slightly wooded area, guaranteed there were male runners peeing in it.

5) The fun college kids. We passed by several college campuses, and a lot of areas where students lived.  You could easily identify them because the whole place started smelling like beer.  They were loud and enthusiastic cheerleaders.  I don’t remember any groups handing out beer specifically, but some girls were handing out jello shots, and cheered wildly when one runner slurped it down with experience in the earlier miles.

6) Noticing how different a race feels in the back.  For Chicago, I was near the front and the course was relatively clean.  In Boston, about 15,000 people had already gone through the water stations by the time I came through.  It was like running through a sticky Gatorade river of yuckiness.  I was sufficiently grossed out by the feeling of having Gatorade splash ups on the back of my legs.  And the cups.  They were everywhere.  I had visions of slipping on a cup and breaking my leg.

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Ewe.

7) People with homes along the course used the occasion to host big BBQ’s and parties in their front yards.  Marathon Monday is truly a day of celebration, and I was impressed at the atmosphere for the entire race.

8) Running by the Hoyt’s.  This is a father/son team who runs the marathon every year.  The father pushes the son (who is in a wheelchair), and they are easily the most popular (and maybe even the most famous) runners on the course.

All through this, I was keeping a pretty good pace and I was on track for a 3:35 finish time. It didn’t feel as effortless as my last few races, but I didn’t feel like I was pushing it to the point of epic failure toward the end either, and I was having fun.

I will say this though.  If I had never heard that this was a downhill course, I wouldn’t have described it as such.  There was downhill and, especially at the beginning, it was severely steep downhill.  But for the most part, the course was full of rolling hills.  I had done plenty of downhill training and quad strengthening, but I hadn’t done really any rolling hill training (mostly because it is impossible with the Albuquerque landscape). TIP: Train for rolling hills. 

Somewhere between miles 11 and 12, I started hearing a humming noise.  As I ran on, the hum increased in volume.  I started looking around at my fellow racers, and we all started smiling.  So this is what thousands of screaming girls sound like from half a mile out! And sure enough, in a few minutes, we entered the Wellesley Scream Tunnel, a stretch of road in front of Wellesley College where, what appears to be the entire student population, lines up with their “kiss me I’m from (insert home town/state/country here)” signs.  The energy was incredibly motivating!  I actually ran my fastest mile of the race during the Scream Tunnel. If only every race could include one.

The Second Half

We hit the halfway point, and I was starting to get worried.  I wasn’t feeling tired necessarily, but I felt a blister forming (my shoes were soaked from the aid stations) and my feet were staring to ache.  As we passed the half marathon timing mat, I heard a man say, “Oh, you all know the second half of this race is the easier part, right?”  We all laughed because we knew the worst was about to come.

I don’t recall how we entered Newton exactly.  I remember that most of the towns had beautiful signs announcing your entrance, so I’m guessing Newton was similar.  However it happened, I remember getting butterflies in my stomach.  Despite the fact that the entire course had been littered with hills, I knew these were different.  All of the hill repeats and elevation gain during long runs would come down to the next 4 miles.

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The Newton Hills are a series of four.  The first one is long.  The next two are steep.  But it’s the last one that gets you.  This one has been infamously named Heartbreak Hill because, not only it is both long and steep (though to a lesser degree than the other ones), but by the time you get there, you are 21 miles into your marathon and not in the mood to deal with any shenanigans.

The first hill felt long, but I managed to keep up my pace.  Just when I was feeling good again after the downhill, I spotted the sea of runners winding their way up the next hill. This hill was steeper, but it was shorter, and the downhill portion felt like a wave of relief.  But the relief was temporary as the next hill came into view.  I was starting to run out of steam, and my fellow comrades were losing it even more.  As much as I was slowing down, I was the person passing people.  In fact, several people started to walk.

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My mind starting getting fuzzy.  I had studied the course, but I suddenly couldn’t remember how many hills there were.  Three? Was that Heartbreak? Four? Or were there five?  I didn’t think I could take much more of this. I approached the base of the next hill, and started wishing with all my might that this was Heartbreak because I was done with these hills.  This was my slowest mile. I remember looking down at my Garmin and seeing my slower pace, and not even caring.  I didn’t have the will to push forward with any sense of urgency.

I reached the top and I was looking for the giant inflatable Boston College arch that let me know that Heartbreak was over.  I didn’t see it.  I immediately panicked, wondering if that wasn’t it.  The prospect of the largest hill looming ahead was frustrating.  But then, probably half a mile after that last hill, I spotted the arch. I had survived! Like most people say, Heartbreak Hill wasn’t all that bad.  But my legs had been fighting hills all race and I didn’t train well enough to not have it affect my pace, so it was a little bit heartbreaking for me.

Someone yelled, it’s all downhill from here! And I had a sudden resurgence of energy.

But that person lied.

The hills just kept going.  They weren’t big ones, but after Newton, I hadn’t really counted on having to use more energy on more hills. The last four miles felt really long.  I remember deciding (again) that marathons were stupid and I was especially stupid for running them.  I was incredibly envious of the drunk Boston College kids and how unmiserable they looked.

I also knew that Aaron would be somewhere around here.  I started looking back and forth, but we were now in Boston, and the streets were packed with spectators.  It turns out that looking back and forth for someone requires a lot of energy and focus. More energy and focus than I wanted to use. My calf was hurting, my IT band was hurting, my blister was hurting, and my feet were screaming in agony.  I could tell that the ibuprofen was wearing off.

IMG_6516Aaron’s picture from where he was waiting for me.  As you can see, blue tank tops were pretty popular.

IMG_6515Aaron’s picture: Elites making their left turn from Hereford to Boylston

At mile 24, I gave up looking for Aaron and instead switched to focusing on the finish. (Meanwhile, Aaron was at the 40K mat, chatting with none other than Bart Yasso. He didn’t see me pass by, and started back toward the finish area when he got the notification that I had passed the 40K mark).   I was tired, and I really didn’t feel like running another 2.2 miles.  I had to dig deep and focus on my mantras and remember the wounded warriors from Bataan and how any pain I was going through was insignificant.  Except in my head it sounded more like “THIS ISN’T PAIN,” and I knew what I meant.

I remember seeing the Citco sign, another noted Marathon landmark, and knowing that I was supposed to be excited, but not remembering if that meant I only had 3 miles or if I only had 1 mile, and that you could see it from deceptively far away, so I might still have 4.  My brain was done with the thinking.

Luckily, somewhere right around here, someone was blasting Don’t Stop Believing, which is my jam for life.  I owe much of my ability to finish to that person!

The course took a sharp turn to the right.  I looked down at my Garmin, and realized that, with only about half a mile left, I had officially taken THE right on Hereford. Hereford was short, and I could see the next turn (the big one) directly in front of me.  In my head, I was screaming something like “The left! The left!”  The left turn onto Boylston. I remember my first sighting of the finish line and being so happy that I was so close to it.  And I also remember thinking that there was STILL so far to go (I think almost half a mile).

IMG_6512The Finish line area.  This picture was taken at about 1:00

Slide1I LOVE this photo…what marathoners look like when they see the Finish Line for the first time.

I passed the 26 mile sign, and looked down at my Garmin.  I was at something like 3:38, and I was sad that my 3:35 had gone so far out the window during Newton, but if I hurried, I could get there in under 3:40.  So, I pushed as hard as I could.  I remember reaching the famously painted finish line, looking down in excitement, and realizing that the mats weren’t there, but several feet ahead.

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I crossed the finish line in 3 hours, 39 minutes, and 52 seconds.  6 minutes slower than my Chicago time, 5 minutes slower than a Boston qualifying time, and about 5 minutes faster than what I was expecting. I was elated, but I also felt slightly dizzy and weak. I started noticing runners collapsing all around me.  There were so many people, and I was starting to hyperventilate a little bit with claustrophobia.

I heard someone call out my name, and I looked over and was surprised to see my childhood neighbor Brandon (he guest posted here last summer!).  He works for ESPN and lives on the East Coast now and had gone to watch a couple of other friends run. We said a quick hello, but I knew I needed to keep moving. The finisher’s chute had all of the necessities for tired runners. First space blankets, then water, then Gatorade  then little snack packs with some amazing dinner rolls, and at the end, the medals.  I’m not sure if there was one of those backdrop photo stations.  If there was, I didn’t see it, but a photographer was standing there snapping as many people as he could.  So, my finish line photo was kind of gross with my space blanket.

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Gear check was at the end of the chute, and after a few minutes of waiting, a volunteer handed me my bag and I made my way back the opposite direction (walking against the crowd was pretty hard), and to the next street over from Boylston toward the family reunion area. I called Aaron and he said he was waiting for me at the “L” sign (they had signs with all the letters of the alphabet).  The letters were lined up on both sides of the street, and it turns out that “L” was pretty much the farthest back down toward the finish line, which felt pretty annoying at the time since essentially I walked the distance of the finisher’s chute twice. The annoyance turned to excitement as I spotted Aaron and he handed me a rose and let me know that I had a giant ClifShot goober on my face.  Lovely.  I had talked to my neighbor, taken my finish line photo, and talked to a bunch of other runners and volunteers with a giant poo brown goober. TIP: Use those wet towels handed out along the course to wipe your face.

I wanted to rest for a bit and munch on some items in my snack pack, so we walked down the street until we found an empty spot on the curb.  Aaron took my victory picture and texted my mom before coming to sit down next to me.  She replied back at 2:48 saying that I looked quite burrito-esqe, wrapped in my space blanket which was a pretty accurate statement. We were still laughing about my resemblance to a burrito when the first explosion went off.

IMG_0748About 2:45 p.m in my burrito outfit.

Post Race:

Once we got back to the hotel maybe an hour or so later (I had no concept of time), we sat downstairs in the bar watching the news. I forced half a cheeseburger down, really the first thing I’d eaten since the Luna Bar at 7:30, and ate a wedge salad much later at about 11:00 p.m., definitely not the post-race fuel I’d normally go for, but I wasn’t hungry.

IMG_6521Back safely in Cambridge.  I thought this was clever, and shows just how much the city embraces the race!

I actually recovered much faster than I did after Chicago which I attribute to the 2 mile walk to Cambridge after the marathon.

In Conclusion:

Even though I truthfully enjoyed almost everything about Chicago more, Boston is still a world-class race.  With so many potential logistical nightmares like busing 24,000 people 26 miles out of town before 10:00 am and setting up a course that runs through multiple municipalities, the execution ran like clockwork.  And the spectators had so much heart.  They did an amazing job of taking care of the runners, and I really think they, along with the dedicated volunteers are what makes this race so great.

From the social media interaction over the last 4 months, the “Unicorn Television” YouTube videos, the walking down the street and seeing a sea of blue and yellow jackets, and running from one historic town to the next, you aren’t going to run a marathon that will make you feel more special and more appreciated as a runner.  And while I was a bit worried about potential Boston run snobs, the general attitude from the runners was one of support and joy.  I had a wonderful experience (even during the miles when I wanted to punch the man who ran the first marathon…those are the miles that show you what you are made of).

I do want to make it clear that in no way do I feel cheated, and in no way do I feel like my experience or my achievement were taken away from me.  I got to finish (an estimated 5700 runners were stopped before crossing the finish line), I got to get a medal placed around my sweaty, goober-covered face, and I even got to celebrate with Aaron before the marathon became a national headline for all the wrong reasons. I fully intend to run this race again, because in the end, there is nothing quite like crossing the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Details:

Finish time: 3:39:52 (8:24 average pace)

Fuel: Luna Bar and banana pre-race, ClifShot (with caffiene) at miles 7, 14, and 21

Hydration: One glass of Nuun and one water bottle pre-race, alternating between water and Gatorade at every aid station (located almost every mile)

Gear: Brooks Adrenaline shoes, ProCompression socks, Lululemon Pacesetter skirt, Lululemon cool racerback, Nike Visor, LOTS of sunscreen and Body Glide

Favorite Moment: The Wellesley Scream Tunnel

Least Favorite Moment: running through aid stations and getting splashed with stickiness

Biggest Piece of Advice: Thank EVERY spectator and volunteer that you can

IMG_6706And with that, I am ready to move on.

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One Week Later

I cannot believe how much has happened in the last week.

From waking up and lining up with Beth and Sheila at the ridiculously long bus line to Hopkinton at 6:45 am; crossing the start line with race-fueled adrenaline; swearing once again somewhere during miles 17-26 that I would NEVER ever even think of doing another marathon; taking a left on Boylston, spotting the finish line and mustering up every ounce of strength to get there;  to finally finding Aaron after walking the long finisher chute and getting to the family reunion area.

From hearing first one then two explosions, seeing the first emergency vehicles rush en masse toward the finish line and knowing right then that something very bad had happened; hearing for the first time that two bombs went off at the finish line; walking aimlessly around downtown Boston trying to get a call to go through to my parents; attempting to get text messages out to let people know that, while we had no idea if we were in danger or not, that for right now at least, we were alive and uninjured; watching officers with assault rifles barricade themselves around public transportation stops; to walking 2 miles to our hotel.

From turning on the hotel TV and seeing video of the incident for the first time and crying uncontrollably yet unsuccessfully because I was too dehydrated to produce tears; hearing the details and feeling scared, sad, and angry; walking around the Freedom trail on Tuesday and running into armed guards at every single street corner; finally getting home on Wednesday night and still not feeling at ease; reliving the day over and over as concerned coworkers came by to give me big hugs, hearing that photos of the suspects had been released, waking up on Friday morning to completely shocking news that one suspect was dead and one was on the loose, to updating coverage on my desktop all day, to getting home from work, turning on the news right away and watching the drama unfold live; to watching the ending with the capture of the second suspect.

Not to mention, flooding in the Midwest, an explosion in West, TX that killed 14, and earthquakes in China (and I think Iran and Mexico).

As the Onion headline says, “Jesus, This Week.”

All last week, I felt like we were living under a cloud.  Neither Aaron nor I could sleep, and I know I couldn’t watch anything aside from the news, I couldn’t sing in the car to the radio, and I couldn’t look at pictures of my marathon without feeling guilty about it.

I woke up Saturday feeling like a completely different person.  It is amazing to me how even just knowing that these (excuse my language) assholes cannot do any more harm or hurt any more people has lifted such a huge weight off my chest.  I have always felt, and I think the police have confirmed it based on the amount of weapons and bombs they’ve found, that this wasn’t the main event.  It was a trial run.  A test to see if they could pull it off and what they needed to improve.  Knowing that the attacks they had planned will never happen has brought so much peace to me, and likely to many others who have been attempting to make sense of this event over the past week.

The last post was written at 1:00 am on Monday.  I think I was so wrapped up in my personal experience, that it wasn’t even until Wednesday that I was able to start reading stories of the other people who were there.  As much as the whole thing has shook me to my core, we were so very lucky.  I had finished the race, I had my bag and my cell phone, and I had already reunited with Aaron.  I cannot imagine going through all that actively worried if your family and friends were ok but not having any way to contact them, especially with the end-of-race marathon exhaustion.  I saw far more people collapse toward the finish of this race than I did at Chicago, and I’m guessing that many runners didn’t get the medical attention they may have needed.  One lady on the plane with us was across the street and her purse was part of the active crime scene, so she was without her wallet and ID. But everyone got through it, and I haven’t heard any complaints.

Because we all know that despite the inconvenience, and even the emotional distress that we will likely experience for a long time, we did not lose our lives, and we made it out safely without injury.

Also significant are the stories of those people who HELPED.  People who pinched arteries with their fingers, people who ran to give blood after running a marathon, people who gathered displaced runners in their homes and fed them.  Even people who lent out their cell phones so others could contact loved ones.  More than anything, this event is a reminder that the good far outweighs the bad in this world. 

I do want to again (and forever) tell you how much I completely appreciate all of the concern and support I’ve received over the last week.  I know most readers of this blog are people who I only know through the internet.  While I am very excited to have added Beth and Jon, Ellie + Family to the list of of “real life” friends last week, I am so grateful for this community of running bloggers.  You have played such a huge part in my well-being this week, and I don’t know if you’ll ever know how much I appreciate it.

And I am working on that race recap.

While I was on the fence about running Boston 2014 even after crossing the finish line, I am positive now that I want to go back, if for no other reason, to “high-5” every kid and thank as many spectators as I can.  I don’t know if the qualifying standards will be waived or how registration will be handled.  I think it is absolutely fair to grant every runner who started but didn’t cross the finish line (about 4500-4700) an automatic entry.  Most of these runners were charity runners who weren’t running for themselves but to raise money for other causes.  And I know that maybe now my qualifying time might not get me in when every runner is doubling efforts to get there.  But I hope to get the chance to run next year in honor of the spectators, and in honor of those heroes who rushed in to help.

AT 2:50 p.m., Eastern Standard Time (in a few minutes), there will be a moment of silence to remember the four lives that were lost.  Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, and Lu Lingzi who were at the finish line, encouraging tired runners to give it one last push, and Sean Collier, the law enforcement officer who spent his life protecting others have been in my thoughts and prayers this week.  I will remember them today, one week later, and for every race that I run for the reminder of my life.

Weekly Race Shout-Outs and My Feelings on Boston

FIRST: HUGE AMENDMENT to yesterday’s Chicago Marathon Recap.  I accidentally added 10 minutes to Aaron’s finish time.  He actually came in at 3:27:21.  If he had come in at 3:37 I would have passed him, and I was not so focused as to leave my poor distressed husband on the side of the road just so I could BQ.  Goals are fun. Being a supportive wife is a top priority.  But non-issue since he came in more than 6 minutes ahead.  Sorry, Aaron for making people think you were so slow.

Also, the recap has a few photos added to it that came from Aaron’s phone.  They really aren’t exciting (I guess my mind is somewhere else pre-race).

Sending Fast Thoughts To:

Jen who is going for a Half PR in Wine Country!

Christina is running a half in Baltimore!

Julie is earning her Tiffany’s Necklace at Nike Women’s

Laura is going for a big 10 miler PR!

Good luck to you ladies and everyone else racing!

**********************************

(I realize that this post will probably make me sound like a jerk).

On Monday, we were sitting in our Bacon and Beer Bar (Paddy Long’s), and I saw a message come through from Julie letting me know that Boston registration was open.

Confusion.

On Sunday evening when I went to the site, registration was closed because the max field had been reached.  I actually wasn’t too heartbroken.

But Boston made a mistake that they blamed on an IT issue.  The max field had never been reached (well, until yesterday.  It is really closed now).

But here it was, a renewed chance to run Boston in 2013.  I sat in this bar deep in conversation with Aaron in tears, trying to figure out if I really wanted to register.

HUH?

But Amy, the whole point of this blog for the last 4 months was for you to qualify for Boston. What the heck is going on here?

Well, I realized something about myself and my goals on Monday.

I made the goal to qualify truthfully independently from actually running the marathon.  I mean, I did want to run it, kind of, but more than anything I wanted to run an awesome marathon.  I wanted to reach for the stars and attempt the impossible because it isn’t something that I get to do very often if ever.

Also, at the time I didn’t think I’d get in until 2014.  2014 is a long time from now.  And running Boston hasn’t been a lifelong dream.  I only found out about it 2 years ago, and I only started caring about 10 months ago.  But I wanted to be really good at something, and Boston qualifying times seem to be the standard of what constitutes a really good runner (self-satisfaction just never does it for me).

As part of the pre-marathon freak out, having to register for 2013 was put on my plate.  But, I didn’t think registration would still be open by Sunday afternoon, AND I really didn’t think I’d come in under 3:40.  It was something else to stress about like tornadoes (Chicago is in the Midwest) and the apocalypse.

I was relieved when registration was full on Sunday.

But then, on Monday evening I faced the decision. And this is when all the emotion came loose.

This is not how I wanted it to be.  I am supposed to run Boston with Aaron.

Running has become a source of personal enjoyment, and I’ve realized that even on the blog I talk about Aaron less and less (he’s still here all the time by the way).  But without a doubt, the whole reason I run is for our marriage.  It is our thing to do together.  I know some of you know this story, but after Aaron and I had been dating for a few weeks, he asked me to be his girlfriend and at the same time asked if I would run a half marathon with him because he wanted me to understand his lifestyle and his passions and interests.  And now, 4 years later, running and active living is really our thing.  The thought of training for and running the world’s most prestigious amateur race without him literally brought me to tears.

So, we had a serious discussion in the Bacon/Beer bar.  I could use my time for 2014 still.  But that is a long time from now. Who knows what could happen in our lives between now and then.  I may only ever get this one chance at Boston and I’d hate to think I passed it up if something happens in those many months.  Also, just because my 1 minute and 5 seconds below BQ got me in this year doesn’t mean it would get me in next year.  People are out for revenge after a hot spring racing season.  Plus, the chances of Boston hitting temperatures like that again are like 1 in a million.  And people are getting faster.  And there are so many new runners kicking butt.  I would hate to run a qualifier and then NOT get in.

Plus, we had to realistically assess Aaron’s ability to come in at 3:04:49 in the next 11 months (and can we just discuss for a minute how much crazier men’s qualifying times are?  I think I got off pretty easily).  Possible? Yes.  I think he easily had the ability to come in at a 3:10 even after missing a month of our training due to injury.  And he is out to kill a marathon if it’s the last thing he does.  But there is no guarantee.

And on top of all this is this horrible, nagging feeling of guilt.

I don’t deserve this.

I feel like Lindsey Lohan in Mean Girls when she’s giving her prom queen speech and breaks the tiara.

Some people spend years working very hard to reach a BQ.  People run marathon after marathon in an attempt to run Boston only to be unsuccessful.  Most people who want this will never get the chance. And what? I waltz in here like a cocky B and do it in one try.  I’m talking people who’ve run their whole lives and people who could run faster than me any day.  Real runners who give up beer for 4 months or who never miss a workout during training.  NOT FAIR.  Not fair to the people who have worked so much harder for so much longer just to run a marathon with a unicorn as it’s mascot (for the record, I really like unicorns).

I’m not looking for affirmation of my hard work and dedication.  I know I trained well and pushed myself and made sacrifices and haven’t slept in on a weekend in months.

But I can’t help feeling like I didn’t pay my dues.

So, if you’re keeping track…I talked non stop about qualifying, made it my obsession for 4 months, QUALIFIED, got in a year ahead of schedule and I’m not happy about it???  Royal jerkdom.

I decided to register anyway, and I ‘m trying to make myself be more excited about it.  The least I can do is be appreciative of this opportunity and go out and run hard for the people who may never get the chance.  And I’m sure after the initial shock has worn off, I will be talking non-stop about how crazy excited I am to run Boston.

And please let me know about Boston (the city and the race if you’ve done it).  I literally know NOTHING about Boston aside from what I’ve seen in Good Will Hunting and The Town.

ANYWAY.  Thanks for letting me share that with you.  As much fun as crying over my bacon platter was.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.  CRUSH your long runs and races!

And Marathon Training Begins!

Well, here we are.  Just a little less than 18 weeks until I cross the finish line at my first 26.2!

Today is the symbolic start and the first day of training (3 mile run…groundbreaking stuff).  Yesterday, our official kick-off was an 8 mile climb up a mountain (more on that tomorrow).

I’ve been nursing my knee like crazy, and while it isn’t at 100%, I’m ready to jump in today.

I feel like I haven’t really trained since January (and really….not since October) and I am so excited to get going, improve my speed, and get back to being proud of what I’m doing.

I also have a really ambitious and slightly ridiculous goal for this first go-around.

I want to qualify for Boston.

I know that your primary goal for your first marathon is supposed to be just to finish.  My longest pre-race run will be 20 miles, so I will have no clue how the last 6 will feel  until race day.  And well, qualifying for Boston is hard.

But people qualify on their first try all the time.

I got the idea in my head after Rock n Roll Arizona, and I have been obsessed ever since (Maybe Leo planted it in my brain?).

Unfortunately, my marathon falls 2 weeks after the 2013 qualifying cut-off.  The best I can hope for is running the 2014 race.  So, I suppose even if I don’t qualify, I at least have a full year to make up for it.

As of this morning, the B.A.A. hasn’t released the qualifying times for 2014.  For my age group, 2013 hopefuls have to have a time under 3 hours and 35 minutes (5 minutes less than the 2012 time), so my goal is to run my first marathon in 3 hours and 30 minutes.  That means I will have to train up to running my fastest half marathon pace for twice the distance.

Insane and probably pretty painful? Yes. Impossible? No.

So, how am I going to get there? I obviously  have no experience, and the only marathons Aaron has done came after 120 miles of biking/swimming (and at that point, it is less about running and more about just not dying).  Thank goodness for the running blogger community! I’ve had the privilege of seeing so many wonderful and inspiring journeys to marathon-hood, and I’ve picked up a few things along the way.

1) Keeping to the training plan and putting 100% into every workout

2) Rolling, icing, massaging, and actively recovering

3) Lots of cross training: spinning, swimming, yoga, weight training, core work

4) Cutting out red meat and fried food as much as possible (NOT fun)

5) Reducing booze intake.  I know I talk about drinking a lot, but I promise I’m not an alcoholic!  I do however have 1-3 glasses of beer/wine/margarita every day.  I am going to try to limit this to weekends only.  I make no guarantees whatsoever.

My Biggest fears going in:

1) Not reaching my goals.  I really want this.  Not reaching my goal time, or worse, missing it by 1 minute, would be devastating.

2) Injuries.  They suck.  I want nothing to do with them.

3) Plantar Fasciitis: I know this is an “injury” but I consider this the holy grail of all things suckage.  Up to  a year out of commission.  No thank you.

4) Burn out.  I don’t want to reach week 16 of 18 and decide that I hate running.  I think 26.2 miles would be pretty miserable to run if I hated running.

5) HEAT.  The race getting cancelled, or having to try to run a marathon in 90 degree temperatures and getting heat stroke, or passing out at mile 20 (I am not above crawling to the finish line!).  This seems to be the year of uncomfortably hot races.

So, we’ll see where the next 18 weeks takes me.  THANK YOU for all of your support thus far.  Sometimes I don’t think I would have the same self-confidence or the same excitement for running if I wasn’t part of this running social media community! I hope to have great things to report in October.   Until then, I will be working my butt off to get there!

HAPPY MONDAY!