How do I begin to explain the 2012 Boston Marathon.
All eyes were on the weather but I have run in hot temperatures before so I figured this was not going to be as a big a deal as everyone was making it out to be.
We arrive at the Expo on Saturday afternoon and the excitement starts to build. The jacket was all we could talk about. We had to get the jacket! Who cares about the Bib number – we must get jackets!
Once we had maxed our credit cards at the expo and the frenzy had worn off the focus went back to the weather. It was all anyone could think or talk about.
Race eve I check one last time before going to bed and hoping that a miracle will bring a cold front through Boston, nothing but hot clear blue skies – aka a runners nightmare.
We stayed in Milford (which I highly recommend to future Boston runners). It was 10 mins on the Hotel Shuttle bus to the Athletes Village. I got to sleep in, take my time eating breakfast and get to the Village stress free and most importantly with an empty bladder!
The call comes over the speaker that it is my turn to head to the start line and away I go. The heat is still not concerning me, as much of the walk is shaded over. Once I get into my corral, the sun high in the sky my skin begins to get moist.
Surprisingly the start was uneventful. Lots of talking over the loud speaker that is barely coherent, the national anthem and then “Bang” the gun goes off. Off we go on the long hot journey to downtown Boston.
First mile – easy but anything straight down hill will feel easy right? I was trying to control my pace but not having much luck. Approaching mile 2 and my running buddy comes up behind me to say hi as we had planned to run this race together. He peels off to a porta potty shortly after and I never see him again. For the next few miles I think about Harvey and could use the company. The heat starts to rise and suddenly I feel my stomach churning. I had just passed a string of porta potties and now for the next mile I can’t find one! I start to contemplate the choices? I begin to eye front lawns; bushes but I would really prefer a porta potty for this one. Finally a big orange box comes into site and I beeline for it and that ordeal is over with I still have another 20 miles to go.
After this point the race is no longer about getting to the finish line, but getting to the next water station. The heat is so oppressive and with every mile I see people stopping and dropping beside me. No one really looks like they are having fun. There is not one single conversation going on, it’s all about survival. The strategy was to take it easy if the weather was going to be too hot and save my legs for another race in the coming weeks. After 6 miles I had decided the only way to end the agony was to get this over with it as quickly as possible. I started to contemplate what slowing down would turn into – 4 hours?, 4 and half hours? I couldn’t do it, there was no way I could stay out in the blazing sun for 4 hours, I wouldn’t last. Suddenly as if the pack of runners in front and beside me were feeling the same way; they start weaving through the course. First to the shade then to the water hose across the street then back to the shade, then to the water station. On and on this continued for the rest of the race. It became one long snake train of runners all trying to beat the heat. Mile after mile the heat got worse, but thankfully some great spectators had brought freezies and popsicles and bags of ice for the runners. I started grabbing for the freezies and dropping handfuls of ice down the back of my bra. It was a great, and for very short timeframes the race felt bearable. Soon the water at the water stations had turned not only warm, but almost hot and with 10 miles still to go I started to doubt if this was ever going to end. Then just when I wasn’t sure what else could go wrong I started to feel something strange in my quads. It was a pain like I had never experienced before. It was cramping, it wasn’t muscle stiffness, it was just pure pain completely centralized to just my quads. Everything else was fine, but this indescribable pain that was creeping into my legs was making me second-guess things. Was I dehydrated? It must be a symptom of dehydration, so I started drinking – a lot! Now I wasn’t’ even waiting for the water stations, I just started taking the cups of water that the spectators were giving out. I had thrown all caution to wind at this point; I was doing everything I tell people not to do.
So Heartbreak Hill. I’m sure you all want to know what it was like. To be honest, I had no idea I was actually going up heartbreak hill until I was halfway through it. There are much harder hills in the Boston marathon. Heartbreak hill is just hard, because of where it is in the race, your legs are beat up and sore and you’re almost home – almost.
Once I crested heartbreak, I couldn’t get my mind off the pain in my legs, I knew the rest of the race was slightly more downhill, but most importantly there was no longer anymore shade. I couldn’t stop thinking I was suffering from dehydration so at the next water station I drank Gatorade then water, then took one cup to go. As I drank the second cup, I couldn’t help notice that it seemed the water and Gatorade was coming out of me at the other end. I was actually urinating while I was running, so maybe I was wrong about the dehydration. After thinking some more I realized what I was experience was the pain of the hills and more importantly the down hills. My feet now starting blister from soaking wet shoes, my quads burning and my body on fire from the unforgiving sun I just wanted the race to be over.
Even though I was now urinating myself I still drank water to cool down but with only 3 miles left to go I knew I had to finish this race. I had bought the bloody jacket and I knew my friends would never let me wear it proudly if I had decided to quit. I had to cross that finish line, get the Boston 2012 medal and stagger to the pub where my friends and boyfriend were waiting for me.
With 2 miles to go, the end seemed to get further away, no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t go any faster. My legs were slowly turning into blocks of cement. My goal of 3 hours had come and gone and now it was just about ending the madness that had taken over my mind. People were cheering and screaming my bib number, and as much as I tried to smile I could only muster a wince. I could hear the crowds at the finish line and knew at the next corner the finish line was not far now. I dug deep and told myself I just have less than 800 m to go. Searching for the last bit of energy and boost I could get from my legs, I found just a small little gear and I pushed as hard as I could to cross the finish.
I was glad it was over – the finish line looked like a hospital triage after a war. I was grateful to be done, but even more important grateful to still be standing.
Overall it was an experience and I was glad I finished it. It will be a while before I consider doing that race again.
Next challege: Chicago 2012!!!