Nothing like some spoilers in the headline.
I could tell you I wasn’t a nervous, miserable wreck before it all started but that would be a lie. The rain forecast amplified that anxiety about 10 times. The good thing is I don’t actually remember what all that feels like. All I remember is the amazingness of it all—a feeling that I want to bottle and keep with me forever and ever. So let’s talk about the 15 coolest things about running the Boston Marathon. Warning: it’s about to get pretty sentimental in here.
1. Running friends
Raise your hand if you’ve ever bonded like crazy with people over running! A few days before the race, I reconnected with a former-client-of-my-husband’s-turned friend who was also running the race. We exchanged texts over weather-related-wardrobe anxieties and the nervous anticipation of it all, and even got on the bus together to hang at Athlete’s Village until our wave started. I was so grateful I didn’t have to be alone with my thoughts for those few hours.
2. Athletes Village
Something I had only ever heard about, so it was amazing to see it in person. Really it’s hundreds of porta-potties and even more people wearing trash bags and old sweat pants, but even just getting there felt like more than half the battle. My friend Pam and I hugged and wished each other luck before we split off into our different corrals. Then rain started coming down at the start line and I was very thankful for the stranger who gave me his extra poncho.
3. Towns that you know of only because of the marathon
I read this article by Runner’s World as part of my race prep, and it was fun to see those places and landmarks come to life. The biker bar with everyone out cheering, the random tents blasting Dropkick Murphy’s, the people already drunk at 11am (who I was so jealous of) all helped the Boston Marathon live up to its reputation even as I was just warming up.
I don’t think I’ve eaten orange slices since my middle school soccer games, but people were handing them out all across the course and they were like manna from above—a most welcome break from my sports fuel and Gatorade. Reason #700 the Boston Marathon fans are the best in the world.
5. Family at mile 8
I settled into the first 10k or so accepting the fact that I wouldn’t see anyone I knew for a very, very long time. Boy was I thrilled when I heard someone screaming my name at mile 8, and turned to see my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. I cut across the road to give them a body slam/hug and kept going, feeling so renewed.
I’ve been hearing about the Wellesley scream tunnel for years and spent the next few miles wondering if it would live up to its hype. And then the screams surfaced. And then the faces appeared, many with “Kiss Me” written across their cheeks. Clever, witty, confusing, oft-inappropriate signs abounded. (“Kiss me, I’m Wet” was an especially popular one that day.) All of them kept my mind off of how much my feet hurt.
7. Pushing through the doubts in my head
Soon after Wellesley was when I really hit my mental breaking point. “Why do I run marathons again?” went through my head dozens of times. Heartbreak Hill was a few miles away so I knew the worst was still to come and I really wanted it to be over. And the rain really started to pour and all I could think was “Am I really doing this now? Am I really running the Boston Marathon for four hours in the pouring rain?” I couldn’t tell you what got me through that point except the feeling that my friends would think I’m a badass and that I just wanted to tell all the hills to f*** off.
8. Getting through Heartbreak Hill
Heartbreak Hill and I got acquainted on my 20 mile long runs, so I somewhat knew to expect. Not earth-shattering inclines, but painful after what you put your body through. My calves and hamstrings burned as I went up the hills, but I tried to remember to pump my arms harder and somehow I made it through. The fans really reward you at this point, with smiles, high fives, and lots of “Congrats, Heartbreak Hill is over” signs. Amen.
9. Strangers Looking Into My Soul
Every time along the course I felt drained and questioned my reason for being, I ran to the edge of the road and high fived a bunch of strangers. It’s weird how much of a pick-me-up that human contact gave me. But it was tangible. So was the lift in spirits I got from the people who looked me dead in the eye to scream that I could do this and that I was awesome. “You’re right, I CAN do this” is what I immediately thought. I still get chills thinking about it. And I hate how cheesy I sound writing this, but I just can’t help it.
10. My cheering section at mile 23
Getting through Heartbreak Hill was magical because A) I knew the worst was over and B) I knew I would see all of my friends soon in just a few short miles at Washington Square. I was planning on stopping for a selfie and a hug and a general pep talk. But as soon as I heard them and saw their smiling faces, I wanted to high five and keep going because I felt so pumped up. Thanks guys!
11. More familiar faces
With just 5K left to go the end was really in sight. I was thrilled when I realized I had caught up to my friend Pam. She was thrilled to see me because she had been having some hamstring pain, thought I couldn’t tell by the way she was hauling at the end. Way to keep me going Pam! Another boost came when I heard a bunch of people screaming my name at the top of their lungs and turned to see my coworkers.
12. That famous left turn
The slight incline on Hereford St. hurt at this point, but I was rewarded with the view and screams of the crowd on Boylston, five rows deep. This is the closest I’ll ever get to feeling like an Olympic athlete. I was thrilled to see my family on the side, cheering me on for those last two blocks.
13. “Welcome to Boston”
A huge gust of wind at the finish line was a tad cruel, but the celebration made up for it. The guy at the finish line podium said “Welcome to Boston; we’re glad to have you back.” Those words put the BIGGEST smile on my face as I lined up to get my medal and much needed space blanket (it had a hood!).
Sweatpants, a warm Uber, and a scalding hot shower have never felt so good. I felt like a new woman once I changed into a giant fuzzy sweater and even better after I went to dinner with my family and wolfed down the sweet potato fries I had been dreaming about all day.
15. Feeling like a badass
This bullet alone could be broken into five more parts. I’m still overwhelmed by all of the congratulatory texts, posts, emails, and cards I’ve gotten over the last few days. I’m still shocked that I ran four hours in the rain and lived to tell the story. (Even more so as I overhear a stranger at the coffee shop say his friend who ran the marathon told him it was the toughest marathon he’s run out of 20 marathons.) I’m in awe that once upon a time I felt as sore after jogging two miles as I do after completing my third marathon. I’m utterly grateful and honored that I got to take part in the best race on Earth in the best city on Earth. Thanks all.