Wednesday, April 20, 2016

My Boston Marathon Experience

     When people have been asking me how Boston Marathon was for me, the best answer I have is that it was a great experience.  Because this marathon is more than just a race. It is a full experience and so different from any other race that I have ever been a part of.
     From the moment I arrived in Boston on Friday, I knew this was going to be special.  The entire city embraces and supports this event.  Everywhere you look there are signs of the marathon.
     So, buckle in:  I am going to just give the highlights,  and a bunch of photos. I'll start with the expo on Saturday.  First thing I did was pick up my race number, and it was honestly a emotional experience for me. I didn't think I would ever achieve this goal of running Boston, and holding my race number was the thing that made it real to me.  This was really happening.
     It was really fun sharing the expo with the other Hyland's Find Your Finish Line  Mother Runners Donna, Meghan and Another Mother Runner's Sarah.
I also had the privilege of meeting Boston Marathon's race director Dave McGillivray. He was very gracious, taking the time to speak with all of the Hyland's runners. I also met Katherine Switzer, who was so engaged with all the runners who stood in line to meet her, and she signed my race bib!

     After the expo, I met up with some of Team Nuun on Newbury St.  A shake out run was planned, but  I elected to stay just  for the meet and greet, and we were treated to a special edition water bottle and Active Nuun tablets.  It was nice to see my fellow Team Nuun members, some of whom are also Oiselle Volee runners. As usual, it was a fun, lively group, led by the CEO of Nuun, Kevin Rutherford, who I met for the first time. 
     Next was the Red Sox vs the Toronto Blue Jays game at Fenway Park.  Hylands was so generous to provide tickets for us to attend the game.  This was so much fun, and I got to know my Hylands Team mates even better while enjoying the game. 

     After the game, I met up with some of my Mother Runner Ragnar 2013 buddies for dinner. I am sad to say that we did not get a photo, but I did enjoy the evening with Karyn, Aimee,  Aimee's husband Matt and her son Flint. It was so nice catching up with them, and introducing my new Mother Runner friends Donna and Meghan to them.  We, of course, starting talking about the race, our qualifying races, and what are plans for the race on Monday were. Cue the nerves.
     Meghan, Donna and I were able to get a photo at the finish line area on our walk back after dinner.

     Sunday I woke up fairly early and got a short 2 mile shakeout run in. It was incredible to see so many runners doing the exact same thing! Hylands provided our accommodations, and we were ideally situated in the Copley Square area, very close to the finish line area.  I started my run in the Public Garden, and then completed the run on Boylston, right across the finish line.  I started to visual what it would feel like to make that turn onto Boylston, and to hear the cheering crowds. Already a goosebumps moment. 
     Next we were treated to a lovely brunch at the home of Margot Murphy Moore. Margot is the President and Chief Strategy Officer of Hylands, and represents the third generation of her family in Hylands. She is also a force to be reckoned with.  Her energy and enthusiasm is incredible.  She was so welcoming and gracious to all of us throughout the entire weekend. I cannot thank her enough.  She leads by example, and all of her team made us feel like rockstars. 
     After brunch, I returned to the expo to attend a Runners World Seminar highlighting Amby Burfoot's new book First Ladies of Running, with some of the women runners profiled in the book present and speaking for a few minutes each. It was very interesting and engaging. 
     Dinner Sunday night was along the marathon course, right around the half way point in Wellesley with more members of the Another Mother "tribe".  We had a lovely dinner at Alta Strada. We partook in an abundance of carbs, and nerves started kicking in as we discussed the race.  Sarah from AMR and I were the only ones present at the dinner that were actually running the race the next day, and we shared with each other that we were starting to feel that pre race "dread" that happens in the hours before a key race.  Months and months of preparation and anticipation, and then you start feeling panicked, wondering why you chose to do this in the first place.  Not unusual, but a bit disheartening. Special thanks to Adrienne for driving us to Wellesley and getting that great parking spot! 
     The next thing I knew, it was Marathon Monday. I had an  early wakeup to catch a special bus provided by Hylands at 6am that would take us to the starting line in Hopkinton.   I tried to relax as much as possible, and get myself ready for the race, which for me did not start until 11:15. The weather was warmer than I was hoping for (70 degrees), with not a cloud in the sky.  Not ideal racing conditions, but I vowed to stick to my hydration plan of stopping at every water stop and keep my pace even and controlled.  
     As Sarah and I were starting in the same wave and corral of the race, we walked over to the start after dutifully performing our Dynamic Flexibility stretches as prescribed by our coach Briana. Walking to the start was a good warm up walk, and my emotions really started kicking in.  As they started to countdown to the start, the tears finally came.  It was such an incredible feeling, standing there, knowing that I was going to run this historic course.  It was such a different feeling than I had ever experienced before.  I took a deep breath, wiped the tears, and reminded myself to enjoy the experience and take it all in.  
    As far as my goals for the race in regards to finish time and pacing, due to the weather, I was hoping that I would finish right around 4 hours.  By mile 4 or 5, I knew that I was going to have to keep my pace in check. My face was already caked with a layer of salt from sweating, and the effort of my running was already feeling too hard.  I was trying to keep the pace right around 9 minutes per mile, even with all the downhill sections. I felt like I could manage this pace, as long as I stopped and hydrated at every mile, and took my Gu energy gels according to my preplanned schedule. I was not planning on taking the provided Gatorade at the water stops, but because of the conditions, I decided to try that, taking it in at every other mile starting at mile 4.  
     I had heard that the crowds along the course were going to be like no other, and that certainly was true, beyond my expectations.  I can't remember any part of the course that there weren't people along each side of the course, with encouraging and humorous signs, and so much cheering. So loud at times, especially, of course at the Wellesley Scream Tunnel.  The weather was ideal for spectators, and at times it was almost overwhelming.  I tried to look around as much as possible, and I heard many chants of "Go Oiselle!" which was great. 
  It was also at the halfway point that I was able to see the Oiselle Cowbell corner, and two of my friends Ashley and Courtney.  Ashley caught some photos of me, and I gave them both sweaty hugs.  I was so happy to see them; it gave me such a boost. I was feeling tired already, and for a moment I wished I could just stay there and cheer on the other runners! 

     Once I passed the half way point, I was having cramps in my stomach, and some nausea.  This is the first time I have experienced this in a race.   Because I had not used Gatorade in my training runs, I became concerned that maybe the sugar in it was upsetting my stomach. I decided then to stop drinking it, and just going with water and my Gu gels.  I began taking the time to walk through the water stops and swishing and spitting out the Gatorade and then drinking two cups of water each time. This seemed to help, and the cramping lessened as I went forward.  
     As I entered Newton, and the famous Newton hills, the race became pretty tough.  I knew my pace was dropping off and I did something I had never done in a race before. I pulled out my phone and texted my husband to let him know that I was okay, that the heat was getting to me, but I was fine.  I knew he was tracking me at home and I didn't want him to become concerned.  Plus, my phone battery was getting low ( I had resorted to turning on some music a few miles in) and I wanted to make sure he heard from me at some point before the battery died.  As I ran through the rolling hills miles 16-19.5, I had difficulty maintaining even a 10 minute pace.  I just kept telling myself to keep moving forward. Quitting was never an option. I was hot and tired and my energy was pretty low, but there was no reason to stop.  I tried to stay positive, thinking about getting to the water stop, the next timing mat and running as well as I could on the downhills.
     Heartbreak hill was not quite as I expected. .  I was expecting a steeper hill, and wasn't entirely sure when I had gone over it.  It was a long hill, but it would not have been particularly difficult in normal circumstances.  I only knew that I had gone over it when I saw a sign from a spectator that said something like "The Heartbreak is Over". I was relieved that I didn't have to worry about it anymore, and that the significant hills were behind me.  
     Miles 21-25 were uneventful, I just kept moving forward, looking forward to reaching the finish. It became my new goal to finish in 4:15. I don't know why I picked that number, it just seemed like something I could aim for and it kept me going at a pretty steady pace.  My music turned off at mile 22 as the battery had finally died.  

     Once I reached mile 25, I was so relieved.  I knew I could make it to the end, and I mustered every bit of energy I had to enjoy the last mile.I saw the Citgo sign and then  I saw the sign that said "One Mile to Go" and I heard the crowds shouting "You've got this" "You're almost there"and they kept me going.  I saw ahead that the runners were turning to the right, and I knew this was Hereford Street. I had remembered "Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston, and I kept reciting that in my head. 
     It was incredible turning that corner on Boylston, hearing the crowds and seeing the finish line in the distance.  The day before, a triple blue line had been painted on Boylston, leading to the finish line.  I just kept following the blue lines, trying to finish strong. 
     Once I reached the bleachers on each side, I raised my hands and just gave it my all to the finish. I said aloud "I just ran the Boston Marathon!" with a big smile on my face.
     A friend had described her race later as "amazing and awful all at the same time" and I would wholeheartedly agree.  There were some dark moments, but overall it was the experience of a lifetime.  The Boston Marathon is like no other, and it completely lives up to the hype.  
Finish Time: 4:15

     Time for thank you's: First of all, to my husband Chris who is my biggest support in all things. Thank you for always believing that I would get to Boston and handling things at home so that I could be worry free while I was away.  You were in my thoughts through every mile and I knew that no matter what, I would make you proud.
  Thank you to my kids for putting up with their tired, marathon training mother for months (years?) to get to this starting line.  And thanks for understanding when I had to be away during so many big things happening at home this weekend, including my oldest son's first time shaving,(How long was I gone??!!) my middle's son's ballet performance, and my daughter's Healthy Kids race on Sunday.  I know you guys understand how importance this race was to me, and knowing that you were cheering me on from PA kept me going all the way to the finish.
     Thank you to Briana, ,my coach for my qualifying race last year, and for the Boston Marathon. You made me a stronger, more confident runner and I will always carry that with me.  Thank you for always believing in me, and helping me to believe in myself.  I share this Boston finish with you.

     Big thanks to Sarah at Another Mother Runner for reaching out to me when this opportunity to run Boston Marathon came about unexpectedly.  Your support and encouragement carried me through the last few months.  Sharing that starting line with you was very special for me.

  Thank you to all the people of Hyland's that supported me along the way to Find my Finish Line  This was an incredible opportunity and I am truly  honored to be a part of it.  Thank you for bringing our team together, and treating us all like royalty.  

   Thank you to Oiselle for their continued support, and for keeping me in #Flystyle.  The community of women Volee continues to grow and I felt the love on the race course and beyond.
    Thanks to Team Nuun for continuing to keep me hydrated on and off the course. What a nice surprise to have Nuun offered to me at mile 17! I think my exact words at the moment I saw you was "Thank you Lord!" Let's hope that more race courses will feature natural hydration in the future. 
     Finally, thank you to all the family and friends that cheered me on before, during and after the race.  I loved reading every text, FB message, tweet and email.  This truly did help me carry on when the going got tough.  
     I hope that you will continue to follow me along as I find many more finish lines! 


  1. Woot! So glad it was a rich and amazing experience (and that I could be a very small part of it)!

  2. You are 100% right on that Boston is an Experience like no other! I loved reading your report and seeing your adventures in Boston in the days leading up to the race. Congratulations! What a huge accomplishment!