Let’s face it, I was a reluctant marathoner at best. It wasn’t a goal of mine, I thought it seemed crazy and I didn’t think my body would be able to take 26.2 grueling miles. Well I was wrong. I completed the Boston Marathon and in the process learned a lot about myself. I saw so many examples of the triumph of the human spirit that I’ll take with me throughout my life.
My first marathon started the way it does for most people who have run Boston. I woke up around 5 a.m., washed my face and began to round up the items I’d need throughout the day (I thought). I took an uber to the Park Plaza and knew when I saw guide dogs, I was in the right place. I boarded the bus and sat next to Michelle Menovich Becker, who I never get to spend time with because we both guide Kyle Robidoux. Michelle was going to be guiding Kyle on his second marathon of the day as he ran back in with us from Hopkinton. Michelle is an experienced runner and had lots of good advice for the course.
We arrived in Hopkinton and went inside the Hopkinton Vision Center who provides their offices for Team With A Vision’s marathon team so we had a nice place to wait before we headed to the corrals. It was about this time I realized I didn’t have my Garmin GPS watch. I tried to not go into full panic mode, but I’m a planner & when my plans go awry I can get in my head and stew on it. I immediately texted my husband and realized our best bet was for him to meet me on course and hand me the watch after I started. It wasn’t ideal but I didn’t have options. I got geared up and waited for my corral time.
About this time Kyle finished his run from Boston to Hopkinton and looked very relaxed and in a great mood. It was about then I realized he was clearly insane. He changed his socks, ate some food and relaxed for about 40 minutes before he had to head to the corrals with the qualifiers and run back in. I was blown away at the sheer athletic ability and prayed my trip in would end similarly.
I watched Kyle got to the corrals and took one last nervous pee before heading to them myself soon after with Sarah Scalia, Megan Birch-McMichael & Grant Bachhuber. We wished each other luck and before you knew it our journey had started. I was at anxiety level 7 because I didn’t have my watch and the Nike plus app was having trouble getting a signal. I knew I was running slow but my coach had said to at this point. The first few miles are narrow and there are so many runners, there was no way I could really go faster. I was texting (& getting looks from other runners) with my husband and he sent me a picture of where he’d be in Framingham with my Garmin. My first 5k split was 31:30(10:08 per mile)
The next few miles opened up and the herd started to thin out as people settled into their paces. Already I was seeing people having problems from going out too fast on the downhill and was glad I had resisted. I ran the next 3 miles in 30:28(9:48per mile) making my 10k split 1:01:58 (a little slow but close to plan). I spotted Joe right where he said he’d be and strapped my watch on and gave him a kiss and started running. My watch synced to the satellites almost immediately and I took off excited that I felt more confident with my watch to pace myself.
The next four miles (6-10) into Natick felt great, I was in the low 9’s (9:13-9:18) and I knew my brother Tim, his wife Kirby and my Aunt Jane would be by some church in town. What I didn’t know was they has made giant cut outs of my head and when I spotted them I about died laughing. This is also where I started to notice the heat. Despite my excitement, I was growing concerned about how hot I was feeling and what this would mean as the race went on.
The next four miles into Wellesley (10-14) were when I really started to get worried about how I was feeling, I knew I had a long way to go and that the pace I was running was not going to be sustainable. The Wellesley girls were amazing, their signs had me cracking up. I didn’t stop for a kiss this time around though. As I approached the center of Wellesley, I spotted the three people I hoped I would run into on course…Kyle Robidoux, Kevin McCarthy & Michelle Menovich Becker. They were at the medical tent (where I probably could have used a check up) and I was relieved to see they were all ok. There was a Japanese VI runner whose guide had to stop that now was guideless. Kyle asked Kevin if he felt up to it and of course in true TWAV style, Kevin stepped in as a guide for a non English speaker. These are the moments I think back on and remember. I won’t care what my time was 20 years from now. But I’ll remember that. I also stopped worrying about my time at this point and decided to try to enjoy the day.
Even though I was feeling awful at this point, the next few miles meant more than any other part of the race. I got to run the course with Kyle and Michelle for the next 3.5 miles as we headed into Newton. Along the way my running bud and great friend Nicole Rand was there cheering us on with her mom Maureen and getting a great picture of us. Knowing Kyle was now 40 miles in, I just tried to maintain my strength and hang with them as we approached HELL. I watched Kyle eat a soggy grilled cheese sandwich while running and I may never be able to erase that from my brain. As we rounded the corner to start the Newton Hills we somehow lost sight of each other and I knew I just had to bang it out solo now. As I made it up the third Newton Hill I saw two other of the TWAV guides holding up their runner who was have an equilibrium problem and was having a hard time balancing. I stayed with them a few minutes and they assured me they had it so I began the accent up Heartbreak Hill on my way to Boston College.
My training plan never called for a run longer than 20 miles. From here on out, I was in uncharted territory. This is where the crowds got insane and boy did I need them. I was taking a few walking steps every 1/4 mile or so and as soon as I would slow, they would shout for me and I would get going and they’d go even crazier. The crowd at Boston College looked like an afterparty. Everyone was 3am New Years Eve drunk and going berserk. It was incredibly energizing and it left me with a giant smile despite feeling like an extra from The Walking Dead.
The turn into Cleveland Circle was 5 people deep, and the streets of Brookline were rowdy. I had several friends through the next few miles including Steve & Liz Idhaw who are experienced Boston Marathoners and who also encouraged me to enter my first 5K a bunch of years ago. The crew from MABVI spotted me a little further down Beacon Street and I had the biggest smile as my eyes locked on Diane Berberian. I knew I needed to suck it up now and get it done. This day was about our whole team. I walked a bunch of times on Beacon Street and I’m OK with that. My body was over it and knew as soon as I saw Kenmore Square I was going to ask it for one last dance.
As I came into Kenmore, the day started to hit me. You are doing it. You are going to finish the Boston Marathon! I knew My friends Kelly & Nicole were braving the crowds in Kenmore to see me and as I entered Kenmore I almost remember the crowds being so loud that it was almost quiet because my mind couldn’t process the experience. The road widens a lot there so I felt like I was alone on the road and all these people were going crazy like they were at at concert. I spotted my friends and gave them the grossest hug possible (they didn’t mind as they were very wasted by that point).
The legendary right on Hereford, left on Boylston is no joke. As soon as my eyes laid eyes on the finish line, my face did it’s best cheshire cat and I plodded down a road I walk down often, in my hometown, that I’ll never look at the same again. You see, you can’t run the gauntlet that is the Boston Marathon and not feel like you’ve earned the title Boston Strong. It makes you realize how many things you thought might not be possible are if we set our minds to it. Huge thanks to everyone who cheered me on and supported me. I’ll never forget my first marathon.