Photo: Me in the Heartbreakers “Battle Shield” Spring Race Singlet
If you live in Boston and love running, the three day weekend you love the most ends on Marathon Monday. The B.A.A. 5K draws a world class field and is always a bit of a mess. Not on the race organization side, the participants seem to corral in some alternate reality based universe. The pace signs are clearly marked, but every year it seems to get worse. I wish you had to do an estimated finish time and corral by bib number but that would make too much sense.
Photo: Me in the corrals waiting for the BAA 5K to start
I had just set a new 5K personal best at my last race (An Ras Mor Race Recap ) so I wasn’t that concerned about my time (if you know me insert eye roll here). I wanted to run well but I had been nursing a bit of a strain in the top of my hamstring near my glute. I needed to guide Kyle Robidoux the last 14 miles of the Boston Marathon course on Monday so I really couldn’t afford to be injured. When I’ve committed to a guiding for a race, I really need to be a little more careful with myself. Especially with a race as big as the Boston Marathon which has some of the most stringent rules about sighted guides.
I decided to just see how I felt, my coach Dan Fitzgerald had just talked to us about trying to look at our GPS watches less often so that we could feel the gears of our body without the tech. Well, I suffer from greyhound syndrome (not an actual thing, I’m just a lil’ nuts) and fast runners are the bunny on the racetrack. As soon as I see fast people, adrenaline courses through my body and I lose most of my good sense. The first two miles I hit a 6:45 even pace while dodging people stopped mid course to do a snapchat on the Commonwealth Ave mall. It was insane in the first two miles, I was dodging people walking when I passed by John Young & the Achilles crew cheering for us, and who snapped some great shots of me.
Photos: Making my way down Commonwealth Ave close to mile 1
As I came into the last mile I felt like the Millennium Falcon going into warp speed coming down Boylston because everyone was fading fast at the end. As I passed by the Four Seasons my friend Tracy got a hilarious (after the fact) video of me trying to get around a wall of people literally walking. That’s me saying “Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me”….
Well so much for not running the race at full force. My official time was 20:46 which was the second fastest I’ve ever run a 5K & almost a minute off the fastest I had run that course. I also was limping. The pain in my glute was so bad. I immediately was so glad I had signed up for the fresh legs clinic at the Heartbreak Run Company store in Cambridge. Added bonus, I got to see my Heartbreaker teammates Tamar and Adrianne who were both running the marathon. We got massaged and stretched and then they put us in those compression booties. After I was done we all shared our nervousness about the conditions for Monday and wished each other luck.
Photo: Team With A Vision race singlets over the years
That night Team With A Vision and The Massachusetts Association for The Blind & Visually Impaired hosted as special event called “A Night Of Champions” celebrating Team With A Vision’s 25th year of participating in the Boston Marathon. I also got to meet Austin Kyle’s guide for the first half of the marathon. Michelle Menovich Becker (who guided Kyle in the marathon last year) and I warned Austin about Kyle’s love of playing jokes on people. I’m super gullible so I fall for his tricks all the time. I wished Austin luck and told him I’d see him at the guide transition area on Monday.
Photo: Austin, Kyle and I a.k.a. Team Robidoux
I woke up on Sunday with my injury feeling 80% better so I knew it was going to be fine on Monday for 14 miles. I purposely had planned on doing nothing on Sunday so my legs would be as fresh as possible. I knew I’d probably be in a little pain by the end but that was going to have to be ok. I think not being at 100% going in really messed with my brain, as I pulled my kit together before going to bed my mind really started to churn. I went to bed tossing and turning not sure I had picked the right gear for the weather we were clearly all going to be struggling in.
Photo: Outfit and supplies for race day
Monday morning I woke up and immediately checked my weather app, praying that by some miracle it wasn’t going to rain or be gale force winds (nope still awful). I quickly resigned that I wouldn’t be able to show my Team With A Vision singlet because I needed a jacket. I cannot say enough about Tracksmith’s Waite Windbreaker that I got for Xmas. That thing saved my life on Monday. I took an uber over to the Ivy Street school in Brookline where the van that would take us to Wellesley was waiting. We were all on time and accounted for by 9 so we headed out to the transition area.
Photo: Hanging in the van with the other guides at the 20K transition area
Kyle was in wave 2 that left Hopkinton at 10:30 and I knew he was shooting for a 4 hour marathon so I had a while to wait until he got to where we were. Everyone started getting notifications that their runners had started and the tension in the van definitely started to rise. I texted Joe that I was getting scared about guiding in the insane weather and in his usual fashion talked me down off the ledge. I went out to see the elite women go by because I wanted to cheer for Shalane (pardon my yelling).
After a while, the trackers were letting us know when our teammates had passed over each 5K chip reader. What we didn’t realize was they were off by 5-7 minutes and that led to some mishaps with the guide transitions. Then we had our first team come off the course because they needed to stop. Seeing the guide’s scared faces as their runner was struggling to move in the freezing cold and driving rain terrified me. After a few minutes we had him out of wet clothes and warmed up. He started to look better very quickly which relieved us all. Then it was time for me to go out.
The B.A.A. had a pop up tent so we wouldn’t have to wait in the rain for our runner to arrive. There was no heat but not getting wet before I needed to was a godsend. They asked my name and checked it with my bib to make sure I was supposed to be entering the course. Wave 3 had just started to pass by so I knew Kyle and Austin would be along soon. As soon as I spotted them I ran out to them and Austin quickly handed me the tether. He said everything was going well and Kyle confirmed he was feeling great, With a quick smile Austin peeled off and left us to finish the race they had started.
I’ve run in all kinds of conditions and I’ve even guided a half marathon in pouring rain but I don’t think anything could have prepared me for that day. Lots of people were struggling to keep going so Kyle and I would come along at a nice clip and then hit walkers in the middle of the course. There was an incredible amount of debris from discarded ponchos and trash bags so my mind tried to keep up with everything I was seeing so I could relate it to Kyle. Once we got past the delightfully rowdy Wellesley College crew, my friend Nicole got a video of us headed towards Newton.
I think the insane weather made me be hyper focused on my job and I felt like we were really working together well and being as efficient as possible. I felt cold and my glute was on fire, but I didn’t really notice it because of the adrenaline rush I was experiencing. Kyle had the most amazing attitude and was cracking jokes and definitely helped the miles fly by. At EVERY water station he thanked the volunteers for being out there, even enlisting one to pull up his water logged shorts that were slowly coming down. The laughter definitely kept it fun. Before I knew it we were almost through the Newton hills.
On the third hill, I spotted fellow Team With A Vision athlete Jennifer Herring. I could tell she was having trouble so I told Kyle and guided him to the side of the course she was walking on. She was shivering and her lips were not the right color and I immediately got scared. Kyle asked her how we could help and she said she was just so cold and couldn’t shake it. She also said that she WAS FINISHING. Two amazing spectators had a bin of dry clean socks so we stripped off Jen’s gloves and wrapped her hands in several pairs of dry socks. We told the next medical tent to be on the lookout and they did grab her and warm her up a bit. Of course she finished the race in under 5 hours like the boss she is!
I knew my Heartbreaker teammates would be out in full force, but the scene outside the store was pandemonium. Mary Kate O’Brien was the first one to spot me and she yelled “Go Cory & Kyle!” . Kyle was wondering who it was and I told him that we were approaching the Heartbreakers and that they were going nuts. I couldn’t make out any individuals as we cruised by as I had my eyes on the road looking for the next obstacle. The one face I did see was Coach Dan, right on the fence, grinning like the Cheshire Cat. You could see how proud he was seeing his team out there being warriors. Thank you all for the support, I felt the love big time.
The crowds got more normal as we went through Brookline. God bless anyone who came to watch us run in that mess. We needed you guys so bad and we can’t say thank you enough. As we went through Coolidge Corner I spotted my friend and client Steve Idhaw with his camera and hoped he got a few great shots of us. He did!
Photos: Kyle and I passing through Coolidge Corner
At mile 23, Ultra marathoner Kirstin Woody Scott caught up to us and asked if she could run in with us. Kirstin did a Boston double this year like Kyle did last year. She started at the finish line very early in the morning, ran to Hopkinton then ran back in like normal. When she caught up to us she was on mile 49 of the day, so her smile and cheerful attitude were totally inexplicable to me as I was riding the struggle bus on my 11th mile.
I had tears in my eyes when I saw the Citgo sign as we approached Kenmore Square and knew that our journey was almost over. We passed Michelle Menovich in Kenmore and she looked so happy to see us. As we went under Mass. Ave., I spotted my friend John Young about to finish his 11th or so marathon and set a new PR for himself. I was glad to be able to cheer for him like he did for me at the 5K.
Photos: Kirstin, Kyle & I on Hereford which is littered with discarded ponchos
As we climbed Hereford and turned onto Boylston, I got so excited. We had done this together and survived and thrived. We both unzipped our windbreakers so that our singlets would show in the finish line pics. I wanted everyone to know I was a part of Team With A Vision and Kyle wanted to make sure his Topo Athletic singlet was showing since he’s one of their athletic ambassadors.
Photo: Kirstin, Kyle and I ready to victoriously cross the finish line
As soon as we stopped running, I knew I was a mess. My legs started to hurt and a bone chilling cold started to set in. I needed out of my wet clothes and out of the rain ASAP.
Photo: Kyle and I at the finish area
All the runners quietly shuffled along wondering how much further the mylar jackets were. When they wrapped us up in the ponchos I felt about 5% better but was shivering and could barely keep my thoughts straight. I remember getting to family area Z and seeing my husband Joe almost immediately. He said I was totally out of it. I was so happy he had a change of dry warm clothes. I glamorously changed in a port-a-potty out of my wet gear. I said goodbye to Kyle as he went to the Park Plaza to get his gear and thanked him for the amazing opportunity to which he thanked me for guiding and told me I had done an amazing job.
Out of all the races I’ve run, the ones where I share my sight have meant the most to me. Kyle is truly such an incredible person to be able to call a friend. I’m just happy to be a part of his running story and to help someone else enjoy the sport that has brought so much joy into my life. If you’d like to learn more about becoming a sighted guide you can get more info here at United In Stride . There’s even a video to explain the basics of sighted guiding and answers a lot of the questions people have. (sighted guiding informational video)
Huge thanks to Kyle for asking me to run the Boston Marathon with him. I will never forget it as long as I live.
Photo: My guide bib and medal