Short version - First it was awful and then it was awesome.
Long version - The day started out with a 5:30am walk to the Boston Common to board the school buses for the hour ride to Hopkinton. It was already pouring rain and ridiculously windy. Lucky for me, Dana Farber has a refuge for the runners in Hopkinton at a small church so we could stay warm and dry and even get some food and hot coffee. We took a team photo and waited for the announcement to head to the start line.
On the way to the start line the energy and excitement and disbelief of the incredible insane weather buzzed in the crowd of runners. Wave 4 was allowed to start early because of the harsh conditions. Instead of a pulse start broken into mini-waves within each corral, they did a rolling start basically as soon as you got there you could start and we were off and running.
Hopkinton and Ashland flew by. Framingham and Natick…..not so much. I really started to doubt myself and question whether I could continue for 15 more miles. As bad as you think the weather looked, it was WORSE. The rain came down in sheets so hard it kind of hurt. The winds gusted in our face the entire time and it was COLD. My absolute nightmare conditions for running; Cold + rain + headwinds. I seriously considered dropping out. I wanted to cry. It would be my first ever DNF (Did Not Finish) and I wondered if they still give you a medal if you drop out and what I would do with it knowing I didn’t really earn it. I continued on even though my pace started to slow and I had to walk when the winds picked up because it was literally pushing us back.
A little before the halfway point, right where the Natick/Wellesley line is, something clicked inside me. The last long training run of the DFMC team goes from BC to that point and back again. The roads were now familiar to me. I know them like the back of my hand. I have run them before many times with my teammates. I suddenly remembered the faces of all my friends and the reason we all run this race. I broke down the remaining distance into sections – 2.5 miles from Marathon Sports in Wellesley to the Fire Station in Newton, 4 miles from the Fire Station to the top of Heartbreak Hill, 4 miles from the top of Heartbreak hill to Mile 25 were the DFMC cheer station is and then just 1.2 miles to the finish.
From that point on it was a whole new race. A fire lit inside me and no amount of rain or wind could put it out. I laughed as I passed storm drains that were overflowing from the stupid amount of water falling from the skies. I powered up the hills, you could say I OWNED them. I even stopped for a beer on Heartbreak hill and told the crowds there “the marathon is like a mullet, the party is in the back!”
My least favorite section of the course, the long flat stretch on Beacon street after all the hills of Newton went by in a blur and before I knew it I could see off in the distance just below the Citgo sign the DFMC cheer section (and the worst hill on the course no matter what anyone says about Heartbreak, the hill over the mass pike at mile 25 is worse). I made it to my people and after some huge soaking wet hugs and high fives, I continued on down Commonwealth Ave towards the finish.
As I approached the dip that goes under Mass Ave I spotted a group of BPD officers and ran over to them asking for a hug because they were standing in the exact location I was in when the bombs went off in 2013. If you know me, you know, I’m not really a hugger and rarely initiate a hug, but this one was so meaningful and warmed my heart in a way I cannot express in words.
All that was left was two turns – Right on Hereford and Left on Boylston. Hereford was an obstacle course of discarded ponchos (I learned later that several people wiped out on them and one of my DFMC teammates even required stitches after he finished because he hit the ground so hard). Unlike the majority of people that wanted to ditch their ponchos for the finish photo, I proudly held onto mine like a badge of honor and proof that I conquered the most ridiculous race conditions ever.
Boylston, for anyone that has not run it, is really LONG. It is still several blocks to the finish line after the turn. But I know a little fun fact that the cross streets are alphabetical from the common so – Hereford, Gloucester, Fairfield, and Exeter and DONE. I followed the three blue lines painted on the course for the elites and hopped over ponchos and puddles and made it to the finish with a ginormous smile on my face.
Checking my results after I changed into dry clothes and got some hot chicken broth, I learned a few things. I negative split the race – ran the second half faster than the first half. A difficult task in normal conditions on a flat course, an almost impossible task on the Boston course in the conditions we had and I did it by almost 10 minutes. AND my time, although slow by most standards, was MY fastest finish in about 2 years. I trained hard and raced smart and it paid off.
I cannot thank you all enough for all the support and encouragement and cheers along the way. The marathon is over, but the race to fund a cure for cancer is not done yet. At the pasta party the night before the marathon they announced the team has raised $5.3 million dollars so far towards the goal of $5.5 million and a total of over $90 million in the 29 years that the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge has been partnered with the Boston Marathon. My current total is just shy of $23K and donations are still trickling in. If you’d like to say congrats or wish me an early Happy Birthday (I turn 40 one month from today), it would be amazing and make the runners high last a little longer.
I have run in rain, I have run in crazy headwinds, I have run in extreme cold; but until Monday I had never run in all three in one perfect storm of a race. It was challenging, but it was AWESOME and I wouldn’t change a thing.
THANK YOU AGAIN!