What happens on the third Monday in April in Boston? Ask a Bostonian and they’ll say it’s Patriot’s Day. Ask any runner and they’ll tell you it’s the day of the Boston Marathon, the granddaddy of all marathons. One week from today is THE day.
I’ve had the good fortune to run Boston twice; in 1998 and 2010. One day in 1997 while on a run, my friend Miles and I were talking about Boston – he’d run it a few times. I told him that since Bill worked at Digital, one of the race sponsors, I could run with one of their corporate bibs. I hit a nerve… A nerve that I later completely understood. Miles said that I should only run Boston if I earned a spot in the race, and based on my track and long run times, he felt sure I could qualify. That fall, with Miles’ guidance, I qualified for Boston at my first marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon.
A few days before we left for Boston, I set our VCR up to record the race. My eleven-year old son said, “Mom why are you recording it? You know that they will have the cameras following the fast runners, and not way back where you are.”
On Thursday evening before the marathon, Bill and I dropped Joseph and Daniel off to stay with friends so we could fly to Boston for our long weekend getaway. Upon arriving in Boston, we spent several hours at the race expo and packet pick-up, before heading to lunch. My race packet included a blue long-sleeved cotton shirt and race bib.
I also picked up the following two t-shirts…
And the official Boston Marathon jacket…
Bright and early race morning, Bill and I left our hotel and walked to where the school buses waited to take the runners to Hopkinton. Looking like a nervous little girl on her first day of kindergarten, I said goodbye to Bill, as he headed back to the hotel until it was time for the first athletes to find their way back into Boston.
On the bus ride, we had a lively conversation about which race we’d qualified at, what our times were, etc. One runner said that this was going to be his first marathon, because he was running for a charity… SILENCE! I now knew what Miles meant by saying I should earn my spot in Boston. The rest of us had worked very hard to qualify, and we suddenly realized that there were runners among us that hadn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve coached for a charity organization, and I think they’re great. I just don’t think that as hard as it has gotten to qualify for Boston, they should be giving away bibs to charities. It’s like allowing minor league baseball teams into the World Series playoffs if they raise enough money for a chosen charity……
With four hours to kill until the start of the race, I wondered around the Athletes’ Village to get my bearings, and see if I could find my friend, Ed, who was also running that day.
I also made sure to get a picture of the Digital banner for Bill!
Since it was cold and damp outside, I ventured into the tent to wait with the masses for the start of the race. I quickly made friends with a girl named Diane from New York. Diane had qualified for Boston at her first marathon as well, and like me, this was only her second marathon.
A couple of minutes after I took this picture, an older guy stood up, bent over, pulled down his pants, and started rubbing Vaseline all over his bare behind… I guess he didn’t want to chafe!
Finally it was time to head to the starting line. We made a final stop at the porta potties, and then dropped our extra layers of warm clothing and bags off at bag drop.
As we made our way to the starting line, there were little girls standing along the side of the street asking for our autographs. I was flooded with such mixed emotions – I was proud, yet humbled. There I was, a measly runner feeling so very honored to be able to run her first Boston Marathon, yet to these little runners, we were elite athletes.
There were no waves at the start, we simply seeded ourselves according to our expected paces, proudly listened to the national anthem, and waited for the race to start. It took several minutes after the gun went off, for us to actually start running. When we finally ran, we took only a few steps until we stopped, ran again, and then stopped yet again. This went on for a few minutes until we thinned out, and were actually able to start running at a consistent race pace.
Diane and I ran together until about mile 17, when this photo was taken, and then I pulled away. I didn’t see her again, but later saw that she finished about ten minutes behind me (her qualifying time had been ten minutes faster than mine).
For some odd reason, tucked away on a couple of little pieces of paper in a running folder, I have an odd collection of my splits. My finish time was 3:39:57 which is an 8:23 pace. Based on what I remember to be an extremely slow first mile which included a lot of starting/stopping and then some more starting/stopping because of the massive number of runners on the narrow street leading out of Hopkinton (there were no wave starts), I’m not surprised at how slow my average pace for my first five miles were.
Looking back, I’m pretty pleased that I didn’t let the hills from Newton to Heartbreak Hill slow me down too much. Also, I can’t help but wonder what happened at Mile 23 to slow me down so much.
- Start Up To Mile 5 – 8:40
- Mile 5 To Mile 10 – 8:04
- Mile 10 To Mile 15 – 8:15
- Mile 16 – Start of Newton Hills
- Mile 17 – 8:39
- Mile 18 – 8:32
- Mile 19 – 8:55
- Mile 20 – 8:51 – Heartbreak Hill
- Mile 21 – 8:40
- Mile 22 – 8:24
- Mile 23 – 9:33
- Mile 24 – 8:13
- Mile 25 To 26.2 – 8:41
On a cute side note, when I crested Heartbreak Hill, a volunteer shouted, “Congrats, you made it to the top!” I asked her which hill, and she said that it was Heartbreak Hill. Incredulously, I said, “THAT was Heartbreak Hill?” Later, when I told Bill the story, he said that I had laughed in the face of Heartbreak Hill!
While I was running from Hopkinton to Boston, Bill was hanging out in Boston waiting for me to finish. He got to watch a lot of finishers before I came along, and took pictures of the winners.
And I was only an hour and sixteen minutes behind the women’s winner!
The wheelchair winner was Franz Nietlispach with a time of 1:21:52. Here’s a picture Bill got of one of the later wheelchair finishers who finished with the runners.
Finally, Bill saw me heading down Boylston Street! I was thrilled to shave ten minutes off my previous marathon time and set a new PR at my second marathon with a time of 3:39:57.
After the race, I quickly found Bill in the family meet-up area. A rookie mistake I made back then as a new marathoner was not pulling my hair back into a ponytail.
Before we set out in search of Ed, Bill snapped a picture of me proudly holding up my medal.
After a few minutes we found Ed, and were able to hang out with him for a little while. Ed’s next race after Boston that year was the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run.
On our way back to the hotel, I stopped for a final marathon day picture…..
Back home in Virginia, I received these gorgeous congratulatory flowers from my mom and dad with a note that read, “To a national sport celebrity. Not just anyone can run in the Boston Marathon. We love you, Mom and Dad.”
Without a doubt, running my first Boston Marathon was one of the coolest experiences in my life, and I’m so happy Bill and I decided to make it into a long weekend getaway! I think watching this race planted the distance running seeds into Bill’s brain!
- Do you watch the Boston Marathon on TV?
- Have you ever raised money for a charity by running a race?
- What is your next running goal?