I remember where I was when they announced there was a bombing at the Boston Marathon in 2013. I had just finished my first half marathon two days before, on Saturday, in Kansas on the way home to my bridal shower. On Patriot’s Day, during the race, I was in my grandpa’s truck with my mom. He was driving us back to Kansas City for me to catch my flight back to Milwaukee. I had just really found my passion for distance running and I remember sitting in the back of his truck… crying. That’s when I decided I’d run a marathon. That’s when I decided I wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I’m sure many others have similar stories about finding out about the bombing and how that motivated them to run, become a marathoner or shoot for a BQ.
Fast forward a few years, a few more races to fall of 2016 when I ran the Chicago Marathon a month after finishing my first Ironman. I pr’d my marathon by 36 minutes and qualified for Boston 2018 by 3 minutes and 55 seconds. I was SURE that window was large enough to get me into Boston… no doubt in my mind! Then it was announced the window was the largest ever at 3 minutes and 25 seconds. Thirty seconds was all that stood between me and NOT going to Boston… yikes! I was a squeaker!
But I made it!
Insert Team Sparkle. I’ve ran multiple Ragnar SoCal’s with the ladies of Sparkle Athletic and a few other sparkly, fast friends every year since 2015. The awesome thing is 5 of us qualified to run at Boston this year! Team Sparkle is heading to Boston instead of Ragnar SoCal to raise money and awareness for Rett Syndrome. We added two members to our usual 5, so that 7 of us will each run for 27 (because the .2!) little girls or boys suffering from Rett Syndrome. We run for a non-profit charity called Girl Power 2 Cure.
My family flew to Boston the Friday before the race. You guys… there were so many Boston jackets, BQ shirts, etc on this flight. So inspiring! I couldn’t believe I was one of them! My entire goal for Boston was just to get to the start line healthy and able to run the entire race. My son was now just over 7 months old, so I knew I wouldn’t be breaking any course records here.
My in-laws were also flying in that day. So we hung around the area a little while until they landed. Then went to the hotel to drop our things and get Parker down for a nap, and I headed back to the expo. I wanted to go right away so I’d be able to relax and miss the biggest wave of crowds.
This expo was massive, but also SUPER crowded. I’m really glad we didn’t try to bring everyone and Parker’s stroller. There’s no way it would have been manageable for us to stick together. Saturday we visited the finish line, and went to a Red Sox game. It was COLD you guys!
Sunday morning Team Sparkle had brunch together, then we visited the finish line again as a team. By the way, it was snowing Sunday when we were at the finish line. We ended up on the same corner as a few of the professional men. I forget who, but one of us was saying how cold it was (Elise?) and the pros looked at us and said it was perfect running weather! Then one of them stopped smiling and shook his head slowly as if to say “Just kidding! This sucks!” We had a good laugh about it!
We then went to the airport to pick up my parents, found dinner, and relaxed for the rest of the evening. The weather for Monday looked like it would be the worst weather in the history of the Boston Marathon. High of about 35 degrees, rain all day, and a headwind with gusts up to 30 mph. All day long. Luckily Team Sparkle had us covered with ponchos, medical gloves, hand/ foot warmers, and trash bags. I had also gone to a thrift store earlier in the week and purchased about $8 worth of clothes to wear. If I decided to take any off at the finish line or along the course, the clothing gets donated right back.
Race morning dawned just as nasty as they projected. Cold. Wet. Windy. I put on my throwaway socks and shoes, capris, sparkle skirt, long sleeve, arm sleeves, tank top, fleece hoodie, sweat pants, buff, gloves, hat, and medical gloves. I tied trash bags over my throwaway shoes, up around my ankles. I put on my poncho and carried my race shoes and socks and nutrition bag under the poncho with me to keep them as dry as possible. I also took a bag of dry clothes to the finish line for the bag drop… just in case it stopped raining by the time I was done and wanted dry clothes asap.
I was still nursing Parker pretty much full time, so I had also purchased a hand pump. I had been pumping extra the entire trip to try to have enough for Parker for up to 10 total hours of being gone. He takes the bottle like a champ! I was a bit nervous about finding a place to pump right before the race, but someone suggested the medical tent.
Team Sparkle had planned to meet up at gear check and ride the bus together, but Jolie and Kellie had other plans. Then Elise and Carrie realized that they had left something at their Air B&B, so Carlee, Allison and myself met up and rode the bus together. It’s a long bus ride from Boston to Hopkinton you guys! The bus was steaming up because a bunch of nervous, wet runners just loaded up onto a bus with the heat on full blast. I wanted to take off my layers because I was sweating, but I didn’t want to then have to put them all back on!
We finally arrived at the Athletes Village…. er, mud pit. You guys this place was disgusting! I’m sure on a dry year, it’s a great place to relax a bit, wait for your wave to be called, sit down, and meet other runners. Not this year… We did find some port-o-potties that it seemed like no one else had found and quickly used them before others were on our tail. Next stop was finding the medical tent so I could relieve myself of some breast milk before heading to the start line. This at least allowed for Carrie and Elise to catch up with us before the start.
After leaving the athlete village, you have about 3/4 of a mile walk to even get to the start line. This is when Elise and Carrie were calling us, asking where we were. We slowed our walk a little bit so they could catch up to us. Luckily, a block from the start line there’s another big lot with more port-o-potties, donation bins and pre-race aid stations if needed. We all started to strip a few layers, and I changed my shoes and socks. They were dry… for about 30 seconds. We missed the actual start of our wave, so it was kind of weird to just walk directly up to the start line and then just start running… but that’s what we did! After a team picture of course!
At the start line we all said we’d stick together through about 16-17 miles and then if we felt we could go faster, we would. Allison decided she was too cold from the get go and off she went, down the first hill! The other 4 of us took off a little slower, wanting to have easy miles the first few. We celebrated as we passed the first mile marker… only 25.2 to go!
I took off my fleece long sleeve and poncho hood (while running!) right after the first mile. Carrie took off her poncho and layers around mile 3… crazy lady! The first few miles were fairly silent, people focused on the task at hand, other than the swish-swish-swish of plastic and ponchos all around us.
There weren’t many pictures taken really through the rest of the race due to the rain… which was coming down hard. There were times in the race where it was pretty hard to see what was going on a block ahead of you. I really, truly think we had about 60 total seconds of it not raining from the minute I stepped out of my hotel that morning until well after I had finished the race. Now I will say I wasn’t that uncomfortable. Keeping my poncho on (and hand warmers in my gloves with medical grade gloves over the top and warmers in my sports bra) kept me pretty much completely dry and warm from my neck to mid thighs. I was afraid of overheating with the plastic on, but I had a nice cozy environment going on! I’m glad I didn’t ditch it and hoped that some runners could see my Girl Power 2 Cure bib on the back of my tank through the clear poncho.
Running was really going pretty well through the entire first half of the race. We were staying at a really consistent, easy pace of 8:30-9 minute. There were a lot of spectators, but I’m sure on a good weather year there would have been many more. My family was around mile 7. It’s so nice to see a friendly face, even if just for a few seconds! We came up to Wellesley college and you could hear the roar of the girls from about a mile away. It was SO exciting to hear them get louder and louder! I know the tradition is to kiss a girl… and we all kissed 4-5! We had to. It is tradition after all!
After passing the college, I felt like my energy was waning… like as the roar of the girls yelling diminished so did my energy. I had some pretty dark miles from 13ish-16ish. I was so thankful for the Sparkle girls pulling me along for a few miles. We started to get separated a little bit around miles 16. By 17, I was alone. Carlee had gone up ahead (speedster that she is!) and Carrie and Elise stopped to talk with someone they knew spectating.
I knew this is where the course would get challenging. We’d only passed one of the hills coming into Newton and had plenty more to go. I tried to focus on the REASON why I was there. I had worked hard. I had qualified. I was running for 189 little girls and boys, my cousin included, who can’t. I wanted to show my son that mommy can do hard things. I started repeating some of the girls names in my head. I knew many of them on my GP2C bib. I’d had the pleasure to meet many of them and their families at various Team Sparkle or GP2C events over the years.
I found other runners running a similar pace as me and hung on. I told myself to keep running. Before I knew it, I was through Newton, with the biggest hill to come. This was Martilee’s mile. Mile 21, the last BIG hill through Newton. I cried thinking of her struggles as I struggled to keep running, but I made it to the top and knew the hardest part of the race was over. The rest is (almost) literally downhill.
The last few miles brought more rain. I passed a lot of very miserable looking athletes those last few miles. Most of them did not have ponchos on, and if they had layers they were soaked and probably freezing. I felt bad for them, but knew I couldn’t do anything about it. I was actually ENJOYING my Boston experience, regardless of the weather.
I could see the Citgo Sign. I knew it was still a mile or so away, but I could SEE IT! I just had to get there, and the crowd would start to build by Fenway. Right when I ran over the “one mile to go” signs painted in the middle of the street, I took off my poncho. One mile to go. I couldn’t finish the race with my poncho! I felt a surge of energy and my last 3 miles were my fastest of the day! More rain, more wind, keep going.
I took my right turn onto Hereford street and almost fell due to the amount of ponchos that had been stripped off. We had an entire street, two lanes, for the run but with the ponchos we had maybe 6 feet in the middle of the road that was clear to run on. Spectators were yelling at us to be careful because so many people had fallen or slipped while running on the ponchos.
Left onto Boylston. A short stretch left to go. It was silent, besides the rain. I remember not being able to understand how there were so many people spectating and running, but it was silent. I sprinted down the middle, right on the blue stripes, separating good from evil.
Finally an announcement about my wave and to hurry to the finish to break 4 hours. I knew I had a bit more time since the girls and I started a few minutes after our official wave started. I again, started crying. This was my finish line!
I AM A FREAKING BOSTON MARATHON FINISHER! I always thought I’d be a one and done… but I have to go back. I have to experience Boston again. This city understands running, commitment, determination. I must go back.
I ended up finishing in a time of 3:53:57 (8:56 pace.) I met ALL of my goals:
A) Get to the start line healthy
B) Run the entire race
C) Run sub 4
My family was at the finish line, but told me after the race that they didn’t see me finish! Between the umbrellas, pouring rain, and what I found out was a moment of silence for the exact time the bombs went off 5 years ago (that put things into perspective…) I can understand why they missed me finish.
Once I stopped running, I was cold. No, freezing. I was sweaty and soaked and it was cold and windy. I found my family, retrieved my gear back and said lets go. I so wish I could have stayed at the finish line to soak up what just happened, but it was so cold. We headed to the car, and on to Providence, RI for the night before flying home the next day. But don’t worry Boston, I’ll be back.
If you’d like to learn more about Rett Syndrome, or donate towards research and treatment, please go to www.girlpower2cure.org.
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