Goal A: Run smart (go out controlled) and have fun
Goal B: Run 6:10 - 6:15 pace overall, but erring on the faster side
2:40:29 via 1:20:46 / 1:19:43
27th OA Female / 16th American Female
Passed 23 women in the Elite Women’s Start; was not passed by any women
Tied for my second fastest time ever, from CIM 2013
Hard to believe that Boston is over. With such a roller coaster of emotions in the weeks leading up to the race, it feels like I’m repeating the same emotional cycle now - happiness to run well, sadness that the euphoria of the race is over and relief that I did it.
My little tale of the Boston Marathon didn’t begin at the start line in Hopkinton, but rather, back in February, on the opposite coast in California, when Rachel connected me with Wayne to request an elite entry. After receiving confirmation that I was indeed in, I was pumped to have the opportunity to train with my friends and to attack my first Boston cycle with a 9-week training plan. I was going to crank out hill repeats, have a training camp in Laguna Beach and run harder than I’ve ever run before. But, of course it didn’t happen like that; instead, those expectations came crashing back down to reality. I had the rockiest and most turbulent training cycle ever. Just take a look at my weekly mileage from February 4th until race week:
77.5 (all is good)
46 (Glute issue; missed midweek workout + LR)
45 (Stomach bug; missed LR)
34 (Fever / Flu)
38 (race week)
The truth is that when I was caught up in a short-lived moment of faithlessness, I almost forgot about all the hard work that was done to even get here in the first place — the cumulative muscle fatigue built up over the last 8 years just from being a marathoner. I could have given up on Boston, but instead I reminded myself of how consistent I'd been over the years and also of the more recent mileage I’d logged over the holidays. In this Boston training cycle, those four weeks at 80+ miles were clear indicators that my legs hadn’t forgotten. This belief in my own past helped me trust that I could still have a respectable race, despite having not one, but three (!!), hiccups along the way. In so many ways, this cycle made me tougher mentally than any other I had ever done because I had to constantly reset my expectations, get comfortable with unplanned days off, and trust - or, more accurately, *believe*, that less can be better.
And that mental toughness helped me so much on race day. Those speed bumps, combined with my overall positive outlook, ensured that I got to the start line undertrained, with rested legs, and a calm confidence that I had decent enough fitness. This race wasn’t about hitting a fast time, but I did have a very clear goal to prove that I can be smart and strong on a course like Boston. And I actually had the belief that I could do that, if executed properly.
So race day morning finally arrived and it was time for me to put my training to the test. The 9:32AM start was rather uneventful as there was no count down and I was a little caught off guard by the gun. I opted for no warmup because I knew it would force me to go out slower in the first few miles, and it paid off. The rest of my race was broken in three parts: (1) Let them go: running controlled and relaxed with Lauren, (2) Enjoy it all: partnering with Ladia to soak in the full excitement of Wellesley, and (3) Blast-off: charging up the hills and attacking the last 5 miles.
Part 1: Miles 1-8-ish
I attached myself to Lauren’s side, who would become my hero for the first part of the race. The downhills in the first mile are legit. I understood why so many people get carried away and go way too fast, because it’s almost easier physically to let gravity take hold than to keep it slow. It took a lot of energy to hold back and to stay controlled at my goal pace of 6:10.
Lauren and I were mostly alone for the first 3-4 miles, until a few other girls attached on behind us. I asked them what they were trying to run and offered some encouraging words. I was fine to lead as I wanted to control my own race. We clicked off 607-612 through these miles, coming in right around 6:10 average for the total time on the clock. I was a bit worried that some of my splits might be too fast, but it felt relaxed and I made sure to ease it up if one split were too quick.
It was really special to run with Lauren, especially after we had run together at Chicago 2016, where we both PRed. Since Lauren is from Hopkinton, so many people were cheering for her, and I just pretended like my name was Lauren too. As always, I was so grateful for her calm presence as we coasted on the downhills out of Hopkinton.
My perma-smile began probably around mile 5 in downtown Framingham because of the sheer number of superfans in this tiny town and also because Peter surprised me; as soon as I saw him, I waved with both my hands like I was in a parade. For the rest of the race, I couldn’t help but soak up the energy from the crowd and pay my thanks with an ear-to-ear grin. And little did I know that the fun was just beginning.
Part 2: Miles 8-15
If the first part of the race was about keeping my ego in check, the second part was about trusting the race plan and making the middle miles feel as relaxed as possible…and having fun while doing it.
Around maybe mile 8/9, I broke away from my pack to grab a water cup, and, in doing so, simultaneously and inadvertently dropped the group and caught up to another girl named Ladia. After about a mile running alongside someone, it’s a little awkward to run next to them without knowing their name, so we exchanged names and pieces of info: it was our first Boston and we both hailed from the Midwest!
If Ladia and I hadn’t connected, each of us would have most definitely run the majority of the Boston Marathon completely alone. Instead, we worked together as our individual goals merged to one: have fun and race tough. Together, we weaved to either side of the street to find the shortest tangent. Together, we grabbed water and offered it to the other. Together, we gave high fives to hundreds of people in Wellesley. Together, we just simply ran. Together, we made a memory that would last a lifetime. And in doing so, we formed a connection that felt like we’d shared hundreds of miles before this day.
The high fives at Wellesley were incredible. With Ladia on board, we didn’t even need to verbally acknowledge it; rather, our bodies naturally gravitated towards the energy force of cheering fans. We arranged ourselves in single file and put our hands out, welcoming what felt like an energy transfer from outrageously exuberant fans. I swear I made eye contact with at least 50 people as I slapped their hands, feeling emotionally moved that they took time out of their Monday - a work day - to cheer for me and tens of thousands of others. In the past, giving high fives would have completely embarrassed me…these were actions that I normally would scoff at, saying it "wastes your energy.” But, this was my first Boston, and it was totally worth it. And, I wasn’t embarrassed.
Part 3: Miles 15-Finish
I entered the most challenging sections of the course around mile 16 alongside Ladia and felt like a total rockstar. The third part of the course was probably the closest I’ll ever come to feeling like a Marvel superhero with special powers.
Ladia and I were together through one of the first small hills, but shortly thereafter, I realized she was no longer with me. My race was just getting started and with each uphill, I felt like I drew more and more energy from the crowd and the challenge of a climb. At this point, I started passing friends and teammates over the years. I urged each of them to come with me, hoping that I’d find a buddy to just roll with. It didn’t happen. I just kept smiling and charging ahead. While I checked my splits every mile in the first two parts of the race, at this point, there was no need. I didn’t need a machine to tell me I was having a good race; I could just feel it. I also could feel the crowd, quite literally. I ran as close to the fence as I could when there wasn’t a tangent so that I could soak in the fans’ energy; I gathered strength from their encouragement and presence. I raised my hands up to get the crowd to erupt in cheers. I continued to smile, and people would say “Wow, she’s having FUN!” This was by far the most exhilarating part of the course.
One, two, three, four hills were over. Heartbreak was coming. In the miles leading up to this point, I decided to create a new frame of mind so that Heartbreak Hill wouldn’t be so demoralizing. The name itself, Heartbreak, insinuates that the hill will break your entire race, zapping so much energy from your legs that you don’t have anything left to charge down the final descent in the last 5 miles. I decided I’d conquer that freaking hill just like I did in my own life, post-divorce, which was by far the biggest heartbreak I'd ever experienced. After the life I’d envisioned shattered into tiny pieces, along with my marriage, I made a choice to pick myself up and accept my new life storyline. And newfound happiness came. Just as I didn’t let that define me, Heartbreak Hiil was not going to define this race. Not today.
And, guess what? That little story I created helped me so much. I crested the hill, shook out my arms, and blasted the next five miles.
Around mile 23, the elite men passed me and another wave of energy transferred to me as the men sprinted past. I knew that, barring any disasters, at least two American men would break 2:10. I eventually caught up to Rachel and Dot, urging them to come with me. I yearned for Rachel to latch on so that we could finish together, maybe even hold hands, but Rachel told me later that I was out of her sight after a few minutes.
I stopped smiling as much after 24.5 miles. My legs were reaching their breaking point and I could tell the fatigue was beginning to set in. When I passed the 25 mile marker, I glanced at my overall time to see if I could break some time-barrier. I saw 2:33:xx and thought there was a small chance I could break 2:40 if I really hauled it in. But, that sounded like I was asking for too much out of what already felt like a pretty darn perfect race, so I opted to just keep the pace the same. As I rounded the turn to Boylston, the magic of Boston was in full effect, and the cheers were deafening. I ran through the finish line because, quite honestly, I didn’t really know where it was. I thanked all the volunteers. Gave high fives, hugs. I was escorted to the elite tent, and it still felt like a dream.
Eventually, as more of the women started pouring in to the tent, reality began to set in. Had I really just had FUN on those uphills? I’d surpassed all of my expectations for this race and was surrounded by all of my friends while doing it. How incredible! As always, there was a roller coaster of emotions in the tent, highs and lows as each of us began to process what we’d accomplished and how the results stacked up to our expectations coming in. It was special to share this moment in the tent with Rachel, Carly, Ladia, Lauren, Amanda, Veronica, Shal and Terry.
As always, I was so grateful to have Terry guide me through my first Boston. He’s arguably the most knowledgeable and insightful person about the course and has coached several of my friends to PR here. His emails prepared me so well for the hills and made me feel like they weren't this ominous section to be feared, but instead a mere obstacle to be conquered.
And, of course, the elation of all of those people who tracked me from near and far, who called or texted me after the race. I didn’t feel like it was just my success, it was a shared accomplishment with all of those who took time to support and encourage me. Those who believed in me, when maybe I didn’t believe in myself.
Overall, this was the most perfect marathon I could ask for, and then for it to happen at Boston mades it even more special. I need to be realistic though; the next time I do Boston, it will be very unlikely to have a similar result, and I will still need to find my composure when my legs turn wobbly. Just like I entered this race with respect for the course, I can’t let this single race make me forget about the course that can trick you into going out too fast, shred your quads and destroy your confidence.