Boston Marathon

The Race Report

I’ve got some time to write a recap of the Boston Marathon. I’m suffering from some post-marathon insomnia. I am exhausted and sore, but sleep won’t come.

Here’s the recap of the day. Watch out. It could be a long entry. I’ll add pictures tomorrow.

Night before the marathon:

6:00 PM – The mission is to locate a grocery store and find breakfast foods for race day. My dad and I walk past volunteers as they set up the finish line for the marathon. The nervous butterflies in my stomach go crazy. What will tomorrow bring, I wonder.

9:00 PM – While setting my clothes aside for the next day, I tell my mom how nervous I am and she responds, “It’ll be over before you know it.” Nothing about running 26 miles feels like it’s going to be over quickly.

– Sleep fitfully –

Race Day

5:52 AM – Wake up before my alarm goes off. It’s race day! Oh God. What have I done?

6:00 AM– Breakfast is brown rice heated in the hotel microwave, sliced turkey and a cup of coffee. I dress in my race duds and apply liberal amounts of BodyGlide to my feet. I feel calm during the ritual of lubing up my feet and putting on my socks. It’s the runner’s version of applying war paint before heading out to battle.

6:50 AM– Sweatbag packed with snacks, clothes and other neccessites I walk with my dad to Boston Commons where buses will take runners out to Hopkinton ( site of the starting line). I arrive at the Commons and see thousands of runners lined up, all shouldering the same red sweatbags, waiting patiently in the gray, overcast morning to board yellow school buses. My dad notices that it’s not a very exuberant crowd. I comment that it doesn’t look much different from herds of cattle being corraled or batches of people being shipped off to Auchwitz. I begin to feel like I’ve made a huge mistake.

I put on a temporary pace tattoo the morning of the race. Extremely helplful but now it won\'t come off

Marathon Pace Temporary Tattoo – Morning of the Race

Waiting with a few thousand of my new best friends…

7:00- 9:30 AM – Wait. The bus line is long and moves slowly. Finally I say goodbye to my dad, board the bus and take a seat next to a man from London. I learn his life story because the bus ride takes more than an hour. Hundreds of yellow school buses are backed up on the highway. Hydrated runners with full bladders beg their drivers to open their doors. The roadside becomes lined with men and women shamlessly peeing.

9:35 -10:10 AM– Arrive at Athlete’s Village in Hopkinton. The staging ground for the marathon. The place is a madhouse. There are thousands of runners, portapotties and a few hundred tents. Some runners have obviously done this before. They are listening to their iPods, reading the newspaper and sitting on tarps they’ve brought for the occassion. It really should be called Marathon Beach because of all the power lounging and liquid ingesting going on. I have time to eat a bit more, wait in line for the portapotties and apply more BodyGlide. The sun starts to peak out behind the clouds and I suspect it’s going to be a warm day.

10:10 AM– With the first wave runners already on their way, it’s time for the second wave runners to make their way the starting line. My sweatbag goes in a yellow school bus organized by bib # and I stop by the Adidas tent to make a sticker with my name on it. It’ll be much easier for people to yell “Go, Heather” rather than “Go, 15278!” No one likes being a number.

The start line is on the mainstreet of Hopkinton and about a mile from the staging area. I have to jog and dodge hundreds of people. The bib number is really important at this point. Runners receive bib numbers according to their qualifying time and are organized fastest to slowest. Wave Two includes runners from #14000 – #26000 and then further divided into corrals of 1000 runners. I’m in Wave Two and quite close to the starting line. Only the #1000 runners stand between me and the start line. I wish good luck to the women around me and feel elated. I’m running the Boston Marathon. The crowds at the starting line are impressive. I am thrilled to be here.

10:30 – Bang! It’s race time. I start my watch as I cross start line. “Oh, God. I’m really doing this, I’m really running the Boston Marathon.” A knot forms in my throat. I’m a bit emotional and overcome. Here I am, starting a race that I’ve been training for for the past four months. The feelings are intense. I am so proud to be there. I am so proud to be with such amazing, inspiring runners. I am so proud and happy to see so many people cheering us on.

Mile 1: It’s downhill from the startline. The crowds are impressive and there are many runners. I start out slow and try to feel out my piriformis, but all seems to be going well. I’ve only got 25.2 more of these to go I remind myself at the end of the first mile.

Mile 2: It’s mostly downhill and I run this mile too quickly. I feel good, but I’m nervous about the temperature, the sun and the hills. Run the first half conservatively, I’ve been told. You’ll need it after mile 17. It’s hard to run conservatively when you’re so elated and happy to be running. I make a point to slow down, but it’s hard to do. I feel great.

Mile 2-5: I don’t remember many of the details of each mile. I just remember being continually impressed by the size and enthusiasm of the crowds. I am not an elite runner. These people have already been here for an hour cheering on runners and it looks like they are going to be there until everyone has passed. Little kids stick out their hands for high-fives and people hold up encouraging signs. I stop to get water and eat my first GU around Mile 5. I’m feeling good, but that means nothing at at mile 5 of a marathon. There is still a lot of ground to cover.

Mile 7: It’s starting to get hot. I walk 30 seconds at every mile to get some fluids in me. I’ll need it later. The race course is beautiful. It’s sunny and warm. I think to myself as I cross the 7 mile marker there are only 10 more miles before I’ll see my parents who will be cheering me on at mile 17. 10 more miles ain’t so bad, right?

Mile 10: I hear lots of cheering coming from up ahead. It’s defeaning. I can’t see what it is. We round a corner and see Wellsley College. And we hear the Wellsley Girls. They are famous. They yell, they scream, they have banners and they are the best damn marathon spectators you’ve ever seen. “You GO Heather! You GO!” I hear constantly. I move to the right to slap hands with a few hundred of the girls. They scream, they yell. They go crazy. The crowds are 3 or 4 people deep on each side. I feel like a fuckin’ rock star.

Mile 12-I’m already at Mile 12! That’s almost half way there! I feel great. I check my pace and am happy to see I’m a minute below a 3:35 pace. Rar! Those Wellsley Girls put a fierceness in my stride and smile on my face.

Mile 13.1 – I’m half-way there. The crowds are huge. I am all thumbs-up and smiles as I cross the halfway mark and feel a huge sense of accomplishment. I just gotta bring it on home now, I think.

Somewhere along the way I pass some great signs and banners. One family with a house on the race course was having a picnic. They were on lawn chairs, eating hamburgers and watching the race. They even had “Free Hot Dogs” and “Free BBQ” signs out front. It smelled meaty.

Mile 14- 16- My legs feel slightly achy, but I feel strong otherwise. I keep my pace conseravtive on the downhill and maintain my speed. Only one more mile until I see my parents.

Mile 17- I see the banner before I see them. I feel a rush of gratitude and happiness for my super-supportive parents. I move to the left. My mom and dad spot me and they go crazy. I pump my fists. I yell “I love you!” I am re-energized and I’m ready to go. I am great! Nine more miles.

Mile 17.5-Start of the Newton Hills. Everyone makes such a big deal about Heartbreak Hill, but the Newton Hills are so much worse. They are quadricep killers. The steep descents tax already fatigued muscles and I saw my error in training right away. I spent so much time training to get up the hills, but none on how to race and power down a hill. My legs just didn’t have the muscle to keep up.

Mile 18- I am starting to bottom out- but it’s not severe. Just keep chugging. The uphills go by quickly but as soon as I crest and coast down the descent, my legs start to scream. This is not going to be comfortable, I think.

Mile 19- It’s all about finishing. The hills continue. Those stupid Newton Hills. I hate you.

Mile 20-Oh God. It burns. I take a GU and resolve not to stop until Mile 22. No walking. No breaks. Git’er Done.

Mile 21- Longest mile of my life. I hurt. It hurts. I do not want to continue. We go up what I think is just another Newton Hill and then hear some crowds yell “It’s all downhill from here.” I start to wonder if I’ve just passed Heartbreak Hill. Finally, I ask a runner next to me “Was that Heartbreak Hill?” She shoots me a surprised look and says, “Yeah, it’s all downhill from here.” I am overcome. I am thrilled. Then we start to go downhill again. The crowd cheers. My legs yell.

Mile 22- I get past mile 22 and decide I never ever ever want to run again. Ever. This is my wall. My legs feel broken. Everything hurts. I just want to stop. The crowds are even bigger than before. I move to the side of the road to drink some water and the crowds start yelling “You’ve got it, You’re almost there! C’mon!!!” I start repeating “You can do it, You can do it” incessantly. Capacity to think much else is almost gone.

Mile 23- This will never end. Three miles stretch out like an eternity. I will never get there, I think. Forget Mile 21, this is the longest mile of my life. I try not to think negative thoughts and continue to repeat, YOU CAN DO IT. YOU CAN DO IT.

Mile 24- At this point I am all about getting to Mile 25. My parents will be there to cheer. I don’t think about anything else. I hate everything. I hate life. And I hate running most of all. Everytime I think about slowing down, the spectators seem to read my thoughts and my face, and as I start to slow to walk all of a sudden it seems like hundreds of people are yelling at me. “Heather! Don’t quit now. You can do it!’ Keep going.” ….. OK OK, I’ll go, just don’t yell at me, I think. Those Bostonian marathon supporters, they have special gifts.

Mile 25- I see my parents sign again. Oh, it hurts. I give a feeble Rock On sign to my parents and move forward. It’s the equivilent of only a few more laps around the track but it seems horribly far. You can do it. You can do it. You can do it. You can do it.

It seems to take an eternity to get from Mile 25 to the finish line. As I approach Bolyston street and the finish line, the enerrgy of the crowd overtakes me. I am so going to finish this marathon. I check my watch. OH GOD! I’m going to make it!

I speed down Bolyston with everything I have left. I have eyes only for the finish line. I run and run and run and run and run. It seems like the sign is moving farther away. I Run and run and run and run. And then all of a sudden I’m done. It’s finished!

I finished!

I cross the finish line. And immediately start sobbing. My legs which felt awful before feel a new type of awful as soon as I stop running.

This seems to happen in every marathon. The pain mixed with the pride and happiness of finishing get me crying. I sob. I gasp for breath, my legs shake. I have given everything I have in me. I am spent.

Finishing time: 3:37:40

New Personal Record by 50 seconds.

Check out that salt!


About heatherdaniel

I'm a runner, writer, eater and traveler.
This entry was posted in Boston Marathon, breakfast, energy gel, hitting the wall, life, marathon, news, paleo diet, race report, running. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Boston Marathon

  1. marieclaude says:

    Congratulations, you did GREAT! I think GREAT doesn’t even begin to describe how you did though!

    I enjoyed every single line of your report, and you brought tears to my eyes. I’m really proud of you and you’re such an inspiration!!!

  2. Justin says:

    Heather that is fantastic! Great time, great work! I loved your mile by mile recap. I felt like I was back in Hopkinton (A little scary this morning as hobble down steps). A new PR in Boston is something to be proud of.

  3. Scott says:

    Congrats on surviving to a PR, on a tough course. Your write-up really captures how brutal the last six miles can be — major props for keeping your speed up through it all. I’d like to give Boston a try sometime… (all I need to do is take an hour off my PR to qualify… easy, right?)

  4. amy says:

    Wow – congratulations on your race! What a wonderful race report! I could feel the “all” you put into the race. I can relate to the point where you “hate everything.” Thanks for sharing your story!!!

  5. Tom says:

    Yours is by far the best race report I’ve ever read. I’m so impressed with your courage in the late stages.

    In the future, I’m going to point other runners to your post to read a great race report, particularly about Boston.

    I’ll think of your words the next time I feel that way in the later stages of a race.

    And your time is amazing! You should be so proud of your accomplishment.

  6. Not that Nat says:

    Oh I love this race report… I feel like I was there! (I snuck over from Runners Lounge.)


  7. ShoreTurtle says:

    Congratulations on a great race. Your recap was wonderful. I’m definitely impressed with your race. I’m also impressed that you were able to process your experience and write such an eloquent race report the next day.

  8. Tri+umph says:

    Great job, Heather! You rocked it!

  9. Kent says:

    Simply impressive run! You ran a great race, and your recap made me live vicariously your run. That was so my reaction to my last marathon. I needed that inspiration for my race tomorrow. Thank you!

  10. Andrea Hill says:

    Great race report! That reminds me, I still need to write mine for this year… I always consider Athlete’s Village “a music concert, without the beer”. Hey, where did you get that temporary pace band tattoo, that’s great! (Although I’ve been known to get frustrated and throw my pace band away at times, and clawing my arm off may be a bad idea)


  11. Laura says:

    What an amazing report! I got a little teary reading it. Definitely very inspiring, and I hope one day to run Boston as well 🙂

  12. MissAllycat says:

    You are a TOTAL ROCK STAR! What a great race recap. You are in inspiration!

  13. Radell says:

    Great job Heather, and great writing as well. Our group from LA really enjoyed having dinner with you and your parents.

    Boston is indeed Mecca isn’t it?

  14. Zia says:

    I know you published this report a few years ago, but I’m training for my first marathon right now, and reading this makes want to run so much more. I can’t wait to experience everything you wrote about … even the pain haha

  15. Rachel says:

    I stumbled on your blog looking for a tattoo pace chart…I am training for my first marathon and your story is wonderful! I am in the “just want to finish” coral right now, and you totally inspired me. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  16. andrea says:

    i have to tell u…i cried reading this…this article should be in runner’s worlds….unbelievable….i plan on running boston 2011!!

  17. Jill says:

    This is fantastic! My sister’s friend Andie sent it to me to read because we plan on running Boston together next year. I ran San Diego’s Rock and Roll marathon in June of 2005 (much slower than you, but I did it nonetheless) and can relate to many of your comments; some of them made me laugh out loud because I knew EXACTLY what you meant. Other times I was almost brought to tears as you remind me of the pride I felt as I crossed that finish line (I ran in memory of my brother who passed away at 17 from cancer which made the finish and the accomplishment that much sweeter). I have to admit that I am TERRIFIED of Boston, of any marathon for that matter because like you, I felt great until mile 21 and didnt feel good again until I saw the finish line. But its also a nice reminder that I did it once and I survived….and I will again. 🙂 Thanks for sharing and CONGRATULATIONS!!!

  18. Pingback: Training for the Downhills? | Eat Run & Be Merry

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