Boston Marathon

Monday April 20, 2015 – Race Day

I did not take any photos since I was running. These area few from the Boston Globe/Getty Images. Terrible weather, rain cold and windy.

Race day had finally arrived and I was feeling a lot more more nervous about running than I would normally feel before a marathon.  In addition to a head cold which was slowly getting worse as race day approached,  I almost  had a medical emergency the day after I arrived in Boston. I was on the train heading out to Concord, I was looking at the paddlers out on Charles River when all of a sudden  I  lost vision in both eyes. I was unable to focus my eyes, everything was blurry, left and right fields of view overlapped and spun around like a kaleidoscope.   I thought I may be suffering a stroke. I was aware that I was thinking clearly  and with eyes still closed I wriggled my feet, moved my arms…all OK, so probably not a stroke.  Each time I dared to opened my eyes, it was apparent that whatever it was,  was passing… My vision was slowly coming back into focus and eventually it passed completely.

 Later I reflected on how frightening this was, I was on my own, heading to a small town where I knew nobody and shit happens. I would really be relying on the kindness of strangers to get help. It has made me look at people around me wherever I am, with a whole new perspective. I still don’t know what caused this but Dr Google suggests a transient migraine.  I won’t know until I’ve seen a doctor back home.  I was frightened by this and for a little while I considered maybe not running on Monday.  But I figured if anything happens, the Boston Marathon course is the best place for it to happen, as help would be close by.
So I made a decision to put this in the back of my mind. And then the next day, Thursday I wake up with a head cold, razor blade throat and stuffy nose…Maybe Boston Marathon was just not meant to be this year. I nervously waited for race day to roll around, hoping that the the cold would not reach my chest before Marathon Monday.

There was also the lack of confidence that I was fit enough to actually do this. The common advice at time like this is to trust in the training. But what training?  I ran less than 550km in 12 weeks since my foot stress fracture in December.  I realised that having committed to Coastrek and Six Foot Track Marathon in early March has meant that I could not get the confidence building, solid long road runs done, when I should have been in peak marathon training. While I enjoyed both events enormously, I regretted doing them now, as I knew that Boston was my  main focus.

 Added to my physical health and preparedness worries, the weather for race day was predicted to be rainy, cold and a strong easterly wind…which meant that we would be running into the wind the whole way and that it would be getting stronger as we approached the city. Oh joy! Almost a repeat of my last race here in 2007, when the race was almost cancelled for the first time in its’ 119 year history.

I was being hosted by the Sydney Striders sister club in Boston. Being with them has really added to my experience. It was great not to have to spend hours sheltering from the rain and freezing wind in the athletes village on race day. I was toasty and warm in a club members house until 45 minutes to my start. I literally got off the bus, walked towards the athletes village, found a shelter and stood under it for about 10 minutes and it was time to line up in the corrals. I was starting in Wave 4 at 11:15am.

I was in the corral for about 15 minutes before the starters gun was fired.  A steady rain was falling, it was cold but the sound system was blasting out a Sheryl Crow song “Soaking up the sun”. Someone had a wicked sense of humour.  The gun went off and runners around me started tearing away. Its down hill for about 6km, I knew I did not want to get carried away here. I was warned…. if you think you are doing about the right pace here then slow down….you are going too fast.

So this is how my race unfolded… as soon as I started running messages started arriving at race central…..what? you want to run…but you have a cold, are you serious? You shouldn’t be doing this! I tuned that voice down a little when another message popped up…right ankle here …remember me.. Never did get fully sorted out, feeling stiff and creaky. Then left foot sent a message …nerves are pinching between the toes…what the?…where did this come from?  Thankfully the left hip and hamstring were sweet, the physio saw to that. I acknowledged all these messages while looking around at the lovely Hopkinton woods we were running through. Wonderful to see so many people out shouting and cheering in the rain. I checked my watch….. oops….. too fast, slow down. I had intended to stay on 5.45min/k pace all the way and then whatever it took for the hills.  Before the course started to flatten I noticed a tight pain in my chest…. gees that can’t be good. Dr Google warned about this if running with a cold. So I slowed down and my whole race became about slowing down to manage my heart-rate and hopefully staying out of the medical tent.. My heart-rate was spiking with any slightest undulation in the course and I had not even reached the 10k mark.  I had to stop myself from thinking too far ahead knowing that the hilliest part of the course is around 30k..So instead of projecting too far ahead I decided to pull myself right back into the present and get out of focusing on what was not working right – I was still running. I read a slogan a few days ago..It is about the finish line, not the finish time.  I was going to enjoy the present moment,  as long as it lasts.

Every time I passed an aid station the wonderful volunteers were smiling and shouting words of encouragement.  They were standing in this horrible wind and driving rain…what right do I have to feel miserable about my physical well being, when I am doing what I love and being enabled and cheered by all these people? From then on I made sure I smiled at as many people as I could make eye contact with, thanked the hundreds of volunteers, high fived the kids, doffed my cap to police officers and tried not to cry when I thought about the evil deed that was carried out here two years ago.   And so the race unfolded with 5k timing mats appearing before I knew it. I deliberately did not look at my race time, just heart-rate and pace.

 The rain and the wind did not let up. By the time I made it to Newton Fire station,  the first right turn in the race and the start of the hills, my legs were so stiff. The first hill was a killer, it felt never ending. I have little memory of the Newton hills from my previous time here in 2007, except that I reached the top of Heartbreak Hill before I even knew I was on the hills. This time I felt every step.  I put my head down and slogged away, knowing that all I had to do was keep moving, it would eventually end. And so it was…the runner next to me patted me on the back and said ‘You made it’!  Woo hooo….celebrations. Just another 10k and I am done.

After Hearbreak Hill my legs were toast… did not really feel like co-operating. I felt like I was standing still…my watch claimed I was running at 5.30m/k but that could not have been right. The crowds along the last 10k section were enormous, everyone was screaming out and if you acknowledge them they went wild. I was getting so emotional and teary, not the first time it had happened along the course. And it was fun  – even if my body did not think so. Two more turns, a right into Hereford Street and a left onto Boylston Street for the final run to the finish line. I so wanted to finish and stop running so the pain would end but at the same time I wanted time to slow down so I could savour the experience. And it does seem like you run on Boylston Street for a long time without the finish line getting any closer.  Eventually it draws near and you know you will cross it soon. Images of my mother dying while I held her hand  were racing through my mind as I crossed the finish line. She died only nine months ago and I miss her more than anything.  I had lit a candle for her a day before the marathon at the church just by the finish-line.  I burst into tears of sadness, joy, relief and happiness all mixed up. With my face in my hands, I was sobbing so much  I had trouble breathing,  I was gasping for air. Medical help came almost immediately… I managed to collect myself, draw breath and start moving to collect my medal.

If I had I finish line photo, this is what it would look like.

Mentally and physically this was the toughest race I have ever done.  I had to draw on reserves I did not know I had, in order to overcome the mental chatter, the pain and the discomfort I felt almost from the start.  It’s not how I imagined this race would  pan out for me when I entered way back in September last year, but it is – what it is. I did the best I could on the day and surprised myself. I personal best in so many ways…my race time of 4:07:55 placing 20,193/26,610 and 274/606 female in my age group.  My finishing place was 4,800 spots ahead of my qualifying ranking. So you might say I had a good run.

 All images from the race are Getty Images/Boston Globe