I’ve literally just started typing and I’m already crying. Whew baby, this is going to be rough. I wanted to share a recap of my first marathon experience ASAP, while it’s still fresh.
The past 3 days have been … something I really don’t have words for. Starting on Saturday morning, Hadley & I went to the Boston Marathon expo to pick up our bibs. We were anxious but also super excited. We bopped around there for a little bit before grabbing some last minute goodies for Monday.
My family (Mom, Dad, Jess, cousin Cassidy, Aunt Katy & Uncle Mike) arrived Saturday afternoon. We spent the evening walking around the North End and having a huge pasta dinner. The rest of my family (Aunt Karen & Uncle Tom, cousin Matthew, Jordan’s parents) arrived on Sunday and we all enjoyed Easter brunch together. Afterwards, we walked down to the finish line and showed them where everyone would stand to see me the next day (!!!!).
I went for a little shake-out run Sunday night, gave myself somewhat of a pep talk, had some pasta and veggies for dinner and got in bed pretty early. I slept pretty good that night and woke up at 6am Monday morning READY TO GO. Jordan played the Rocky soundtrack as soon as I woke him up. He’s a ding dong.
After some coffee, breakfast and a round of pictures, Jordan dropped Hadley and I off in the Boston Commons to catch a bus that would take us 45 minutes out of the city to the starting line in Hopkinton. Everyone warned us about a lot of waiting around, so I came prepared with more coffee and a CLIFF bar. I ran into Arianna, one of my Tenacity teammates and 18-miler training partner. She informed me that the two times I ran the last 5ish miles of the course, I was actually on the wrong route (is anyone surprised?) which made me SO happy because there’s a certain hill (not Heartbreak Hill) during that stretch that always makes me want to cry. Best news ever.
We actually probably only waited about 40 minutes (which felt like 2 minutes) before getting on the bus. I started crying before we left the city, of course. We were beyond excited at this point and doing our best to just take it all in. There was a man siting diagonal from us, who had to have been AT LEAST 80 years old. He said this was his 83rd marathon and his tenth Boston. Hello, inspiration. He also said Boston was by far the toughest course. He meant well, but I was suddenly semi-terrified.
We arrived at the Athletes Village in Hopkinton, right around 10:00am. Our start time was slated for 10:15. I met up with a good chunk of my Tenacity teammates for pictures, shake outs and words of encouragement. Before we knew it, we were getting told to start walking towards the starting line. Again, this felt like two seconds.
We were feeling GOOD. Hydrated, fed, caffeinated (keep this part in mind for later), ready to go. We both could not stop smiling and it felt so cool to be surrounded by thousands of other runners. The crowd cheering at the starting line and even the walk to the that point, was in full effect. Everything seemed to be in our favor – it was warm, but not too warm, we were ready.
And then we were off. I started my watch, we took off and it was go time.
Let me break the next 26.2 miles down like this:
Mile 1-3: We started at a steady, slower than normal pace. This was our goal, to not start too fast. We wanted to get our legs moving, get in our groove and not waste energy weaving in and out of people. We stayed consistent here, treated it as a warm-up and knew we’d have time later on to really push.
Mile 4-6: We got faster here. The road started to open up, there was more room to get settled next to each other and just run. It was starting to get warmer but still, not unbearable. We started grabbing water and eating our energy gummies at the 1-hour mark.
Mile 7-10: Still feeling pretty good, the sun seemed to amplify by 10. At least for me. I started pouring water on my neck at the water stops and we were stopping at almost every mile marker for water. Still cruising pretty well.
Mile 10-12: Doing OK. Still running, still moving. Getting hotter. We passed the infamous Wellsly girls and as much as I wanted to love it/them, I started to not feel so hot. I felt like the sun was beating straight on me and my heart began beating really, really fast – this has never happened to me before.
Mile 13: Emily enters panic mode. I was DYING in the heat. I started to get nervous. My heart seemed to be beating a million miles a minute and I could NOT catch my breath, which of course made me more anxious. Here’s where I started to question my caffeine intake pre-race. I stopped to drink water, hoping that was all I needed, but the feelings returned as soon I started running again. I know she didn’t want to, but I begged Hadley to go on. I knew I was going to start really slowing down. It only took me 50 times of asking her, before she did it -see why she’s my best friend?!
Mile 14-18: Yikes. These were the battle miles. A lot of stopping for water, a lot of wondering if I could actually do this. I considered full-blown stopping too many times and the medical tents seemed to be calling my name. I could not get my heart to calm down, my heart rate was unmanageable and I still couldn’t really catch my breath. I had full blow chills.
At 18 I attempted to stop and call Jordan, to tell him that I was going to finish but that it wouldn’t be in the original time plan and that I was OK. I knew he would see that Hadley & I had split on the tracking app and would be freaked out (later I found out this was completely accurate). However, my phone (85% charged at the start) was dead.
In that moment, I told myself to just freaking finish. I was running my first marathon on perhaps the most challenging course in heat that was over 20 degrees more than what I trained it. It wasn’t going to be perfect, it wasn’t going to be pretty. I re-committed in that moment to finishing for my freaking self. I told myself no more unnecessary pushing, no more trying to make it something it doesn’t have to be. I decided to concentrate extra hard on the faces in the crowd and make eye contact with as many people as I could. If someone yelled my name? They got an air fist bump. I knew my friend Jenna would only be a few steps away, after 18 and if I just got to her, I would be fine.
Mile 18.5-20: Enter Jenna. An absolute godsend. She ran/walked with me for these miles, handing cups of Nuun along the way. She assured me that I was doing just fine and that everyone was really struggling – she actually had yet to hear from someone that they were feeling good. She reminded me to slow down and take deep breaths. I am so thankful for her for being there.
Mile 20: See Hadley’s family. I spotted Hadley’s BF Mike first and was so happy to see more people that I knew. After hugs and a good “KEEP GOING” I was back on my way for the last 6 miles.
Mile 20-23: Similar to 14-18, just trying to get through. The Boston College kids gave me some life, they were having the absolute best time. The crowd really started to deepen and I was getting more and more, “I SEE YOU EMILY, YOU GO GIRL, KEEP MOVING!” or “EMILY, YOU LOOK DAMN GOOD GIRL, THIS IS NOTHING FOR YOU, YOU EAT THESE MILES FOR BREAKFAST, GO! GO! GO!” I see my co-worker Ally and needed her hug. At the end of 23 I saw my favorite Becca from MyStryde, the tears started coming here as she told me to “Just keep going, it’s only 3 miles, you’ve GOT IT!”
Miles 24-25: A blur. I have no idea what happened or how I got through them but what a good testament to human spirt. Both my own and the crown. I told myself we were finishing and the crowd agreed. Right before I made the turn onto Hereford, a police officer joined me. I was struggling. She ran right up next to me and said “OKAY BABY, YOU’VE GOT THIS EMILY, WE ARE NOT STOPPING. WE’VE COME THIS FAR, KEEP IT MOVING, OKAY GIRL!”
Mile 25-26.2: Right on Hereford, left of Boylston. I will forever be thankful for those two turns and finally seeing the finish line. The final homestretch. My legs were numb at this point and I didn’t care. I was going to finish strong. I saw my amazing boss, Katelynn, as soon as I turned the corner and stopped to give her and our friend Mia the biggest hug.
As soon as I left them, I saw a random girl ahead jumping up and down and screaming her heart out, somehow on the other side of the security fence. My sister. I’ve never been so happy to see her and the rest of my family. I sprinted (well, it felt like it was a sprint) right to them. I was welcomed into a hug by Jess that I will remember for the rest of my life and then right to my Jordan for a kiss and a reminder that it wasn’t over yet. His smile will be forever engraved in my memory. I kissed my dad and squeezed my mom (who we all know was losing her mind) and then moved my butt to the finish.
Right before the finish I heard an EMILY and turned to consciously SEE that person, knowing it could potentially be the last time I ever hear my name screamed like that. Little did I know, it was Morgan, one of my co-workers (remember the bracelet she gave me!?) and ugh, I’m so glad it was her.
I’ve never been so effing happy to finish something and crossing that finish line was pure bliss. I watched my feet step on the finish line and then quickly off it, ready to walk and take some huge deep breaths. I had tears streaming down my face and as weird as it sounds, I loved that it was just me in that moment. That was my race, in my way. My Boston Marathon.
The rest of the day was a celebration, during which I felt fully energized (weird) and not too sore. It hit me at about 10:30pm and I’m not feeling so hot right now. BUT, it’s over. I did it.
The race did not go as planned. I’ll be the first to say that. But I actually can’t stop laughing and smiling thinking about it … because who the hell gets to plan how 26.2 miles of running is going to go and have it work out perfectly? It has to rare, if ever. I think this was a lesson I needed to learn, it had to be.
Looking back, 3 cups of coffee, an espresso shot and a caffeine tablet was way too much. No wonder my heart freaked out. When they say you have to account for adrenaline, you do – and I did not. There’s already so many things I would have done differently (the caffeine intake being the biggest) but that’s what next time is for. There will [likely] be a next time, just not this year. I’ve got another thing to focus on right now … and it’s called a wedding!
At the end of it all, I am more pleased with my sheer ability to re-strategize, re-focus and re-commit in the moment, when I realized the marathon wasn’t going to be what I thought. I am more pleased with the training and the hours spent running and spending time with my best friend over these past few months. I am absolutely BEYOND pleased with FINISHING and being able to say that I ran the Boston Marathon. I am beyond proud that I did not give up when the going got REAL tough and that I get to hold that feeling with me forever.
And forever it will be.