After my bus arrived in Hopkinton, I realized an earlier start meant that I could ditch any additional food and just get going. Crossing the open starting line was much different than waiting for your wave in a corral. I felt all the emotions and couldn’t believe that this was actually happening! I quickly zoned in and reviewed my plan of attack:
- First 5k, “laughably slow”. The goal was to make the difference between the first mile and last significant.
- Miles 4-13, make it to 13 feeling fresh, thinking, “controlled aggression”.
- Miles 14-16, either bumping things up a bit or sitting pretty.
- Miles 16-21 the 4 Newton Hills, time to get the party started!! Effort level 7/8 out of 10. I was thankful my coach had outlined expectations for each of the 4 hills.
- Miles 21-26.2: run with heart.
I was thankful that there was a nice chill in the air at the start. The day ultimately turned into a warm one but proved to be nicer than training in the summer heat!
I managed to comply with the first 5k plan and I think it set me up for later success. Before long we approached the roaring crowds in Natick center. The amount of energy from the crowds there was unreal and it was fun to see my cousin! I generally followed the race plan for the next bucket of miles but turned up the speed a bit when I approached the Wellesley College scream tunnel. Some runner next to me shouted “Some things never change” and I reflected on that happily for a bit.
My pockets were lined with 4 Honeystinger gels and I held a plastic baggie of two bags of Honeystinger chews combined. I went through the chews first, without any real rhyme or reason but knew I needed to get through the entire baggie (320 calories) within the first 1.5 hours. I am working towards 200 calories/hour!
After seeing my parents, Mark, and my friend Luke at mile 14, and Amber at mile 15, the course takes a sharp downhill before the first set of 4 Newton hills at mile 16. I was feeling GOOD at this point! I was carrying my Jaybird headphones until then. During a downhill, I found an opportunity to put my headphones in, and turned on the music lightly. From mile 16 through 21 (the hills), I blasted my favorite tunes to help distract me.
My mantra for the Newton hills was “forward is a pace”. I walked part of the second hill which was as coach Mary describes, “just annoying”. Even so, after cresting the 3rd hill I was mentally thinking/hoping it was heartbreak but it most certainly wasn’t. My effort was 8/10 but I kept chugging.
The last five or six miles of the race were a complete blur with some surprising small hills. I fed off the crowds but really it was all mental and just thinking, “one step in front of the other”, “I belong”, “every second counts in a BQ cutoff”, and “how many times have you run 4 miles…you got this”. One thing my coach wrote to me just before race day REALLY cycled through my thoughts throughout the race: “Might as well go for it, you know?!? You’ve worked WAY too hard not to.” The final miles were still a blur until I turned left from Hereford to Boylston with the finish line then visible. I will never forget running by my family at mile 26 and crossing the finish line feeling PROUD. Proud for my body and proud to have contributed to the MGH team.
I was grateful for being in Boston, thankful that the race was happening after a long pandemic, SO appreciative of the incredible support of donors to my fundraiser contributing to nearly $10,000 raised, grateful for my family, friends, and legs that could carry me this far. I’m still in shock at my finish time, one that I positive split by 32 seconds (this dream outcome has never happened!!). When I first ran a marathon in January 2011, I never knew what was possible. It took me 24 marathons to PR and I’m finally starting to believe that the world is my oyster.
Thank you for reading this far! I HOPE my time gets me in to Boston 2022 (BQ-6:44), but we won’t find out until after registration in mid-November. The good thing is my time qualifies me for 2023 and hopefully by then the cutoff times won’t be as severe as these pandemic years. If I don’t get into Boston next spring, I’ll find another marathon before I start training for NYC 2022. I just can’t get enough and am so thankful for the adventure that running has brought. Stay tuned for more training updates and race recaps to come!