If you follow me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures, maybe read the news, or at least got a glimpse into the possibility of what happened Sunday morning when I set out to complete my third half marathon. But before we jump to the outcome, let’s back up a bit.
Saturday was Expo day and the weather was quite nice. Maybe a bit chilly at times, but the sun was out and the walk from South Station to the World Trade Center Boston was quite nice. It was just about a mile away so I decided to forgo the option of hopping a bus and just enjoy the walk. As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the best benefits of a great city like Boston.
I found my way the Expo, picked up my race bib, picked up my t-shirt and wandered around a bit checking out the companies that were there. I was particularly dawn to the B Positive Project and really toyed with the idea of buying one of their hoodies. Quite honestly, I still might.
I really wanted to spend the day walking the city but I also knew I couldn’t wear out my legs walking the day before I planned to run 13 miles, so I walked back to the T and made my walk back to my hotel. When I got back, I spent a few minutes laying out my gear for the morning and then curled up in the chair and spent the afternoon with a book.
I’m one of those people who gets really paranoid about how food will sit in my stomach, but particularly the night before a big race. I had packed some frozen plantain bread with me that I kept in the hotel fridge with an extra ice pack on top all week in hopes of keeping it frozen. There was a Whole Foods next door to my hotel so I picked up an avocado and spinach and asparagus from the salad bar and made myself a delicious veggie sandwich as my pre-race dinner. It was amazing!
I had a cab set to pick me up at 5:45 the next morning so I went to bed nice and early.
When my alarm went off the next morning, I went through my usual morning ritual, made some coffee and ate my breakfast before getting dressed. When the cab came, grabbed my stuff and left. Thankfully we hit little traffic and I arrived at the start line just a few minutes after 6.
I entered the Expo and heard announcers asking all athletes to get in place at the start line around 6:30. There were 12,000 of us between the half marathon and 5 mile run and we were all starting at 7am. I used the bathroom, dropped my stuff at bag check and put myself in place at the 10:00min/mile marker.
I’ll be honest, as we stood lining up, as the announcer was talking about WHY we were all there and as the bag pipes played, I found myself tearing up. I’m not sure if it was the part of me that knew what was coming, the part of me that is still in disbelief over the athlete that I’ve found within myself, or if it was the part of me that just felt the energy of being able to run this city.
The starting gun went off but as usual, it was a slow start. It took about 3 minutes for me to cross the starting line but even once we were going, it was a slooooow start. I found myself wanting and feeling the need to run faster and find my groove but there were too many people and I knew the only thing I could do was use this as the opportunity to start slow, get my body warmed up and my breathing in check. It took about 2 miles for me to feel like I could run without worrying that my legs, arms or feet would hit someone. There were still people all around me but there was just that tiny extra bit of space that I needed to find my pace and find my groove.
I had no agenda for this race. I just wanted to finish. Hoping to finish somewhere between the 2:12 of my first half and the 2:17 of my second, but honestly, not looking for anything but to have fun and enjoy the race.
I’m not sure at what point I realized a PR was within my grasp but I feel like it was within the first 5 or 6 miles. I knew at that point that I couldn’t get too excited, there were still many miles to go and anything was possible. Around mile 8, my hips started hurting. I honestly was not surprised knowing it had been a week since my last adjustment with plenty of travel, walking and stress since then. I told myself if I needed to slow down I could, but I wasn’t to stop, not unless I absolutely needed to.
I kept focusing on the mile at hand, at my breathing, my pace and my mantras. I kept telling myself I was running for those who couldn’t, I was strong and capable, that I can and would finish. When I hit mile 12 I couldn’t believe it. If the time on my Nike+ app was even close to being right, I was close to a PR. When I saw the posted time as I passed mile 12, I thought it might be close. And as I hit mile 13 and was in the final push towards the finish, I gave everything I had but I knew I didn’t actually have much left. I saw the time on the clock say 2:10 something and I knew I had just hit a PR. But in that moment I was exhausted and needed water – pronto.
The race only had cups of water and gatorade. I grabbed two cups of water and guzzled them right away. I crossed the aisle and grabbed some gatorade, knowing I needed the electrolytes. I was tired and honestly, felt a little light headed. I grabbed a banana and orange and ate the banana in about 2.5 seconds. I got my medal, got my bag, used the bathroom and put myself on the ground to stretch and sit for a few.
I needed more water though so I made my way up, found my way back to the gatorade (probably wasn’t supposed to do that but excuse me, I just ran 13 miles and I didn’t appear to be the only one trying to find more to drink!) I found where the results were posted and after fighting the crowds and doing my best to find my name, finally did. I saw my gun time of 2:10:42 and the official chip time of 2:07:40 – that’s 5 minutes off my PR. I quickly squirmed my way out the group and started texting my friends and family.
I made my way to 7/11, got a much needed coconut water and started the mile walk to catch the T and go back to my hotel. I walked into my hotel room and couldn’t even take a shower before I crashed on the bed. I was pooped. I guzzled more water and took a short nap before getting up, showering and finding something to eat.
I so badly wanted to walk the city and enjoy the beautiful, warm and sunny day in Boston but my hips were sore, my body was tired and I knew I needed rest, so I grabbed my book, picked up an iced coffee from the Starbucks attached the hotel and sat myself in the sun on the patio and ready for a good 2 hours. It was beautiful and was exactly the recovery that my body needed.
As I said, I didn’t plan or hope to PR. I hoped for a fun race running one of my favorite cities, which I got. The PR was just icing on the cake.
At the end of the day, I’m still seriously amazed at the athlete I’ve found within myself and my body’s ability to complete such feats. Part of me can’t believe I’m setting my sites on a full marathon, but before I think too much to that, I’m going to enjoy this moment and thank my body for all that it can do.