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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ohhh Boston

I have never been registered for a marathon in which I received not one, but three emails urging me NOT to run.  I guess there is a first time for everything.  My first Boston Marathon, the first time it would be near 90 degrees on race day, the first time I received emails urging me to sit out the race, and the first time that the Boston Athletic Association was allowing, actually urging people to defer their Boston Marathon race experience until 2013.

A weather advisory email landed in my inbox Friday, Saturday and Sunday prior to the Marathon. The first  mentioning that if a cold front didn't come though we would be seeing temperatures in the low 80s.  The second urging those who were not "highly fit"or had only trained in a cooler climate to NOT run the race.  The third warned that this year's race would take place in the "red zone" acceptable only for high-level elite athletes. If a person decided to run the race, the B.A.A advised a much slower pace- adding a few minutes per mile to your time- and walking.  Warning signs of heat illness were highlighted: headache, dizziness, confusion, fatigue, nausea, vomiting. Anyone experiencing any of theses signs was told to stop immediately and see medical attention. The Boston Athletic Association was not taking any chances. Their words swirled in my brain
  •  you should adopt the attitude that THIS IS NOT A RACE. It is an experience.
..isn't it always an experience? I had already decided that I was NOT aiming to make any land speed records at this race- just cross the finish line.  Walking or crawling, I was going to get there.

The morning trek to Boston Commons to catch the bus was actually a bit chilly.  Hmm, maybe things would be cooler than anticipated.  The 45 minute drive to Hopkinton gave everyone plenty of time to discuss race plans, prior race experiences, eat some snacks, listen to music, zone out or even nap.  We departed the busses in still cool temperatures making our way down to runner's village where we would wait.

As we waited, the temperatures slowly crept higher.  The warmth felt good, but I knew that standing in the sun would only raise my core temperature and make it more of a challenge to stay 'cool' during the race.  We headed to the shade. What I had anticipated to be a long wait at runner's village went faster than I could imagine.  No sooner were we in the shade when it was time to begin the journey to the start line.  The 3/4 mile walk was topped off with a bit of a run to the starting coral. Standing in the coral, I could feel the energy around me. We were all ready to go, regardless of what Mother Nature had planned.

The first few miles were amazing- all downhill and some the shade AND I was running with Leigh Armstrong West. An incredibly talented athlete and all around wonderful person. We lost each other near one of the first water stops- the crowd was huge and everyone was heeding the warnings to stay hydrated.  Lost in the shuffle I was on my own.  Just me, my thoughts and the sun. Generally speaking that is how it goes.  This race was a bit different.  I had run New York and was expecting large crowds like we had there, but what I experienced was something completely different.

The spectators were prepared for us- not just with their encouraging and amusing signs and cheers, but with their hearts.  They were out there WITH us. Adults and children and everyone in between were lining the streets offering everything from oranges, bananas, ice pops, ice cold wet paper towels, ice, water, hoses to spray us with, squirt guns. Anything and everything they could find or think of to help us make it safely to Boston. One group must have grabbed everything in their kitchen- they had cut up sponges and towels and soaked them in ice water. When I stopped to grab one, they handed me a potholder. I laughed to myself for a split second.  The humor in the situation was fleeting as I was overcome with thanks for their efforts.  I could imagine them at home "Just grab everything you can find, they will need it!" I cooled my face and my neck and handed my potholder back "Thank you SOOOO much" I said with a smile.

 Looking around it dawned on me that I had never run a race where it looked as though everyone had just crawled out of the water.  We were soaked.  You could hear water squishing in people's shoes. I ran through every sprinkler and hose I could but somehow it never seemed like enough. The cool reprieve lasted only for a few short minutes and then the heat returned.  I had goose bumps- my body's feeble attempt to cool me off. I started to get a slight headache.  Weird, I thought, that never happens.  I couldn't decide if I had to go to the bathroom or if I needed to throw up. I coughed and my abdominals cramped. No fun.  I was walking at this point and was trying to keep moving while stretching them out.  I kept thinking to myself: "please don't let anyone see me". I knew that if they did chances were pretty high that they would make me stop until the cramps subsided. After managing to avert that I attempted to start running again. Then the rest of the cramps started. Right calf, left adductor, left calf and then both hamstrings.  I probably looked like I was trying to do some kind of dance.  Gingerly I placed one foot in front of the other and slowly the cramps subsided.  I have no idea where I was in the race, the miles seemed to take forever to pass.  Walk, run, walk, run.  Just keep moving forward.

Somewhere in the last few miles of the course I came up on 2 young boys- maybe 6 or 7 years old.  Each of them had a gallon jug of water that they were offering up.  Just standing there with their little arm outstretched waiting to help.  I ran over and stopped in front of one of them.  He lifted his gallon a bit higher and just dumped it on me.  I have NEVER been so thankful as I was at that moment for little boys and ice cold water.  There is no doubt in my mind, I would NOT have made it to the finish line without him.  I wish I could find that little boy and tell him just how much that helped.  Because of him and his gallon of water I was able to run the last few miles and accomplish my goal- crossing the finish line.

My memories of The Boston Marathon are not of Heartbreak Hill, but more of the heart of the spectators.  When they say Boston is all in..they mean it! 


  1. We knew you could do it, Michelle, and with the hearts (and water) of Boston, you did it! You reached your goal, as you so often do. We are so proud of you.