Monday, April 16th 2012 is a day I shall always remember: the day I ran in the Boston Marathon. After qualifying on the Charlotte ThunderRoad course in December 2010, I finally got to toe the line at the “mother of all marathons” this past week. But oh, what a difference between running a hilly course in 36-degree weather and a down-hill dominant course in near 90-degree heat!
I had heard from my coach and other experienced runners that the Boston course was hard on the quads, especially during the first 10k, but I had no idea just how hard that would be, until I hit mile 8. It was about that time when I thought to myself, “so THIS is what they meant…. dang, this hurts!!” Compounding the cramping due to the gradient of the course was the unbearable 88-degree heat (and the loss of one of my eGels, i.e., electrolyte source, at the start of the race). In all honesty, I wondered if I would be able to continue to run the entire course. The only other time I had felt cramping like this was during my half-ironman, raced in similar weather conditions, but with only 13.1 miles to run, not 26.2!
All around me well-conditioned runners were walking, stopping, stretching, and at times collapsing at med tents from cramps and dehydration. Over 2000 runners this day failed to finish the race because of the abnormally high temps. I wanted to walk, but was afraid if I did, I might never be able to pick up the pace again. So I just kept running. Not a Forest Gump full-steam-ahead run, but one that distinguished my pace from that of a tired shuffle.
Once I hit the hilly portion of the course, I was feeling a little better. I’m used to inclines so this was a nice break from the quads and provided more focus to the hamis; however the hills were short-lived and always were accompanied by yet another decline. I kept churning. I passed a man who was juggling the entire time he was running, two blind runners, a guy in a wheelchair (amazing!), and lots of girls in cute lululemon outfits. Mantras kept streaming through my head: Keep going…one foot in front of the other…quitting is not an option…you can do it!
The mile markers came and went fairly quickly, I saw my sister cheering me on twice along the course, the crowd support was unlike any other race with non-stop shouts of encouragement, my mind was alert and I had energy… I just could not get the message to my legs, “stop cramping and start moving faster!” It wasn’t until marker 25.2 when I felt my legs give a little and allow me to lengthen my stride towards the finish line. I made up a few seconds on that stretch to help me cross the finish line at 3:58:27… and the Garmin showed I ran a full extra half-mile from all the weaving back and forth along the course to grab water and ice and run through water tunnels, spray hoses, open fire hydrants, squirt guns… just about anything put out along the way to cool the runners down.
Once I crossed the famous blue and yellow finish line, a little delirium passed over me for a few minutes. I just ran in one of the most infamous marathons, made just a little more famous this year due to the weather. And I didn’t do half-bad. Certainly not a PR, but considering elites were 10-15 minutes slower than their goal time, being 18 minutes behind mine wasn’t enough to pull my spirits down. I called my mom not long after my race ended and she asked me the inevitable question, “Would you run this again?” I had to chuckle and tell her to wait and ask me once the pain subsided. Now that my legs are almost back to normal, 4 days after the event, the question still lingers in the back of my mind… “Will I?” I guess we will just have to wait and see.