Boston – to a runner that single word can conjure up just about every emotion: hope, disappointment, excitement, fear, courage, misery, elation.
I just completed my first Boston Marathon. I wanted to take a moment to sit down (and not just because my legs are so sore I am not sure I can get up again) and pay tribute to those who make Boston such an amazing experience!
In alphabetical order, because I can’t possibly rank them by importance
- Boston Strong
- Random people you meet after the race
As we drove into Boston Friday night, we caught the weather forecast on the local radio station. (for non-runners – many runners are obsessed with the weather forecast for race day). They announced the forecast for Saturday, Sunday, and Marathon day. When we arrived downtown, our hotel had a runners information booth. When we walked down Boyleston to pick up our race kits, stores all along the street had signs and displays cheering on the runners. You couldn’t help but smile and feel welcome. Pretty amazing considering we are completely disrupting the city. I wish all marathon cities were so welcoming!
In 2013 two bombs were placed near the finish of the Boston marathon. Spectators and runners were killed and injured. The daffodil is a symbol of remembrance. Pots of daffodils can be found at store fronts everywhere. A blue and yellow ribbon of crochet daffodils is wrapped around the posts where the two bombs detonated. Every runner stops and pauses for a moment. The Boston marathon has actually become more popular since the bombing. Whenever I saw the phrase Boston Strong I thought of the day I was tracking my sister and several friends at the Boston Marathon and the hours following as we waited to find out if everyone was okay. Runners who were there, quietly retold stories. Some runners, volunteers and spectators never returned. There are actually more runners who try and register for Boston now than before the bombing. It’s as though running Boston is a small way for runners to pay tribute to those affected.
The Boston Marathon course has a lot of hills. Enough said!
You cannot run the Boston marathon without support from family. Family could be your spouse, kids, parents, siblings, cousin, or those friends who are like family. Whether they are with you in person on race day or not, family gets you there and family gets you through it! Calling to wish you good luck or to congratulate you when you finish. Listening to you talk incessantly about the race before and after. Giving you the time to pound the pavement during your training and the time to nap when you get home from that long run. Around the six mile mark I met a rummer carrying a carefully folded american flag. I asked her who it was for. She immediately rattled off four names. There are many types of family, and there are many ways to run with them.
I had my sister Judy on the course with me. Having my sister there to coach, mentor, and support me made the entire weekend easier and more special. My other sister Robin and her husband Paul stood on the roadside in the cold cheering and got me through that last 2 miles when I was struggling. My mom ran her first Boston at the age of 65. My dad qualified but never had a chance to run. His knees don’t allow him to run anymore, but I still love telling other runners about his rmarathon refuelling strategy : a beer every 6 miles! Add to that a spouse and two boys who don’t understand my urge to run marathons but still support me and you can can understand why I am smiling in this picture with my sister (and yes that is a sling, my sister broke her elbow the Sunday before Boston, and yes she did still run, very carefully, with her arm well paddde and protected, with a cell phone and cash in case she needed to bail, she finished! So a memorable year for both of us!)
My friends will probably be happy that Boston is over, because maybe now I will stop talking about it! I don’t know if other runners do this, but every time I run over one of the tracking pads which updates my results, I think of my friends who are tracking me online. Every friend who liked my Facebook post, posted to my wall, called, emailed, tweeted, or wished me luck in person helped me qualify, train and run that race! Thank you so much!
Most of us have a running partner or two who hold a special place in our hearts when we get to a big race like this! Not everyone is insane enough to run a marathon. Not everyone understands what drives you to drag yourself out to run four hours in cold rain and wind. When you have the chance to run a race like Boston and your training partner isn’t there with you, you still hear their voice cheering you on as you contemplate the next hill and wonder how long you can keep going. I look forward to the day I board the bus to Hopkington with my training partner! So keep up the physio Jersey! We need an updated race pic!
Random people you meet after the race
After you run Boston, you can wear “the” jacket. I bought my jacket Friday night so I could make sure I could get a jacket in my size. For two days it sat there in my room taunting me. I was at the race with K2J Fitness, my running group. To wear the jacket before I finished would be a major faux pas.
When you finally don the jacket (and once you finally put it on you don’t care it it’s blue & yellow or bright orange, pink or purple!) random strangers will congratulate you and even thank you for running the race! The lady at the toll booth on the freeway said congratulations. When I stopped to fill the tank in Vermont on the drive home, another driver walked over to ask if I had run, then congratulated me and gave me an actual pat on the back. Thank you complete strangers! Those little moments made my day! So don’t be shy, if you see someone wearing a race medal or jacket, if you think that race was an accomplishment tell them!
A speedo? really? There was a guy in the athlete’s village wearing nothing but a speedo. Wouldn’t that chafe? Not to mention it was cold, rainy, and windy!
If you train with a running group they are a big part of your support network. When you get injured, you need to talk to other runners who have been injured and recovered. Heck, after a while you start exchanging names of physiotherapists, and comparing stretches you’ve been assigned to treat your IT band. When the weather sucks, you need other runners to motivate you to get in your miles. When you skip a run, you need another runner to tell you, it’s okay to skip the occasional work out. I appreciated all the experienced Boston runners telling me about Boston races when they completely bonked. If ound it oddly comforting to discover runners I respect have had terrible runs in Boston. I can’t count how many people told me “Don’t expect to BQ on your first Boston” or “Don’t go out too fast!”. Your fellow runners get you to the start line.
At Boston, 60% of those running were first time Boston runners. We met each other on the buses, in the athlete’s village, in the start corral, on the course, after the race in our jackets, in the road side Liquor super store in New Hampshire where all the Canadians stop to pick up cheap booze on the drive home. I passed a runner with a red bib (which means he left in wave one well before I started in wave three). He had crutches and a walking cast! I met runners from Texas, Alaska, Quebec City, Vermont, Florida, Ottawa, Brazil, Korea. 30,000 runners registered for Boston (and I think they were all in line for the port-a-potty at the athlete’s village when I needed to go). There were runners walking, jogging, smiling, crying, stretching out cramped calves an dbacks, giving high fives to the crowd, waving their arms to get the crowds cheering, and sometimes just slogging along trying to drag themselves to the finish line. A shared day of ups and downs both emotinally and physically (did I mention the Boston course has a lot of hills?). I am proud to have my name listed with yours on the poster!
It was lousy weather on race day. It was cold, windy, and rainy. yet there were thousands and thousands of people out there cheering! Little kids offering orange slices, licorice, and high fives. The Wellesley college girls offering free kisses. People on their front lawns calling out ‘thank you for running’. When all I could think was thank you for standing outside to cheers us on. I was in the last corral of wave three. I left a solid hour after the first wave. There were fans out in that miserable weather for hours on end!
I put a sticker on my jacket with my name, so I heard many cries of “Go Susan” or chants of “Susan Susan Susan” which made me smile. I admit like many runners when I had to stop and walk those same cries can feel more like salt in a wound. I prefered the high fives and quieter encouragement when I had to stop and walk. But as you got closer to the finish the crowds got bigger and louder. I ran 26.2 miles to the sound of cowbells, bagpipes, drums, Elvis, rock bands, and so much cheering I assume that Boston must be sold out of throat lozenges today as everyone tries to treat their laryngitis. I think there should be a Boston spectator jacket you can purchase if you have cheered at Boston. When I think Boston Strong, it’s not just about the runners, it’s about the spectators too!
There were volunteers handing out race kits, setting up the course, setting up the athlete’s village, handing out water and gatorade, raking up empty cups at the water stops, directing us, cheering us, taking care of those who needed medical help, handing out our medals, and helping us into our capes to keep us from getting hypothermia when we crossed the finish. Some of those volunteers stood in the cold for hours shouting out ‘gatorade gatorade gatorade, water water water’ and yet they still found time to yell out ‘Go Susan’ as I snatched a cup from their hands. A canadian volunteer was handing out medals and called over some of my friends when she saw their maple leafs and was so excited to have the opportunity to place the medal over their heads. The volunteers do get their own Boston jackets and they are well earned. Another Boston Strong team!
Well I didn’t BQ at Boston, so I won’t be back next year. But I hope to return one day. Regardless this was a weekend to remember. I will happily regale anyone who is willing to listen with tales of Boston. Thank you once more to my amazing friends, fellow runners, my family, my kids, and my husband for all your support. I can honestly say I could NEVER have done this without you.