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Apr 18

My Boston Marathon

It’s April and people are talking about the Boston Marathon.  It shouldn’t be a big deal, except it is of course, because of those two imbeciles who tried to make a point at our race last year.  Luckily, one of them is dead and hopefully the other will be soon.  In the meantime?  Runners are running the marathon in droves and spectators will be out in record numbers I’m sure.  Was there ever any doubt this would happen in 2014?  Silly terrorists.  We’re runners.  You had no clue who you were messing with.

I can’t speak for those who are running this year or those who ran last year…hell, all I can speak about is the year I ran it – 2007. It was the 111th running and it almost didn’t happen.  That’s right.  In the 110 years up to that point, there was never a year when the weather threatened to actually shut down the race…until I qualified to run the damn thing.

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In case you don’t know, the Boston Marathon is the closest mere mortals will get to the Olympics.  It’s arguably the most prestigious marathon in the world.  The qualifying times are fierce and it takes some runners upwards of 10 marathons before they get that elusive “BQ” or Boston qualifier.  I’ll hold my comments on those who raise money to gain entrance.  I don’t think of myself as a running snob but, when it comes to the Boston Marathon, one could argue that I have a stick up my ass.

An article from Running Times from years ago put it perfectly:

Boston Marathon qualifiers don't get-2

No stranger to Boston (I went to Boston University, class of ’97) I was ecstatic when I qualified with a marathon time of 3:30 – ten minutes in the clear – in the Fall of 2006.  I was 32 years old, happily married without children and working full-time as the Fitness Director at a large local gym.  Life was good and I had plenty of time to run and train.

My family and I descended into Boston a few days before the marathon, did the expo thing and walked around the city (not too much of course) then went out for a huge pasta dinner in the North End.  I toasted them and told them how important it was to me that they were all there, and I would be thinking of them throughout the race!  Then, it started pouring.  It was a cold, hard, driving rain and it didn’t stop all day and night.  It was a friggin’ Nor’easter in April sans the snow.  I guess I should have been happy about that small detail but I wasn’t!

Throughout the night before the race, I heard the rattle of the flagpole as it banged and clanked against itself outside my hotel room window.  How could I sleep?  How was I going to run in this?  It was a bad, bad night.

I collected myself in the morning, choked down some carbs and proteins and got on the bus to Hopkinton.  As I rode the 26.2 miles out of Boston with the wind and rain hammering the windows of the bus, all I could think about was that I would be running all.the.way.back.  I had never felt like this about any other race.  Not good.

Don’t worry – it gets worse.  Once I got to the start line area, there was a simple tent set up with rain pouring down the sides at every angle and runners were packed underneath it like sardines!  The best part?  The port-o-potties were outside of the tent and, of course, where there are toliets and runners, there are lines.  I seriously felt like I was in a refugee camp awaiting certain death.  An hour before I could even start running, I was wet, cold and alone.  Most of all, I remember feeling very alone under that tent even though I was surrounded by runners. I know, poor me – wah!

Picture from an actual water station (figuratively and literally!) at the 2007 race.

Picture from an actual water station (figuratively and literally!) at the 2007 race.  Thank God for volunteers!

Once I finally got to the start line (which was a pretty good walk by the way) I was feeling better.  I think it had stopped raining slightly and was just really windy and freezing.  Perfect.

The race itself was like any other – fantastic/horrible/pretty good/horribly bad – you know, the usual head games that take place when you’re running for over three hours.

The highlight?  Seeing my family at Heartbreak Hill.  I still have visions of my dad whistling and running up the sidewalk beside me, with my stepmom yelling “You’re going to have a heart attack!” behind him.  It’s one of my greatest running memories and my dad and I talk about it every April.

Me and my dad at the finish of the Boston Marathon in 2007.  Best. Moment. Ever.

Me and my dad at the finish of the Boston Marathon in 2007. Best. Moment. Ever.

The next best thing?  Running to the finish down Boylston Street.  There is just nothing else like it.  I made a mental note to take it all in – the crowd, the finish banner, the buildings, the runners around me – when I want to give up in a race, I summon that image and it never fails to lift me up.

Sadly, I crossed that finish in 3:47 – one of my slowest marathon times.  I couldn’t wallow too much in self pity though because shortly after I crossed, I started shaking all over, like someone does when they’re hypothermic.  Not good.  Since there was no chance of finding my family at the finish (who had my dry clothes) I ducked into a medical tent and was given a dry shirt and warm chicken broth.  To this day, that was the best damn drink I’ve ever had in my life.  It tasted like pure heaven in a cup.

The glow from finishing that marathon still hasn’t worn off.  It’s one of my proudest accomplishments, regardless of my finishing time.  There just isn’t another race quite like it.

Me and my husband...after I had the chicken broth...at the finish.

Me and my husband…after I had the chicken broth…at the finish.

When I heard the news last year, about the bombings, I took it personally.  Running is a part of who I am.  Boston is a part of who I am, and the Boston Marathon belongs to me and anyone else who has ever run it.  Yes, even the “charity” runners.  Nothing anyone could ever do, could take that away.

On Monday, I will be cheering on a very close friend, who will no doubt have the race of her life there, for her second running of the Boston Marathon.  I will be watching on TV and routing for Shalane Flanagan to take home the win for the American women!  I will be showing my kids what courage looks like and someday, I’ll go back and run it again.

 

Have you run Boston?  Is it on your bucket list?

Have you ever been caught in the rain for a big event?

Thoughts on Boston this year? 

 

 

48 comments

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  1. Angela @ Happy Fit Mama

    Allie! You just had me tearing up. Stop it! I’m a sucker for a good running story and this is unbelievable. Well done girl! I’ve had a couple of opportunities to run Boston with a charity over the past few years. I promised myself that I would get a BQ FIRST before I ran with a charity.
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted…High Five FridayMy Profile

    1. vita88

      LOVE IT!!! Thanks so much Angela. I’m sure you will run it someday and will have your own amazing story to tell. I can’t wait.

  2. Janine Huldie

    I can’t even begin to stress how awful last year’s marathon was and those two imbeciles (you totally used the right name) seriously are thankfully getting what they deserve in the end, but still sounded like a crazy experience you had and I think as crazy as it was you were glad to be able to have done it. And cheering on your friend from here in NY next week, as well as know you will do this again, because if you say it, I believe you will make happen. Hugs, today Allie 🙂
    Janine Huldie recently posted…Investment Potential Of St AntonMy Profile

    1. vita88

      Thanks so much Janine! I will definitely run it again. I’m thinking the 10 year mark – 2017 – is my year!

  3. Tina Muir

    Wow! I had no idea it was almost cancelled, but that is crazy! I was out in the storm on Tuesday, and it was pretty scary….especially as I was 8 miles away from home! Sounds like it was quite the adventure, and gives you a great story to share with us all.

    I definitely have boston on my bucket list marathons, maybe even next year, this year I am checking off Chicago…..hoping to smash the 2:40 barrier 🙂
    Tina Muir recently posted…Black Bean Fudgy CookiesMy Profile

    1. vita88

      Chicago is on MY bucket list! I’m sure you will crush it. I cannot even begin to imagine running that pace. You are my hero.

  4. The Dose of Reality

    Don’t worry, it gets worse….Bwahahahahahaha.
    I didn’t know/remember that this happened with the weather in 2007! WOW. I have nothing but respect for all of you who persevered and achieved this unbelievable goal. IMPRESSIVE!!
    I love, love, love the story of your dad running up beside you at Heartbreak Hill and your mom running behind him. Adorable and just a wonderful moment.
    Good luck to your friend who is running!! Whoo Hoo!!! –Lisa
    The Dose of Reality recently posted…Pinterest Nightmare #220: The Remember RingMy Profile

    1. vita88

      Thanks so much Lisa! It was a race for the record books for sure and just so many great memories – which is why I run.

  5. Laura @ Mommy Run Fast

    What a story!! That race sounds miserable, but I love that you still got to experience Boston and have some awesome memories. This was supposed to be the April I would run it- but I am pregnant instead. 🙂 Happy to be where I am and now I just have to requalify and get there another year!
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted…Fun for Friday: What I’m…My Profile

    1. vita88

      Those kids start messing with your life before they are even born!! I know you’re in a great place, and Boston will be there waiting for you.

  6. Kim

    I think it would be awesome to run at Boston (think my treadmill time will count from Monday? – it was well under qualifying for my age!!!).
    I loved reading your memories from your Boston Marathon!!! Do you plan to run it again?
    Kim recently posted…What Matters MostMy Profile

    1. vita88

      Absolutely – to both! I definitely want to run it again. I’m thinking 2017 (which would make 10 years since I first ran!) is my year. Maybe we can meet then?

  7. Kristina Walters @ Kris On Fitness

    Great recap of your Boston experience! I have to give you and everyone else that do that! I think I will just stick with half marathons for now. I’m not sure I would be up for that.
    Kristina Walters @ Kris On Fitness recently posted…Half Marathon Training Update – Week ThirteenMy Profile

    1. vita88

      You could do it Kris – if you WANTED to do it. That always has to come first. I’m sure you never thought you would run a half either and look at you now! 🙂

      1. Kristina Walters @ Kris On Fitness

        I somehow remember doing a post on the first step to accomplish your fitness goals is to really want it! Thanks for the reminder! 🙂
        Kristina Walters @ Kris On Fitness recently posted…Half Marathon Training Update – Week ThirteenMy Profile

        1. vita88

          That’s right! You already know and you’re doing it 🙂

  8. Michelle

    I haven’t run Boston. I doubt I ever will. I ran Minneapolis years and years ago…seems light years away now. My sister in law is running Boston this year and she was one of those people who wasn’t able to finish last year. It’s going to be an emotional year this year. Runners are resilient. Cool recap of your race!
    Michelle recently posted…How to use Facebook Interest Lists to Drive more Likes, Comments, and SharesMy Profile

    1. vita88

      Good luck to your SIL! I cannot even imagine being stopped at the 25 mile mark. So awful. I hope it wasn’t her first!?

  9. Becky @ RunFunDone

    It sounds like CIM 2 years ago! Do you remember that? It was crazy! I’d love to run Boston, but I can’t imagine ever being fast enough!
    Becky @ RunFunDone recently posted…Giveaway: Spartan Race! #SpartanUpMy Profile

    1. vita88

      Yes I do! One thing about races – you can’t control the weather!

  10. Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama

    This makes me so excited to run Boston next year! The first two times I qualified, I couldn’t go because I was happily pregnant each time. I cannot wait to line up next year!!
    Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama recently posted…We Are Virginia TechMy Profile

    1. vita88

      I so wish I could train to run a marathon in the fall and try to qualify for 2015! Alas, I will have to wait at least one more year. You will be amazing for sure and I can’t wait to follow you in your journey!

  11. Tamara

    I have chills, Allie! You are a superhero, no matter how uncomfortable it may have been. And how hard.
    I understand taking it personally. I’ll never be un-sickened by what happened last year, but true courage is out there.
    I will be following along in spirit with every single runner – from the first to the last.
    Tamara recently posted…Open During Renovations.My Profile

    1. vita88

      YAY!!! I love that. I will be watching and cheering and crying for sure.

  12. Jen@milesandblessings

    The picture of you and your dad brought tears to my eyes!!! It is such an amazing picture and that race sounds awesome and horrible (only a race and childbirth can be both extremes!!!!)
    That is an amazing time with such horrible conditions…I can’t imagine.
    I qualified for Boston this year at my Indy Monumental marathon with a 3:30 time…but I didn’t try to run it. I want to qualify again and better my marathon time…but I don’t know that I will ever run it. I do think it sounds epic and awesome….but I am not a fan of huge, major races where everything is a major project and there are so many people you can hardly move. I do think it is funny though…after my first marathon the BQ became my goal even though I had no intentions of actually running it if I qualified :).
    I can’t wait for this years Boston!
    Jen@milesandblessings recently posted…The Cherry BlossomsMy Profile

    1. vita88

      So awesome that you qualified! Congratulations. That is a HUGE accomplishment. I can completely understand not wanting to run big races. They are expensive and can definitely be a hassle getting to the start line, finishing and finding your family, etc. BUT – you can’t beat the crowds and their motivation 🙂

  13. Nellie @ Brooklyn Active Mama

    Oh man Allie, what a great story. I had no idea the conditions were that terrible in 2007! I mean wow. I can’t imaging the thoughts you ha while TRYING to get a good nights sleep before the race. The memory of your dad running next to me made me choke up. You really pushed through and made it happen. I would have been crazy miserable waiting in that port o potty line. This year is special, my heart is boston strong.
    Nellie @ Brooklyn Active Mama recently posted…I Am So Happy Spring Break Is Over!My Profile

    1. vita88

      My mind was racing faster then my legs ever have the night before! It was awful.
      I love that you said “my heart is Boston Strong!” YES!!!

  14. Katie @ Pick Any Two

    Like Angela, I’m a sucker for a good running story, and this is a great one. I had no idea the weather was this terrible in 2007! You are a hero, as is every single person who runs the Boston Marathon. And you’re right, the terrorists had no idea who they were messing with!
    Katie @ Pick Any Two recently posted…Do It For the Girls: Sign the Truth in Advertising PetitionMy Profile

    1. vita88

      Thank you so much! I truly appreciate it. Everyone who runs this year will be sure to have an extra spring in their step. I cannot wait to watch and cheer!

  15. Britt@MyOwnBalance

    I’m excited for the marathon this year. I too, hope Shalane wins! I can’t wait to see how Boston responds on Monday after last year. It’s one of the things I love best about my hometown.

    On a totally different note, what did you think when the race organizers cancelled the NYC Marathon after Sandy? I remember there being so much uproar about it and I wonder what you thought since you bring up canceling races.
    Britt@MyOwnBalance recently posted…Friday’s Food & Fitness: Snack Attack Plus a HelpoutMy Profile

    1. vita88

      Wouldn’t it just be the perfect ending to the story if Shalane were to win? As for Sandy and canceling the NYC Marathon – it was absolutely the right call but they handled it terribly! It should have been called off way earlier with an alternate plan to have the runners volunteer in some way. Sometimes runners don’t understand how unimportant running and racing is when something like that happens. It should have been a no-brainer, in my opinion.

  16. Kevin

    Great story Allie. Nothing compares to seeing family and friends out on the course to give you some needed strength and motivation. A friend of mine ran Boston in 2007. He said the wind was blowing so hard that is all he could hear as it whipped past his ears.

    The qualifier for my first Boston was the 2005 Hartford Marathon. Ten minutes before the race it was a complete downpour. The PA system was crackling for the announcements, and everyone was soaked to the bone for the start.

    I ran Boston in 2006 and 2011. I’m running it again on Monday and excited to be a part of what is sure to be an incredible event, and an emotional day in Boston.

    1. vita88

      OMG Kevin – I ran Hartford in 2005 for my very first marathon!!! I swear I have terrible luck when it comes to weather for marathons. That race was brutal.
      I cannot wait to read your update about Boston on Monday. I know you’re going to kill it!!! Enjoy the race as it’s sure to be quite an event.

  17. Denise Pantason

    Allie- OMG! I will never forget that day. I felt so bad for you having to run in those conditions. They may not be the memories you were hoping for but you have a good story to tell in hindsight. My last Boston was not as bad as yours but it wasn’t my best day either. SO, I am hoping this year will be memorable on so many levels. I will be there to represent us, the runners. We never give up, we pick ourselves up and go back out there and keep on going!!!

    1. vita88

      That’s right Denise!!!! We couldn’t pick a better representative then YOU. I know you will make all of us proud and I cannot wait to hear all the stories you have after the race. Just go out there and ENJOY every mile – especially the .2 🙂

  18. Stephanie

    I seriously have tears: your dad, the weather and of course laughed at “don’t worry – it gets worse” this is an amazing story. I’m glad chicken broth ended what was already making me very uneasy. I’ve never paid a ton of attention to marathons until, of course, last year. Imbeciles for sure. Your passion here is so inspiring though, you almost make me want to consider thinking about competing. haha Seriously, your passion is way more powerful than that, I loved this.
    Stephanie recently posted…In the Hot SeatMy Profile

    1. vita88

      Thank you so much Stephanie! That really means so much to me. All I can say is that, if you want anything badly enough, you can achieve it. If you ever decided to run Boston (or any marathon) I will help in any way I can!!

  19. Shannon

    I love the picture of your Dad and you! Great story and I hear so many experiences about Boston that make it epic…every runner has such stories of strength and dedication-amazing. This year will be so touching! Great story and come on, when do you ever think about giving up running?

    1. vita88

      Never. The day I stop running is the day I die. Thanks Shannon!!

  20. AmyC

    What a day!! I’ll be happily cheering on the runners as I do every year 🙂
    AmyC recently posted…Fitness Friday: Stay StrongMy Profile

    1. vita88

      That is great! Happy cheering 🙂

  21. Karen - Fit in France

    What a great post ! I ran my first (and last !) 20 K in pouring rain and wind. It was awful. Waiting for an hour in that weather for the race to start, then running 2 hours in those conditions… it was awful. It took me a very long time to recover, the cold weather really did my joints in. So I feel for you and know what an accomplishment that must of been. Thanks for sharing !
    Karen – Fit in France recently posted…First day of staycationMy Profile

    1. vita88

      Oh I’m so sorry that you can understand what I went though! It definitely makes for a good story but, while you’re in it, it’s a nightmare!! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  22. Karen

    Loved your post! I did run Boston back in 2006 with a qualifying time of 3:46. I can’t wait myself to go back and run it again. My last BQ was in 2009 buit it was also the year I was married for the first time at age 46:-). A very magical day but its been busy ever since. Husbands are a lot of work! Ha…but love being married. Last fall I missed qualifying by 2 minutes which turned out to be a blessing….not sure how I would have handled being present in the tradegy….I was bad enough watching it live. I can’t wait for tomorrow and I’m not even running it….just cheering like you for friends! Thanks again! Great post

    1. vita88

      Thanks so much Karen!
      YES, husbands are a lot of work. I always joke that I have triplets.
      I hope you get to run it again someday too. I’m sure you will if you put your mind to it.
      Cannot wait to watch and cheer tomorrow. It’s going to be the perfect day for a race!!

  23. Alison

    Thank you for sharing YOUR Boston story. xo
    Alison recently posted…20 Things I Believe InMy Profile

    1. vita88

      You’re welcome. It was truly unforgettable in so many ways. Thank you for reading 🙂

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