Saturday, May 3, 2014

Marathon Monday - We ran as one.

I've waiting to write this and probably shouldn't have because I have no idea where to start. April 15-April 21 are a bit of a blur.... I'm choosing to focus on the marathon for me because that was one of the most intense and nerve wracking days of my life. Different from running in 2011 and definitely different from last year. 

To be completely honest, I was the most excited than I've ever been for a race. The ceremonies from 4/15 and 4/18 were completed and I was trying to keep me emotions in check so I wasn't completed exhausted. 

We had a nice Easter Sunday, had brunch with some friends from Napoleon downtown, took a walk and then came home and relaxed. I soaked my feet and propped them up. I was feeling pretty healthy, little, if any aches. I was hoping that I was recovered from my last 20 miler only about 16 days earlier because my 7 miler 7 days out did not go so well. I had planned and laid out all of my gear and clothes the day before, attached my bib, packed my post race bag so I wasn't worried about anything. I went to make my pasta for dinner and as I was adding some cheese to it, in fact, after I added the cheese, I could tell that it was bad. Completely ruining my pasta dinner, I started over. I used the last of the pasta we had and made another pot. This time, when I was straining it, somehow I ended up slipping my hand and dumped all of the pasta down the drain. By this point, it was getting late, I didn't feel like walking to the grocery so I called Domino's. While I wasn't happy about it, I was tired, hungry and getting really nervous so it worked. 

Monday morning rolled around, I actually felt pretty rested when my alarm went off. We were all meeting at MIT that morning so I shared a cab with a colleague who was volunteering and lives by us. We all ate breakfast, chatted and coated up on sun screen. Around 8a we left for Hopkinton. Once we got there, I felt really relieved as my duties of managing the team transportation were over and the race was about to begin. I was able to meet up with Laura, a friend/neighbor that I had been doing a lot of my long runs with, with L Street Running Club. That was great. We and a few other MIT folks walked to the startling line together (.7 of a mile!!) and all of a sudden, our Boston Marathon was underway! We took off from Hopkinton around 11:30a. Immediately, we realized the race was going to be hot because it was already warm and we had just started. I had read before the race that the first 5 miles or so would feel a little weird and your legs need longer to warm up since you've been tapering. So, I wasn't too concerned when I felt like crap. Around mile 8, when I still felt heavy and slow, I began to worry a little. I told Laura that I felt like crap. I kept turning to her and say, "it's SO hot!". It really was and I knew that the first group of my friends weren't going to be until around mile 16. That was a long way. At around mile 10, I told Laura to go on ahead, that I was going to take my pace down a little bit. I knew then that I wasn't going to run a 4:45 and figured I might as well enjoy the run and stop and talk to friends when I saw them. It was also at about this point when I started asking spectators who won the marathon. I learned about Meb and Shalene. I was pumped for Meb and so sad for Shalene. I later would learn that she ruled the race until Newton, and that is pretty awesome. 

From that point, it was funny, because I kept passing or being passed by other MIT Teammates or L Street friends. It was great, it really helped me get through a tough part of the race. I knew once I got to Wellesley College (mile 13) that I would be much better mentally because I really knew that part of the course and actually looked forward to Newton and the hills. At mile 13, the Wellesley College scream tunnel was better than what I remembered. I was actually a little nervous because I got the chills. I couldn't tell if it was because I was getting dehydrated or just the sheer awesomeness of the moment. Turned out to be the latter thank goodness! Around mile 15, one of my teammates was stopped talking to her husband. I stopped to and he had some snacks which was great timing. I had a fig newton and was on my way. Around mile 16, I saw Cheryl and Kerri from MIT -- they were the first group of friends I was looking for, they had water and hugs. I needed both by that point. Right before I made the epic right hand turn onto Commonwealth, I saw a few of the older and wiser gentlemen from L Street. I made my way over, got some hugs and made the turn. The crowds were INSANE! The entire next 5 miles were packed going through Newton and actually stayed 3-deep or more pretty much the rest of the way to Boyleston. I did the hills like I planned, take the first part of each hill easy and try to take the last quarter a little faster so by the top I wasn't completely gassed. I was looking out for Jeremy and my friends at the bottom of heartbreak hill, but they were no where to be found! I was getting heated, I thought I missed them and then about half way up, I saw them screaming their faces off to the left of the course. I cut off about 10 other runners making my way over - I was SO happy to see them I didn't even notice (they told me later...) I think I said something like, "60 degrees my ass, it's at least 80 out here!" While I don't think it was quite that warm, it was much hotter than any of us expected. I went into a run/walk from around BC to the finish. Ironically, around mile 22, my friend Laura tapped me on the back. I was like, "WTF?" She had on a different hat and shirt so I was even more confused. We ran together for a mile or so, but I couldn't keep up. She went ahead and ended up finishing about 5 minutes ahead of me. I started to see a lot of people I knew from around 23 on so I was stopping quite a  bit. The "Go Steph" and "MIT" cheers were pretty heavy the entire course, but almost non-stop from BC on. At mile 24, our MIT Strong coach and supports were there so I stopped and told her how hot it was, she said she knew that but that I was doing great. I kept on and about mile 25, Tom Gearty, another organizer of the MIT team came up beside me. I was in shock. He was training to pace about 1 or more hours ahead of me. I knew something was wrong. He said that he'd been in a medical tent and basically hadn't been about to sweat at all. We decided then that we would finish together. It was just what I needed. We continued and saw the MIT Athletic Director at the top of the 90 overpass. We stopped there for a minute or two and then continued on through Kenmore, where the MIT students were volunteering at the water stops near their fraternity and sorority houses. We tried to keep the pace up through that area, but I needed one more stretch of walking. We made our way under Mass Ave and up the hill there. Then we decided to run the rest of the way to cross the finishline. We were going up Hereford and then took the left on Boyleston. The finishline looks SO far away! The crowds were still pretty heavy. This was the only point along the course that I really let myself think of last year. I lost it. I could barely keep breathing because of my sobs. It all hit me at once, especially running in front of the stands. The Boston Police commissioner and one of the survivors were standing right on the course before the finish line. I looked at him and mouthed "Thank You" as clearly as I could. Tom and I crossed the finishline and he made sure I was OK. I was shocked to be given my water by my past Dana Farber Coach, Jack Fultz (winner of the 1976 Boston Marathon). He gave me a big hug, congratulated me and we went on to get our fancy capes and medals. 

That evening after some chilling out, we had a dinner and drinks to celebrate with the MIT team and our supporters, volunteers and family on campus. What a day, what a year it was. I'm still processing everything and am heading out for a few miles around Castle Island right now. I can't wait to reunite with my L Street friends and the MIT Strong team. Congratulations to all of my friends who finished the race for those who could not. 

We truly did Run as One. 

bib pick up at the marathon expo on Friday  

bib pick up with Sarah Lewis, an MIT Strong teammate (she works at Lincoln Labs) 
running around mile 8 in Natick with Laura, a running partner, friend, neighbor - L Street Running Club

 Just after finishing, with Tom Gearty from MIT. SO happy!!

Me and Tim Mertz, my supervisor and teammate at MIT post race party  

 Me and the BEST cheering/support team - no one runs marathons alone! 

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