I may not run a marathon but I sure as hell can run a 5K. Lucky for me BAA always puts on a 5K the day before the Marathon. This year, however, the race was moved to Saturday since Sunday was Easter.
This race went on my radar as soon as I knew the trip was happening… Well… it was already on my radar but now I was religiously checking the website for registration information. But before registration was announced, they announced a new race course and I was devastated because we would no longer share the Marathon finish line. Eventually, I decided to still do the race. After all, I was going to Boston to support the city and runners and the BAA. After I registered, I did figure out that we still be running about the last half mile to mile of the marathon course… we would just go under (it technically is under) the Marathon finish line on the way to our own.
I have to say, I was incredibly impressed with not only the BAA Registration process but their handling of important pieces of information once it was confirmed I was in the race. They not only made sure that the mailing address on file was accurate before mailing me the packet but they also confirmed that my emergency contact information was still valid about a week before the race.
Now, over 4 years of racing later and I STILL get race anxiety… Every. Freaking. Time. Even if I am not running for time. So add in an unfamiliar city and that anxiety level goes up quite a bit. I was awake at least an hour before my 5:00 am alarm clock went off. Three people had to share a bathroom so I got up and out of the way first… I also like to shower before racing… weird, I know.
We ended up taking a cab when we quickly figured out that the train we thought was the one we needed was not. Lucky for me, the streets were still open so the cab could actually get us there. We arrived with plenty of time to spare. Mom and Dad got coffee and I was excited to use an actual restroom… until I figured out that this particular Starbucks was part of a food court and the food court bathroom was not open yet. So after hurrying my parents out of Starbucks as soon as they got their food and drinks because I was getting close to pee pee dance territory, we were heading into Boston Commons.
The starting chute was impressive and the sun shining. I knew it was going to be a great morning.
A Race first for me… Colonials at a race…
Mom and Dad found a bench and I headed over to the Port-o-Potties. Luckily there was no line. I then headed to get my race shirt (those were not mailed and were told to pick them up at the race) and back to where Mom and Dad were waiting.
Took a few quick pics and killed some time before heading to the start chute to line up. It was a tad chilly but I knew I would warm up once I started running.
I lined up between the 9:00 and 10:00 pace signs… so in my mind it was a 9:30ish pace. Now, I knew I wasn’t going to be running that but I also wanted to avoid a ton of extra weaving. And since I had been putting up some training runs around a 10:00 pace, it wasn’t THAT much of a quicker pace. And at least I wasn’t with the super speedy people (I heard there were seeding issues for them). I also had a time goal in mind. However, despite a time goal, I also came to realize that this might not be the best place to go for it. That last half mile of the marathon course was on my course and I knew there was a huge chance I would be far too emotional. I wasn’t sure how I would react to the “Right on Hereford and Left on Boylston” that are the last two turns for the marathon. I didn’t know if I would burst into tears or just take off at a dead sprint… even if there was about a half mile of my race left AFTER the marathon finish line. I just didn’t know how I would react while on Boylston.
So, in the end, I just decided to run comfortably and not worry about my time.
I was chatting with some ladies before we started and we were all running for the same reason and we all weren’t sure how we would react once we hit Boylston. It was comforting to know there were others who had the same thoughts as me.
The gun went off and we slowly moved forward. BAA had the chutes lined up kind of weird which was confusing. The Start line was actually to the left but were all lined up in the right… because that is where we were told to line up. I later found out that after the elites cleared, the finish line was turned on, which, I suspect, is why we were directed to the left.
I was just getting up to the start line when I heard the MC announce that the elite men had hit the first mile mark in 4:23… and I wasn’t even across the start line yet… well alright then.
But soon I was off and running. It was a crowded course and I did have to do some weaving. I knew then that it was not the right course to go for a time goal. So I settled into a comfortable pace and never bothered to check my watch. I walked through the first water station but didn’t walk for as long as I normally do. I was here to run.
Throughout the entire race there was support… but it wasn’t entirely from spectators. The RUNNERS were supporting each other. Claps and cheers and “you go girls”. It was incredible. I have seen (and been part of) on course support from other runners but not to this degree. It seemed like every runner wanted to give another runner a high five. I was happy.
We headed towards an underpass for our turn around point and the sound was deafening. Runners were cheering and screaming while going under the underpass. Cheers of good luck and keep going. Here we were separated by a concrete barrier but everyone along the barrier was high-fiving a person on the other side. I was situated more in the middle and I wanted to get over but it was just too crowded so I decided not to try. This underpass was a huge downhill and then uphill… well… by Chicago Standards. We then hit the turn around and were right back at the underpass. Without thinking I started moving toward the other side in hopes of running a smart tangent but once we got to the downhill I realized my mistake but it was too late to get over to the side for high-fives. Damnit! But hey, at least I didn’t walk either hill like I normally do.
I grabbed water around this point but actually cannot remember where exactly I was on the course… I was at the “Right on Hereford and Left on Boylston” point so I was mentally preparing myself for emotional overdrive more than where I was while drinking water.
I remember turning onto Hereford and looming at the end of the street was a huge American flag… Oh boy… Here comes the emotions. It was an uphill but I know I took off. I was fighting back tears but since it is difficult to cry if you cannot breathe, I was running hard. VERY hard.
I made my left on Boylston and the emotions were not subsiding. This is a moment that runners dream off. The finish line of the Boston Marathon and I am running towards it with everything I have…
Except… this isn’t my finish line.
But at least I don’t have tears streaming down my face… but they threatened several times…
As soon as I went, “Hey, idiot, you still have about another half mile to run after that finish line… are you planning to crawl?” I looked down at my watch and saw an 8:45 Pace… Ooops…
Ok, let’s slow that down.
At this point, I was just crossing the finish line but the damage was done, I had just all out sprinted around half a mile of the course and I still had half a mile to go.
I briefly considered walking for a minute but I just couldn’t do that. Not on this course, not on this day.
But I was also done… Right before my last turn into the finish chute, I looked down and saw an 11:00 pace on the watch. I left it all on Boylston… not my own finish line.
I still managed to dig a little deeper to pick it up just a tad to the finish line. But it was difficult and I was done as soon as I crossed…
And then came to a near stand still because a lot of runners were stopping instead of walking like you are supposed to. It took quite a while to make my way to get my finisher medal and then snacks/drinks.
I must say, the spread in our little snacks pack was impressive: Full bottle of water and gatorade, Hawaiian Sweet rolls (YUM), chips, a pear, a power bar and a fruit cup.
I quickly found my parents and changed my shoes (my racers don’t seem to be working for me anymore). Took a quick picture and then headed out to find a place for breakfast.
This race was great! Getting a chance to run down Boylston was just so incredible… I am not sure I can really describe. I KNOW it is NOT the same as running down Boylston after running 25+ miles. But this was my (perhaps) one and only change to get a fraction of that feeling. And as evident by my mile splits… I was running all out on Boylston and I left it all out there.
I wasn’t where I wanted to be time wise, but I also didn’t push in the first two miles. It was a crowded course and I choose to sit back and not weave a ton. But I actually did run very smart tangents because I was at 3.10 miles on the dot. Go figure…
I actually would love to do this race (and any other BAA race) again but I also know that in all reality, that chance isn’t too high. But maybe…
My Official Time – 32:36 for a Pace of 10:31