Race Recap: Boston Marathon 2016
I wanted to cry from sheer joy and relief when I finally made the right on Hereford, left on Boylston, and spotted the finish line.
I had done it. I had finally run a Boston Marathon I was proud of. I crossed the finish line on Monday in 3:28:24. It wasn’t a PR, but it was a time I was proud of. My main goal for this race was to leave everything on the course, and I can honestly say I did.
It was a long but amazing day. I was up well before the sun, despite my wave not taking off until 10:50 a.m. In case you haven’t picked up on this, I am neurotic and anxious normally, and throw in a big, major goal race, and I am much worse. Time passed slowly, but eventually, I hopped on a shuttle and arrived at Boston Commons to take the bus over to the starting line in Hopkinton.
The sun was beating down by the time I arrived around 9. I quickly shed my hoodie and sweatpants, as I really didn’t need them. I don’t run well in the heat, but I recognized that it was totally out of my control. I got into an enormous bathroom line, and then killed the rest of the time sitting in the grass with my friend, Jill, talking about how nervous we were. By the time the third wave was called up to the start, I was more than ready to go. It’s about a mile walk from the village to the starting line, and it feels long. It was then I overheard someone say it was already 71 degrees. Yikes.
We were herded into our waves, and I could already feel myself sweating. After the National Anthem, we were off.
I was running the Boston Marathon. Again.
I won’t lie, part of me was terrified I was going to have a repeat of 2014. Despite the fact that, as far as I know, I am perfectly healthy, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I had some kind of curse with this race. The first three miles were really congested. It was hard to get into a rhythm with so many people. I was running way faster than I had planned on, which I knew was a gamble. I wanted to run high-7-minute miles, and I was logging 7:30 – 7:40s. I focused on making it to each timing mat, located every 5K, knowing it was sending a message to my family and friends that I was OK.
The first ten miles or so are rolling hills, you’re up, then you’re down, then you’re back up. I was still feeling good, and taking fluid at every station, usually one cup to sip and one to dump on my head. I was enjoying the race, and I was looking forward to seeing my husband, parents, and friends at upcoming different spots. (Spoiler Alert: I never saw any of them, and they never saw me! The only person I saw was my husband’s cousin who lives in Boston and happened to be spectating.) I was high-fiving spectators, laughing at their signs and taking water and wet towels from them.
I hit the half in 1:40:27, in which case I thought, UH-OH, YOU’RE AN IDIOT. There was no way I could run a 3:20 marathon, and I had a ton of hills in front of me, and I was only getting hotter. There was also a headwind for most of the race, which sometimes cooled you off, but was also brutal on a climb.
Somewhere around mile 16, I started walking through the aid stations. It killed me, but I was just so hot. And right after that, I was greeted by the Newtown Hills, four really big hills right in a row, ending with the infamous Heartbreak Hill. The hills last about five miles, and this was my slowest part of the course. I tried to run the majority of it, and only take a brief walking break when I was going through an aid station or when my heart rate was too high. My legs were aching at this point. I knew I wasn’t going to PR, but I kept reminding myself I didn’t come this far and train for the last 18 weeks to putter out at the end.
After finally cresting Heartbreak Hill, I told myself I only had less than 45 minutes of running left, and if I wasn’t breaking 3:26, I sure as hell better give it my all to BQ.
There were a lot of people walking, and it was so tempting to stop, but I wanted this too badly. I managed to drop my pace down to low-8 minute miles, and I focused on getting from one mile to the next. I was doing math in my head, figuring out how many minutes I had left, and reminding myself how little time it was compared to the amount I had already run. With two miles to go, my left calf started cramping really badly, it almost felt like it was seizing up. But I had not come this far to give up now. I gritted my teeth and did my best to ignore it.
Seeing the “last mile to go!” sign was beautiful. “Less than 10 minutes, Leighton. Less than 10 minutes.” I knew I’d be under 3:30, unless something really bad happened, and I just kept pushing myself to get to the finish line.
It’s a long few blocks once you make that final turn, and I give it all I have, focusing on that finish line and securing that sub-3:30.
Once I crossed the finish line, I was given my medal, a heat sheet and a food bag. I shuffled a few blocks before I finally found my husband, and soon, my parents. I knew I had truly given it my all when my husband had to half carry me to a sidewalk, my poor mom had to take off my sneakers and socks for me, and when I then decided to lay down completely on the sidewalk to “take a little break.”
The best part of all this? I’m lucky enough to get to do it all again in 2017. See you in Hopkinton next year.