Thursday, May 5, 2022

Part 4: The 1st Half of the Boston Marathon

On the morning of the Boston Marathon, I woke up around 6 a.m. to get dressed and begin my "readying" process. Since I wasn't set to start running until 11:15 a.m., I had to rethink my ENTIRE normal race day strategy. In a "normal" race situation, I'm almost finished running by that time, and I know how hungry I've been towards the end of my full marathons in the past. A quick calculation told me that I would probably finish running somewhere between 3:45-4:00 p.m. and I didn't want hunger to be my main concern. So, I purchased bagels and peanut butter ahead of time, along with a cliff bar to carry with me on the bus. I also checked the weather and was excited to see that the majority of the day was going to be perfect - sunny and in the high 40's - can't ask for better!

Even though I wasn't running until 11:15 a.m., there was still quite a process of getting to the start line. Our team planned to meet in the lobby of our hotel around 8:30 a.m. to begin walking to the bus area. 

As we passed this corner, one of the runners on our team said, "Look! The next time we will be here is when we're making the left on Boylston!" My heart jumped and I knew this spot would be a special one to remember!

Before long, we approached a set of buses and I thought we'd already made it! Little did I know, these were the "gear check" busses - we still had a long way to go!

Throughout this entire process, I met so many great people! One of them was a nurse from a hospital in a very close neighboring town. It was great to connect with so many wonderful people I would not have met otherwise!

After a quick team photo, it was time to line up for the actual buses. Since we were in the last wave of the last corral, we were literally some of the last ones to board these buses. I'm telling you, they have this whole thing down like a well oiled machine. I can't even imagine trying to figure out how to bus 30,000 runners anywhere and they did it just fine!!

When I tell you this bus ride took an hour, I'm not kidding. We didn't get stuck in traffic or anything, the trip literally took an hour. Be prepared for this, and arrive on time to the bus loading area when its your turn if you're running Boston! (Let me clarify also, we were not late - we arrived on time for everything we were instructed to do!)

After realizing how long of a trip this bus ride would take and calculating out my time, I decided to eat my cliff bar and drink my bottle of water right there on the bus. (Yes, I did wear my mask while chewing.) I'm SO thankful I did because by the time we arrived at the Athlete's Village, we literally had time to potty before it was time to walk to the start line. 

I do wish I had more time to explore this area. Oh well.

Off we go!

The red, white, and blue bibs were for runners who qualified with a time. The yellow bibs were the "fun" corral as the DJ called us! (Charity runners and Invitees)

To the start line!

The walk to the corrals was quite a journey, too! It was about a 0.7 mile walk which totally gave me runDisney vibes! :) 

"There's only one Boston. And it all starts right here." Chills.

Another friend I met along the way! She's from Houston which is about two hours down the road. There's just something about marathon friends - you share a bond of this crazy experience that's unlike any other!

While waiting for our turn to run, I looked up and spotted two armed guards on top of one of the buildings. I text Jason, "Toto, we're not in Disney anymore..." When you think about all of the pieces and parts it takes to put on a race of this magnitude, keep everyone safe, and bus all of the runners to the correct place, it's truly mind blowing! And they seriously do a fantastic job!! 

With that, we were off! You see those two yellow triangles in the air? That's the start line!

The literal "sea" of runners was mind boggling! 

The first half of this race was pure fun for me. I was running Boston and living it UP! I stopped for every "character" interaction I saw because many of them made me laugh - especially this one!

Before long we were at mile 2 and the miles started flying by. I was still in with that giant "pack" of runners and felt great!

Along the way, I saw a line of people and knew I had to stop before I even saw what was up ahead. If runners at Boston were willing to stop for a photo-op, I knew it had to be important. runDisney runs in my blood after all! :) 

Once I jumped in line, I heard excited whispers "It's Spencer!" "You can't miss Spencer!" "I HAD to stop for Spencer!" 

Who is Spencer? He's the precious therapy dog who has cheered on runners of this race for several years (including the rainy 2018 where he stood in a rain jacket). He's also a cancer fighter and was named as the official dog of the 126th Boston Marathon. So yes, I knew I had to stay in this line to see Spencer and couldn't miss the opportunity!

After leaving Spencer's line, I realized that the "sea" of runners had left me and I kind of started to panic. So, I sped up my pace a tad bit to catch up to them. Finishing Boston was very important to me and I was seriously panicked about the lack of people around me! I knew 2 minutes of seeing Spencer didn't make that huge of a difference but I'd never run this course before and you know how crazy thoughts can take over if we let them. 

It wasn't long before I mostly caught back up to the tail end of the big group and felt like I could breathe a sigh of relief. Our local news reporter who was doing a story on my experience also text me to see how I was doing, so I sent her this photo!

As the miles ticked away, so did the towns across Boston. There was SO many things to see, I never even needed the use of my headphones. This whole experience was just mind blowing!

I loved seeing the course support from everyone in the neighboring towns! They had outdoor front yard parties, signs, fun jumps, obstacle courses, food tables, cowbells, costumes, you name it! 

There were also signs everywhere along the course, to let runners know when they'd made it to the next town.

SANTA! I couldn't pass up this opportunity!

Y'all know those internet strangers who don't seem like strangers at all? My friend Mel and I had been messaging throughout the weekend and told me she would be around mile 8 on the course. I knew I HAD to say hi, so we found each other! I loved loved loved seeing familiar faces out there on the course!

Oddly enough, I had a few people say they cheered for me, but the crazy thing is there was a girl named Karen running right beside me with her name on her, when I heard "Go Karen!" I assumed most people were cheering for her! If you spotted me and cheered, I'm sorry I missed you and I appreciate your support so so very much!!

"The Citgo Sign" was something everyone talked about towards the end of the race. Just a mile to go after that! Of course running with Team Citgo, I had to snap a photo of these yard decorations!

I just love the spirit here!

As you can see, the crowd started to thin out here. Around mile 10, I started randomly cramping in my hamstrings and although I didn't have any salt packets on me, I spotted an official tent with a product called "hot shots". They were handing these out to runners during the race and I snagged one. Initially, I was going to hold on to it just incase, but the cramping was getting worse and I didn't want to crash and burn before even reaching the halfway point, so I took it. The whole selling point of the hot shot was to help with cramping, and it worked - but it made my stomach feel as if it was on the verge of nausea. I'm glad I took it, but I honestly wish I'd remembered salt tabs instead. Oh well! 

Also up to this point, I'd taken two GU packets. After the hot shot, I couldn't even think about GU, so I went the remainder of the marathon without any. 

I loved how the mile markers are an official part of the painting in the roadways!

By this point, things were starting to hurt. I wasn't doing a consistent run/walk/run just yet, but I knew I'd have to turn to that soon. Here, I was able to run to each water stop, then walk the water stop. I had just enough energy to get to the next one each time!

One thing that made me giggle was the stickiness of the roads at the gatorade stops. With so many runners ahead, the roads were incredibly sticky and my shoes made noises as we ran over it!

Hello mile 12, my trusty old friend!

The scream tunnel in Wellesley was INSANE! I thought it was an actual tunnel but no - with trees on the left side of the road and about a half mile of screaming women behind parade grates on the other side of the road, it formed a literal "tunnel". My ears were ringing after we made it through! Such a cool experience!

Half way there, another 13.1 to go! 

Stay tuned for the second half of my incredible Boston Marathon experience!

Check out all the Boston recaps here:

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