It has been over a month since the Boston Marathon and I thought it was about time that I sit down and write about a race that was one for the record books. My Boston 2018 journey actually started the day after Boston 2017. I always thought that running the Boston Marathon would be a one and done. It took a tremendous amount of work and sacrifice to get to the starting line in 2017 and I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that again. I loved the challenge it presented but I also love trying new and different adventures. But, the weekend was such an inspiring and emotional experience that I felt I needed to come back again. So, I signed up for another qualifying race, the same race I used to qualify for 2017, Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon. I had so many big races in 2017 so all I really needed to do was keep training, maintain my fitness, not get injured and have a perfect race day! I wasn’t asking for too much, was I!! Well, my training was on par, I stayed healthy and I had a perfect race day. David was running the same race, to try and qualify, but did not have a great day. He eventually waited for me and we met up at mile 22. I was really hurting and seeing him was exactly what I needed. Despite the fact that he was not having the day he wanted, and he was hurting, he encouraged me, pushed me and ran with me to achieve my goal, not only another qualifying time but my best marathon ever, a huge PR.
Since David and I were on the Hyland’s Boston Marathon team for 2017, I was invited back for 2018. This time I would be joined by 17 truly inspiring teachers (as well as other participants like myself, who qualified, known as legacy runners). Teachers who really care about their students, who really want to make an impact on future generations, who are so passionate about teaching, the type of teacher that students never forget. I was introduced to the team and had the privilege of getting to know all of them all via social media. They had “homework” assignments each week, which allowed the entire team, as well as the rest of the world, get an up close and personal look at each one of these amazing educators. We also had a private Facebook page where we were all able to share our training, our fears, our excitement and our journey to Boston 2018. David and I even had the opportunity to meet some of the my teammates for a run in the hills of LA.
Fast forward to marathon weekend, we flew in to Boston, met my parents and arrived at our hotel and ran into some Hyland’s teammates, people whom we had never met but felt like old friends who had not seen each other in a while. As more of us started to filter in the excitement started to build. The chatter quickly turned to the weather and race day clothing options, as the forecast for race day was looking less than desirable for a marathon. The weather is one thing that we have no control over, so I was trying not to focus on it and instead stay in the moment and enjoy a first-class weekend. Saturday started with the BAA 5k followed by a team brunch. This was a great way to really get to know each other on a more personal level and socialize. Margot (President and Chief Strategy Officer of Hyland’s) and Mike (Hyland’s Head Coach) talked about what an honor it has been to be a part of this experience and all I could think about was how lucky I was and how honored I was to be a part of this team. After brunch we had some free time and then it was off to the Red Sox game at Fenway Park, courtesy of Hyland’s of course. We couldn’t pas up the opportunity to see a game at the iconic Fenway Park. Then is was off to the marathon expo to check -in, pick up my race bib and shop at the expo.
Sunday morning the team and our families were treated to an amazing brunch at Margot’s house. It was there that we got to meet and mingle with the man of the Boston Marathon, the race director, Dave McGillivray. He is such a humble, sincere guy who, even with the marathon the following day, found the time to spend with our team. I was a little star struck!!
The rest of the day was spent back at the marathon expo and relaxing with my feet up, until dinner. My go-to pre race dinner is always sushi. Some people think I am crazy, but for me it works great, a perfect combination of protein and carbs, it does not sit heavy in my stomach and is super easy to digest. My parents and my father’s cousins joined us for dinner, cousins we had not seen in a year (last year for dinner the night before the race) and prior to that many, many years before. As the day turned into night the weather progressed from sunny and moderate temperatures, to cold, windy and snow flurries.
Race morning we woke to rain, 30 mph winds and temperatures in the mid 30’s with the wind chill. David and I dressed and walked to get some coffee, and it was raining but a normal rain. I thought well, if it rains like this during the race, well that wouldn’t be too bad, I have run in rain many times before. I felt prepared for the weather, tights on bottom, thin long sleeve base layer on top covered by a heavier jacket, a jacket that I have worn in the cold and rain before (little did I know what rain really meant). I had 2 hats on, my thin smart wool on bottom with my new Hyland’s headsweats on top. And then to top it all off I had a throw away sweatshirt and a free poncho, both of which I planned to discard at the start of the race. They were just for some extra warmth and protection while I walked to the starting line from the bus. As part of our first-class treatment with Hyland’s we have our own private bus to the start line. This means we get our own bathroom, on the bus, and we don’t have to sit and wait in the athletes’ village for hours before the race starts. I was able to sit on the bus, staying warm and dry until the last possible minute, this (I quickly learned when I got off the bus) was such a gift. The mud was so thick, so slick and everywhere, the wind and cold were so relentless with little to no protection out in the staging area. It got so bad and the rain was so heavy that the race organizers abandoned the corrals and just told everyone to start moving toward the start line, to start as soon as possible. They didn’t want anyone waiting around any longer than they needed to. There were already medical tents that were filled with participants, runners who never even had the opportunity to start as the time spent in the staging area lead to hypothermia.
I quickly dropped my throw away sweatshirt, it was rain soaked, heavy and now making me cold, but I kept on my throw away poncho. It wasn’t keeping me dry by any means, but I felt that it was keeping me a bit protected from the wind. Maybe it was all in my head, but somehow keeping the poncho on meant I would I be warm. I thought I would take it off, I thought, when the rain dies down, when the wind improves, when… That when never came and that once throw away poncho stayed with me for the duration of the race. Once I faced the fact that the weather was not going to improve and I was keeping that poncho on, I moved my race belt and number to the outside, this was a good move as it would keep the poncho from becoming a sail in the wind.
I had a race plan and I decided to stick with it. The goal was to just keep moving forward and never stop, because I knew once I stopped it wouldn’t take much for me to become hypothermic. I don’t do well with being cold and now I was also wet from head to toe. I just focused on one mile at a time. I tried to stay in the moment and not think about how long this race would take or how much harder it could rain, or how much windier it could get or how much colder my hands could feel. I tried to relish in the fact that there were spectators out, yelling and screaming and cheering for us, despite the weather. I began to notice that the heavier the rain became the louder the crowds got. They wanted us, the runners, to know that they were there for us, they were out there despite the rain and the wind and the cold and they were happy to be a part of the most iconic marathon in the world. I hit a low point at mile 11, negative thoughts started to fill my head, I was cold and wet and shivering and knew this was how it would be for the next 15 miles of the race. I texted David at that point, told him how cold I was, he offered some words of encouragement and made sure I knew that he was there for me, cheering me on every step of the way and how proud he was of me. I pushed on and would text him every once in while to let him know where I was and how I was doing. He always answered, with an upbeat, morale boosting sentiment, something that would keep me going. Mile after mile I kept moving forward, the crowds never diminished and neither did the rain or the wind. At some point I actually started to let myself enjoy the suffering and I became extremely emotional. I hit heartbreak hill and knew that I would finish, I would finish a race that would make history for being one of the wettest, coldest and windiest Boston Marathons.
At mile 26 as I was running down Boylston street, I could see the finish line in the distance and then I spotted my parents. Standing there in the cold and rain, waiting patiently to see me and cheer me to the finish. I know my parents are my biggest supporters and I know how much they love to see me race, but for them to be standing out there in that weather, waiting for me, not knowing if they would even see me, it was such a heart warming and touching moment. I got a huge smile on my face, I forgot about how cold I was or how hard it was raining or how I was hurting, (after all I did run a marathon) and it was the last little boost I needed to get across that finish line.
I crossed that line, got my medal, and just kept moving. I didn’t stop for water or for food. I was on a mission to get out of the weather as quickly as possible. I spotted the amazing Hyland’s cheering section and was escorted by Margot into the University Club. (For those not familiar with the UC, it is an upscale athletic club, right around the corner form the Boston Marathon finish line.) Inside, waiting for me was a room full of people, including David, who were screaming and cheering for me like I was a superstar, a champion, a winner of the race. They waited on me, got me warm drinks and towels, took my amazing post race pictures, then showed me to the locker room where I could sit in the sauna, take a hot shower and put on dry warm clothes. What followed was a celebration of food and drink and music and celebration for every single Hyland’s runner. Despite the weather, every one of the teachers and the legacy team crossed that finish line that day, a day that will be written into the records books of the Boston Marathon.