It was one of the best days of my life.
People had told me that Boston was a special marathon, and while I believe them, I also remembered how fantastic LA was and thought they must be exaggerating. I hadn’t factored in what it would be like to run on roads where I had trained, in my hometown, with spectators five people deep lining the roads as we crested into Boston. It was amazing.
Before the race
The morning started very early for me. My bus was leaving the Boston Common at 5:45 for Hopkinton, where I would wait with the Dana-Farber team for our 11:15 start time in the St. John the Evangelist parish hall. The ride out there was mainly notable for the fact that I could not stop thinking I have to run home from here. It was a 30-45 minute bus ride, and I was going to be reversing it on foot. Yikes.
I was concerned about having a roughly 6 hour wait at the parish hall before the start, but the time flew. We broke up the wait by having an ugly throwaway sweats contest:
And taking our team photo outside the church:
Before I knew it, it was time to line up at the start. We trekked there from the church wrapped in plastic ponchos and debated whether or not to wear them to run. I decided to ditch mine, but kept my ugly bomber jacket on under my singlet; it was too cold to just wear my long sleeved shirt as planned. It was the right decision, even though now all my photos include me wearing possibly the ugliest jacket that’s ever touched my body.
Miles 1-12 were the parts of the course that were totally new to me. The first few miles through Hopkinton were on a narrow country road, just two lanes wide. I’d been told to avoid going out too fast, and truthfully, the number of other runners was enough that it kept my pace in check. Biggest surprise? The many, many people who were openly peeing on the sides of the road.
Around mile 3 in Ashland, I saw my first supporters: My cousins, aunt, and uncle! I was so excited and cut across the road to give them hugs and hellos. Seeing them put me in an even better mood for the next several rainy miles:
One thing that cracked me up later–what I thought was an awesome finish line photo was apparently taken at some point in the first couple of miles. No wonder I look so fresh!
Around mile 10 in Framingham, I decided to make a quick bathroom break (NOT on the side of the road, unlike SOME PEOPLE ahem all those men in Mile 1) and was glad I did; I felt much more comfortable for the rest of the run.
At some point toward the end of the first 12 miles, the rain stopped. I was feeling some tightness and discomfort in my hamstrings, and certainly my legs were tired, but nothing too bad.
Mile 13 represented the first familiar mile on the course. During our last 20 mile run, we turned around at the Natick/Wellesley border. Reaching familiar territory was psychologically helpful, since now I knew where I was and how far to go. After the halfway point, I was also able to remind myself that I was basically doing a manageable run on very tired legs. I’ve done that before.
Mile 13 is also where you pass through Wellesley College. The street was lined with Wellesley students and their funny signs, many of them begging for a kiss from runners. I had so much fun reading the signs that this section of the course flew by.
From there it was into Newton and some sweet downhills.
I thought I was feeling great but photo evidence suggests otherwise:
At mile 17, I encountered more family members, including my husband. He kissed my cheek and later told me it tasted like the sea. YEAH SWEAT! Maybe a quarter mile later, at the foot of Heartbreak Hill, my aunt and uncle were waiting again to cheer me on. It was a fantastic send-off to the hardest part of the course.
Remember how Team DFMC spent all winter running up and down Heartbreak Hill because our other routes were snow-covered? This is where it all paid off.
I felt strong and confident climbing Heartbreak. I knew every dip and rise in the road, exactly when I needed to focus and when I could go back on auto-pilot. I watched other runners slow down to a walk, or struggle with the prolonged uphill, and felt grateful to Jack for making us spend so much time tackling this part of the course. These three miles flew by, and once I reached Boston College and the top of the hill, I knew I was making it home:
Mile 21 is Boston College, and the start of the descent into the city of Boston. Starting from this point on, I felt like a rock star: Thick crowds of spectators lined both sides of the road and screamed my name or cheered for Dana-Farber. It was amazing. There were so many people calling my name that I wasn’t able to hear my family cheering at Mile 25, but I did see my friends Tom and Mike around Mile 22, and of course the Dana-Farber crew at Mile 25.
The Final Mile
Shortly after crossing the 25 mile marker (0.2 miles later, to be exact), there was a banner announcing just one mile left to go. This was the best part of the race, just as I guessed it might be. I know that no matter how tired my legs are, I can make it one mile.
This part of the course brought me into my home neighborhood of Back Bay, under the Mass Ave underpass, and then the iconic right on Hereford and left on Boylston. Making the left on Boylston and first seeing the finish line felt incredible:
The crowds on Boylston cheered me to the finish. I saw my friends Andrew, Meghan, and Allison at different points on that final mile and was able to wave, but at this point, I was not stopping. I could see the finish line.
I crossed it at 4:09:07 (shaving more than 16 minutes off my time in the LA Marathon and blowing my time goal, which was to beat my LA time, out of the water):
After 6 months of planning, training, and fundraising, I crossed the iconic Boston Marathon finish line. (Which, by the way, WAS a decal–the day after the race they peeled it up to reveal the old faded paint.)
As a side note, I’ve mentioned before that a goofy list I keep is celebrities who I have beaten head-to-head in a footrace. I can now add three more names to the list (which really was only Andrea Barber): Uzo Aduba, Sean Astin, and Doug Flutie. My sister-in-law Kathryn made me the following celebratory image:
I felt like I did not stop smiling for 26.2 miles, but almost immediately after the finish line, I broke down in tears. I felt overcome with emotion. I was able to pull it together to pose with my medal:
–but then lost it again right away. I found one of our DFMC volunteers handing out heat capes and made him give me a hug (which DFMC volunteers are always great for) and then trudged on looking for the DFMC crew to take us back to our home base. The rain was starting up again and I quickly grew very cold. After checking in with DFMC and enjoying our facilities for a bit, I walked home through the pouring rain. Fortunately, the race officials were ok with me cutting through the finisher shute to cross Boylston since I had my race credentials on me.
The rest of that day is a blur of getting warm, saying hi to family and friends, and celebrating the run.
The next day, I had my medal engraved for free by Marathon Sports:
And posed with it by the finish line:
We had lunch with Team DFMC and I got a photo with our awesome coach, 1976 Boston Marathon winner Jack Fultz:
And my DFMC teammate Shifter, of the Shifter’s 5k fame:
Is that all?
Well, yes, and no. The race to the Boston Marathon finish line is over, but the race to end cancer is not. This year’s DFMC team had raised well over $5 million by race day, and expect to increase that total before this year’s fundraising comes to a close in a few months. If you are interested in supporting this important cause, you can still contribute to my personal fundraising page, or to Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge in general.
Thank you to the incredible community of people who donated funds to my run, shared their inspiring stories, cheered me on, and (it has to be said) endured my barrage of marathon-related blog posts, emails, and social media updates. I could not have done this without you. My legs ran the marathon, but your support made it possible. If I have learned anything from this experience, it is that I am lucky to be part of a community of generous, caring, supportive, compassionate people. I appreciate all of you.