Unstoppable – 2014 Boston Marathon Recap

It didn’t take long for me to decide to run the 2014 Boston Marathon.  I felt compelled to come back and run the race again so I could make more positive memories on the course after violence last year overshadowed the celebration at the finish line.  Like so many others, I wanted to bring it back.  So, when the time came last fall – with two more marathons to complete before the year was over – I applied to be a part of the American Liver Foundation team and earned a bib for the race.

Training got off to a rocky start after completing the Smuttynose Marathon in October and then the New York City Marathon a month later.  I wasn’t quite ready to jump into yet another marathon training schedule but could only put it off so long.  After the holidays I got into a consistent long run routine and even though the weather was brutal and the snow just kept coming, I didn’t skip too many long runs and spent a good amount of time on the hills to prepare for the course.

When spring finally arrived (on the calendar at least), I began thinking about my race goals.  I felt safe aiming for a four hour marathon but based on my training which included no speed work and some races that were extra challenging this year, I knew it would not be a slam dunk.  I suffered some training burnout along the way and I definitely had moments of wondering if my heart was truly ‘in it’ this year but ready or not, race day was coming and I was expected to bring my A game.

In the weeks leading up to the race my attitude finally turned around.  The anticipation and energy in the city was so electric you couldn’t help but get excited.  My post, Dear Boston, summarizes a great weekend that I really got to take in the city and how that helped.  Then suddenly, it was here.

Race weekend was busy with lots of activities in the city to attend.  The expo on Friday felt like a family reunion bumping into past teammates and friends.  Saturday morning we got to see some of the B.A.A. 5k and cheer on friends before heading to the American Liver Foundation Salute to the Team.

jen_laura

I found my friend Jenn at the Expo who was running her first Boston.

Sunday I was looking forward to attending the Easter Service/ Blessing of the Athletes at Old South Church.  The blessing is an annual tradition at the church each Sunday before the marathon but this year being that it was also Easter and all the attention the church was receiving from their Marathon Scarf Project it was anticipated to be quite busy.  The service was one of the most joyful displays of faith I have ever participated in.  I am so glad I went and looking forward to returning to service there again.

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I celebrated Easter Service/ Blessing of the Athletes with Gael. Here we are in our scarves outside of Old South Church.

It was also a nice way to begin the day before it became busy with family arriving and dinner plans in the evening.  The weekend flew by so quickly I couldn’t believe it when it was time to go to sleep and I would be waking up to race day.

For the first time in my Boston Marathon career I would be taking the official B.A.A. buses to the start in Hopkinton.  We met a group of friends in Boston Common and all took the very long bus ride together.  This is the 9th time I have run this particular race and I am always shocked how long it takes to get from Boston to Hopkinton.  It’s terrifying to think that you will have to run all the way back!

On our way to Hopkinton!

On our way to Hopkinton!

After what seemed like a very short time, we were called to head to our starting corrals.  We hurried to find our spot at the start after no time at all the gun went off and my marathon begun.  It was so exciting to take off and start moving with all of the runners and the Start Line spectators.  For a moment I almost forgot that I was settling in for a 4+ hour adventure.

I felt amazing.  Jared and I stayed together for exactly one mile and then we high-fived before he took off at his goal pace.  I thought I might be heading out too fast but also wanted to try and push myself to run the best race I could.  It was a risk starting at this faster pace but I figured I had nothing  to lose so I went for it. I remember stepping on the 5k mats knowing that my first athlete alert was being sent out to family and friends tracking me and I was proud that they would see how I was doing so well.  The mile markers seemed to go by quickly as well as the town signs.  I was already in Framingham and crossing the 10k mat, still feeling awesome.  There was a moment where I thought this was going to be one of my strongest races but I also had to give myself a reality check.  I was at the 10k mark with literally 20 miles to go.

Thankfully, there was so much ahead to look forward to.  My friend’s Brian and Corinne live at mile 10 and I got to see them both, the Wellesley College cheering station would come up at mile 12 and then the halfway mark where the Athlete Alert would show that I was still doing well…but not nearly as well as I was doing at 10k.  I was definitely starting to feel fatigued, but still on track to finish in under four hours and feeling strong with plenty of fight left in me.  The ALF team cheering station along with parents would be coming up at mile 16.5 and it was important to me to look good and strong when they saw me.  Staying close to the left I spotted Mom and Dad right away and with a big high-5 I let them know I was doing great.  Seeing my family gave me a boost of energy that I would need to prepare for the Newton Hills.

Greeting all my fans at mile 16.5

Greeting all my fans at mile 16.5

In the weeks before the race, media was anticipating a huge increase in spectators for this year since so many people wanted to support the race.  Boston always has terrific crowds but I couldn’t say I saw a significant difference in the beginning of the race.  Then I took the famous right turn onto Comm Ave at the Newton Fire Station and was blown away by the crowd. Police barriers held them back from the course but they were still several people deep lined up screaming for the runners.  It was so exciting to see all the people I almost forgot that I was heading up the hills.  I tried to keep a consistent pace but was really slowing down and starting to feel very warm.  I moved over to the left in anticipation of coming up on the Somerville Road Runners tent.  The gang at SRR is the awesome at supporting their friends and Kate had already talked to me about having some Gatorade ready.  I gave her a big hug and grabbed the cup from her but noticed she was holding a cold adult beverage in a koozie and it looked delicious.  She yelled ‘No! You don’t want that’ and I thought better of the decision.  I just wanted something cold and anything but lemon/lime Gatorade.  Someone else had a different flavor and I drank that, thanked the group and headed off to finish the hills. Although my pace was slipping it felt like this part of the course went by so quickly.  Before I knew it, I was cresting Heartbreak Hill and ready for the crazy party that is Boston College.

In my opinion, B.C. is the loudest and best cheering section on the entire course.  Wellesley gets a lot of attention but they seemed more focused on their own bellies and boobs this year while the B.C. kids are screaming and yelling for every runner and calling us by name.  Sure, they have probably been over indulging in some partying by the time I get there but I feel like every one of those kids is out there just for me and I love them for it.  There is no way I would get to Brookline without them.

Once I did make it to Cleveland Circle and the next big turn on the course I had my eyes peeled for Stacey who made it clear she would be there on the right hand side.  Sure enough, through all the screams of the crowd and the music blaring from my ipod I heard loud and clear Stacey screaming my name.  I headed over to her and her brother Chris and got a monster hug that shot me with some much needed adrenaline to make it down the long stretch of Beacon Street.

I don’t remember much about the next couple of miles but stayed focused on putting one foot in front of the other and continued to take in fluids whenever available.  A child standing on the side of the road was handing out freeze pops and was offering my favorite flavor, blue raspberry.  I am 95% sure he was holding this out for me to take but there is a small chance I just ripped his treat out of his hand.  Regardless, it tasted amazing.  It was so sweet and cold – just what I needed to keep me going a couple more miles.  I saw the Citgo sign in the distance and thought to myself that I was almost there.  There is no doubt I will finish this race.

My pace had slowed down a lot by now and I wasn’t surprised given that I had not really trained to consistently run this distance under a 9:00 pace.  I didn’t care anymore.  It was a magical day in Boston and I was just thrilled to be a part of it.  Coming into Kenmore Square I thought about all my fellow runners who were stopped at this point the year before and how amazing it must feel to run through with everyone cheering them on.  Back Bay was so loud and I couldn’t help but start smiling when I took the right on Hereford knowing I was heading for the finish.  I took the left on Boylston and while the finish line looked so far away I was enjoying every moment.  It was so powerful to see the massive crowd celebrating in front of the The Forum restaurant and then Marathon Sports – the two sites of the bombs last year.  That is exactly what is meant when they say Boston Strong.

I looked up and saw the finish line and would finish in just over 4 hours, exactly what I had planned and trained for.  The primary goal was never time – it was always to be a part of this celebration and replacing any fear or violence left over from last year with the immense joy and pride that I have always felt at the Boston Marathon Finish Line.  That goal was accomplished.  Nailed it!

Finisher!!

Finisher!!

After receiving my finisher’s medal and ‘warmth retention cape’ I made my way back to the Westin to find Jared and our families.  Jared had finished in 3:49:42 – his course best and while an injury was a factor he was able to power through and have a great race.  That evening we celebrated with family and friends and proudly wore our medals around town.  It was the new hot accessory in Boston for an exclusive crowd!

Showing off our bling

Showing off our bling

Thank you Boston and to everyone that was out there on race day to support the runners.  You made it the incredible race it was.

Will there be another Boston in my future?  Or another full marathon?  I can’t say for sure.  I like the idea of focusing on shorter races and trying to find some speed again.  Regardless, marathon number 16 was so special I could easily ‘retire’ and feel great about what I’ve accomplished.  But boy, I do love crossing that finish line!

Unstoppable!

Boston Globe’s Front Page Celebrating the Marathon

A special thank you to everyone who contributed to my American Liver Foundation fundraising campaign.  I have raised over $4700 as of today with more pledges to come in.  I am so proud of this accomplishment and was honored to run in an ALF singlet this year.  There is still time to contribute – please visit my webpage (Laura’s Fundraising Page) to make a donation.

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6 thoughts on “Unstoppable – 2014 Boston Marathon Recap

  1. Reading this brought tears to my eyes. Congratulations to you on this amazing race (even if we did miss each other AGAIN — but hey – guess that is the new tradition, right? 🙂 )

  2. I remember coming through Kenmore Square thinking I had to get through the square because that’s where they stopped everyone last year. The things that go through your head late in a race are just crazy.
    I love the freeze pop story. A kid holding out a freeze pop is like eating a sandwich on the coast of Maine, all the seagulls think you are there just to feed them! I’m sure it was just for you. 😉

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