I just ran my first Boston Marathon and it was the most amazing experience!
My friend Alicia and I qualified for Boston at the Houston Marathon in January 2022 and then turned our attention for the rest of the year to triathlons, so when this January rolled around it was a bit of a shock to remember that we had a marathon to run in 3 months. I started training and all went well until life slammed full force into me. I had a couple major life events happened, one being my father passing away 18 months after being diagnosed with Giloblastoma (brain cancer). Between grief and the stress of it all, training faltered some, but I was also so happy to have running as an outlet. Running is my mental health release. There’s nothing better to me when life gets difficult than to run so fast and hard and far that I can’t think (is that the best coping mechanism? Probably not, but it’s what works for me.)
We determined that the best time to do my dad’s memorial service was the Saturday of the Boston Marathon weekend, so I moved my flight as late as possible and reworked my marathon plans. The service was so nice, yet emotionally draining, and it was a bit of a feeling of whiplash to go from the service to the excited chaos of Boston one day before the race. I was absolutely drained, but pushed it aside and got caught up in the pre-race excitement which was very easy to do once we landed in Boston.
Our friends who have run the Boston Marathon multiple times (and are very very fast) had told Alicia and me about the amazing atmosphere of the race, but there was no way to truly understand until I experienced myself. I loved every part of that weekend, Boston did not disappoint.
We actually got to sleep in! Because they have to bus 30000+ athletes 26 miles out to the start of the marathon in Hopkinton, there is not an early start. There are 4 waves based on qualifying times and we were in wave 3 which meant a 10:50am start. I didn’t even need to set an alarm. I had my typical pre race meal of coffee and a bagel with peanut butter and honey, checked the weather report one more time hoping that the rain in the forecast had suddenly magically disappeared (it hadn’t), made my final wardrobe choice, and we were off to walk to board the buses for the 50 minute drive to Hopkinton.
The Boston Marathon is a well oiled machine! I could not believe how many people were waiting to get on buses, but they loaded a set and immediately another set of buses appeared. Alicia and I boarded and were off. The bus we were on happened to have a lot of people who were part of wave 4 on it and were doing the marathon through fundraising. I loved that because the atmosphere was just pure excitement. These people had worked hard at both raising money for their nonprofit and training and could not wait to run the marathon. It was a first for everyone around us and we all shared stories of what we thought it would be like.
It started pouring just as we got off the bus. It was cold but I knew that meant a good run temperature once we started. Our wave was open to get into the corrals so we immediately walked to the start, used the bathroom at the biggest lineup of porta potties I’ve ever seen, got rid of some of the extra clothes we were wearing, and got into our corral. Before we knew it the gun sounded for our wave and we were off.
The first mile was a chaotic scene of trying to find enough space to run without hitting those around you. It was still raining a bit and the splashy thuds of the hundreds of footsteps of those around me made it seem like we were all running in cadence together. Within 1.5 miles I was completely warmed up and took off my final extra layer, a long sleeve tee, and tossed it to a bag at the side of the road that was being used to collect discarded clothing. The space around us began to open a little and thought, I’m really doing this!
The first 6 miles of the Boston Marathon are advertised as downhill but that’s not completely accurate; there are a few uphill sections, but it is definitely net downhill. Alicia and I had been instructed by our coach to treat Boston as a long training run because we have an Ironman triathlon coming up soon. We were to just find a comfortable pace we could hold and enjoy the experience. Without any discussion we settled into a pace that we did more or less hold the entire race. I have to admit I loved never once looking at the mile splits on my watch and just being able to run and take it all in.
Everyone says that the spectators at the Boston Marathon are the best; but you really have no idea how true that is until you experience it for yourself. Spectators lined the entire 26 miles- holding signs, blasting music, cheering for everyone, calling out names, and looking so happy despite the fact that it was a pretty miserable day to just stand around (50° and rainy). I was never bored and the towns and miles flew by.
About halfway through I heard a low roar in the distance. I commented to Alicia about it, wondering what that sound was. She said- that’s the Wellesley Scream Tunnel! Sure enough, it was just as deafening as everyone said it would be and we had a great time slapping hands and each kissing a couple girls.
All too soon we were at mile 17, the start of the much talked about Newton hills. The crowds there were amazing; their cheers pushing everyone up to the crest of each hill. We got up the hills without issue, probably because it was a cool day, we were not racing, and we had done some crazy hill training leading up to Boston on hills that made the Newton hills seem flat. I actually think the hills were a good distraction during the miles of a marathon that can often just have you over it all. It’s a goal to focus on accomplishing in the middle of the race. I reached the top of Heartbreak Hill and someone next to me said- it’s all downhill from here. I smiled excited with how close I was getting to the finish line.
It’s not exactly all downhill from there, but definitely net downhill again. Around mile 23 I hit the ‘I’m over this’ part of the run. I still felt fine, I was just sick of running. Alicia and I also separated for the first time around this point. The course was getting chaotic again with some people slowing down and others speeding up while the road narrowed to accommodate the spectators. For the first time I looked at my watch to see when I would be at the next mile. Then I saw a sign ahead announcing that the course was finally about to enter Boston.
The crowds became dense and the noise deafening and I forgot all about how over running I was and just took it all in. I soon came to the part of the course that every Boston Marathoner dreams about- right onto Hereford and left onto Boylston. It was the most amazing experience that I’ve ever had in a race! The crowds were massive; all screaming and cheering and applauding us runners to the finish line. It was such an emotional moment and I could not stop smiling. I ran across the finish line with a huge smile on my face, hands pumping the air. Alicia was there waiting for me and we gave each other a huge hug so happy with what we had just accomplished.
I later found out that my finish time had actually qualified me for next year’s Boston Marathon. This had never been a thought in my mind, but kind of cool that it happened. Not sure if I’ll be back next year but I definitely plan on running the Boston Marathon again sometime. It’s exactly what everyone said it would be- the best race experience with the best spectators of any race out there. So fun!