I didn’t actually know if I’d be able to run the 2019 Boston Marathon. I had an infertility-related surgery just 3.5 weeks before, which came with two abdominal incisions and the deep fatigue that comes from your body being poked and prodded from the inside. When we scheduled this surgery, I knew it meant I most certainly wouldn’t get to “race” Boston, and that I might not even be able to participate. But I sure hoped I could still chase that unicorn.
(Here’s a few IG posts if you want the details. Explanation | Surgery | Recovery | Cleared | Doubts | Race Morning)
With 11 days to go before the race, I was cleared to run again. Normally, this means slowly building back the mileage and most definitely does not included running 26.2 soon. But my doctor said everything looked good from her end and therefore gave her blessing – along with her condolences for my legs. 😉
I was thrilled to get the green light! Running the Boston Marathon is always a privilege, but I felt extra grateful to have that opportunity now.
The time leading up to Boston was exceptionally busy, so I didn’t have much time to think about the actual race. It was all logistics – ordering this, packing that, looking over things for my athletes, planning the social aspects and being excited for my friends. Plus, the optimist in me just kept hoping that I’d magically feel exponentially better, so how I felt on any given day had no bearing on how I’d feel race day, right? No need to worry. Until the day before.
The Sunday before the race was a bit of a wake-up call. I hadn't magically bounced back, and this was the body that would be running the Boston Marathon this year. I was excited, yes – but I was also terrified. I just couldn’t wrap my head around how I could actually cover 26.2 miles with my own legs at that point. My resting heart rate was still crazy high, which just shows that my 3.5-week post-op body was far from recovered. On our tiny 2-mile shake out run, my heart rate skyrocketed, my incision sites cramped, and my atrophied legs felt exhausted. How on earth am I going to do 24 more miles of this?
And how do you mentally prepare for a race that you’re not ready for and just hope to complete, anyway? I can pump myself up to push my body to its limits to reach a goal time. But I wasn’t even supposed to push myself for 26.2 miles. Completion was going to be hard enough on my body! And there weren’t constant character stops to plan around in a princess dress ala the Disney Marathon, either. So… A marathon is a long way to go without any idea how to actually get there, you know?
I’ve run a marathon with a tired body before. Three times, following a 2.4-mile swim and 112-mile bike. And once in Disney, off insanely minimal sleep all week, on terribly low mileage post-bike crash, and having run all the Dopey miles *and* walked the parks in all the days leading up to it. I flashed back to me and Kindal at 3 a.m., lying on the asphalt by the porta-potties next to our WDW Marathon corral, with tiaras on our heads and a Red Bull in my hand, wondering how we were going to do that thing. But I was tired for those. This was different. My body was so deeply exhausted. And it didn't have the training miles on it, either, because I had a surgery instead. My legs and I were going to be winging this thing.
I just kept going back to two thoughts from friends. My athlete Lauren gave me a sweet keychain with a note: “One mile at a time.” And my friend Carolyn wrote a note to remind me that even though my doubts were valid and seemed loud, BOSTON would be louder. One mile at a time, and the crowds would help me do it. That’s the only way this could possibly work.
We woke up to lightning, thunder, and pouring rain. The forecast still looked undecided as to whether we’d have a wet or dry race, but the forecasted temperatures just continued to rise so we actually hoped for rain to keep it cool. Either way, nothing to do but make the most of it! I pulled up “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons and we had a little dance party in the bathroom as we got ready to head out the door.
Heather and I layered up in our rain gear and hit the road. I was grateful that we came prepared! It poured on our way to the busses, and the tiny part of my leg that wasn’t covered (by my umbrella + poncho + rain shoe covers) got drenched. We laughed as we splashed through the puddles, but were happy to get onto the dry bus!
We sat on the bus for what felt like a long time before it was actually ready to go. Listening to people around me talk about their goals for the race made my task seem all the more daunting. “One mile at a time,” yes – but that’s still a lot of “one miles” to have to go! As the bus started driving out of the city, I tried not to notice how long it was taking or just how far away we were going. The bus route is different than the course, but it still underscores how terribly far Hopkinton really is from Boston.
How on earth am I going to do this?
There were precisely two things that I did know: 1- My body was capable of running at least four miles because I’d done it the week prior and 2- I was going to have to walk a good portion of this marathon. The pragmatic approach would be to run/walk from the beginning. However, it’s so crowded in the beginning that walking is almost hazardous. And frankly, that’s just a reaaalllly long time to be run/walking. 26 whole miles?
This was going to be a very long, very hard day. I wasn’t magically going to feel amazing for the final 10K, which meant there was really no use in taking the pragmatic approach. So I had decided to opt for the fun approach, which was to run fast with my friends as long as I could! Aaaand then run/walk the rest. I figured I could hang for two miles, but the longer, the better. Maybe I could even run fast for four miles. I was certainly going to try. But then after that? I still couldn’t wrap my head around somehow getting through the final 22.2 miles of the race.
How on earth am I going to do this?
I wondered again, and again. (It’s a long bus ride, after all. 😂) And then my phone rang.
It was Kindal. We’d been texting about where she and Charlie were going to be during the race – just after the 13.1 mark, and then somewhere between 23 and Citgo – so I didn’t expect a call. It’s a long story that I’ll explain later (surely this post will be long enough without it, ha), but that girl said probably the one thing in the world that could have inspired me to really RUN that first half marathon as quickly as I could that day.
Suddenly I went from hoping I could run a 5th mile to knowing for dang sure I was going to run the first 13.1, as fast as I could, whatever that meant. And then I’d run/walk and figure it out after that.
Yeah, I could do this. Finally, mentally, I had a plan. I can really do this. I’m going to finish the Boston Marathon today.
The fear was pushed to the bottom of the pile and now I was really, truly excited. Let’s do this!!!