Marathon Monday has come and gone and I am left with a high that I have never felt before. Its Wednesday and I'm still not sure I've come down yet. When thinking through how I was going to write this final entry, I struggled on where to start. Lets begin at 4AM when my alarm went off:
I couldn't believe it, I successfully slept from 8PM to 4AM, a solid 8 hours of sleep before my first marathon. I have always been a good sleeper, even as a baby, so I'm not sure why I was so surprised. I was definitely grateful. I was unsure how I would ever be able to run 26.2 miles if I hadn't slept the night before. Good thing I wouldn't have to find out. I got dressed, foam rolled, packed up my gear that was neatly laid out from the night before and got into my car to drive to Spaulding. The Race for Rehab team was meeting at 5AM to board the busses to Hopkinton. Although it was early, I was energized. There wasn't an ounce of nervousness in my body, just pure excitement. I kept telling myself that my training was complete and one way or another I was going to get to that finish line.
The buzz in Hopkinton was something that I have never experienced. Thousands of people being herded like cattle through check points and into their proper corrals. It was beautifully chaotic, yet calm. Suzanne and I said goodbye to most of our team and made our way to Wave 4, Corral 1. We were at the front of the pack, just steps away from Tedy Bruschi and the starting line. When the gun went off tears started to fill my eyes. The cheers from the crowd, the thousands of people ahead and behind me and a sudden sense of belonging pulled at my heart strings. I was a runner! Suzanne looked at me and said "no crying, not yet, you'll waste your energy." I pulled it together and just took it all in. The game plan was to go out slow, 11:00 miles and pick up the pace around mile 6. Slowly one by one, the people we had trained with passed us. Suzanne and I looked at each other, smiled and agreed that we would catch up to them when they lost steam from going out too fast. The rolling hills of the historic Boston Marathon course gave us a beautiful picture of the thousands of runners in their neon colors, charity singlets and swaying pony-tails. As I ran, I tried to remember everything that those who came before me said to take in: the smiling kids, the bands on the side of the road, the party-goers, the creative posters, the sound of pure excitement and sneakers hitting the pavement. I did just that.
Suzanne and I stayed together almost through the half way point when I had the sudden urge to pee, a now normal occurrence for me on any long run and a running joke in our group. I told Suzanne to go on and I hoped to catch up to her. Once I found a short line for a porta-potty and fixed my bladder issue, I jumped back into the pack and began my now solo journey to Boston. The next few miles (13-17) were really hard for me. The sun was higher in the sky, it was beginning to get really hot and I realized that I needed to readjust. I started to dump water down my shirt and over my head to try and stay cool. Training through the frigid polar vortex this winter did not prepare me for 70+ degree running weather. My legs started to cramp and I began to play mind games, run to the next light Amanda, then you can walk to the next landmark. I played this game all the way until the Woodland T Stop when I caught a glimpse of more of my fans. Their energy gave me strength, the strength I needed just before the turn toward the hills.
I think I blacked out on the hills. I don't even remember running them. The only thing I remember is a young girl in a wheelchair holding out a cup of water. I didn't need the water, so I reached out and grabbed her other hand. This was the first person I gave a high-five to. After that, I had new legs. I arrived at the top of Heart Break Hill and knew there were just a few short miles left to go. I passed BC and caught a glimpse of my running partner, Suzanne. She was walking and did not look good. The heat had clearly gotten the best of her. I wrapped my arms around her and said, "lets do this, we're going to finish together." She turned to me and said "I was hoping you'd catch me. I think I'm going to throw up." Well, I couldn't let that happen...or maybe I could have let her puke, but she was still going to finish with me.
I never told her this, but I had a dream a week before the Marathon that we finished together. I didn't want to tell her before the race because I didn't want her to feel responsible to stay with me the whole time. She is a stronger and more experienced runner than I am, now with 6 marathons under her belt. I knew if I told her, she would feel obligated to pace with me, stop with me, walk with me, pee with me, etc, especially since she was a big reason that I decided to run the marathon to begin with. Suzanne was the person who got me through my long runs. She distracted me, motivated me, educated me and constantly told me "I'm going to get you through this!"
People told me that your race goal will change 10 times before race day and about 100 times during the race itself. As I ran up to my friend and saw her discomfort, my goal changed. I was hoping to run the 26.2 miles under 5 hours and I probably could have done it. However, my new goal had nothing to do with time, it had everything to do with ensuring that Suzanne, the person who got me through every mile to this point, got to the finish line and that we did it together. We took it slow, we ran one street light to the next and took walking breaks in between. We talked and I reminded her how close we were. She constantly apologized for holding me back, but little did she know, I was exactly where I wanted to be. All through training she helped me finish, in this new role reversal, I was going to do everything in my power to get her to the finish line.
We made it to Kenmore Square and both of us called our families, who were in the VIP grandstands at the finish line. We wanted them to know we were almost there and to begin to look for us. I took my headphones out, listened to the crowd and again started to cry. My chest got tight and I began to have trouble breathing. Emotions were getting the best of me. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, grabbed Suzanne's hand and continued on. I wish I could bottle up the sound, the energy and feeling of running through Kenmore and into the final stretch of the marathon. That last mile is the longest mile of your life. We made our way under the Mass Ave. bridge and into the tunnel, the only quiet area on the entire course. I quickly said a prayer, collected myself and turned right on Hereford. HOLY CROWDS! Everyone talks about Boylston Street, but I think Hereford is where the party is. Suzanne and I grabbed hands and prepared to turn left on Boylston. We looked at each other and said "are you ready? lets do this!" We made our way down the street waving to our fans at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and finally our families at the finish line. We put our hands up, smiled at the finish camera and wrapped our arms around each other. We did it!
Suzanne and I witnessed the bombs go off together last year. Experienced the fear, unknown and terror that last April brought to us. We trained through the horrible winter together and on Monday we took Boylston Street back together. Despite the heat, the terrible run and physical pain along the way, our 118th Boston Marathon journey ended just the way it began, together.