God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
I said these words to myself, eyes closed, palms together and fingertips rested between my eyebrows, as I toed the line of the 123rd Boston Marathon. It was a moment of calm amongst the wonderful chaos of the starting corrals of the World’s Oldest Marathon. Reflecting on my training and the reasons why I run, which motivate each step, I knew I was capable of doing some damage to my Personal Best.
But part of marathon running is surrendering to everything that is out of our hands and performing under conditions in which we have absolutely no say. Adapting, persevering, and enduring are all requirements, but accepting that, while, yes you may be capable of faster and stronger, there are uncontrollable factors that will ultimately determine your race time, is paramount. It is not your fastest time, but the ways in which you react and adapt to race conditions that determine who you are as a runner.
I can proudly and confidently say that, this Patriots’ Day, I ran the fastest time that my body would allow under the day’s conditions. And with that in mind, here is a personal recap of the 123rd running of the Boston Marathon:
After a strangely restful night’s sleep, waking up to humidity, pouring rain, and thunderstorms was nothing more than comical. My friend Kelly (a badass veteran marathoner) and I laughed as the rain poured and thunder roared. She outfitted me in waterproof clothes and saw me off to Boston Common where my teammate Steve (another badass veteran marathoner) and I boarded a bus bound for Hopkinton. Along with the humidity, excitement was in the air as we reflected on training, fundraising, and general excitedness for the day. After a little mix up with the bus taking the wrong exit, we found our team meeting spot and geared up for the race.
Marathons can be broken down in a million ways, but after reflecting on this race for a few days, the 2019 Boston Marathon has broken itself down into three specific parts:
Part I: Humid & Cloudy- Right out of the gate I was running fast, but it was a manageable pace. With these conditions, I knew it was a pace I could sustain. I laughed as I crossed each checkpoint and wondered what my Support Crew around the globe was thinking as they got notifications of my speedy times through the first half. I don’t often enjoy humidity, but the cloud cover made it pretty manageable for running. The crowds through this part were epic, as per, and I was happy to completely immerse myself in their energy. The run was fast, but I felt in control and ready for the hills.
Part II: Here Comes The Sun(burn)- For those of you who know my history with running Boston, I must have been foolish to think Patriots’ Day would let me escape without a sunburn. The surprise appearance of the sun for miles 10-21 threw me for a loop. I was able to hold it together through the half but nearly fell apart after that. It was amazing to see my Crew at mile 17, as that was when I was feeling at my lowest. I upped my water intake, started feeling sick to my stomach, and ditched my shoes just after the 20-mile marker. Thankfully Kelly was able to force them off my swollen feet and I felt like a new person.
Throughout this part, I repeated to myself the mantra with which I began the race:
- Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change– I cannot change the weather, I can only adapt to it.
- The courage to change the things I can– Taking off my shoes was a change that I could make to help adapt to the uncontrollable weather factor. It was a risk to run without shoes for that long, but it was a change that I could make in an effort to help the situation.
- And the wisdom to know the difference– It’s easy to get frustrated by race day conditions when you know you had a strong training season that would allow for a faster time, but, ultimately, that is not what marathon running is about (and I’m glad I remembered that during the race). I made changes within my control and thought about my people I run for- especially Meme and Tracey, who both showed courage and determination throughout their lives. I am forever grateful to have had these ladies as role models in my life. I also thought about the Stepping Strong ethos, which truly encapsulates the spirit of the marathon. I am honored to run for such an incredible cause that is making an innovative impact on trauma survivors around the globe.
Part III: Washed By The Water- Barefoot and crazy, I beasted up the final hill of the Heartbreak section as rain started to pour from the sky, getting heavier and heavier with each step into Boston (I unashamedly reacted like that scene in Holes when it starts to rain.). The fresh feeling in my feet, the mid-race motivation from my Support Crew in the Sky, and the cool rain lifted my spirits and my pace- I was back.
As the rain poured, I dug deep, engaged with the lively crowds, and tried to avoid pebbles and uneven bits of the road. Overall, it was pretty smooth thanks to pre-race street sweeping. Pro Tip: If you ever find yourself shoeless and in the midst of a marathon, run on the painted lines in the road- it’s a lot smoother than the road itself. Some spectators questioned my shoeless-ness while others applauded and encouraged it. I will admit that 10km is too far to run without shoes, but I would not have made it much further with them on. Running without shoes does indeed hurt, but it hurt differently and a bit less than when I had them on, so I just embraced it. Let’s be real, the latter miles of any marathon hurt.
It was wonderful to see my Crew again near the end of mile 24. Everything about that moment was so drastically different from when I saw them at mile 17. It felt as though it was a completely different day!
The headwind up Hereford Street was strong, cold, and drove the rain into my eyes. Mixing with the sweat on my face, it burned and made it difficult to see, but the famed Right on Hereford and Left on Boylston was impossible to miss. The roar of the crowd down Boylston Street never fails to make me cry and, while I’ve never want that stretch to end, I was able to pick up the pace for a strong and fantastic finish.
Almost immediately after finishing, I was greeted with the biggest and best hug from Martha (yet another badass veteran marathoner I am lucky to know) as she bundled me up in a heat sheet to stay warm. I missed a PB by 4 minutes, but I knocked about 30 minutes off my Boston PB, which is something I am quite proud of. The challenge of the course between Hopkinton and Boston, the energy of the crowds, and the inspiration of the charity running community is something that I will never grow tired of. Thank you, Boston for another incredible run. I said I wouldn’t say it, but I’ll be back.
Thank You Notes
- Thank you to Caroline and Ali for their hard work throughout the training season and race weekend. You both make the logistics of charity running so simple and 100% enjoyable.
- Thank you to Coach John for his invaluable training and racing advice. You make me feel so prepared for and at ease about the Marathon Quest.
- Thank you to Daddio for being the rock of the Support Crew (as well as the Crew’s official offline donation manager and Strava analyst). I know you say that I’m your hero (which honestly, I don’t understand), but you are truly mine.
- Thank you to my Sister/Best Friend for literally everything. This woman is the most supportive and prepared human being to grace the planet. If spectating a marathon was an Olympic sport you’d win the gold by a long shot.
- Thank you to the rest of the Support Crew on the ground, including but not limited to, Leah, Jaz, and Chris Ray, Debra, Mum, Kelly, & Garrett. Thank you for helping out with race logistics and cheers.
- Thank you to Stepping Strong- I am so grateful to run for this incredible organization. I get chills every time I read about the work and research they’ve been doing and the positive impact they are making for trauma survivors and their families.
- Thank you to chocolate milk (as always) for that on point carbs-protein ratio, just perfect for kickstarting post-race recovery.
- Thank you to that lady who gave me that freeze pop around mile 15 (?). It was everything I didn’t know I needed in that moment.
- Thank you to absolutely everyone who lined the course from Hopkinton to Boston. Oftentimes spectators make the race, and this was no exception. I am so thankful that I saw everyone who said they were going to be there and then some! x