WARNING: Several references to puking (i.e. the liquid laugh, spray the puree) are made in this post. And I can think of only one person who will truly appreciate it. Stop now if you’d rather not know.
From early on, Boston became less of a race and purely about “body management.” And this perspective from a friend of a friend who placed 20th overall.
While I went out with a choked up “I-can’t-believe-I’m-running-Boston-again-this-place-is-beautiful-the-spectators-are-amazing-soak-it-all-up-be-in-the-moment-and-be-grateful” feeling, I also reminded myself over and over to conserve. A little bit because of the imminent hills. A little bit because of the heat and the consequential unknowns. I stuck to 8:15 miles, as I reveled in the foot pounding and serpentine flow of constant runners that preceded me on roads through once sleepy towns.
I remembered my new mantra of drink early, drink often, and I intended to grab-and-sip some water at the first aid station. But I didn’t fully realize the predicament we were all in until I came to that first water stop. It was completely packed with runners who weren’t just stopping to grab water for the road, but walking through, or stopping fully. Several runners deep. I couldn’t get close to a table if I wanted to keep moving. I skipped it, hoping it would thin out by the next one, and shuffled through the crushed cups resting two, three, and four high. Little did I know that this first aid station would set the climate for the entire race.
Conserving, I continued on, forcing my way in for some water at the next few aid stations.
I was looking forward to mile 6.5, when I saw the boy and my brother. I gave a wave, a big smile, and kept moving. But very soon after, it hit me. Nauseau. By mile 10, it wasn’t just a “maybe” my stomach feels funny, it was a “street pizza delivery” kind of stomach feeling. Press on, I said. By now, a friend of mine, Amanda, had found me, though she began in a different coral. After checking in on each other, we both knew we were feeling less than fine. We briefly discussed our goals going out the window and just running as much as we could together, take in the experience, get to the finish.
Amanda and I began walking through each aid station as we guzzled down water or Gatorade with the rest of the crowds. It seemed a great majority were either walking through the stations or stopping completely to take in liquids. While the volunteers were spectacular, there were several stations where the tables were completely void of water cups. Not because there weren’t any, but because the volunteers could not fill the cups fast enough. Each aid station was a sea of green crushed Poland Springs and Gatorade cups.
At several locations along the course, BAA had set up water spray tunnels. Arched tunnels, 20 feet long, spraying cool water throughout. Everyone diverted. Every single time. Not only this, but the spectators who had access to a hose were spraying any runners who ran by. At times, there were single file lines by the sidewalks, as we each humbly begged for a quick spray. Ice. Oranges. Extra water. Popsicles. All for the 22,500 runner who chose to gut it out on that hot day.
Amanda and I ran through Wellesley. We supported each other at the beginning of the Newton hills. We saw the boy and my family again at mile 15.5 and waved. As I passed them, I turned and gave a thumbs-down sign. It was my only way of letting them know I felt awful and I wouldn’t have a good time. I only hoped they understood.
Shortly thereafter, Amanda, feeling better than I, slowly pulled away from me. We had determined earlier that if one of us were feeling good, that girl should go. This was her moment. I was glad one of us was feeling okay! Me, all I wanted to do was unswallow everything I had already swallowed for the day. It was that feeling when you know that if you do that, you will surely feel better. Several miles later, I even stopped by a large trash can, in hopes that I would be productive. But I got all crowd shy, and nothing happened. On I went. But then, I started realizing how lightheaded I was. At each aid station, I was not walking straight. Zig-zagging along. I’d pour water on my arms, down my neck, over my head. Anything to cool me down.
Somewhere in those Newton hills, I saw a reader board with the temperature: 86. And with all of that direct sun and no breeze, I wondered about “real feel.” Humidity. Heat index.
By mile 21, my only goal was to finish. There was a chance I could beat my previous PW (personal worst). I had even briefly considered a DNF at one point. But realizing I had already bought the jacket, I couldn’t just quit now! And I’m too stubborn to not finish. Even though laying down felt like the greatest thing since the hula hoop.
Most of this race was a blur. Putting one foot in front of the other took a lot of convincing. Also taking a lot of convincing, holding back on the involuntarily personal protein spill. I remember negotiating a lot with myself. Adjusting my time goals. Accepting a slower time. And finally coming to grips with it being my slowest time. By the time my PW had past, I was already in the city and the crowds were thick.
When I turned on to Boylston, it was bittersweet. Relief that all the discomfort I was in would go away. Sadness that it would be over all too soon. If it’s possible, the heat seemed to swell even more in this short .2 mile stretch. But I kicked it in past the shouting crowds, past the grandstands, past the Finish line.