The alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. How could the alarm be waking me? Didn't I just look at the clock and it read 5:16? Today is the day. It has finally come! Yes, April 16, 2007 - the Boston Marathon. Got out of bed and did about 25 minutes of yoga and felt good, no not good, great! Ah, time to eat. I tried to silently get dressed without waking my dear friend Debs. After fumbling thru my stuff, she whispered to turn on the light. She was up. It was nice getting dressed with the lights on and not tripping over everything. Asked Debs if she wanted anything to eat. Nope. So, out the door I was, down to the lobby and over to Au Bon Pain. I didn't even look out the window to check the weather. I knew what the weather was, cold, windy, and wet. No different than a lot of the long run days I had faced while training over the winter. The weather didn't matter, I was READY!!! It was race day and I was prepared. Grabbed 2 bagels and a hard boil egg, looked for a banana and then remembered I had some upstairs. Looked for some peanut butter but there was none to be found so made my trek back to the room. I saw alot of runners walking over to my hotel on my way back. They were all boarding buses at the front of my hotel. Turns out they were charity runners, they had luxury buses compared to the school buses the rest of the runners were taking. Seeing all the runners caused the excitement to build. Uh, I couldn't believe the day was here.
The news was on when I got back to the room. Debs found the channel that was covering the marathon. I watched and was surprised at how amateur the marathon coverage was. The reporter that the station had at the start line was actually telling runners to prepare themselves for a cold day, to eat a good breakfast (what!?!) and it would probably be a good idea to wear a wool hat! He was making it sound like we had never run before and we had no idea what the weather was like, so he would prepare us. I couldn't stop laughing. Each time they showed him, he would say something funnier, like, "Runners, don't forget to drink plenty of water" - huh?, he had no clue. Before I knew it I had downed my bagel, banana and egg, 7 a.m. arrived and Patty (my sis) and Keri (sister-in-law) were in the room to say good bye. Debs took pics of me in my t-shirt, with everyone's well wishes and hand prints on the back and me with my race number attached to my shorts. I then threw on my big winter coat, water resistant pants, Keri's running gloves, hat, and gear check bag and I was out the door.
While in the elevator, I actually gave a man (I didn't know) a pep talk about what a great day it was for a run. He went along with it telling me it was a great day and to have fun and becareful. (Hmmm, wonder if he was a distance relative or maybe he watched Hill Street Blues like me.) Before he got off the elevator he high-fived me. My energy was now contagious! It was great. My three friends walked me outside. I wasn't sure were I was going but I saw plenty of people with orange gear check bags walking, so I would just follow. I hugged everyone good bye and got choked up when I told them I would see them at the finish. I couldn't turn around and look back to see if they choked up as well. I kept walking and kept hearing, "Excuse me mam, mam excuse me." Well, who wants to turn around when you are called mam? But after hearing it several times, I swallowed hard to get the emotions of the good bye out of my throat and saw a little tiny woman calling after me. She was as bundled up as me and as she got closer, she looked like she could be my age. She asked me if she could walk with me to the bus. I wasn't sure I wanted the company but told her yes. I'm so glad that I did.
We walked maybe 4 steps before we were completely drenched by the rain. The wind was so fierce we were almost knocked down. I had all I could do to stand up right. Rain was hitting us so hard and all I could think was, this is so cool. I will run in the Boston marathon that will go down in history as the one with the horrible winds and rain. Well, by the time we got to the park, where the buses were waiting for us (about a 4 block walk) the winds and rain had died down. I got a chance to talk to my new found friend. Her name was Julie, she lived in Seattle, she qualified for Boston in June and turned 40 in July. She wanted to run Boston while she was 40. So, here she was. I exchanged my qualifying story with her. It seemed like a lot of runners just paired up with who was next to them. I kept hearing the same stories as we got closer to the bus. The lines moved quickly. Before we knew it we were on and off the Hopkinton. The drive felt like it took forever. Julie and I kept commenting on how long it felt. Between those comments we shared bits of information on our families and what we did for a living and what we had been doing since arriving in Boston. We tried to make the time pass quickly but it just wasn't passing quick enough. During this time I began to wonder about MJ. I had a horrible flash go thru my mind yesterday, that her flight may have been canceled due to the weather causing her to miss packet pick up. Then thought no, she would have called me or someone here that she knew and told us to get her packet - no matter what it took and that she would get it from us. Well, that didn't happen, thankfully. I attempted to call her while on the bus but couldn't reach her. Left a voice mail and let her know I was almost to the start. This next part of the story I found it so interesting. Just getting off the expressway and heading towards Hopkinton, runners started to ask the driver of the bus if they could get off and pee. Ok, I understand that urge better than anyone but we were stopped at a toll plaza. There were no port-a-potties (pap's) and a lot of state troopers directing traffic. The driver opened the door and let them go. And go they did and then got back on the bus before we even got out of the plaza area. The next time traffic would slow, same thing, people would get off and pee and then get back on. It was kind of creeping me out. Julie thought it was funny. Ok, she's a lot more laid back than me, so that's a good thing. Her attitude will help me keep things in perspective as the race start gets closer. We crept our way to the race start area. It was a little before 10 o'clock when we finally got off the bus. We had a half hour to get out of our wet stuff , check our bag and use the p.a.p's. Things moved along smoothly. I was shocked. There were no jitters. No, panic. Things just moved. It was nice having Julie there. Turns out we had the same goal finish time but we both agreed that if conditions were bad, chuck the time and just finish. For me, I knew I was saying I would let it go, but it was almost like crossing your fingers behind your back when your a kid telling a lie, I knew I wasn't going to be able to just let it go. We both went thru mental checklists with each other as we got dressed. I decided not to use toe warmers because it looked like the weather was turning and gave them to Julie for her hands. She was very grateful. We dropped off our gear and started towards the corrals. They were announcing that only pens 20 -22 were still open. I heard what they were saying but it never really registered that that meant my corral - 16 was closed I wasn't going to make it there. It was about a 3/4 mile walk from the gear check to the corrals. It was a good walk but I kept picking up garbage on my shoes. There was a point where a string became tangled in my foot and I was literally dragging paper, plastic, gu wrappers, and anything else on the ground behind me. A nice man helped me untangle. At that point I retied my shoes. They were feeling a little tight from all the dampness. I was glad I took the time to do it. We reached the corrals and then it dawned on me - oh my gosh - the race has already started. It had actually started about 12 minutes earlier. What, I missed the National Anthem, the gun going off, bummer. I was already thinking, ok, make mental notes because I think you're going to want to come back and do this again. A woman approached me and Julie and told us to go up the street, that pen 18 could take us. We asked if she was sure, because they kept announcing that only corrals 20-22 were open and don't attempt to go further up. She assured us and practically pushed us in that direction. Well, we got to 20 and were stopped. So at that point we walked to the started. Had some nervous chatter and before I knew it we were at the chip mat ready to go. I turned to her and said, I can't believe it's here. She just gave me a really big smile.
I'm realizing that this is a really long story, so I'm going to try to keep this next part, my run as short as possible. My thoughts at this point got to be pretty repetitive. So, here is the run part, the reason for the day .....
I crossed the start mat and heard all the chimes from the chips. Started my watch and off we went. Julie told me to be sure to stay in the middle of the road. There was a definite slope on both sides of the street and that would cause problems later in the race if we weren't careful. About a block before our first mile, my Garmin chimed. What?, it can't chime already I still had a block to run but there it was ringing it's ring. I looked down and wouldn't you know, my eyes decided to turn old. I couldn't see the numbers on the watch. I was squinting the best I could to see the lap but just couldn't read it. No worry I thought. I knew it was slow but it was only the first mile. I had 25.2 ahead of me. Julie looked at me at this point and said if we get separated she wants to stay in touch and asked me for my room number - 1008 I said, "what's yours?" 36 something she said; I asked her again 3 more times, she told me not to worry, she would find me. With that, just like that, we pulled away from each other. It was right about then I started noticing a headache. I thought naw, I don't have a headache at the Boston marathon, not possible. Nope, not today. Just after that I'm noticing my legs are tired. Not a tired legs – this is gonna pass kind of tire but a I'm already fatigued tired feeling. I thought, this can't be happening WTF. Ok body, your head is FINE! Your legs are GREAT! YOU ARE RUNNING THE BOSTON MARATHON!!! Life is good. You waited 13 years for this, almost as long as it took to have babies, you are PREPARED!!! Now get out there and run this race! So I jockeyed, and then jockeyed some more. All apart of my plan. I usually always start in back, psychologically this is better for me. Every so often the " tired" thought would creep up on me. "Get out of my head" - geeze. What is going on. I made it to the 5k mark. The Garmin was still chiming to soon and I was getting frustrated with the early splits. Looking at the mile marker clock and then my watch - I was trying to figure my time - actually I was just trying to see the numbers on my watch. WTF!!! Why are all these little things happening today? What is going on? At about mile 4 I decide to call, (yes I did say call, I was running with my phone,) my sister. I needed some positive energy and I knew I could get it from her. I really don't remember the conversation other than telling her that I started 14 minutes after the official start. It was comforting to hear her voice. I hung up with her and told myself, ok, this is just like a regular run, you're home, you're running the streets of Frankfort, it's all good. And here came the feeling of fatigue again. It was right around this time I realized - this isn't a flat, descending course. It may be descending but flat - unta, nope. My mind was racing now, I looked forward and there was another "gentle rolling hill". Who wrote that this was flat, I'm going to find them and write a strongly worded letter telling them how misleading their words were. "Wait a second", I thought, "I've trained on this terrain all winter. This isn't a problem. I ran Cary, March Madness 1/2 with energy to spare. Everyone said how tough that was, this is nothing like that, this is cake - you've got in ya, just keep moving! Yeah, that's it, just keep moving!" I reached the 10k, got my gu, fueled up. Drank plenty of water. I was running the numbers in my head. My watch read one number, the race clock another. Do the math, do the math, I'm thinking, thinking. Ugh!!! I was devastated with what came out. I was out, way, way to slow. Way to slow. How could this have happened? I put my water away and looked at my watch again. It stopped. I must have bumped it when I was grabbing gu or water or putting stuff back. I was so angry at this point I turned the watch off. I'm not going to be defeated, not today, not by a little thing with even littler numbers, untah, not gonna happen. "Just keep it together Pam, don't fall apart." The thought of fatigue would find it's way in and out of my head. I tried praying to get rid of it - "Aaaa Amen, Aaaa Amen, A-Amen, Amen, Amen, - FATIGUE. How dare those thoughts come into my prayers! I'm running the streets of Massachusetts, there is no room for those thoughts. It was just around mile 10 that it occurred to me what was happening here. It was something I never prepared myself for while training. Why would I, it could never happen on race day so I just never thought about it, but it had to be what was going on. Today, my race day of a lifetime was "just a bad day". It's not possible, I immediately extinguished it. No such thing when you're at the Boston marathon. When you're as prepared as I was, a bad day was not possible. I ran my training runs thru my head, "bad day training runs - any during the 1st week, nope, ok, 2nd week - hmmm, nope, 3rd, 4th, 5th, nope - wait, the odds were starting to look bad for me. Ok, I had some hamstring issues, a little tendonitis - that had to count as bad right - hmmm, were they bad? - no I was able to get those long runs in and actually felt good afterwards. No! Today was not going to be MY BAD DAY! Get it out of your head right now!" With all this going thru my head, I reached mile 14 and didn't even realize the miles that had passed. I pulled out my phone and called Patty. I heard her pick up the phone – “We’re at mile 16.8”, she said. I told her good I can't wait to see them. And she repeated it – “We’re at mile 16.8.” I repeated what I said again. And she repeated what she said again! I realized she couldn't hear me, so I yelled in the phone, fighting back emotions – “I REALLY NEED YOU, PLEASE DON'T LEAVE, I REALLY NEED YOU THERE, I'M COMING, DON'T LEAVE." And I hung up.
Believe it or not, running and thinking all of this didn't interfere with the sights and sounds of the marathon. I did pass Welsely. The screams were truly palpable. The winds caused the screaming to travel about 2 blocks before seeing the girls. Their energy was great, it carried me thru that point of the run. The people of Boston were terrific. The weather was constantly changing. It would drizzle and the wind would pick up and then die down and pick up and die down but the people were out there cheering. I remember trains going by and beeping their horns to a rhythm of a tune. Red Sox fans were constantly shouting out that the game was going to be played today, and later I would hear the score, 7 - 1 , 8 – 1, Sox’s are winning!!! The police directing the runners in spots would ask that all Red Sox fans stay to the right and Yankees go to the left. I always followed the Sox fans. I made it to mile 16.8 and I was so happy to see my friends. They were cheering and screaming. Before seeing them, I thought I would breakdown in tears but just the opposite happened. Their excitement moved me forward. I high fived them and threw my gloves at Patty. I saw Debs had the camera and she was taking pictures. She's so great. And then they were gone.
t was just me again. I thought of my friends Dennis and Michelle. They did an entire Ironman in weather like this. Worse than this. It was constant rain. They moved forward the entire time. Michelle even moved forward with the thought that her breast cancer had returned. She’s so strong. Dennis, huh, I actually imagined him running by my side, "I'm right here" I could here him saying. "no, no, no, you look great. Save some energy for that finish". Then Doug was at our side. Fast Doug - I heard him saying "You know it's the long slow runs that get you faster" Then, I saw him run from me, into the crowd ahead. I was by myself again. I looked to the crowds and remembered seeing my husband watching me finish my first Chicago marathon. 1994 – he was standing on Roosevelt road just before turning on to Columbus drive. His arms crossed, holding my bag, shaking his head, smiling, "You did it" he yelled. And then smiled. I gave him a thumbs up. Yup, he was there, right there and then he disappeared too. FATIGUE decided to join me again. Just leave me alone I told it, just let me finish, please, just go away. But it wouldn't. It started to nag and it wasn’t going away. "Come on, just quit, just give in, no one would blame you, look at this day, look at others on the course, just give it up". NO, NO, NO. Michelle wrote on my shirt, "Pain is temporary, quitting is for ever". Right Michelle? Right GOD? Pain is temporary – and this pain wasn’t even real. It’s not life threatening or ending. It’s just plain old tiredness. Please GOD I need the strength, right now. It was around mile 19. I was ready to give in. Please God, guide me here. I looked up, right in front of me were Michelle’s words, very big, I had no trouble reading them, written on poster board - PAIN IS TEMPORARY QUITTING IS FOREVER. I saw the answer I needed to push me forward. Ok, God I'm feeling really selfish right now, so self absorbed, I know there is more to life than this, and I looked up and right in front of me was a runner wearing an ALS shirt, and in front of her, a runner with a "Team Hoyt" shirt. Just to my right were 3 MP’s standing in the crowds quietly keeping all of us safe. I was seeing all this for the first time, although they were with me all along. It put things in perspective.
A woman was yelling out at me, “Only one more hill after this, just one more!” Was I finally at Heart Break Hill. No, I’ve seen pictures, this isn’t what it looks like, is it? No, there’s numbers painted on the asphalt. I don’t see anything. Besides, this doesn’t feel any different than the rest of the race I had just run. I don’t even remembering seeing mile 22 but I was there already and Heart Break Hill was over. I do remember Boston college. I was looking for crowds, like at Welsley earlier in the run. I found it so funny that the only noticeable college students out there were “Frat boys” holding cans of Bud light, barely yelling “go runners go” between their sips of beer. I guess that’s the difference between men and women.;) It was mile 23. I couldn’t believe I made it this far. Then mile 24. It stung. I looked at the clock and had no trouble figuring out that this is just about the time I wanted to see that blue finish banner. But today was not the day for that. I know I told Scott I wouldn’t come back but I would have to tell him I was wrong, I had to return. I looked up, there was mile 25. Wow, why are they starting to pass so quickly now? Huh? And then I saw them, and they saw me. I couldn’t believe Keri, Patty and Debs stayed out there. They were cheering as if I had met my goal. As if mile 25 were the finish. I did choke up then. It literally is a choking sensation. Me and Keri joke about being careful when that happens. God forbid I started to hyperventilate here, passed out and didn’t finish, after all that, because I started crying! Nope, not today. Not gonna happen today. Only 1.2 miles. Less than that now. What a run. What a day. Ugh! Am I sure I want to try this again. Yup. How to explain it to Scott. Hey, I think I’m recognizing streets now. I think I’m almost done. I can hear the announcer calling people out. Am about 4 blocks away? No, I think it’s farther, 6 blocks, it has to be 6. I turn the corner. I was wrong it wasn’t 6 block - there it was, the FINISH LINE. My friend Doug told me to enjoy this run – it is a once in a life time experience for a runner, he said, only topped by your wedding day and the day your children were born, he was right. The moment I turned that corner and looked and saw that blue banner – all feelings of fatigue and any pain were gone. I ran. I ran like I just left my hotel and was running a 5k. I could hear the crowds. The music. I felt the street below my feet, it was pushing me with each step. It was the feeling I waited for all day. It was the best feeling – a once in a lifetime feeling. I did it. I completed the Boston marathon. I don’t remember if I threw my arms up or even if I was smiling but the feeling inside is one I will never forget.