I had planned this trip for a couple of months, I considered Boston as the Mecca for all runners, a privileged given to the toughest, and fastest of all, a race you can only dream of. That is why when two of my best friends—Alan and Nathan—were planning on running, I wanted to go and cheer for them in such a big accomplishment! I admire their grit and dedication to running, and qualifying for this wasn’t an easy task. I planned this trip to be on a budget, with only one day off from work, a short and cheap flight with not even a carry-on bag (I was flying on Spirit Airlines!). When Claudia and I travel we like to get immersed in our destination by watching movies or reading books about the place we are going, so I started reading this old copy of “26 miles to Boston” by Michael Connelly; we got the book in 2013 when we were there for the marathon the first time.
Three weeks before race day, I received a text message from my friend in Mexico, Alan, who is one of the best long distance runners I know; we have a text group with our friend in Boston, Antonio, who was going to be our host and tour guide. The text said: “I have 2 spots for the marathon for us, are you in? I need to know today.”
Should I stay or should I go? That morning when I received the message I couldn’t even think! I was getting into my running season with short distance runs, with several pounds over my usual weight and I was taking this very easily, no rush, my longest run up to this point was 12 miles, and everything hurt. There was no way I could run a marathon, my best friends and crew were getting ready to do Paris, so they were logging the long miles. I was just looking at them from afar with admiration and enjoying the conversations on how they were getting ready.
The day of the text message Antonio said yes right away, but I couldn’t say yes right away, you know, this is Boston; you don’t take that easily, especially with no training…
I texted all my running friends for advice, all of them said: take it! This is your chance, TAKE IT!
When I landed in Boston the chance of rain went up from 90% to 100%. I always wonder how someone can be 100% sure it is going to rain, well I do know now. It is just going to rain buckets for 6 to 7 hours. It started to get cold, and very windy, so all of us where a little concerned about race day, we knew it wasn’t going to be an easy task.
Getting into the expo was a whole new experience; it was my second time at this expo. It always amazes me the athletes that go there, you know “you are not in Kansas anymore.” Because of my late late decision to do the marathon, I received my confirmation on April 11th, 5 days before the marathon. They had me in the last row, and in the last box of BIB numbers. I am pretty close to think I was the last one to say yes to this!
After Sunday’s second trip to the expo the nerves started to go up, and we were trying to think what to wear, also we needed to be smart in preparation for the race. Our goal was to stay dry as long as possible before we actually started running, we didn’t want to wait for 2 hours in the freezing rain all wet. We decided to use CVS bags to cover our sneakers until the start of the race, all of us had our throw away clothes ready to stay warm, and our friend Alan saved his Mylar blanket from the Berlin marathon, we were going to use it as a cover or something…Now time to try to sleep for the big challenge the next morning!
Ok so here we are, 5:00 am in Cambridge. We woke up to hear that Antonio’s wife and her friend tried to do the bike ride that runs the same course the night before the marathon; but they had to bail out because it got to nasty to do it… We thought “well, that is encouraging…”
We headed out with our CVS bags and my south park PJ’s. While we were walking to the buses that take you to Hopkinton, we were already wet, not a great sign. We took one of the first buses, just to hang out with Alan, he was on wave 1…the bus ride took forever! Everybody was quiet, and wet; we took the highway with pouring rain, it felt like a 45 min ride. We showed up to the Runners village, where we grabbed a spot in the not so crowded tent and we used the old Mylar blanket as a tarp to seat and wait, prime real estate at this point to be able to sit on a dry spot.
As we sent Alan to the start line, we started to get ready for the race, use the bathroom, apply body glide, check food, apply body glide (yes, again, yes, everywhere). As we waited, we looked at other experienced runners and their tricks, one lady gave us Aquaphor, for hands and face, she told us it repeals water giving you an extra layer of protection. One thing that blew my mind was the fact that one guy was wearing kitchen plastic gloves on top of his running gloves; I still think he is a genius. We gathered a couple of plastic bags and headed to the start where piles of plastic bags and clothes are thrown away. Thanks to a volunteer who was yelling to everyone that she had a couple of rain coats at her stash, my friend and I got one—a gray waterproof rain jacket that was left there was for me (still raining non-stop).
My buddy Antonio and I started running with our new gear. We weren’t planning on running together; our goal was only to make it all the way: 26.2 miles. My personal goal, with the lack of training, was just to hold for 20 miles, I knew I could do 20 solid miles, the rest would be all heart and mind. My ideal pace for this was a 10 minute mile, slow and steady, just to hold it as much as I could. It is easy to start going faster and faster, everybody is excited, and it is basically downhill the first half. I stayed on my pace, easy and slow, we celebrated every time we crossed 1 of the 7 towns to Boston. It was amazing to pass all the water stops on the course on both sides, also the people cheering out from their sidewalks, giving you bars, pretzels, GU’s, oranges and more. One girl actually caught up with us to give us oranges. That was really good. Seeing all these people really kept us motivated, it was the people that moved us to keep going and going.
At one point we were feeling tired of the wind and rain hitting us in the face, so we found a guy of a similar size to us, but a little faster, and we just drafted behind him for a mile. It was such a relief, just to cut the wind out—that gave us new energy to keep going. Right after Wellesley and the screaming tunnel by the mile 14, we got another burst of energy; those girls were screaming their lungs out in the middle of the rain for us! We needed to keep moving!
I started to feel some pain on my foot and the need to use the toilet, we stopped and that gave us a little break on our feet and the will to keep going, at that point we started the hills, it is hard because you are getting tired and then you have to go….UP.
We took the hills and the infamous Heart Break Hill, which is no joke, but we knew once we passed it, it was going to be a different story. This is when all those hill repeats with T paid off, I was ready for them, and it worked like clockwork, once we hit mile 20, I felt rejuvenated, like I was starting a race with FRESH new legs.
I started to pick up the pace, I knew going faster would relief some of the soreness in my legs, we were going down the Heart break Hill and I knew the end was getting closer, and closer, and I felt amazing, I felt I was so close! So close that I could even taste it. I knew I was going fast and that I could close strong but if Antonio and I had done 20 miles together, I was not going to leave him behind in the most challenging part. So we stayed together, and we were having a blast, at this point we don’t feel the rain anymore, it is still there, but we just don’t care.
We were going really strong and around mile 23 I thought it was mile 25; I was looking for the famous CITGO sign in every turn. Yeah! I still had 2 more miles to go!!! When we finally reached it and got into Beacon St. my heart was pumping so hard that all the pain was gone. The fans were amazing there, during the storm, and they were still there, all the way, it was so emotional, that I started crying. There was the underpass and then we took Hereford St., at that point I knew that was it!, I start hearing the crowds getting louder and louder, suddenly we took the turn into Boylston St. and everything runs in slow motion, it was so crazy that I felt like floating. My buddy and I completed the race together and we celebrated the amazing accomplishment. I had so much adrenaline that I felt I could run another 3 miles, but my body was freezing and shivering. The volunteers at the finish line were incredible, so proud of all of us, it took a while for my mind to settle, and to know that I had accomplished such an incredible endeavor, with no chaffing of blisters… it was a win-win day!
After the race, we walked and walked and changed into something less wet, which felt great. We got into the car and went back to Cambridge, we went to a nice bar, we wanted burgers and beers—special beers, the 26.2 special edition from Sam Adams. After the celebratory drinks, we knew it was time to get back to reality, the dream was over, we needed to pack and almost literally run another marathon to get back home… (The flight was hours delayed and made it home until after 4 am in the morning, indeed another marathon to get home).