Visiting Boston for Marathon Monday will go down as one of the best trips I ever took.
That’s a pretty astounding statement for someone whose “first Boston” did not include a passport to the 26.2 starting line. But after the entirely pathetic winter I had, the experience leaves a lump in my throat because it was something I really needed. Perhaps it sounds selfish to declare that I needed to live vicariously through thousands of qualified runners – who dedicated months of deeply personal training to pursue their own Boston – but I did. I needed to feel the energy – the nerves, the excitement, the quiet reverence – palpating from a running community that has journeyed to the single-most coveted marathon in the world. I needed to get a sense of the work it takes to get there and how much it means when you do. I needed to be surrounded by people who don’t take running for granted – to whom it might not come easily. I needed to share a space with people who love running, breathe running, want to run.
And most of all, I wanted to support Anna in the marathon!
I ran the BAA5k bright and early on Saturday morning. My only goal was to start and finish a run that had once held so much importance and to just enjoy it along the way. I had my Garmin but vowed not to look at it during the race. I just wanted to feel what it’s like to participate in something bigger than myself. Shortly into the first mile I could start to feel my lack of preparedness catching up with me, but I made sure to smile and take in my surroundings and slow down if I wanted.
In the last mile, we turned on Hereford and Boylston exactly as the marathon does. I got chills racing down Boylston, my eyes glued to the marathon finish banner. I imagined we were all finishing the marathon and it was a powerfully emotional experience to run down that corridor lined with cheering spectators. But after stepping across the finish line, the moment disappeared and I refocused my energy on finishing the 5k.
When I pressed my watch at the finish, it said 21:05. I felt that was a fairly decent accomplishment given my lack of running these last 2 months, but I was shocked to see that two of my miles were 6:35! Now… in the scope of my competitive 5k history since I first broke 20:00 at Old Bill’s in 2013, this is certainly my worst 5k. But fast wasn’t the point this time.
The point was bumping elbows with enjoyment again. Flirting with fun. Reigniting the spark. Taking my time and breathing in the Boston crowds. I told Anna it had been so long since I had run free of self-imposed pressure that I was glad for the opportunity to finally just… run, not race. Competitive distance runners rarely allow ourselves those kinds of races. But I am not ashamed to declare that I raced a 21-minute 5k, and in fact I am truly happy with everything about it.
On Sunday morning, Anna and I met the Oiselle contingent in Copley Square for a shake out run and more Insta-fame.
^ Yep, that’s us on the bottom frame (popular weekend!)
We also watched the BAA Mile races from the bleachers and took several trips to the expo (the second was solely to sit in the NormaTec sleeves).
Not to mention we saw Shalane Flanagan not once but three times before Marathon Monday. I wished her good luck IN PERSON. No photographic evidence, but she didn’t need another fan bothering her pre-race meal at sweetgreen. (Right?!?!)
Marathon Monday dawned chilly and grey and changed to wind and rain later on. Anna left early for the shuttles, and I headed to the train station before 9 to meet up with Oiselle ladies at the half. I had taken an old point-and-shoot camera, thinking it would take better video than my phone and also help reserve phone battery for the tracker app, but I was wrong and botched my videos of the elite fields running by. I also neglected to snap a shot of Anna, but I knew it would be hard enough to find her anyway, let alone take a good photo, and I wanted to be in the fleeting moment that was only seconds of her entire race. So I have no media from the marathon. Which blows. But I had an awesome time cowbelling with Mac and Oiselle birds and leaving technological distractions behind.
I dashed to catch the next train back to the finish and, incredibly, made it to the Commons right as Anna came out of the finishers’ chute. It was pouring. I assisted her to gear check and we slowly made it back to the hotel.
Anna ran a 2:51 to become the 46th woman to cross the finish. At the Boston Marathon. Fucking incredible. Her local newspaper in Anchorage printed an article about how she and her training partners fared, and it is worth the read!
^let that statement sink in…..
Anna attributes much of her success to the support system she has in her hometown through her training group, running store, and community fans. She came with a posse of stringy Alaskan runners whom I got to know and cheer for. And they were so welcoming to me and seemed to take a genuine interest in me despite having their own huge goals to focus on for the weekend.
That’s the universality of running. I have no business acting like I have any idea what it’s like to run a marathon, but these seasoned vets could find common ground with me because it’s running all the same. I know what pre-race prep is like, I know what crossing a finish line feels like, I know what nailing a workout feels like, I know what having a team feels like. Now, more than ever, I know what not having a team feels like, and it has really hurt me these past months in the isolation of Laramie. I am so humbled and grateful that these fast, friendly Alaskans came into my life for one weekend even when that weekend had nothing to do with me and everything to do with them. As the saying goes, you should run a marathon because you never know who on the sidelines you will inspire to try it next. One of them asked me if I had been bitten by the bug this weekend, and I know I was bitten long ago, but they all made me believe I could go for it.
^Here’s a nice stealie from Anna’s IG, since no one took finishing or post-race pics (just her busting out a half marathon win, BTW)
I don’t think Anna fully understands how much I admire her as an athlete, friend, and woman. She is one of the few people I kept in close touch with after college, and one of even fewer who still runs with such ferocity. I don’t think I would have accomplished half as much as I have without looking to her for inspiration. It was the least I could do this weekend to make the trip to cheer her on in what would become her fastest marathon yet. I caught only seconds of her hours-long race but it was totally worth it to finally watch her race again.
I have a feeling this girl will race an Olympic Marathon Trials one day. Full bragging rights there. So to watch her take on a single stepping stone of what will be a long marathon career was simply amazing. Congrats on a fast, ballsy, controlled race! Such a pleasure to share the weekend with you! xoxo
Meanwhile, back in Laramie….
Yes, it truly is time to move forward.