Monday, April 21, 2014

My amazing Boston adventure - Day 4 - The BIG day = Boston Strong

Oh my.

How I will ever get the adequate words to recount all that has happened today will be a miracle.  My emotions are high so hopefully I can articulate in a manner well enough to convey even a part of what I have experienced and felt today.

Surprisingly, I slept well and the alarm didn't go off until 6:15am.  So different than a marathon at home that usually STARTS at 6am.  I got dressed, loaded my stuff, had a prayer with Splenda Daddy, packed some breakfast and was out the door down to the line for the shuttle to the bus loading area.

As I was headed for the end of the line, I ran into a customer from the store!  HAH!  Good omen for the day!  We chatted a minute while waiting in line and then suddenly I remembered that I had forgot my Garmin in the room.  A quick call to the Splenda Daddy and he was delivering it to me.

Jumped in a cab (our "shuttle" with a couple of other people and headed to Boston Commons where the bus loading was at.  I found a place in the warm sun and sat down to rest and try to figure out how I could meet up with friends.  Thank goodness for texting and modern day technology!  Andrea, JaNae and I all were able to get on the same bus.

The bus ride felt like it took forever.  I kept thinking, this feels like more than 26 miles, but I was assured they were taking a different route and yes, it was longer.  Chatting with the girls made the time go by fast and next thing we know, we are being dropped off at the Athlete's Village.

First order of business is to get in line for a porta pottie.  Whether one has to go or not, you get in line because by the time you get to the front you will need it.  After all three of us finished our business we decided that we'd probably need another one so we stepped back into a line and took advantage again.

As we started to walk away and head towards to exit gate, we ran into some cute girls with a sharpie pen that were writing their names on their arms.  What a great idea!!  We took advantage for a photo op at the same time.

They were calling our color of bibs so we headed up and out the starting chute (not the start line) and took about a quarter mile walk to the corrals.  Right before the corrals were more porta potties, so we did what any good runner would do.  Take advantage.

When I came out,  I couldn't find my girls.  I looked both directions and couldn't see them.  I walked back up the hill to the corrals and still couldn't see them.  I figured it would be a joke to try and connect with them again so I wandered by myself to the corrals.  I was supposed to be in corral 6, but there was so many people, I couldn't get to it.  No matter, I would just start a little later and I was okay with that.  I had some butterfly's and wanted to take my time and soak it all in.

As the crowd moved forward towards the starting line, I reviewed my strategy.  I would run hard, the best I could for as long as I could.  If my right calf gave out, then I would walk.  And I was mentally preparing myself to be okay with that.

The start line!  Oh my GOSH!  The feelings!  I started my Garmin and away with the crowd I went.  Yes each step on my right leg hurt but nothing I couldn't handle at the moment.  I had taken some Advil earlier so I told myself it just needed some time to kick in.  I had been warned about starting out too fast so I was careful to watch my pace and stay within a very comfortable zone.

The scenery was amazing!  Not knowing all the towns we went through, I can only say that at the beginning it felt like we were kind of in a forest.  Simply beautiful!  And the crowds!  Holy SMOKES!  There were people all along the route cheering and encouraging all the runners.

When I hit the 5k mark, I was pretty pleased.  Fastest 5k I've run in awhile.  But I also knew that I would not be able to maintain that kind of a pace the whole time, so I just made sure I stayed comfortable.

I have to talk about the spectators.  Never in my life have I seen such heart, such pride, such loyalty and such enthusiasm in a marathon crowd.  EVERY SINGLE PERSON was positive, and encouraging.  Many called me by name.  I lost count of how many times I heard the following: "Great job Melissa - looking good!"  "Melissa Strong"  "Boston's proud of you!" "You've got this!"  "Keep it up Melissa!"  "Go Marine's!"  I discovered an interesting contrast to signs held in Utah races versus the signs held here.  In Utah, there are several common ones that are supposed to make you chuckle and they are indeed funny, but the ones today had a different tone to them.  In Utah, some common signs are  "Worst parade ever"  "26.2 because 26.3 would just be crazy" "Hurry Mom, I want to go boating"  Funny yes.  But here in Boston?  "You are WICKED strong"  "You are WICKED awesome"  "Boston Strong mean YOU are strong"  "Way to go complete stranger!"  Nothing sarcastic, nothing snarky in the name of humor, just solid encouragement.  And while I'm the first to admit I totally laugh at the sarcastic ones (that's how I roll) , today was something completely different and I loved it so much!  Bostonians are proud of their city, their marathon, their Patriot's Day and their runners.  And by "their runners", I mean, they adopt every single one of us.

Another interesting thing along the route was in addition to the official aid stations, there were people everywhere offering things to the runners.  Beer, orange slices, water, banana's, otter pops, chocolate and licorice!  Complete strangers spending their own money to share things with their runners!  I tell you, a twizzlers at mile 10 never tasted so good!

At the half way mark, I was still feeling pretty good, right leg excepted, but in my self evaluation, I felt like I could continue at my pace and keep running.  The miles just kind of went by as I looked at the scenery, high fived the crowds, and soaked it all in.

At mile 16 all of a sudden, I hear my name called and I look to see it's Mary!!!  Oh my gosh!!  She has no idea that I truly needed her right then.  I knew heartbreak hill was coming, and I was getting tired. Her enthusiasm sparked some adrenaline in me.  I yelled at her to take pictures and then she got to suffer through a sweaty hug and kiss from me!  Oh my heart was so happy!  I tried to jump for a picture but my legs didn't have it in them.  Instead, as I continued on my way, I let myself bask in the moment of having a friend in this city who would take the time to come and cheer me on!  Especially right before I turned the corner and headed up the hills of Newton.
I know this one looks like I'm crooked, but I was attempting to jump

And here I am apologizing to the runner next to me for almost smacking her in my attempt

The face of joy and pain

Heartbreak Hill is infamous, but to be honest, it wasn't any tougher than the canyons we have in Utah.  I told myself that this was just like running Emigration and I let myself remember my last 20 miler training run with Vince and the fun we had take my mind off the hills.  Plus, seeing others walk it and I felt strong enough to run them, was a real ego boost.

It's now about mile 18 or 19 and fatigue is setting in.  I realize my form is off so I took myself back to my run with Galen and the importance of foot turn over and cadence.  I began counting in my head.  Which led to singing the USMC song in my head which is the perfect cadence.  I have them to thank for getting me through to mile 24.  Counting and singing the corp song in my head.  Hearing Galen remind me "Cadence is your friend".

As I got nearer and nearer the finish, I was watching my pace closely.  I wanted to finish in a respectable time and while my leg was screaming, I still felt like I could continue to push.  The crowds were HUGE by now and I kept hearing my name over and over again.  So many hands outstretched for a high five.  So much LOVE oozing from the sidelines.

The dirty trick was the right hand turn somewhere in the middle of mile 25 or so that took us up hill to Boylston street.  Seriously?!?!  I wanted to walk to badly, but wearing the USMC Eagle, Globe and Anchor on my shirt stopped me.  I was wearing Marine Corp gear. No way in hades was I going to represent poorly on my beloved Corp.  I have that EGA to thank for keeping me running.

I turned onto Boylston and it was back down hill slightly.  I picked up some steam and all of a sudden I see JaNae ahead of me!  I SPRINTED towards her!  We were going to finish this together!!  The cheering crowds were deafening and I don't think I could smile any bigger!  As we neared the finish line, we joined hands, raised our arms and crossed triumphantly together!  And then immediately hugged and melted into tears.
There we are circled in red

Wow. I looked at my Garmin and saw 4:12 and some change.  Wow.  Other than my qualifying race time, this was a personal best.  I was beyond ecstatic!  I ran that race exactly how I wanted to.  Enjoyed every stinkin minute of it, and STILL posted a respectable time!  The icing on the cake was crossing with JaNae.  So special!

We walked through the chute, followed the directions of the volunteers and got our space blankets, water and food.  Then it was time to figure out where to meet our husbands at!  I turned my phone back on and it went crazy with notifications.  I didn't even dare look at them since my battery seems to drain fast here, instead I called Splenda Daddy, Corbin and then Tiburon.  Crying.  Sobbing tears of happiness, euphoria and exhaustion.

Finally found my man, we hailed a cab and came back to the hotel room for ice, a hot shower, and some dinner.

My official BAA 2014 jacket that I was too superstitious to wear until I had "earned" it.

And my new Boston 2014 charm to add to my other special charms on my necklace.

Now, I have the luxury of basking in the overwhelming feelings of gratitude that I feel. I'm so thankful for a healthy body to be able to run.  For good friends who exploded on Facebook with well wishes and words of encouragement and praise.  For family members and friends who have supported me every step of the way.  Most importantly for Boston.

As I mentioned earlier, Boston is a proud city.  Not in a "cocky" proud way, but in a true sense of "we know who we are" pride.  To see the entire community come together for this event was unbelievable.  Knowing that I ran right past where the bombs went off and people lost their lives and their limbs was extremely humbling to me.  In a way, I don't think I can adequately describe.  But very, very humbling and so grateful and blessed to be a small part of something so incredibly wonderful.  The Boston Marathon is like the Superbowl for runners.  It takes so much to earn the right to be here.  The experience can never be duplicated and will be a memory for a lifetime.

As always, marathon running is so like life.  This race was no different.  I had good miles, I had tough miles.  I had friends along the way to support me, I had cheerleaders in complete strangers and just when I thought I needed to give up, a little voice inside reminded me of who I was and who I was representing and I didn't want to fail.

Some days in life are good. Some are tough.  We have friends and family to support us, and we SHOULD be more of cheerleaders to complete strangers.  Sometimes God puts a person right in the exact spot that you need them at the exact time.  And whenever we feel like we've had enough and want to give up, we just need to remind ourselves that we are sons and daughters of God, we represent Him and we don't want to let Him down.

So for Boston - I thank you.  Thank you for letting me come and play in your streets.  For cheering me on, and accepting the best I had to offer.  For showing confidence in me when I didn't have it for myself.  But most importantly, for loving me, an old lady from Utah that just likes to run.  I hope to be back, but if not, this weekend will live with me for the rest of my life.  I will cherish it and you. For you truly are #bostonstrong.


Splenda Daddy's guest post on HIS Boston marathon experience:
When we first got to Boston I saw all the tee shirts and hats saying “Boston Strong” and didn’t fully understand what it meant. Now I know. It’s not just for Boston; it’s for all of us. To me it means “We will not live our lives in fear”.

“Boston Strong” is a uniting phrase that brings everyone together who embraces it. With all the divisiveness these day’s it was great to see everyone come together, for a short period of time, to support everyone willing and able to run the 26.2 miles. It doesn’t matter what race, religion, gender, rich or poor etc... If you are a runner in this race, you’ll be supported and encourage to do your best and finish. It would be great if everyone had the “runner’s” attitude every day. They are supportive even though they are competing against each other. They fight through the pain and don’t blame others. They know if will be difficult and painful, yet they still do it. 
I want to be like runners, I just don’t want to run.

PS - if you see me wearing my medal for the next couple of months, please don't mock me.  I just love it so much!

PPS - Some other random pictures from the day
Andrea and I being interviewed yesterday for a documentary on Utah Runners

Splenda Daddy's view of the crowds.  He couldn't even get close enough to watch me finish

So many people.  All of them kind beyond imagination

When your hotel room doesn't have a bathtub, you lay on the floor and your husband creatively packs you in ice

The text alerts that went out.  Not bad for an old lady eh?


Monique said...

I want to be like Mcat when I grow up. :) So proud to call you my friend. So happy to see you finish. Tears of joy friend, tears of joy. :)

Connie said...

As always, loved reading every word and detail of your fabulous experience! You are amazing in so many ways. Congratulations! Thanks for being such an inspiration to this old lady!

Mae Rae said...

I cried a little as you went on your way. The pride I had for our city and for my friend was just too overwhelming. I cannot imagine the strength that you have and want to be more like you in every way. Thank you in every way and from the deep bottom of my heart for letting me into your life and sharing this joy. Boston Strong-Melissa Strong.

Welcome to the Garden of Egan said...

Melissa! I cried as I read this. I love you so much and am so proud of you.

Thanks for reliving this experiencing and allowing us all to bask in your feelings. You are such an inspiration.

Wear those medals as long as you want! Very few will ever earn the chance to do what you did.


Welcome to the Garden of Egan said...

Melissa! I cried as I read this. I love you so much and am so proud of you.

Thanks for reliving this experiencing and allowing us all to bask in your feelings. You are such an inspiration.

Wear those medals as long as you want! Very few will ever earn the chance to do what you did.


Kelly said...

I can't decide which made me cry more this morning... watching the new Easter video made by the church or reading this blog post. I am in awe of you Melissa! My husband ran the Baltimore marathon a few years back. It's quite an experience even for the sideliner. Congratulations!!!

Kelly said...

PS if you swing by DC come see me ; )

Yo Momma Runs said...

Hey! Checking out your blog via Rod Martin, our common friend. I love it! Congrats on a great race -- such an amazing day out there. And I accidentally hit a couple of people doing moves too. Not used to being so packed!

Tom said...

Great job. You are amazing!

Loralee and the gang... said...

Great job! You are an inspiration to me!

Nancy said...

You are truly an inspiration! Congrats on the huge milestone!!

Lene said...

You, my friend, are AMAZING!

DesertHen said...

Congrats on your Amazing Boston Adventure! =) WOOT!

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