Boston Marathon 2013: Part 1

IMG_2414It is with heavy heart, mixed emotions, and some signs of PTSD that I sit down and try to put into words my experience at the Boston Marathon. I am going to write my experiences in three blog entries. After all, many things happened before the bombs went off, and many things have affected me since.

I arrived in Boston on Saturday afternoon via Amtrak, with Chris and Ben. It was a cool spring day, and a bit more cloudy than I had expected. On our way from Back Bay Station to our hotel, we walked past the famed finish line. The entire 600 meters of Boylston Street’s race course was filled with runners, tourists, and Bostonians, taking pictures and taking in the most famous finish line of all marathons. We stopped and took a few photos ourselves.

Church on Boylston Street on Saturday.

Church on Boylston Street on Saturday.

After checking in to The Eliot Hotel (on the corner of Massachusetts and Commonwealth Avenues, about 800 meters from the finish line), we went to the race expo, grabbed lunch, and settled in to our beautiful hotel. I took to the streets of Boston that night for an easy 5 mile run, passing the famous CITGO sign and the Boston University Campus.

On Sunday we took the T out to Brookline, to meet my cousin, Kristen, for brunch at Zaftig’s Delicatessen. Carb-loading on pancakes and catching up with my cousin was great. After brunch, I met up with Cipriana, my friend and team-mate with whom I would be running the marathon. Cip and I were both coming back form injury, and so just being medically cleared to complete the marathon felt like a huge blessing. While this wasn’t going to be the Boston I had been planning on since last April (I set the goal of a 3:00 marathon), I was thankful to be able to go and run – regardless of the pace.

Finish Line, photo taken on Saturday.

Finish Line, photo taken on Saturday.

Sunday night, Chris and I stuck to my one race tradition: Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. It doesn’t matter if I am racing a 5K or a 50K, I always have my ice cream. It’s probably silly, but it’s my one race tradition. After ice cream, my friend and fellow running coach, Gary Berard, met us for a few beers. For the record, I only had one beer, and figured that since I wasn’t racing, and was sufficiently hydrated, one beer wasn’t a bad thing.

Around 11pm I hopped into bed. My alarm was set for 5am. I was ready to finally run the race course I had dreamed of for so long. Last year I had come to Boston to run, only a nasty stomach flu and the heat (a terrible combination), caused me to DNF at mile 10.5. That experience had left me broken-hearted, and very much looking forward to Boston 2013.

Ode to Boston

892897_10101263724393123_1303757231_oToday is the 117th Boston Marathon, one of the most famous marathons in the entire world. As this blog is published, your coach is somewhere en route from Hopkinton to Boston, running this famous race course.

The Boston Marathon is a special race for many reasons. Besides it’s history, qualifying for the Boston Marathon is a goal for many runners. Besides the Olympic Trials, Boston is the only marathon with a strict qualifying requirement (minus charity entries).

If you have ever run Boston, or spectated, you know that Boston celebrates the race for the entire day, the elite field is the best in the world, and the entire city’s energy is incredible.

Is qualifying for Boston one of your goals? If you want it bad enough, you never know what’s possible.

My bib for the big day!

My bib for the big day!

Mental Meltdown

img_7084-editYou don’t have to be training for a marathon to have one of those days: you have some sort of fitness goal, perhaps even start it – and then everything falls apart. For me, it’s often a run (cause that’s what I do every day). There is something extremely defeating about this mental meltdown, and you can quickly go from feeling okay with calling the workout quits to questioning your entire training plan, goals, and potential. Are there ways to avoid this moment, or at least to cope with it?

Sometimes, we need to push through the rest of the junk from the day and give ourselves that time to sweat out stress. Getting out to run or to lift weights can completely fix a rotten day. Other times, it’s just best to let the run go and to treat yourself to a day off – as long as you don’t beat yourself up over taking said time off!

Have you also been partly through a workout, and to suddenly feel like everything is going to shit? The worst feeling ever. It can be hydration, fatigue, mental focus, a wonky muscle. Whatever the reason, it seriously sucks. Learning to cope with these terrible moments helps prepare you for marathon day. If you aren’t training for a marathon, the benefit to pushing through is simply to give you the satisfaction that you can push through when the going gets tough. Is it worth it? Sometimes.

If you have a day where you cannot push through, learn from it. What were the contributing factors? When I tackle my own marathon training, I hope that all of my long runs go great. That isn’t to say that they always feel awesome or that I am laughing and smiling at mile 22, but that I succeed in my pace goal, not feeling injured, and feeling accomplished. However, experience has taught me to expect a few long training runs to go poorly. Why? Cause I am human. Yes, I have cut 20-milers short in the past. Yes, I have dropped my speed down so much that I question how in the world I can possibly hold my goal pace come race day. And you know what? I have also PRed in seasons where I have had those bonked long runs. I’m sure you have too.

So, if you just are not feeling it out there remember this: you are human, not a machine. There are things you can and should push through. There are other times where calling it quits is the right call. Learn how to determine the difference. Come race day, you will be prepared. Even if your training isn’t perfect. Sometimes a terrible dress rehearsal makes for a fantastic performance.

Destination Race

748275-1006-0043s-600x400Looking for a little race inspiration? Sometimes changing our running or race location helps with motivation for your next goal. Try a destination race. Besides the excitement of a race, you’ll be pumped for vacation!!!!

There are races all over the globe, ranging in every distance from 5K to 150-mile Ultras. Personally, as someone who loves the race experience and loves to travel, destination races are one of my favorite things. Combining travel and running? Yes, please!

Paris, China, Jamaica, Disney – the options are endless.

I would recommend planning your race for the beginning of your vacation for a couple of reasons: You’ll arrive fresh and focused, you won’t be tired from sight-seeing or bloated from beach-side cocktails or endless buffets. Plus, after your race, you’ll feel accomplished and deserving of your vacation!

Feeling inspired? Hop onto a race search database and start exploring!

Charity Running

_MG_8900_finalDoing something good for a charity you care about is great. Training for a charity makes you feel good, and you feel like you are running for a purpose. This helps on those days when your personal motivation may be low. You’ll feel part of a community, and will make some running friends – which is great!

A word of caution: research the charity you are interested in training and fundraising for before you sign up. Some charities use 100% of the fundraising toward that cause, but sadly, many do NOT. If that doesn’t matter to you, don’t pay attention to this blog. 🙂

Personally, I feel far more passionate about fundraising when I know every dollar is going toward that charity’s mission. If you do too, read up on the organization, check reviews, and ask questions. Remember, charity wants your money, and so they may not be completely forthcoming about their numbers.