Yesterday I ran the Boston Marathon. I’ve been trying to qualify for the past couple of years and so running it was oh so sweet. But I did not realize that it would be tricky as well. Here’s an account of the race.
Heading to the Start
Since a lot of the main roads were closed, we drove through the beautiful back roads. It was a scenic drive and the weather was just perfect for a run. Our friend and gracious host, David Zarraga, made sure that I got to the starting village ahead of time. Car driven runners got dropped off half a mile from the village but I was just happy to have a pleasant walk while reflecting on how grateful I was just to be in Boston. I also mulled over how everything about this marathon operated in clockwork precision, watching the school buses driving by in batches as scheduled.
I got to the village and it’s like one huge picnic. Runners found their own spots eating, hydrating and just chilling before their waves got called to the starting line. There are four waves, and you are assigned to each depending on your qualifying time. Food and drinks were abundant and available for everyone to partake as they waited. Getting Over Jetlag
I was in high spirits and then suddenly jetlag hits me. I arrived in Boston before lunch on Saturday and so I barely had enough time to get over my jetlag. So I found myself a sunny spot to sit on as I tried to recover from it. Then I hear a voice calling my name and it’s fellow Pinoy runner Kim Atienza with Anthony Pangilinan. Such a blessing to hang out with them and chat away, distracting me from how I was feeling. I headed to the starting line feeling much better.
It was a bit of a walk to the start but I did not mind as I mentally pumped myself up and just absorbed the vibe. It’s interesting that for the last two waves, it was mostly women that it seemed like an all-women’s marathon. I was just happy listening to all the excited chatter around me.
I had to feed off this energy as I tried to shake off the sluggish jetlag feeling. Only after the fifth kilometer did I sweat out the weird sensation. I was careful not to look too far ahead because the up and down motion of thousands of runners made me nauseous. It was also a bit tight and crowded so I valiantly pulled myself together so I would not pass out. I seriously got a little worried that I would not be able to finish. Good thing it came to pass and I was able to find my rhythm.
First Signs of Cramps
I’ve always been a steady runner and this was the same strategy I wanted to use for the Boston Marathon. So I said despite the elevation changes I will try to keep a consistent pace, not tempted to run fast during the downhill nor walk on the uphill. My first half was as expected. But I had to remind myself constantly to get out of my head, not worrying so much about the jetlag, the changing terrain and the upcoming hills. It was the crowd and their support and cheers from kilometer one that really helped.
Then at kilometer 25 I felt a niggle on my right ankle. It seemed as if I had a really tight knot on that part. My ankle buckled several times and I was worried that if I pushed it will just further tighten up. On the other hand I was also worried that if I stopped and walked it would just completely harden and I won’t be able to move it entirely. So I just kept moving but markedly slowed down. From here on I took it a mile at a time.
Hilly and Hot
I was warned of the long climb heading to Heartbreak Hill. So I mentally prepared myself to slug it out. I was just muttering to myself, “one foot in front of another, you trained for this, you are Boston strong!”. It helped that I saw all the Boston Strong signs carried and worn by the spectators. The funny hand-drawn posters propped up by the crowd also gave a comic relief.
The temperature also rose as the elevation rose. I could see people struggling with both the heat and the hills. The expected temperature was between 12-15 degrees Celsius but it felt much warmer than that. I just tried to be as steady as possible, hydrating at every aid station. I was just focused on consistency that I didn’t even realize that I had already reached the top of Heartbreak Hill. I must’ve squealed like a little girl when I saw the “Top of the Hill” signs.
Then it was mostly downhill. But this was hard because I was also restraining to go fast for fear of pulling the already tense ankle. My toes were also painful at this point. I was afraid of what I would discover when I remove my socks. But nonetheless I just kept going as steadily as I could muster.
Energy of the Crowd
There were cheers from start to finish but the crowd’s energy picked up at each of the centers of the towns we passed, from Hopkinton to Boston downtown. They cheered us on, set up aid stations where they gave out food, drinks, wet towels, etc. The people, young and old alike, went out to the streets clapping and shouting, some carrying signs to boost the runners forward.
But when you hit the last mile from the finish line, the crowds’ energy was something else. Both sides of the road were lined with so many people all pumped up. I had a hard time breathing as I forced myself not to bawl and cry as my energy was lifted by the roar of crowd.
Finishing on the Blue Line
On the last mile, there’s a blue line painted on the race course all the way to the finish line. I decided then to run on that line, fists pumping in the air, knowing that the world’s strongest runners also ran along this blue path. The shouts grew stronger when they saw that I had my arms up, sprinting towards the finish line. I really felt that I had wings.
I crossed the finish line knowing that I did not hit my target times but I was just happy and grateful to have run such a historical course. The Boston Marathon is really one of the world’s greatest races. It was an honor to have shared the course with the Filipinos who worked hard to get here and to all the other men and women who are Boston Strong.