We left off after my amazing Sunday with DFMC. I slept soundly, feeling positive energy from my friends and family wishing me well through texts and online messages. The weather forecast was looking a bit warm, but good (a departure from rain predicted earlier in the week!)
I woke up Monday morning, April 21, 2014 bright and early. My gracious host Steve drove me to the Boston Common where buses were lined up by the dozens to load sleepy, nervous runners and be replaced by dozens more empty buses.
We got on the Mass Pike and drove west. For a while.
We're going to run back. Whoa.
Once I arrived in Hopkington, MA I didn't go with the masses to the runners' village. Instead my friend Abi and I walked 10 minutes towards the starting line to the Dana-Farber meeting area at a nearby church.
Inside was a veritable marathon runner's heaven.
There were medical tables with band-aids, vaseline, IB profin, and sunscreen. There was an "arts and crafts" tent outside so you could decorate your race shirt. In the main area, runners buzzed around chatting nervously, taking photos, and drawing temporary tattoos on eachothers' arms. There were quiet rooms if you wanted to relish in silence. There was a TV room if you wanted to watch the pre-race coverage. A fuel table had bagels, donuts, pretzels, candy, water and Gatorade. Bathrooms and port-o-potties abounded. And amazing volunteers staffed it all.
I had been a bit concerned originally because my bus arrived around 8 and I didn't start until 10:30. But once I saw the oasis of amazingness at that church? All my fears completely vanished.
|Me and Cassie|
|Abi and Me|
|The 25th Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team!|
The 700 Dana-Farber team members were nearly all together in the same starting corral, adding to the excitement. As we marched towards the starting line, the amazing residents of Hopkington and race volunteers cheered D-F as if we were already heroes. It was basically the best parade ever. And we hadn't. Even. Started.
And then...without much fanfare...we were off.
So how was the race? Everyone asks me. Well, to put it simply, it may have been the best 4 hours, 16 minutes, and 53 seconds of my life.
The course. The course is everything a runner who dreams of Boston dreams it will be. It's historic. The bars your read about are out in full force. The terrain is exactly as described, where you're downhill at the beginning and the suddenly after the halfway point...you're not. The Wellesley girls. The BC kids. Cleveland Circle. Kenmore Square.
Heartbreak Hill. Oh, yes. The hill on it's own is actually not "that" bad (compared to, say, Harlem Hill in Central Park). But that bugger comes after the three prior Newton Hills torture you for miles leading up to it. At mile 20. It is worthy of it's name.
The course is very tough, especially in the bright, sunny day we experience in April. But the challenge is part of its history and its mystique. It's all there and it lives up to the legend. Just has it has done for 117 years before.
|And yet, thumbs up!|
The crowds. Energy like I've never felt in my life. And probably will never feel again. Truly, for 26.2 miles -- without hardly a break at any point -- I felt that city completely focused towards us. Towards me. I high-fived dozens of kids with hands outstretched. I took fruit from strangers (only acceptable during a marathon). I smiled at the hundreds of thousands of people who were smiling. Right. At. Me.
They cheered until they lost their voices. They held signs that had me laughing out loud. They held signs that made me cry.
One read: What you're doing here today is IMPORTANT.
They cared. And whenever I reached those points where I felt pain, or I felt like I wanted to stop? Well, they cheered, and I didn't walk. Because I choose to run. And they choose to watch and cheer. And we were all in it together.
Andrea, Val, Robb, Allison, Dan, Rachel Steve, Amy, Diana, Lindsay, Amy (yes, two Amys), Kim, Diane, Rachel (yes, two Rachels)...you are all amazing. Your presence was known, and it helped me more than I can say.
Mom and Dad were at the top of Heartbreak Hill. Some background info: My Dad finds my love of Indian cuisine to be amusing. He also knew the in the last couple of weeks before training I had abstained from such delights as to not tempt the gastronomic gods. So he had my mom holding this sign when I reached the top.
Thank you to all of you who viewed and supported me, in person and online (I know there was a lot of virtual tracking going on!) You were truly there with me every step of of the way.
The other runners. On the course that day were the most elite runners in the world. But I was also blessed to run alongside so many inspirational people. Every race shirt had a story to tell. She survived cancer. He was running for his friend killed in Iraq. She was running for her mother. He was running in honor of a victim of the 2013 bombing.
I'd feel pain and start grimacing. And then a man with no legs would run by me.
You choose to be here. Your pain is completely temporary.
I'd curse my decision to run. And then I'd see a blind woman running alongside her volunteer guide.
What do you have to complain about?
I was tired and overwhelmed. And then I passed Rick and Dick Hoyt, surrounded by team-members, applauded by the crowd and runners alike.
You are running with heroes.
|Photo credit Stephen Goldstein -- mile 23!|
Dana-Farber. Boston loves Dana-Farber. I felt so much love from the sidelines and heard countless "thank yous" for having raised money for this organization. My team also had official cheering zones at miles 16 and 25. Those zones were amazing and gave me energy, inspiration, and courage to keep going.
|Can you believe this is mile 25? I look DAMN GOOD!|
|Waving to the Dana-Farber cheering zone at mile 25!|
|Proudly displaying my Pacesetter badge (Photo Credit: Stephen Goldstein!)|
It was a difficult 26.2 miles, but I was prepared. I had trained, I felt great mentally, and I had fueled and hydrated properly (Miami may have been good practice for the heat!)
It was full of raw emotion, and I had to dig deep at many, many points. (Please keep in mind that I have posted a fraction of the photos taken of me...many are not so...flattering...)
I did my absolute best to soak in every moment and to remember that this was truly one of those experiences in life that you remember forever. This is something you tell your kids about. I knew as it was happening that I would cherish it all: The race of course, but also the fundraising and -- yes -- even the crazy winter training I pushed through. For the rest of my life.
And before I knew it, I saw the Citgo sign. And then I was running through Kenmore Square. And then I was taking a right on Hereford. And a left on Boylston.
And then I was running on Boylston Street. And the crowd was going crazy. And I was running where it happened last year and I looked towards those spots and my heart burst. And I pushed harder than I've ever pushed before. I felt no pain. I felt no fatigue. I just felt a swell of emotion unlike anything I've ever experienced, and I was smiling through the tears in my eyes, and as I crossed that finish line I laughed and cried at the same time.
Everyone was crying. And hugging. And laughing.
Everything with my dad, and with last year and with me, it all came together into this one moment. It was truly beyond words. I was full of gratitude for the amazing people in my life. I felt blessed to have reached that moment. And I felt proud of myself for making it happen.. Ultimately, I guess it was just pure joy.
|PRed by several minutes! 4:16:53!|
And if I sound crazy or hyperbolic in any way? I assure you I am bit scratching the surface. It really was everything I'm telling you and so much more.
And after I cleaned up and ate and got a massage and then ate some more, I met up with my cheering squad.
|Wearing their DFMC Fan Gear!|
So what's next? Well, on the way home we stopped for Chinese Food (as I was craving lo mein with near desperation). And my fortune that night hopefully said it all:
Thank you, Reader, for being part of my journey!