A week ago, I ran and finished the Boston Marathon as part of Tenacity’s 15-person charity running team. If you follow any of my social media feeds, you undoubtedly knew that I spent the last four months training for this event while raising money for an outstanding organization. Over the past week, I shared my experiences with many folks in person, via phone, or video chat. These conversations helped me emotionally decompress the entire experience while I continue to physically recover. Today, I wanted to briefly share some of these answers as well as some important lessons I learned along the way.
Questions and Answers
Here are the answers to the most common questions I received:
So, what was it like… running the Boston Marathon?
The Boston Marathon was the most painfully amazing experience in my life (so far). The day was warmer (75 degrees at the Starting Line at 11:15am) than I had the opportunity to train in (ideal race conditions are a cloudy/50 degree day). After my first marathon last fall (Marine Corps), where it was an 80+ degree day in the DC/VA area, I knew that I might experience cramping as I did during that race. Even though I was well hydrated and executed my fuel plan as I did in my previous long runs, my quads cramped up starting after mile 15 (those Newton Hills!) Needless to say, I was pretty bummed that this happened, as I was able to run both my 20 mile training runs without any cramping issues. I knew that at some point, I would feel some level of pain… but was frustrated that it happened earlier than expected.
Even with the pain of quad cramps for the second half the marathon, the people (runners, volunteers, and spectators alike) were unbelievably AMAZING and gave me the EMOTIONAL LIFTS needed to cross the finish line. Anytime I had to walk off tightness, soreness, and frustration… individuals and groups would encourage, offers words, and pats on the back to keep moving forward. After miles 20 and 21 (Heartbreak Hill to Boston College), the spectators and crowds were like waves of energy guiding me into the shore. There were a dozen of “Ed! Ed! Ed!” chants that energized me past the pain of my two throbbing/cramping quads and moving towards the finish line (it helped that my name was clearly on the front of my running shirt).
I clearly remember hitting miles 24 and 25 and seeing the iconic Citgo sign … I was physically and emotionally exhausted having cried a number of times realizing that I was actually going to finish the Boston Marathon. After seeing so many folks head into the number of medical tents, I assumed there would be a number of folks who did/could/would not finish.
But then, I took a “right on Hereford St.” and then a “left on Boylston St.” At this point, I turned off the music I had been listening to, and wanted to take in the sights and sounds of running to the finish line. The buildings reflected the deafening cheers for the runners from the thousands of people who (I can only assume) had been there all day. All of the runners who finished can attest to how amazing it felt run Boylston, feeling like a professional athlete as you crossed the Boston Marathon finish line.
Did you hit your goals?
Of course, I would have loved to have broken the five-hour mark, but I still hit my Marathon personal record (PR) of 5:33:08!
Are you going to run another (Boston) marathon or are you done?
Yes and yes 🙂 But more on this later in this post!
So, what did I learn through this experience?
Lesson #1: Training for Marathons Is a Metaphor For Life
If you were to tell me in my 20s or 30s that I would be running and finishing marathons (never mind THE Boston Marathon) in my early 40s, I would have said NO WAY. I would have found a number of excuses including having minimal/no time, energy, or resources to do it. As I get older, running (specifically training for marathons and half marathons) has provided me the necessary structure to put my physical and mental health first so that I can be the best version of me as often as possible. The same planning, discipline, and follow through necessary to run marathons are the same elements needed to succeed in all of life’s pursuits. Also, I wouldn’t have been successful without a community behind me, both in training and on the day of the marathon… you need to allow others to be part of and share in your success.
Lesson #2: Purposeful Discipline Overcomes Painful Obstacles
Committing to two big, audacious goals (raising $7,500 for Tenacity and training for the Boston Marathon during a New England winter) provided the clear purpose and why to my daily actions towards these goals. Inevitably in marathon training, there will be obstacles to overcome, including some that involved physical pain. I learned that my pain threshold was stronger than I thought and that, with each training run, strengthening and/or stretching session, I attentively listened my body’s responses but did not let my mind take control with too many negative thoughts. Any temporary pain I felt throughout my training or on race day reminded me of all the various reasons why folks (specifically other charity runners) ran the Boston Marathon and put things in sharp perspective.
Lesson #3: The Running Community IS AMAZING
Runners, and those closely connected, are amazing humans. It is a community that consistently acts with friendliness, generosity, and selflessness. On April 17, 2017, I was immersed in the best of that community at the Boston Marathon. It is no surprise why it is the BEST MARATHON in the entire world. I’m not sure that I would have finished if it weren’t for the people inspiring me every step of the way through their words, cheers, and actions. The outpouring of support both pre, day of, and post race was amazing, which reminded me again about how blessed I am to have such amazing family, friends and colleagues… especially my girls 🙂
The next two weeks will involve marathon recovery and strengthening for the summer training cycle. The rest of 2017 include the following race events:
Oh, and my 2018 already has:
If you want to join me for any or all of these adventures, let me know! I can promise they will change your life!
What advice do you have for me for my next set of races? Any other marathoners out there that can offer some advice for my next training cycle?