It’s hard to attempt to put to words what this journey has been. I started walking on April 18, 2014. 368 days later, I completed the 118th Boston Marathon.
People make a big deal about running a marathon. They say you can’t train for a marathon and not have it change you. I think that’s a fair statement. The marathon is a long distance. In fact, it’s so far… that six days later, I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.
I’ve also spent a lot of time trying to figure out what comes next for me. In the days after the marathon, I met with TEAM-mates Liza and Whitney to talk about how else I might contribute to TNT. The amount of good work that has been funded through The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is amazing… but there’s still so much work to be done. I know I haven’t donned purple for the last time. But I’m still not sure where I will wear that color next.
Part of that indecision comes from my marathon. Whitney told me that for her, in a lot of ways, she’s still looking for that great marathon experience. I interpret that to be the race where it’s hard, but you’ve trained hard, and you’re ready for the course, and the weather, and all the conditions you face, and you’re up to the challenge. You achieve your goals. You might even surpass them.
That was not my experience on Monday.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t achieve almost everything I set out to do. I achieved almost all of it. I kept my promises. I finished the race. With your help, I raised thousands of dollars for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and along the way, did some things I hadn’t set out to do. For example, we surpassed my fundraising goal by thousands of dollars. I made countless new friends, and learned that some of the friends I already knew about were going to be playing a much larger part in my life. I learned once again that my family has my back no matter what craziness I put my mind to. I was able to connect with Jason’s family. I met some amazing women in Virginia who know how to put love into a scarf. And my friend Rob and I, who started this thing together, well, we finished it together, too.
I got proof.
That said, I have some unfinished business. More on that later…
About the race. For the two of us, the running of the marathon really became about endurance and overcoming obstacles. For four months, our long run was on Saturday on the marathon course. For four months, those long runs stretched from three miles to twenty. For four months, the warmest it ever got on a Saturday was around 38 degrees. Usually it was below freezing.
On Monday, it got to roughly 70 degrees, and not a cloud in the sky. That sounds like ideal weather. Even thinking about it, I’m sitting here thinking, “oooo, perfect running weather.” The problem is that if you have those conditions at the end of winter, your body doesn’t know what to do with the extra 35 degrees. And we paid for that.
The first half went pretty well. We went out slower than usual due to the crowded field, but then settled in to a pretty steady 10 minute per mile pace. That started to erode in the 13th mile, and by mile 15, we were starting to hurt. My pulse had already been to 170 a couple of times, on a day when I was planning on keeping it at 165 at the highest for at least the first 20 miles. We pulled into the Wellesley Community Center at mile 15 for a few minutes rest. I used the restroom, we got some food and water, then came the first of what would be 13 times that we would learn how hard it is to start running after you stop.
Over the last 12 miles of the course, we had to walk 13 times. And each time, it was harder than the time before when it was time to start running again. Here’s my cadence chart. You see a couple of small dips that I didn’t mark, as they were not really walking breaks, just slowing briefly. The final dip you see is after we crossed the finish line and before I remembered to stop my watch. Still, that’s a lot of walking for someone who didn’t plan to walk at all.
The heat did it. We really couldn’t compete with that heat. I know, 70 isn’t hot… but the body has to learn how to dump heat, and we didn’t know how to do it.
Boston is what they call a “net downhill course.” Which means you go down more than you go up… but when you do go up, you go UP. First, you get 15 miles of mostly downhill running, which beats up your quad muscles something fierce. Then after 15.25 miles, you come to a hill that the TEAM calls “Aunt Mildred.” It’s steeper than the rest of the course, and it makes sure your quads are very tender, so when you make the turn into Newton, you’re pretty used up. Just in time for the four hills of Newton. At mile 20, you’ve got three down, and one to go. Heartbreak Hill.
And that’s where my TEAM-mate, hero, friend, and coach came in.
That’s Kelly to your left / my right. She’s awesome. She ran with us from the bottom to the top of Heartbreak Hill. I don’t know how many other teammates she must have done this with. I can only imagine she ran WAY more miles than any marathoner did that day. Kelly, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. When my quads were screaming from places they have never hurt from before, you were there, and you said all the right things.
And then we got on with it. After that, I ran into some of my other heroes that day… members of my family cheering like I was winning the race, not coming in after 27,000 other people. Love to you… you have no idea how much that meant.
We pushed on. Gave ourselves some breaks. Found some friends and family members in the crowd. Soaked in the atmosphere. One million fans… so epic. I loved it all. Even the parts that hurt. The parts where it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
To borrow a line, “the hard is what makes it great.” And it was more than great. It was amazing.
So my unfinished business is this:
- To continue in the fight to end blood cancers.
- To finish a marathon in under 5 hours!
My final time was 5:01:03. I did it. Yes, with some walking, but I did it. And with a smile on my face.
Thanks again to everyone who helped me achieve my goals. You are a multitude. I hope I did you proud. I know I’m proud of you.
So here’s a photo gallery. Most of these I didn’t take, but there are a few from my camera as well. Look for the Hoyts, who I ran next to near Boston College. Other favorites from this set include the one running away from colleagues Jackie & Kimberly, where Rob is looking back, and I’ve thrown my hands in the air in victory (because by then, I could smell the finish line). And I finished the gallery with my friend and coach Sarad.