The Boston Marathon Mile by Mile

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The day started bright and early with the sound of my alarm at 5:45AM.  Actually it started long before that with my tossing and turning thanks to the warm temperatures making my apartment hotter than normal and my fear of sleeping through my alarm and a text around 5:15 from my friend Bridget.  I rolled out of bed after my alarm went off and started to get ready.  I made sure to wear extra sunblock, and lots of Body Glide, checked my bag to be sure I had all my race day necessities and made a bowl of oatmeal and applesauce to take with me.  The thought of hot oatmeal was not appealing, it was already hot and it was barely 6:40AM.  I said goodbye to Michael who gave me an extra long, and tight hug and I couldn’t help but wonder if he was worried about the challenge ahead of me.  A few kisses and I love you’s later I was out the door and walking to Boston Common to meet Lauren and the rest of the girls from Team in Training.

We met up at the Common and got settled on the bus.  Our excitement seemed to quite and we settled in for the hour-long bus ride to Hopkinton.  I tried to relax and think calm thoughts while sipping my Gatorade.  I listened to Bridget (a local news anchor) call into a few radio stations and thought about all the people celebrating the day.  I had my second breakfast, a cinnamon raisin bagel and was happy that my nervous stomach hadn’t kicked in.

All Smiles before the Start!

The rest of the morning was spent getting through Athlete’s Village, relaxing and getting ready at the Team in Training house.  At 10AM our coaches from Team in Training got us all together and left us with a few wise words.  The most memorable line was, “When your turn on Boylston,  you pull your shit together!”.  Then we made the long walk from Athlete’s Village to  the Start Line. It was a long walk, longer than I anticipated.  I realized I hadn’t even started running and already had sweat through my sport bra.  Lauren, my running partner and friend, and I crossed the start line and were so excited.

Mile 1 was slow and relaxed.  I remember looking at the stream of people in front of me and thinking “this is it!”

At Mile 2 we hit the water stop and there was no water or Gatorade left, part of me wondered what the remaining 24 miles would hold.  We told ourselves to stay around a 9 minute mile and we’d be OK.

Mile 3, it was hot and I couldn’t cool my body down.  We hit the water stop and I took one Gatorade to drink and a water to dump on me.

Miles 4 and 5 were just hot.  I tried to tell myself relax, but it wasn’t working.  I think we walked a hill or two.

At Mile 6 Lo and I walked the water stop.  It was hot and we had to cool ourselves down.  I remember looking at her and being full on scared.  Mile 6 felt like  a wall…what would 26 be like?! Lo looked scared too but we were determined to finish the race.  I remember thinking about all the people I’ve seen cramping on the side of the road during races and just thought, please don’t let that be me today.

Mile 7 we saw the misting tunnel at the fire station! I was SO happy! It felt awesome and finally my body started to feel a normal temperature.

Mile 8 our coach Sarad ran along side of us.  He told us to walk the water stops and hills and take it slow.  He gave us salt packets and water and my legs stopped cramping for a while.  We walked a few hills and really started to settle in.

At Mile 10 we were thrilled to have hit double-digit miles and both Lo and I felt good.  The heat wasn’t so bad as long as we ran through all the hoses and walked the water stops.  We found our rhythm and started to cruise. And the course looked more familiar, we felt at home.  We started to wonder how our friends were doing.

Mile 12 was Wellesley College.  We were appreciative of the distractions and slapping all of their hands was a welcome charge of energy. The road was slightly shaded and we were thrilled for a break from the sun.  Definitely a good mile.

13.2 miles! We passed the half way mark and I could hardly believe it! The crowds were loud and cheering and it definitely helped to motivate us.  We kept up with our routine of walking the water stops and running the rest of the mile.  In 2 miles we knew we’d hit our home base!

Mile 14 was long.  The sun was blazing down on us and it was so hot.  We had to walk for a minute and I could feel myself getting light-headed.  I knew we just had to push through to Mile 15.

Mile 15 I saw Michael’s parents.  Lauren saw her family and our coaches were there.  Jillian, one of the coaches gave me a huge hug and I was so grateful.  I needed that.  A few salt packets and some ice-cold sponges and we were off.

Mile 16 was downhill for the first part and it felt amazing.  Then we started on the hills and crossed the 1-95 overpass.  It was hot and we were forced to walk.  There weren’t any hoses there and I wished there was.  At the top of the hill we were able to run through a cracked fire hydrant and cool off.  Then we saw my parents, brother and Michael! Lo stopped and switched her socks thanks to the spare Michael had for me.  I was so happy to see them.

Lo and I at Mile 17 All Smiles!

Mile 17 was the start of the hills.  I took a few Shot Bloks and some more Gatorade. I knew I’d need the fuel.  We went through one of the misting tunnels again and it felt amazing but then the hills started….

We ran the first hill and my heart rate shot up.  I felt horrible, even walking felt hard.  Lo and I walked and just did our best.  We’d walk the water stops, run the downhills and flats, walk the uphills, run a little more, walk a little more.  It was tough.  I don’t even remember miles 18 and 19.  It was a blur.  I had hit the wall…again.  And it was too early for a wall.

At mile 20, I was just happy to know I had 6 more miles to go.  And then I wondered how would I ever get up Heartbreak Hill?  We walked it.  There was no running.  Walking hurt.  My head hurt.  Everything hurt. I was mad about being soaking wet. I was mad I was chaffing in places I didn’t know could chaffe. I was ready to be done.  I thought about my friends from Team in Training and wondered where they were on the course.

At mile 21, the top of Heartbreak Hill there was another coach.  I got more salt packs and water and my aching and cramping legs started to feel better thanks to the salt. A spectator yelled to us that it was all downhill from here!  I hoped it was.

Mile 22, I wish I remembered it.  I know we saw some Team in Training volunteers and just seeing their faces was amazing!

At Mile 23, I thought to myself 2 more mental miles.  That’s it.  2 more miles, I can get through this.  I just willed myself to keep running, I willed one foot to go in front of the other.  Miraculously it did.  Lo and I stopped talking as much.  We just ran until we slowed to a walk and then one of us would start running again.  We rounded a bend and I saw Michael’s friend Robby.  I was so happy.  I squeezed his hands and tried to take comfort from a friendly face.

Mile 24 was hard and hot.  We kept trying to run through the hoses and take ice and stuff it in our sports bras.  Lo and I just kept running and walking.  We wanted to be done.  I was thinking that this is what hell must feel like and held back tears.

Mile 25, it was hard to be psyched to see this…all we could see was the small hill over the 1-90 overpass.  We told each other we’d run the base of the hill and walk up it.  I remember a spectator yelled “Whitney, You Got This Hill!”  I looked at Lo and said “I do not have this hill. I do not want this hill!” And before I knew it we were running down the backside.

Lo and I decided to run to Mass Ave.  I was just thinking how am I ever going to make it this far.  I told myself to look around and get outside my body.  The crowds were loud and large and somehow it helped to propel me.  We hit the Mass Ave underpass and walked.

When we came out of the underpass we were going to run the rest of the way.  I remember thinking “Please body let me be able to run this, please”.  I saw my parents again before turning on to Hereford and my cousin Sara was there.  It was an extra bolt of energy that I desperately needed.

All smiles and waves at Mile 26!

A right on to Hereford and there was Lo’s friends…jumping up and down and screaming.  We knew we had this.

A left on to Boylston and there it was.  The long-awaited finish line.  I’m not sure how we did it but we ran that last mile at an 8 minute pace.  We just kept running faster, and harder and counting down the blocks.  We came to the finish and Lo and I grabbed hands before throwing them in the air! We finished!

We crossed the finish line and gave each other a huge hug.  Both of us knew neither of us could have finished that marathon and survived the challenge without each other (Lo, I’m tearing up as I write this.) I was so happy.

We funneled through the finish chute and got our medals.   We earned those medals, with every step.   I was holding back tears and so happy!

I finished with a 4:35! I am proud of that time and honestly think it was the fastest time I possibly could have done given the day.  I was a Boston Marathon finisher and was so proud of myself!

All of the Team in Training volunteers and coaches were amazing.  The extra support from them made the day just a little bit easier.  I also have to say thank you to every one of the spectators out there.  From those with the hoses and sprinklers set up over the course, to those with bags of ice, and wet rags and bottles of water and fresh-cut oranges it all made a hot day seem that much more manageable.  The cheering and words of encouragement always seem to come right when I needed it and I swear, it got me to the finish line that much faster.  Boston, your amazing! From the people, to the runners, to the BAA.  There is a reason why the Boston Marathon is what it is!

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  14. Goosebumps everywhere reading this!!!! You did awesome!!!! What a killer day it was for you to run in!!! I love what your coach said before the start!!! Sounds like you definitely did pull your shit together!!! Congrats chickie!!!

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  15. Reading this a week late. It made me cry. Not sure what I’m most impressed with – your running or your writing. :) You are a big inspiration!

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  17. Thanks for sharing Whitney!

    Seeing the finish line – somehow produces magical powers within. Last mile @8 mins – Amazing!

    Congratulations :)

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  18. Congrats on finishing under those tough conditions! So inspiring! It was great to read about your experience with TNT too! Enjoy your well-deserved rest!

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  19. Those temps were horrible for running a marathon. I get why there are hardly any marathons from June to the end of October because it’s too darn hot! So happy you made it through in one piece and you crossed the finish line. That is huge. I am proud of you. You are a rockstar!

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  20. Wow Whitney, what an amazing recap. You are so strong and such an inspiration. You definitely deserve your medal and the glory of finishing the Boston Marathon :)

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  21. As I read your baleful comments on the mile 2 aid station, I felt tempted to scroll to the bottom just to make sure you finished. If things were that bad so early on, how could the race have gone well? But Lo and Behold (har har), you made it to the finish intact. Obviously I’m envious that you got to run one of the most famous races in the world. Well done!

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    • Ha, I don’t blame you to want to scroll through. At mile 6 we were scared. But we desperately wanted to finish and just got a plan and knew we’d tough it out. Thank god we started walking early. I think we really walked the line of pushing too hard…those last 6 miles were so hard. Having my running partner there was huge because we were able to say we need to slow down, we need to get water, etc. And at mile 24 we both just looked at each other and knew this is what hell feels like and we just kept going. Team work at it’s finest! We are shocked looking at the photos and with our times at how good we looked…we covered it up well! Must have been those pep talks when we could see our families and cameras…we definitely told ourselves to get our shit together and smile! Thanks so much! I hope you get to do it someday!

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