Boston Marathon: The Beast

I have so many mixed emotions as I sit down to write this recap. If I had written it last Monday after the race, it probably would have been very different than it will be now that I’ve had some time to reflect on the day. When I finished the race with a time on the clock that was nowhere near what I hoped for, it was important to me that everyone knew that I was NOT disappointed. It was the first thing I said to my parents and Brad when we reunited and it was the among the first things I texted to Coach. I was proud that I never walked. I was proud that I finished in a respectable time (my 3rd best). I was stunned by how the course destroyed me. I was unbelievably happy to be DONE. And most importantly, my heart was full from the amazing support in those 26.2 miles. I have no words that will do justice to the people from Hopkinton to Boston and their enthusiasm for every single person that ran the streets of their towns. It was incredible.

Boston Strong

On the flipside, now that I am removed from my initial reactions and have digested the emotions a bit more, I am disappointed. But not in the way you might expect…Sure, I wanted to run a 3:25 (or better) and in my heart, I know I was fit enough to do that. But I am not as upset with the time on the clock as I am with how I experienced the race: I hate that I am saying this, but I didn’t enjoy a large part of the race. All those spectators…I heard them but acknowledged very few with the smile they deserved. I didn’t fist pump when I got to the top of Heartbreak (I ran to a porta potty). I didn’t feel excitement at the sight of the Citgo sign. I didn’t savor the moment as I took the Right on Hereford and Left on Boylston. All of these things that I wanted to be a part of my first Boston experience, I didn’t embrace. And because of that I feel like I missed out on something really, really special. I feel like I let myself down. So while the time on the clock is important to me (and I will never pretend it isn’t), if I could rewind the day, it wouldn’t be about what to change to get a PR. It would be about what to change to make the experience the BEST that it could be.

With all that being said, let’s get down to the details…

The Race

When I last left off, Lauren and I were walking to the start line. We went the moment they called our corrals, but there was a huge bottleneck to get out of the village. We separated right away because Lauren wanted to jog to the start and I wanted to save every ounce of energy for the time between the start and the finish lines. As I funneled through the masses with tons of people, I looked to my left and immediately saw Asia. We met briefly in Eugene and are social media buddies so it was cool that we ran into each other in the masses of people. We chatted for a bit and then eventually got split up as we made our way to the start. I knew that we were getting close to starting time as I walked down but there were still so many people around me that I wasn’t overly concerned. As I walked into the corrals, my wave had already started so I just kept walking until I hit the start line then I took off!

Miles 1 – 5

  • 7:51
  • 7:47
  • 7:56
  • 7:53
  • 7:56

Missing the actual start wasn’t stressful at all and turned out to be nice because I never had that crowded moment in mile 1 that everyone complains about. It was completely open road right away.

Kevin told me to save all of my emotions for miles 21+ so I did everything I could to not get emotional as I crossed the start line. I was smiling huge because the crowds were already amazing and trying to soak it all in. The words “I am running the Boston Marathon” kept repeating over and over in my head. It was very surreal.

The plan Kevin gave me was to stay between 7:40-50 until Mile 21 then let go. He told me to cruise the downhills in the first 4 miles and not to worry unless I saw a pace under 7:30. My legs felt great from the start and I seemed to just settle right into 7:50ish pace. I didn’t feel like I was holding back or letting go on the downhills, just running nice and easy. I checked in with myself repeatedly in those first few miles and the only thing that was bothering me was my stomach. It wasn’t upset (yet), but I had a sharp gas pain (crazy right?!) from nearly the first step I took. It was manageable, but annoying and I still don’t know what caused it.

Mile 6 – 10

  • 7:50
  • 7:52
  • 7:47
  • 7:49
  • 7:51

Most of these miles are a blur, but I remember feeling really fresh and taking it super easy. The rollers felt easy going up which I thought was a great sign and I just ran on feel, lapping my watch at every mile. I side-fived kids when they were close enough to reach and waved and smiled at the crowds. Also, at some point in this part of the race, the stomach pains became less sharp and eventually went away completely.

I wasn’t thinking much about the heat in the beginning but since it felt super warm and there was very little shade, I knew that if I wanted to survive (and not cramp), I needed to hydrate like crazy. I took a sip of Gatorade and then drank at least one full cup of water at every stop and sometimes on both sides of the road. I think I started dumping a cup of water over my head around mile 10 or so.

Mile 11 – 15

  • 7:56
  • 7:44 <–Wellesley
  • 7:56
  • 8:23 <–Bathroom stop
  • 7:55

Around mile 10 or 11 is when I first started questioning my race. I didn’t feel bad or like I was working too hard, but I just didn’t feel awesome. In my last two marathons, I remember crossing the 10-mile point and thinking that I felt better than I did at the start. In Boston, that definitely wasn’t the case. I stopped wanting to take in the crowds and needed to pull my visor down and focus. This is something that I usually do late in the race (18+) so I knew the fact that I felt the need to do it this early wasn’t good. But I also knew that something as simple as taking a Gu could change my attitude so I tried to push all the negative thoughts out and just stay steady.

I can do this

As I entered Wellesley at mile 12, three really amazing things and one not so great thing happened…

First, I heard the girls screaming and it was awesome. I read as many signs as I could see and laughed out loud repeatedly. It was probably my favorite moment of the whole race. Second, for a brief few minutes, the course was shaded and there was suddenly a cool breeze. It felt unbelievable and I got a huge boost. Third, just past the scream tunnel, a spectator yelled, “AN AMERICAN WON THE RACE!!!”. Everyone around me just looked at each other in disbelief and without thinking I said “Hall?!” (Never imagining that Meb’s 2:08 PR could win Boston). Everyone around me sort of shrugged, but smiled. A couple of minutes later I learned that it was Meb who won and I was ecstatic.

meb

My mom got this shot of Meb checking out his lead at mile 26.

The low I had in this section was that almost out of nowhere, my left quad started to feel tight. It was the first sign that the downhill portion of the course had shredded my legs. It concerned me a little but not as much as when my right quad joined the party shortly after. I knew that this was a really bad sign, but I held out hope that I would still be able to continue to run strong.

focused

To add more distress to my already crumbling confidence, just after the half, my stomach rebelled. I went from thinking “I might have to stop at some point” to “OMG EMERGENCY”. When it hit me, I looked around for a porta potty and saw nothing. I was in a rare section with very few spectators so when I saw a big dumpster on the side of the road, I bolted for it. I felt SO much better, but when I came back out, I expected to see the two people who were standing in front of the dumpster look at me with disgust. Thankfully, neither of them even looked my way and I wondered if they even noticed?!

Mile 16 – 20

  • 7:58
  • 8:15 <– 1st Newton Hill
  • 8:35
  • 8:31
  • 9:23 <–2nd Newton Hill

When I got to the Newton Hills and my legs already felt destroyed, I knew that my sub-3:25 goal was out the window. At that point, I hadn’t yet given up on a PR, but it didn’t take long.

{I will stop for a minute here to say…the Newton hills really aren’t that bad.} 

Despite already feeling a bit rough, I held an 8:15 pace up the first hill. Because of how I felt, I knew things were falling apart, but looking back, I should have been encouraged by that!

There was never a time when in the hills that I felt like it just broke me. It was more of a steady deterioration and when it hurt so bad to run downhill that I couldn’t make up any time, I knew it was over. At some point in this section, I plastered a stupid grin on my face and just kind of laughed at my race. I just kept thinking that the course had absolutely chewed me up and for some reason it was funny (delirious?!). I let go of my hope for a PR and just focused on continuing to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

When I was going up the 2nd Newton Hill I heard someone yell “Corey Parker” and turned and saw Chicago friend (and NYC Marathon buddy), Lynton. It was a really good time to see a familiar face.

Mile 21 – 26.2

  • 10:04 <–Heartbreak
  • 10:23 <–Bathroom Stop #2
  • 9:00 <–2nd (3rd?) wind
  • 9:28
  • 9:54
  • 9:42
  • 1:59 (9:55 avg.)

Heartbreak was long, but the crowds at the top and for the remainder of the race into Boston were incredible. When I got just over the top, I had another OMG EMERGENCY, but fortunately this time I saw a porta potty. There was someone in there (a spectator) but the other two girls waiting let me go ahead. Because I had to wait, it took much longer than the previous stop. It felt like 10 minutes, but in reality I think it was 1:30 max.

scared

5 MORE MILES?! I’m scared.

After the stop and thanks to some declines over the next mile, I got a little boost. I picked up the pace and briefly felt like my head was winning over my protesting body (something I know I need to work on late in marathons). I started to calculate and knew that if I could keep my pace around 8:30 that I could squeeze out a 3:35. Unfortunately this last wind was short lived. I hadn’t been able to stomach another Gu or any more Gatorade so any hope for a final surge was likely unrealistic since I probably was running on fumes with no calories.

looking right

Something over there must have been interesting because I have 3 pics of me looking like this!

The rest of the race was painful. I was exhausted, hot, my quads felt like they would snap at any moment and I just wanted to be done. The crowds were so supportive, but there was nothing even left for them to propel me. I gave a wave and a smile to Danielle when I heard her scream my name around mile 23. I couldn’t believe she spotted me and that I recognized her right away from across the street!

At some point I registered that the Citgo sign was right in front of me and thought how I should be rejoicing, but at that point even one more mile seemed like an eternity. We went down then back up the viaduct and I saw someone collapsed on the road with 5-6 medical people around her. It was scary and I silently hoped that she was okay. I saw more of these type of medical situations in the last 5 miles in Boston than I have ever seen in a marathon.

Then I was finally making the famous right on Hereford.

finally

Shell shocked.

And shortly after…the left on Boylston. The crowds were thick but my eyes were focused left trying to find my parents and Brad in front of Whiskey’s. As usual, Brad and I saw each other at the same time (never fails!) and the whole crew cheered and jumped up and down. It made me so happy to see them. I was so grateful that they spent the entire morning out there, just for that one brief glimpse of me crossing the finish line.

shocked

I can’t believe I made it!

I have never, ever been so happy to see a finish line.

Boston Marathon {#7}: 3:41:45

finish

After I finished, I bent over and put my hands on my knees and just stayed there. An amazing volunteer came and picked me up and walked with me for a few minutes to make sure I was okay. The finish line shuffle was ugly. I was nauseated and my body was wrecked.

I was resistant, but a super, super nice photographer coaxed me to stop and take this picture. It was obviously the happiest I had been all day!

done

 

I ran into Mollie and Stephanie right after that and we chatted for a few minutes before I slooooowly made my way back to the condo. Nearly every person I passed on the street during that walk congratulated me or asked if I was okay (since I stopped a few times thinking I might throw up). The people of Boston are incredible.

reunited

Reuniting with Brad

I will be back with more thoughts about the aftermath, what went right, what went wrong, and what I learned. For now I think it’s important to say that despite it not personally being the day I hoped it would be, April 21st, 2014 was a monumental day for Boston, the BAA and the running community. The race was an undeniable success and Meb’s win made it that much sweeter.

 

 

About Corey

I am a 30-something swim, bike, run addict married to my best friend and in love with my two schnoodle doggies.
This entry was posted in family, friends, Goals, Race reports, Races, running, training. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Boston Marathon: The Beast

  1. krissy m. murphy says:

    Great recap, girl. I am always inspired by your authenticity.

  2. Jodi says:

    I know you hoped and trained for a better time, but you still did awesome! So cool to read all about it.

    • Corey says:

      Thanks Jodi!! How are you doing? How is your running going????

      • Jodi says:

        I’m good! Killing it in the gym but not running much. I have a 10k on mother’s day but my leg is still an issue. I have my regular check up at the doc next week and I think I’m going to ask for some investigation into what the heck it is. I run 1-2x a week and fill the rest of my week up with classes at the gym and the lower impact cardio machines there.

  3. Congrats on your Boston finish! I know it wasn’t the day you had hoped but no matter what a marathon is an incredible accomplishment! And better yet the Boston Marathon! I know you’ll be back one day to soak it all in too :)

  4. Leah F. says:

    So proud of you! Thank you for sharing your race with us and being such an inspiration to me! You ran Boston! That is so awesome!

  5. ErinAMG says:

    I am so proud of you, Boston Marathoner. That race and course is like one hot trick after another…and another…and another. While you didn’t have the race you wanted and were trained for, I’m so glad you had such an amazing experience there with so many of your family and friends. Seriously. The disappointment about the race is TOTALLY understandable (and real…we’d be lying if we said otherwise), but I’m super confident you’ve got the goods for that <3:25. Super. Confident. Congrats on a huge accomplishment and on training through (and rockin your training) Chicago's worst winter in the history of humanity. Boston's not a beast; you, my friend, are :) xoxo

  6. I am so glad I spotted you, and that you heard me!! I’m sorry it wasn’t a great race in terms of how you felt, but you have a great attitude about it. The marathon is a beast!

  7. I’m sorry your race didn’t go as planned, especially when you know you’re in shape for a PR. As for missing out on the experience, now you know what to do next time you’re in Boston!
    I hope you’re recovering well, and I look forward to your post about what went right vs what went wrong.

  8. Terzah says:

    Congratulations, Corey! Even a not-what-you-expected Boston Marathon is still the Boston Marathon. And–of course–you will be back if that’s what you want.

  9. Kara says:

    Congratulations!! I really appreciate all the honesty in this post. You are incredibly strong and did such an awesome job in a tough race. So amazing!

  10. Great recap and a congratulations on running through a tough race and less-than-ideal conditions. As a reader, I appreciate the authenticity and straight-forwardness with which you approached this. We all have off-days and understand that they suck. (((hugs))) You total have a 3:25 in you….I believe!

  11. Steph says:

    So sorry you didn’t have the best day! I know how hard you trained for this and I know you have a 3:25 in you, for sure. I’m glad you aren’t upset about your race, but I totally understand about being disappointed about not soaking everything in. Marathons are crazy and when you’re in the midst of an incredibly tough race, it’s almost impossible to snap out of it and to change your outlook when you’re struggling. Despite the tough race, you ran a 3:41, your splits look amazing, and I KNOW you will be back to Boston for redemption!! I’ll be there next year, so keep that in mind! ;)

  12. evamadera says:

    Thank you so much for writing this recap. I know how easy it would have been just to skip it. (I felt that way after MCM last year.) I’m so sorry that you didn’t have the Boston experience you deserved. I know you’ll come through this stronger than ever, though. :)

  13. elizabeth says:

    seriously LOVE this. Love how true you are to yourself, the race, and how honest you are. I must say, your form looks bad ass in the pics and your strength work all season paid off (even though it wasn’t the time you wanted, you know what I mean). The marathon is a bitch. You stuck it out and still kick ass. Hopefully in time it will be all the more reason to go back and do it again. In 2016. With me. xoxo SEE YOU TOMORROW!!!?!?!?!?

  14. Congratulations! I love the heart, emotion, and insight in your recap. You did awesome and you learned a lot, which will help your focus next time you run it…because you will be back :)

  15. Asia says:

    I’m so happy you spotted me on our way to the starting line! I appreciate your honest race recap. I still have to do mine…I’m kind of afraid of it for some reason. Maybe bc it’s my slowest marathon of all time? What’s your next race?! I don’t have one planned yet…

    • Corey says:

      I am looking forward to reading yours and seeing how your experience was similar or different. It has been really interesting to see how it went for everyone under the same conditions! Most people seem to have similar experiences, and I am in awe of those who PR’d! I am doing a few triathlons this summer (Olympic distance) and then Chicago in the fall. My legs are taking their sweet time recovering though :)

  16. Laura @ Mommy Run Fast says:

    Amazing job, Corey! Your pace was right on track until the end with the hills and heat… but I’m glad you’re not too disappointed. And I really hope to see you there one of these years!!

Tell me what you think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s