Marathon Monday was one for the books. It will go down in history as the single best day of my life so far. I woke up still feeling terrible, but I used my Neti-Pot, took the only sudafed I would take all day, ate my go-to English muffin with peanut butter and drank a cup of coffee, and taped and retaped my arches 5 times.
I walked a block up the street to meet my teammate Katie and her husband Matt. They rented a Zipcar so Matt could drop us off at Hopkinton State Park. We got there around 7:45 and then took a school bus to the Start Line area with other runners. The rest of them kept walking to the Athletes’ Village while all of us DFMC runners went straight to the church that lets DFMC use its parish hall as the pre-marathon refuge. Our volunteers think of EVERYTHING. First of all, there is indoor plumbing. I used the bathroom as soon as I got there and that would be the last time I used indoor plumbing for nearly 12 hours. I charged my phone, put on Glide (prevents chafing), re-taped my arch, had a bagel with peanut butter and some Gatorade and plenty of water plus one Twizzler, and chatted with my teammates to pass the time. We took a team photo which took about 20 minutes in total, and then Western Mass News asked if they could interview some of us, so I obliged: Thousands run in Boston Marathon to fight cancer.
I put on sunscreen shortly before we lined up, and as it turns out, I missed a few spots. First of all, I completely failed to put any on my ears so those were an angry shade of red for a few days. I missed the area around my watch/Fitbit because I was too lazy to take those off to apply. I also missed my ankles because I didn’t want greasy sunscreen anywhere near my tape lest it start peeling off. I also missed the back of my calves where my knickers ended, so I have two lines of sunburned skin back there. I put sunscreen on my face and chest but I splashed myself with water so many times it eventually wore off, so I’m less burnt there but still pink.
It was hot. Man, it was hot. I was warm by the time we lined up in our corrals so I wore the visor I had brought for another teammate to wear but she had brought her own. I never run in hats, ever since that near-fainting incident last summer, but it was SO sunny that I thought it might help. I ended up ditching the visor at Mile 8 and being glad I did – it wasn’t the sun that was bothering me, it was the heat.
I dumped water down the front & back of my shirt, onto my head, and into my face every mile – and sometimes more often if there were kids handing out cups of water in between official water stops. I was able to stick to my fuel/hydration plan and feel healthy the whole time – alternating Gatorade and water every mile and taking a GU energy gel every 4 miles or so (which became 6 by the end because I forgot to stop at Mile 17 for my bag of more GU).
Lori, Jess, Berta, Joanne, Susan, George and I ran together for about the first 8 miles. Then our group slowly began to spread out, until it was just Lori, Jess and me – the terrific trio from the beginning of the training season 4 months ago! A little after Mile 8, I saw Julia, Drew and the kids. Mae was soooo happy and excited to see me that it gave me such a boost. I hadn’t seen anyone I knew up until that point, and I knew it was going to be a long time until I saw my dad, so they were perfectly positioned.
Around Mile 10, Jess told us to go ahead without her. We thought she’d catch back up eventually, but sadly she never did. She’s been my ride or die through all this so I felt bad leaving her behind.
The first 12 miles all seemed a blur. It was very hot running through the streets of Framingham and Natick especially. People were having parties on their lawns and looked so happy and comfortable – it was perfect spectating weather! But the pavement felt like it was 10,000 degrees and there was no shade in sight. The sun dipped behind the clouds for a mile or two, but then it was sunny again until the Newton Hills.
Right around the Natick/Wellesley line, I heard a woman yelling, “Go Kelly!” over and over. Turns out it was my co-worker Deb. She didn’t even notice me at first because she was so excited cheering. I gave her a soaking wet hug and was back on my way.
When I realized we hit the halfway mark at 02:38, I wondered if we might actually be able to finish in 5 hours. That was secretly our original hope, and we were keeping pretty consistent pace and splits, but I knew the hills were ahead of us as were lots of friends and family along the course. Lori and I stopped to use the portapotties at Mile 13, and surprisingly I did have to pee. That would be the last time I peed until about 7pm that night.
Sure enough, I heard the Wellesley Scream Tunnel before I saw it. I’ll admit to being slightly underwhelmed – I expected more but I guess by this point (1:45 in the afternoon), they had already had a long day cheering on runners. I never did see the sign I had made, but I’m sure it was there somewhere.
Miles 14-17 are the worst. I’ve trained on these miles so I knew what to expect. They are boring, not at all crowded in terms of spectators, and the downhill on Mile 15 really trashes your legs right before you need them to be strong. As soon as you reach the bottom of that big hill, the first of the 4 famed Newton Hills begins. Everyone thinks there are 3 hills (or even just Heartbreak) but there are definitely 4.
The good news is that somewhere in those miserable 3 miles was an open fire hydrant with some sort of sprinkler attachment. I ran right into it, knowing my waterproof phone would be fine. Except I forgot that two ibuprofen were also in my pants pocket with my phone. Oops. They became a sticky paste that was all over my phone for the rest of the run.
In those miles, I remember telling Lori I wanted to run in the middle of the street because the crowds (as thin as they were) were annoying me. I was really struggling then and getting in my own head. There’s even a photo of me looking miserable:
At Mile 16.8, we called Jess to check on her. She was only half a mile behind us, and feeling OK, so we hoped she’d catch up soon. I told Lori we should slow down a little so Jess could catch up but really it was because I was gassed. The heat was taking its toll. My right knee started bothering me around Mile 8 – my right knee never hurts. I think I may have been trying to favor my foot too much. Now both my feet and knees hurt, and I was so damn hot.
I knew my dad was waiting for me at Mile 17, and when I saw him I lost all my composure. He was holding a sign that said, “You can do it. I believe in you.” If you watched the video I posted of my In-Memory Patient Taty, you know that she spoke those words. I gave him a big hug and we both cried, and that’s why I forgot to seek out the DFMC volunteers who had my bag of extra socks (didn’t need them, fortunately), GU, tissues and ibuprofen and sudafed (didn’t need those either).
Just after seeing my dad, the course makes its first turn at the Newton Firehouse. Again, I know this part of the course like the back of my hand now, but let me tell you how different it looked. It was so loud. I had been hearing my name all morning but from Mile 18 on, I think I heard my name every 5 seconds. The energy was amazing. The hills weren’t as hard because A. I trained well on them and B. the crowd made you want to run, and we did run most of the hills and that seemed to please the crowd.
I began looking for Rags’ cardiologist at Mile 21, but it turns out she was at Mile 20 so we missed each other. I’ll admit this was probably for the best. I might have lost it.
When we got to the top of the hills, I turned to Lori and said, “Hey guess what? We’re done with the hills!” Sure, there were a few more baby ones coming up but the big ones were behind us. The drunk BC students combined with the downhill toward Cleveland Circle and knowing my dad was up ahead made Mile 22 feel like the easiest one of them all.
Rounding Cleveland Circle, I saw my dad holding a sign that said, “Love Dad & Rags.” On any other day, I may have cried. But my body was in fight mode, and I was unable to feel emotion at this point. I high-fived my dad and kept on going. In retrospect, I regret not stopping to take any photos with him at all. I didn’t think of it – we’re not a big photo family and I thought if I stopped I may never start again – but I do wish we got some permanent memories.
Shortly after seeing my Dad and entering Brookline, I saw my co-worker Kerry right where she said she’d be. She was holding a sign and I forget what it said but I was so happy to see her.
About half a mile later, I saw my other co-worker Toni. She was crying! Her dad was successfully treated at Dana-Farber and I told her I was running for him.
The next 2 miles were physically difficult but so uplifting. The crowds were wild. I can’t believe earlier on they were annoying to me. It got to the point where my name was being called so many times I couldn’t even make eye contact with everyone – it was amazing.
As we approached the seeming mountain of a mile just before Mile 25, I didn’t even care. I knew that the Abrams and Sandy were up ahead. But before I saw them, I saw and heard my former co-worker and friend Teresa jumping up and down cheering for me. She posted this photo on Facebook right after I went by, so my friends and family got to see that I was still smiling after 5 hours of running. They had been seeing the official updates on my time but that doesn’t tell you how I feel!
Then, right up ahead were the Abrams. I was so excited to hug and high five them, and Deanna captured the best picture of me high-fiving her husband Danya.
Just after the Abrams were the Dubucs. Sandra and her family were at every training run this season manning a water stop with all sorts of goodies and always a theme. Everyone at these Saturday long runs got to be part of Team Matty, running in honor of Matty Dubuc, who died 10 years ago when he was 8 years old.
A few hundred feet later, we were in Kenmore Square. I heard my name being yelled a little more enthusiastically than it had been, and turned to see my old co-worker Mark cheering me on. Only a few more hundred feet later, was my BFF. I saw her with her Bruins t-shirt on. I stopped to give her a hug and I think I asked where her husband and baby were (napping at her grandma’s around the corner), but I was really tired at this point and don’t remember specifics. Lori and I took one final walk break, and then sprinted the final stretch – the right on Hereford, left on Boylston.
People are NOT kidding when they say the final 0.2 feels like forever. The crowd is so loud you can’t hear yourself think. I was smiling so hard that my face hurt. We were sprinting for what felt like an hour. When we finally crossed the finish line – arms raised like champs – I started bawling my eyes out. All at once, I was so proud and overwhelmed and shocked at what I had just accomplished. I also felt bad. Very bad. Adrenaline and emotion had taken over the previous 5 hours and 20 minutes, but as soon as I stopped the first time all day, my lungs were on fire. I couldn’t get a full breath. We stopped and talked to Coach Jack and took some pictures. I am forcing this smile because all I wanted to do was sit down and cry.
I cried through all the snack and fluid stations, the medal station, and the space blanket station. With Lori by my side, we finally found the DFMC volunteers who would walk us back to the DFMC Recovery Zone at the hotel. One of the girls took my bag of snacks and carried it for me as I was barely functioning. She tried to be social and talk to me but I couldn’t form a sentence. I felt really bad for being so rude. The walk took about 20 minutes, which felt like 20 hours. As soon as we got into the hotel, Lori saw her family and we went our separate ways. My dad was waiting for me a few floors up, holding one of the signs he made (and intended to hold at the Finish Line for me to see, but he didn’t make it in time thanks to the MBTA). I barely nodded and told him I was going to Medical and would text him in a while. He and a volunteer went off in search of my change of clothes, and the bag was handed to me as I made my way to the medical area. DFMC is awesome and had about a dozen medical professionals to take care of us. There were a few other runners in there getting care, but I was kind of in my own world…more of a daze. I lied down and had an ice pack put on the back of my neck. I tried to slow my breathing and eventually sipped some cranberry juice. After about 15 minutes, they let me go as long as I promised to eat some chicken noodle soup and keep drinking. I had less than a cup of soup and a few sips of water, cried more while sitting on the floor talking to a few teammates, then finally found the strength to get up and go change. For the first time in my life, I had no qualms about getting naked in front of strangers. I put on dry clothes from head to toe and actually felt better just by doing that. I texted my dad and he met me as I limped my way down the hallway. We tried to call an Uber but eventually gave us and walked 20 minutes to the T. I almost puked about 12 times on the walk and on the ride home, and then it dawned on me that I hadn’t peed since Mile 13, around 1-something. It was now after 6pm. I talked myself into getting off the T 2 stops early so that my dad and I could grab a bite to eat. I ordered a beer and a burger, gagged through the beer, ate half my meal, and managed to pee. I felt a lot better by eating and maybe the beer took an edge off. I was pooped but decided to go home and shower and get back in a cab to go to the team after-party. I threw my wet hair into a messy bun and spent a little over an hour drinking 1.5 beers with my teammates before I realized how truly terrible I felt, and needed to go home.