Boston Marathon 2018: Spectator Recap

Monday’s weather was my personal hell. I would take 80° with blazing sun or -10° with several feet of snow (sure, I’ll complain about them) over temps in the high 30s/40s/low 50s and heavy rain ANY DAY. But last year, everyone kept saying how dangerous the heat would be for us runners. I was hot as hell and complained about it a lot, but I was also really, REALLY sick so I kinda assumed I felt worse than I would have if I was healthy. But when I saw forecasts for Monday’s weather, I couldn’t imagine worse conditions. Truly tough.

20180416_094219I woke up around 8am and had to take a 10-minute route on back roads to get to the Dunkin Donuts that is ¼  of a mile from Juls’ house. Why? Because it’s on the marathon route, so roads closed at 7am. Even at 8:15ish, the place was packed with spectators who wanted to stake a good viewing spot for when the first runners would go by in over an hour. After watching the start of the race on TV with Juls and Jack, I jumped in my car and drove to the end of her street to watch the elite women run by at the 4K/Mile 2.5 mark. I was soaked just standing there for less than 10 minutes. It was crazy to see elites running in layers, jackets, and even those clear ponchos which are literally the best and worst things ever. Sure they keep you dry, but they stick to you and make you sweat even if you’re not hot because your skin literally can’t breathe. Usually elites are in their briefs and sports bras even on the coldest of days, so to see layers upon layers on these women made me feel a lot less bad about driving 500 feet instead of walking in the monsoon.

20180414_184846After they went by, I went back inside to change into dry clothes and load up on carbs and caffeine for my long day of spectating. Unfortunately, I didn’t time things right and missed 95% of the Dana-Farber team members run by. I did see my friend Aiko and several DFMC’ers I didn’t recognize, but they all loved my sign before it fell apart in the rain and seemed to love hearing me cheering for Dana-Farber. I was bummed to have missed everyone but was still relatively dry, so I loaded up Chip and drove back to Boston, where I put on a few additional “waterproof” layers and got on the T with my second sign. The T took forever but I knew I had plenty of time before my running friends would make it to Mile 25, especially in these tough conditions.

When I got off the T at Kenmore, I mentally prepared myself for the crowds and claustrophobia. I was honestly so heartbroken when I walked out onto the sidewalk and saw barely anyone cheering on the runners. The fences were lined one layer deep, instead of the 25-30 I’m used to seeing. As I walked from Kenmore to Mile 25, I cheered for everyone who ran by me because I just felt so bad for them – running in this miserable weather with hardly anyone cheering them on (compared to every other marathon I’ve been at for the last 5 years).

20180416_141003Mile 25 is special for Dana-Farber runners. It’s what we call “the real finish” because it’s where Dana-Farber patients, staff, volunteers, and friends are all waiting on the bridge with signs and balloons and hugs. There’s a significant hill leading up to the bridge so runners are often really struggling right here, with 1.2 miles to go – which feels like 200 miles after already having run 25. Last year, it’s where several people took pictures of me smiling, hugging and high-fiving. I felt amazing here because I got to see my In-Memory family, so many patients, and our team inspiration Sandy and her family.

There were a few patients out there, but for immunocompromised cancer patients – especially pediatric ones – being outside in bad weather can be deadly, so the crowd here was equally as thin as elsewhere. But the spectators who were here were doing the work of everyone who decided to watch from the comfort and safety of their living rooms (or local bars). It was LOUD. There were cowbells. Every time the rain got really heavy, the runners would smile and cheer and we would yell louder for them.

My friend Jess is amazing and brought a poncho for me to wear, and I gave her an extra pair of gloves that we both covered with surgical gloves, but none of it mattered. Within a few minutes, the sideways rain had made it under my hood, down into my waterproof boots, and what felt like inside my bones. As I saw so many friends run by, I was inspired and surprised by how happy and healthy they all seemed despite the conditions. Relatively speaking, they were faring much better than the elites had. We got loves of love for our signs and nearly lost our voices trying to yell for everyone over the sound of the torrential rain.

As the time between runners we recognized got longer, it was really hitting me how cold and wet I was. I had stopped shivering and was now just vibrating with zero control over my body. When we decided to call it a day at 5pm, I had been outside for 3+ hours in addition to my time out in the morning. Even though it wasn’t THAT cold out, hypothermia was becoming a reality due to how soaked I was through every single layer. We had been sitting on a barrier for the previous 90 minutes, and when I jumped down onto the ground, I realized my feet were completely numb. I was honestly worried I had done irreparable damage. I honestly don’t remember the last time I was that cold. I struggled to walk 5 minutes to the T but thankfully my train was pulling up as I walked into the station. It took me about 15 minutes before I was “warm enough” to take off my gloves, which I wrung out onto the floor of the train. I badly needed to blow my nose, but every tissue I had packed in pockets and my bag also needed to be wrung out. It was the longest train ride of my life, maybe even longer than after running the marathon last year, because I was so sick then that I was pretty out of it.

When I finally got home, I didn’t even let poor Chip out. I turned on the shower as hot as it would go and let the tub fill up as I showered because I needed the feeling to return to my feet. I realized the soles were white and swollen and numb, meaning they really had gotten dangerously cold. I stayed in the shower for over 20 minutes, and it still took my feet about another hour in wool socks AND slippers to feel normal again.

This is a really long post about how miserable the weather was, but it was meant to be a testament to how EFFING BADASS all 30,000+ runners are for getting it done. I think they felt better than most spectators did, and rightfully so – what an accomplishment period, let alone in historic weather conditions.

Some amazingly inspiring stories from Monday:

My fate is sealed. I don’t care if it requires a hamstring transplant between now and April 15, 2019 – I am going to be out there running again. Marathon Monday was the inspiration I needed to go from 99.99% to 100% sure that I have one more Boston Marathon in me. And it looks like I’ll be in good company.

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