Let’s get right down to business, shall we? This weekend I ran 12 miles! Outside! On the Boston Marathon course! With no pain!
Saturday was the famed “last long run” for pretty much everyone running Boston. Some people run 22, some run 21, most run 20, others run less. A lot of charity teams bus their runners out to the Start Line in Hopkinton, and the runners get a taste of the first 20ish miles, but we do an out & back course from BC. The start of the route has no sidewalks and the roads are open to traffic (unlike on Marathon Monday) and it’s actually pretty dangerous, so we stick to the sidewalks.
I joined my teammates at Boston College around 7:15 on Saturday morning, an early start for us. We heard the most inspiring talks from two bereaved parents – Sandy, who lost her son Matty at the age of 7 exactly 11 years ago today, and George, who lost his daughter and the mother of his grandchildren 2 years ago last week. Sandy has been volunteering for DFMC since Matty died, and George has been running on the team since his daughter first got sick. We also heard from the daughter of a team member who is actively fighting stage 4 colon cancer while raising her own children. There were a lot of tears flowing, but talk about inspiration to go tackle a long, difficult run!
When we headed outside, the surprise snow from earlier that morning had finally stopped falling and the sun was even starting to melt the inch or so that stuck to the grass and cars. There was a pretty strong headwind, but most took solace knowing it’d become a tailwind when they turned around for the second half of their run, most of which would be uphill!
I went into this run with zero expectations. As I wrote earlier, I had run 6 miles the previous Friday, followed by 3 on Tuesday, and then ran almost 5 miles on Thursday. Those 5 were super speedy (for me) and took a lot out of me, but I went into the weekend feeling strong and well-rested. I wanted to run more than 6 miles but had no idea if that was going to be possible, and I was honestly OK with any outcome that did not result in pain or injury.
I chose to run alone so as not to try to keep anyone else’s pace. What’s funny is that this resulted in basically running – unintentionally – with about 10 other teammates for the first few miles. Most were doing some sort of run/walk intervals (myself included, doing 90 seconds of running and 30 seconds of walking), and some just keeping a slow but steady pace due to various injuries and illnesses. By about Mile 3, it was really just one other teammate and me. Interestingly enough, she is the one who stayed with me during this exact run two years ago when I had a few moments of tunnel vision due to dehydration. She was doing different run-walk intervals but we kept passing each other and laughing each time that happened.
I got the bottom of the Newton Hills around Mile 4, and felt good despite all the downhills (which are known quad killers but can be especially problematic for my injury because of the extended duration of impact to the tibias). Our volunteers had water stops set up every 2 miles, and so I was able to take a GU every 4 miles with water, and Gatorade at the other stops. This worked perfectly so I’ve at least got my marathon hydration game down.
Once I made the turn at the firehouse, the wind died down and I was able to pick up some speed. I felt really good on this stretch, and stuck to my 90/30 intervals religiously with one exception – Grossman’s Hill. We run UP this hill a lot during training, but fortunately we only have to run DOWN it during the marathon. I hit it right around Mile 6, and it’s a 132-foot elevation gain over a 3/4-mile stretch. It’s a doozy! I walked the entire thing, determined to maintain my energy level and not gas out here.
I made it through Wellesley Center and past Wellesley College, and could see the “Welcome to Natick” sign up ahead, which was just past the official Mile 10 turnaround point. I was almost there when I saw my usual running crew coming toward me. They all seemed so surprised to see me at almost Mile 10, and were all cheering for me as the ran by in the opposite direction. I was shocked that they weren’t that far ahead of me – it meant I was keeping a really strong pace despite the annoying (to me) 90/30 intervals. They later told me I looked so strong and happy and was keeping such a good pace. I agree!
When I turned around with 10 miles under my belt, I felt really good. I was definitely tiring, but then I started playing numbers games in my head. My patient partner Hannah turns 4 on Tuesday, so could I run 4 miles for each of her 4 years? That would take my back to the base of the Newton Hills. I could definitely do it. I knew I had another 6 miles in me.
As I approached Mile 12, I was noticeably tired. I had kept an aggressive pace for the last 2+ hours. My legs felt great, but the last thing I wanted to do was start compromising my form and risk injury or even the onset of pain. So I stopped my watch and called it a day, beyond excited at my successful long run and shocked at how great I still felt. There’s nothing like finishing a long run – especially your longest in SEVEN WEEKS – knowing there’s still gas left in the tank and feeling amazing. I got a ride back to BC from one of our amazing volunteers, jumped in the shower, then headed to the bar to celebrate with everyone.
Hearing all my teammates talk about their 20-mile runs would normally leave me feeling left out, but everyone was just so proud and supportive of my 12-mile success (and I theirs!). I was over the moon happy and proud, and couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for the rest of the weekend.