My A Goal was 3:10. That was to give me a 10-minute qualifying buffer for the 2022 Boston Marathon. I wound up pulling off a 3:04:10. In the months, weeks, and days leading up the race, I was avoiding committing to a goal. I don’t know why. Even after we’d arrived in Boston on Friday night, I still wasn’t 100% sure or committed to a goal. I think my mind was giving my body an out, just in case I became sleep-deprived, sick, or injured. It wasn’t until I hit the 5k mark in the race that I decided I would shoot for a sub-3-hour marathon.
I slept well the two nights before the race. I was very cool and calm the morning of the race. I woke up at 5 a.m., ate a bagel, had coffee, and got the system into go mode. I humped it the 1.5 miles in the drizzle to Boston Common to catch the bus to Hopkinton. Made small talk with some of the guys I was sitting near in the back of the bus. Forty-five minutes later we’re getting dropped off a mile from the start line. I hopped into a portapotty and started the walk to the start. Amid the thousands of red bibs already there, I managed to run into Iram. We hugged and walked together to the start. He dropped an emotional bomb on me about his and Elaine’s imminent divorce situation. It was a lot to process and I wanted to be sympathetic, but I learned that it’s damn near impossible to render sympathetic encouragement when you’re 5 minutes away from endeavoring on the most iconic footrace in America. The best I could come up with was, “Don’t think about it for 26.2 miles. Be present here.” Iram’s ritual is to double knot his shoes before toeing the line. I kept walking, thinking he’d catch back up, but I think he veered off to hit the restroom, so that’s when we parted ways.
I got to the start line at 9:02:xx a.m. I decided to wait to take off at exactly 9:05. Because of COVID and efforts to maintain social distancing, the Boston Marathon held a rolling start this year. Buses were scheduled to arrive in Hopkinton at set times based on bib color. Bib colors are assigned based on your qualifying time. Faster qualifiers leave early and so on. This keeps the course moving efficiently. I did some high knees and bouncing around as I watched the clock.
9:05. Boom. I was off. There were probably 10 others that took off at the same time as me, but I was pretty much alone.
The first half of the Boston Marathon is fast with a lot of downhill. I’d decided on the bus that I’d just stick with my A Goal plan of 3:15. I’d run even splits (7:15 pace) and stay steady and ready for the hills later in the race. First split was fast. Second split was faster. Third split I’d dipped into the 6’s. So I thought, “Screw it. Let’s go sub-3!”
I kept checking in with myself and felt completely fine at the pace I was keeping. I took in 100 calories of GU every 5-miles, followed by a few ounces of water at an aid station. I had some worries that I might run into GI issues, but I wasn’t too concerned with that getting in the way of Goal A if I had to duck into a portapotty and make grody loud noises.
At mile 7.5, going into Natick, I witnessed the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in a race. A young lady on the road receiving chest compressions. The EMT who was working on her was fighting for her life. I almost stopped because witnessing that zapped my spirit. I was so scared that I’d just ran past a dead body. I later found out that she’s an extremely talented runner and only 34-years of age. She’d suffered a cardiac arrest and thankfully she survived. I know that EMT who I witnessed working so hard for her was her guardian angel.
I shook it off as best I could, said a little prayer, and kept going. Soon I was at mile 12 and I could hear the scream tunnel. That is the most amazing sound I think anyone can hear in a marathon. Those girls cheer so incredibly loud for the runners and it sends my spirit through the roof.
And then a few miles later, I hit the Newton hills. I was admittedly cocky and powered through them. After all, all of my training was done in Austin where we have a lot of hills. Heartbreak Hill at mile 20 got me though. I had to walk for a bit and catch my breath. And once you stop once in a race, your mind goes to that place where it starts to convince you that it’s okay to stop again. And again, if you really want to. It’s hard as hell to shake that monkey. I walked for a bit at mile 23, and then again at mile 25.
Mile 25 was when my left big toe “exploded.” I didn’t feel it coming on, but apparently I’d been building a nice blister on that toe during the race and it ruptured right at the 25-mile marker. And it hurt. It felt like someone jabbed a searing hot ice pick through the bottom of my toe. I stopped to take inventory because I was certain that there was going to be blood gushing from my left shoe. The shooting pain persisted, but there was no blood, so I just jumped back into my stride and gutted it out.
Right on Hereford, left on Boylston.
Craig told me that the family would be on Boylston, right in front of the Tesla and Under Armour store. So I swung wide turning onto Boylston and I kept my eyes peeled for everyone. I can’t remember who I saw first. I think it might’ve been Elise. I think I heard her first so I could follow her voice. I’ve gotten used to listening for my #1 cheerleader’s screams. I saw Terri. I saw Joanne. They were all smiling and cheering. And so was I. I threw out some fist pumps as I barreled past them. I could see the finish line at that point.
My watch said 3:02:xx. I probably had 400 meters to go. I kept a steady clip thinking I’d come in right at 3:05. I thought that made sense because I left Hopkinton at 9:05. I changed my plan and dropped the hammer. I wanted to beat 3:05. So I came in right at 3:04:10.
I beat my A Goal by over 5 minutes and BQ’d (Boston Qualified) by over 15 minutes. That was my second fastest marathon, and Boston’s not an easy course. I was over the moon. Still am, actually. It was a beautiful and magical day. I’m thankful and blessed that my family could be there for me, and really happy that my daughters could witness their dad smiling and gunning it for the finish line of arguably the most prestigious road race in the world.
Now I get to decide if I want to submit my time and register for the 126th Boston Marathon this upcoming April. I probably will. The Boston Marathon is too damn fun.