The days leading up to the Marathon were filled with anticipation, excitement and race-related activities.
On Friday morning, I was invited, along with other runners in Governor Deval Patrick’s Administration, to a Cabinet meeting where the Governor applauded our training and offered his best wishes for Marathon Day.
Immediately after meeting with the Governor I met Jay and the team at Cafeteria on Newbury Street for a team lunch. It was great to connect with runners I hadn’t met before who had flown in from other states and see friends I had trained with over the winter. The funny thing about runners training for marathons is that everyone as an ailment – especially as the race gets closer. Some of them are nagging injuries that have plagued us for weeks. Others are phantom pains that are sure to disappear with a hefty dose of adrenaline on Race Day.
Following lunch, the 30-plus lot of us walked to the Hynes to pick up our numbers. The place was packed! It was fun to walk in as a team, everyone outfitted in their Project Hope jackets. We grabbed our bibs and a snapshot and parted ways until we’d meet again Saturday for breakfast.
In a twist of fate, Jay bumped into his ER nurse in line to purchase a (wicked expensive) marathon jacket! Jill hadn’t told him she was running when he was in the hospital and we were surprised she remembered him! It truly felt like EVERYONE was running on Monday.
On Saturday we woke up early to head to our team breakfast downtown. I woke up early enough to get a final 2-mile run in. I felt good when I finished and confident for race day.
The breakfast was fantastic! When we arrived, the Governor was there, chatting with members of our team. A fellow teammate and friend invited him the night before and he showed up to offer his well wishes to us all. When he left and our plates were loaded with food (carbs, carbs!!) the program started.
The program was amazing. VB made a video that so perfectly captured the spirit of this year’s marathon. One of our crazy teammates dressed up as a rock star and joked about all the things that make our team what it is. And then there was Blanca. She has gone through the program at Project Hope and is a testament to the truly incredibly work the staff at Project Hope does.
Together, our team presented Sister Margaret with a check totaling more than $315,000!
I left buoyed, excited and ready to run.
Wake up came early Monday as Jay and I headed to meet the team in Newton to load the bus to Hopkinton. We departed at 6:15 on the dot and arrived in Hopkinton right before 7. The day was gorgeous – sunny and warm and full of promise.
Our team, like the other charity runners, didn’t start until 11:30. So we waited at a house in Hopkinton. And waited. And waited. To pass the time, we stretched, watched the early marathon coverage on TV, ate and drank and marked each other’s arms and legs with “Boston Strong”, “Hope” and “Run for the Nun!”
Before we knew it, it was time to gather for one last team photo and head to the corrals.
By the time we left the house at 10:30, it was warm. I began to worry that the weather might actually be too hot and wondered whether I would have to change my expectations of how this race would go.
We set off at 11:25 packed in with 9,000 other runners in Wave 4. The first several miles were down hill. I ran with Jay and Keezer and we kept a steady, average pace around 9 minutes/mile.
And then I had to pee.
I veered off the course around for a quick pit stop and hopped back on a few minutes later. I was annoyed I had to stop but I felt infinitely better that I had. As we ran through Hopkinton, Ashland, and Natick I was feeling good. I saw a friend and her kids in Natick or Framingham around mile 10 and made it my goal to get to Wellesley at the same pace.
Wellesley was exactly the way I have always heard it described. Wellesley College students created a “scream tunnel” and held signs offering kisses to the runners going by.
I felt strong for a few more miles and then the heat started to get to me. I tried to drink water and Gatorade but my pace slowed. Keezer, bless his heart, brought extra salt pills and handed one to Jay and me. I dropped mine. Frustrated, I almost stopped. But Jay gave me his salt and I soldiered on.
Then I hit Heartbreak. My left thigh began to cramp so I started to walk. Jay began to hurt, too. After a minute or two of walking, I felt better and started to run again. But by this point, Jay was done running. He had made it 20 miles and couldn’t run anymore. He urged me to go ahead as he set out to walk the next 6 miles.
While I wasn’t physically in a great place at this point, the next six miles of the race were the most memorable and fun. As I ran/walked through Newton, Brookline and Boston the throngs of spectators grew thicker. Boston College students, perhaps a few beers in, created long lines of hands to slap as they propelled me forward with cheers of “Go Cyndi”, “You’re awesome” and other ego boosting chants. I stopped for a quick sip of beer offered by a co-worker around mile 23. I paused for a second as I moved through Washington Square, the spot where I first heard about the bombs at last year’s finish line. I cried a little, feeling so lucky to be a part of the day.
In Coolidge Corner, the digital thermometer at the bank read 70 degrees. Yup, feels about right, I thought. It was not the race I had hoped to run, but I enjoyed every minute.
At mile 25, Keezer reappeared on my left side. We launched ourselves through Kenmore Square and towards the Mass Ave Bridge, where so many runners were stopped last year. Teammate Ron appeared behind us and Keezer slowed to catch him. In my head I started a mantra: “Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston”. I took the right and the cheers grew louder. I took the left and looked up at the Hynes where survivors had been invited to watch the race. I would not stop until I reached the finish.
I tried to take it all in as I passed each of the alphabetical blocks. I looked at the crowds on the sidewalk where the bombs had gone off last year and smiled at the new image there – crowds of happy, cheering spectators. People came back. And they came back strong.
Suddenly I was done. 4 hours, 33 minutes. As I crossed the finish line, I felt a mix of emotions – happy to have completed this race. Exhausted from running in the sun all day, sad that it was over. I collected my medal and headed for the Westin where I was met with cheers and applause from teammates who had finished before me and the wonderful staff of Project Hope.
Jay arrived a little less than an hour later as I lay on the massage table, trying to get rid of the cramps that had taken over my legs. He kissed me and told me how proud of me he was. And I was proud of him. He pushed through, severely undertrained but determined. I was sorry we hadn’t made it to the finish together but so glad we both made it to the end.
We met friends for a beer a while later and then took the kids to dinner at La Morra, our favorite neighborhood restaurant. I didn’t want the day to end.
I am a week out from the marathon today and I am glad to have a break from training. I am looking forward to runs without a watch, a mileage target or a time goal. But I am also looking forward to next year. To joining the Project Hope team again and running from Hopkinton to Boston.