How do I even begin. I could write a book or at least a large chapter on this incredible experience…
I was a little anxious about this One Run For Boston relay. Mostly because of the logisitics (you needed to be self sufficient, at least that’s what they told us ahead of time) and not knowing anyone. And that I had no support going out there with me. Before heading out to Boston, I had my last long run of 11 miles on the Monday prior and had a little chaffing from my sports bra the week before on a 13 mile run. Since it was going to be warm and humid, I had a feeling Body Glide wasn’t going to cut it, so I brought my green KT tape with me to put a piece across the area to prevent it from chaffing anymore. I knew a bandaid would fall off, so I needed something more secure. I am not sure why I was concerned with this, but I guess runners think about this stuff. I really didn’t need to bring much with me other than my running gear. I was basically flying in and flying out.
After a red-eye flight and arriving to Boston, I found out the relay was four hours behind, which meant we would be starting about 7pm instead of 3pm. It was pretty darn hot and humid out too. I met up with Suzanne, a gal I connected with to get a ride to Hopkinton, at about 12:30-1pm. We waited at Starbucks drinking water to hydrate and got to know each other. Suzanne was stopped at mile 25.2 when the bombings happened. So that’s why she was doing this. We waited for two more people, Mary and her husband. I didn’t know who Mary was, but as it turned out she was a huge part of the relay in helping organize things along the way and helping to contact media. She also ran previous legs in Missouri and came out to run the last leg from Newton to Boston. When they showed up we decided to have lunch which of course was pizza! We needed to carb up a little. Then Suzanne and I went back to Starbucks after they left and waited once again. Now we were waiting for Gary and Sarah, driving in from Maine. And the relay was turning into five hours behind…
After those two arrived, we hopped in the car to drive towards Hopkinton and stopped for “dinner” along the way. Carb load #2: pizza and beer. I was hesitant about the beer, but Gary assured me I would be fine. It’s hops, right? That’s carbs! We chatted about running and their reasons for participating and here’s when I found out that Gary had already run 33 miles of the relay by himself, overnight, in Texas. Pretty awesome. And, he’s run 21 Boston Marathons!
So we drove the rest of the way to Hopkinton, the official start of the Boston Marathon course. We probably waited about 45 minutes before the baton arrived. It was pretty exciting to finally see it! I came all this way to run this part of the relay, the last 26.2 miles, and it was about to begin. After an exchange, pictures, and some speeches, including one from Dave McGillivray, the BAA (Boston Athletic Association) Race Director, we were on our way! I was just hoping my body was going to be able to do this. I wasn’t sure about this humidty as I have never trained in this kind of climate.
Gary and Sarah leading the pack in the first leg to Hopkinton, leg #316
It was about 8pm when we started and I fell right in line behind Gary and Sarah who were keeping the pace with the baton. We passed around the baton so everyone got a chance to hold it. That was really cool! It felt like I was holding the Olympic Torch. Both Gary and Sarah were also running the last 26.2 miles and a badass chick, Maddy, was running the last 50 miles, so she was running alongside them as well, having already run like 24 miles. Dave McGillivray ran that leg with us to Framingham. It was very cool to be able to run behind him. This man has also run 41 Boston Marathons. During that first leg, we had a police escort in front of us and someone holding an American flag. Talk about feeling very special and patriotic.
As it got dark, it was still pretty warm out. I was sweating my ass off. I had to keep remembering to drink fluids. Luckily at each leg, there were folks with coolers with cold waters and Gatorades to refuel. These people really helped a lot! I brought my own hydration belt, but I was so focused on the road ahead and trying not to twist an ankle on uneven road or sidewalk, I was forgetting to drink out of my own bottles. Not only do I not train in humid weather, I don’t train in the dark. So this was all a big challenge for me. I also was forgetting to eat my Shot Bloks. My GPS went out early on a couple times (or I may have hit it off by accident), so I just turned my watch off. I knew I was running 26.2+ miles. I was more concerned with my pace. Either way, now I was left with periodically asking people how many miles were left.
Running this course at night is obviously much different than running it during the day. Since we were not being assisted by water booths or medical tents or hundreds of thousands of spectators, there was a much different feel. But it was very special running out there with a small group in the middle of the street in the dark. I really only remembered a few landmarks along the course from my first Boston Marathon experience, because of how dark it was. And surprisingly, there would be random strangers and spectators cheering us on along the way. Not that many, but it was really nice to have people out there in the middle of the night.
We would stop for a few minutes in between each leg to get the next group of runners, drink water and pass the baton. But I think this was worse for me to stop in between rather than continue on like I normally would when running a race. I was getting frustrated about 3/4 of the way there. I was mentally exhausted and tired. I was asking myself what the heck I was doing. Why did I choose to do this. Why didn’t I just run one leg. I wanted to get in a support car and have them take me to the finish. “Amy! What are you thinking?!” I guess I was being selfish and not doing a very good job of blocking it out. I had to snap out of this and remember why I was there and why I was doing this. I had to keep moving foward for Boston and for those who didn’t get to finish the marathon on April 15, 2013 and for the victims. I had to somehow block out the temporary pain and misery I was feeling in those moments. I had texted Clint a couple times. I needed something familiar. He text back “You’ve done this a billion times” and “You got this babe”. Well, I haven’t done this a billion times, but I got the point.
As I was struggling towards the end, a gal named Lisa asked me if I was doing ok. I explained that I was coming from Hopkinton and she said she would help get me to the finish. There were only a few people doing the last 26.2 miles, so most people had “fresh” legs as they ran their legs of the relay. I wanted to walk at this point, but she was encouraging me to get to the finish. It’s funny, because usually I am helping other people, and now here’s someone helping me.
It started to rain lightly during the last few miles or so, which felt good. I thought of the rain as tears upon us – happy tears. We finally saw the Citgo sign and then a policeman said, “Right on Hereford, left on Boylston” in a thick Boston accent. If you’ve run the Boston Marathon you know what this means. It’s the best part of the race! You are almost there! A few people started running to the left off the course and we yelled at them. They seemed to be going the wrong way. But I found out later that one of those runners, a guy that I had been running with for a while early on, got stopped there at this year’s marathon when the bombings happened and wanted to go through the tunnel. He needed to do it.
Lisa ran the rest of the way with me and was being so positive and encouraging. We turned onto Boylston and we could see all the lights in the street. There it is – the famous finish line! We ran together through the finish. I was able to get some energy and I could have sprinted during those last minutes, but I didn’t need to. People were cheering loudly for us. It was like we were the only two people on that course during that moment in time. It was about 12:45-12:50am now.
As soon as we finished, my legs and feet were sore and tired. I feel like that 26.2 miles was probably the hardest marathon I have run, mentally and physically. But I wanted to soak in the last moments of the finish. There were still people behind us finishing. But so many wanted to take pictures of themselves at that finish line. It was a large crowd of about 600 runners. People got down on the ground and kissed it. Hugs everywhere. Everyone was so happy and emotional. For some, this was finally their finish. They got to finish the 117th Boston Marathon at that moment. I also ran into a gal, Neni, we met earlier in the day at Starbucks, who ran the last leg. She has been a Finish Line volunteer for the last five years and wanted to run this last leg into Boston. “Miles”, the baton, was presented to the city and BAA and there was a short speech of thanks and gratitude for all that was accomplished and what the relay did for Boston.
After the last leg, the plan was to go down the street to a local bar, The Rattlesnake. They were expecting 600 of us to show up – a private party for all these amazing people who participated. At first, I wasn’t sure I would be able to make it. My legs were tired and I just did not want to use them anymore. But my bag was at the bar with items I needed after my run. So Suzanne and I attempted to get a cab with no luck. So we started walking. My legs started to loosen up again. We arrived and it was a celebration! I was so freakin’ thirsty I ordered a pink lemonade and destroyed it in seconds! I had the bartender fill it up a second time and then we ordered beers to cheers our new friends.
By about 2:30am, it was time to head back to my hostel, except I cabbed it this time. I was not walking. I was staying in dorm-like room with three bunks. Of course, my bed was on the top of the first bunk. When I arrived, I didn’t want to wake anyone so I had already prepared by leaving my keys on top of my luggage so I could use the light on it to see what I was doing. Well, I couldn’t see much so I just put my running stuff on the ground next to the wall and just got in bed. I had realized I had forgotten my pj’s. I didn’t want to disrupt them by going in and out of the room to take a shower, so I just crawled into bed with all my disgustingly sweaty running clothes on. It’s kind of gross, but I really had no choice, unless I wanted to wake up all the girls. But then the girl under my bunk woke up at 6am when her alarm went off. So I didn’t get much sleep that night.
The extraordinary Danny Bent
Danny Bent was one of the organizers of this extraordinary and historical event. And he’s from the UK, no less. I thanked him at the end (at the bar) and he hugged me tight, especially after I told him I came out from California. I wanted him to know what it meant to me and how he’s changed all these people. What a huge endeavor and accomplishment to be able to pull this off. He organized a relay from California to Boston, 3000 miles, in 23 days, and raised over $75,000. He’s truly a pioneer. He’s changed the lives of so many.
So, I am sleep deprived and dehydrated, but it was so worth it! This was unlike anything I have ever done and I’m sure unlike anything I will ever do. My life has been changed by this. I have made new friends and I have gained more compassion. While flying home, I was looking at the beautiful sky and clouds wishing and hoping for more amazing moments like what Danny Bent created.
Gary, me, Suzanne, Sarah