Run Fast, Write Slow

   I’m not prone to crying. At the Boston Marathon this year, I came very close to tears — twice. It took me two months to write about it.
     The first rush of feelings took me by surprise the day before the race. On my way to pick up my number, I walked toward the site of last year’s bombing on Boylston Street. The crowd was unprecedented: people wearing Boston Marathon 2013 gear, families, teenagers in skinny jeans. We were all lingering around, taking photos and remembering.

Boylston Street, the day before the 2014
     After crossing the finish line, in reverse, I stopped by the spot on the sidewalk where the first bomb exploded. I lingered several minutes and walked away. After a few steps, I felt a lump in my throat. Strangely, it hit me when I had my back to the site, not when I was facing the place where a child had been killed and many others injured in 2013. I couldn’t explain why, and I felt I had no right to be teary. I was safe in a hotel room nearby last year at the time of the bombings.
On race day, the crowds along the course were also unprecedented. It’s hard to find appropriate superlatives for Boston 2014. If “awesome” applies to the latest smartgadget or cats-squeezing-into-tiny-things YouTube compilation, I don’t know how to describe the thousands and thousands of people who came to cheer us runners. To nonrunners, I often describe the Boston Marathon as the Super Bowl (for Americans) or the World Cup (for the rest of the world) of my sport. Boston 2014 was Super Bowl/World Cup to a power of 100.

En route to Boylston Street, transported by the Boston crowd

I was prepared for the second rush of feelings. I knew that by the time I made the last turn on Boylston Street and saw the finish line about 200 yards away, I would be physically and mentally drained, probably hallucinating, and vulnerable to deep emotions. The sidewalks of Boylston were packed — even more so than in past years, if possible — with people screaming, encouraging us, telling us “You made it” and “You’re awesome” (yes, that word). No, you, crowd, are awesome. The tears came back. Thank you, Boston crowd. Did I tell you I love you too? Two months have passed and I can now coolly look at the stats and facts of my race.
I ran in 2h57m03, my second-best performance on the distance, my third marathon under 3 hours and my first marathon as a master (as in older than 40). It was enough to stay (barely) in the top 100 female runners (99), and while I was 2m42s slower than my 2013 record on the distance, it was a satisfying time considering that my training was marred by a broken wrist and snowstorms. I am almost sure that my use of the word satisfying to describe a race is also a first. Recovery is not quantifiable, but I would rate it among the best post-marathon recoveries I ever had. My muscles were less sore in the days following the race than after my first (slow) run in January, after a month-long hiatus post-surgery. My first conclusion from the rapid recovery was that I must have run a conservative race. My second conclusion was that my first conclusion was nonsense. My pace had collapsed in the final miles, as it often does in Boston, and I got passed by about 10 strong female finishers in the last one. According to my splits, I ran the last 4.5 miles (mostly downhill) in 6:56 a mile, two seconds slower than in the previous 6.2 miles (mostly uphill and including the famous Heartbreak Hill), and 10 seconds slower than my average for the full marathon. Talk about a weak finisher. The stats don’t back up the theory of a conservative race. I sank at the end even though I was trying to give everything I had. But within minutes of my finish, I was again full of energy (thank you, adrenaline) and I spent most of the afternoon walking around. Last year, too, I walked most of the afternoon and part of the evening in the aftermath of the bombings. Walking post-marathon might be part of the secret for a fast recovery. Or maybe I was too conservative. We shall see at Boston 2015.

Boyslton Street on race day

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