Getting sick two days before a marathon is bad luck. Running a marathon when you’re sick is miserable. Running the Boston Marathon when you’re sick is like your worst nightmare come true.
I slept probably the best I’ve ever slept the night before a marathon, but I still woke up at 4am, one hour before the alarm was set to go off. I still had the congestion, still had the sore throat, and still had the aches and chills. I took two puffs on the asthma inhaler and hoped the antihistamine I took the night before was working. I pushed it all to the back of my mind and started mentally preparing for the race ahead of me. I envisioned myself at the start, rested and ready to go. I imagined running through Wellesley at the halfway point, still feeling great and right on pace. I saw myself making it to the Citgo sign and knowing I was one mile out from the finish. I felt myself running down the finish chute, knowing I had successfully completed the marathon everyone wants to run.
While Michael and the kids slept, I dressed in the dark and got my things together for the race. I planned on checking the yellow BAA bag that was given to us with our bibs, knowing I would need my phone and the extra clothing because of the cold. I woke everyone up, kissed my son goodbye (he had to fly back to Portland, OR and would miss the race entirely), and walked to the elevator. I felt so alone.
It was in the upper 30’s when I left the hotel, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It wasn’t hard to figure out where to go to catch one of the buses to the start line. All I needed to do was follow the line of runners with their yellow bags slung over their shoulders. Incredulously, a young runner from Jersey asked if this was the way to the buses. I told him it better be, or we were all going the wrong way. He was running his first Boston as well, and was just as nervous as I was.
Emi texted to say she had just left her hotel. It was 6:30am. There were quite a few different lines for the buses, so I picked one and waited for her to arrive, thinking we might miss each other completely. There were hundreds and hundreds of runners. Thankfully, she found me and we spent the next 15 minutes or so slowly creeping toward our bus. Everyone was dressed in a variety of throw-away clothes, hats, and gloves. Even though the sun was shining, it was breezy, and the wind felt arctic (at least to this Texan). There was a feeling of excitement and anticipation in the air. We even got to see Paul Revere in running shoes before we boarded the bus.
Everyone had told me that taking one of the official BAA buses to the start was the best way to go, and they were right. Everything was incredibly well organized, and all the volunteers seemed genuinely happy to be there. Barricades were lined up along the streets and it was evident something BIG was going to take place in the city that day. I tried to imagine what it would be like later in the day when I returned, an official Boston Marathon finisher.
There was a lot of lively chatter on the bus headed to Hopkinton, but the trip there seemed to take so long. I couldn’t help but think how I would have to run all that way back into the city, and how far it seemed. It was very pretty outside of Boston, and we drove past small forests and trees barely in bloom. I was somewhat familiar with the route beforehand, but wasn’t completely cognizant of the fact that 26.2 miles from Boston meant “rural.” 26.2 miles from Dallas meant “suburb,” and the two couldn’t have looked more different.
Emi and I were surrounded by repeat Boston Marathon runners. The guy sitting in front of us lived a mile from the finish line, and was running his seventh Boston. The man and wife across from us were from Ohio; he was running his sixth, she her fifth. The man in front of them was from Pebble Beach, CA and was running his eighth. He was also running Big Sur the following weekend, in what is known as “Boston to Big Sur.” He said Big Sur was the “tough one” and made a face. Overall, during the entire weekend, I met very few people who were running Boston for the first time.
After awhile, the excited talking subsided and everyone grew quiet. I tried not to think about my sore throat and stuffy head. I was sure that once I started running my head would clear and my asthma would disappear. My legs felt ready, and that was all that mattered. It wasn’t even 8:00, though, and we still had a long time until the start.