BOSTON – The Marathon: Ashland to Wellesley

To already be dreading—at mile 2—all the miles ahead, was unthinkable. This was the Boston Marathon! But even though my legs were conditioned and doing what I had trained them to do, my chest and head were not on board. I felt fatigued and tired, even though my legs felt good to go. I decided to chunk the marathon into achievable goals, and my first was to concentrate on making it to mile 10. After that, it would be to make it to mile 13 at Wellesley, the halfway mark.

Clive, who was running his eighth Boston, had told me if I started to feel bad to use the spectators to help get me through. I did this off and on, but at times they were distracting. I tend to go inward and stay pretty focused when I run, and I sometimes found myself having to block out the spectators and noise around me just so I could remained focused. Maybe this was a mistake, since I wasn’t feeling well, but having to dig deep so early in the race took a lot of energy. I kept trying to convince myself the first 10 miles were feeling easy, but they weren’t.

It is difficult to describe the miles of screaming, cheering spectators. They were incredible. Entire families were camped out on the sides of the road and music was playing everywhere. A four piece bluegrass band played just outside of Hopkinton, and a gym played Rocky from huge loudspeakers. Small children stretched out their hands, either for a slap, or to offer an orange slice or a cup of water. People held signs with friends’ and loved ones’ names and words of encouragement, or with religious slogans that were runner appropriate. The alcoholic beverages were flowing freely on the sides of the road, and it was easy to tell who had gotten an early start. Since the marathon is run on Patriot’s Day each year, which is a state holiday, the entire race was one big party for those watching.

As I continued on the course, I realized it wasn’t purely downhill. There were what others might call “inclines,” but they looked like hills to me. Rolling hills. Lots of them. More than I expected. They weren’t particularly difficult, or long, or steep, and didn’t take too much out of you (those would come later), but they were still there. All in all, the first half of the course was scenic and rural, and gave you just enough challenge to keep it interesting.

My legs were still feeling strong and I wanted to stay on pace as long as I could. It was hard to block out the spectators as we ran towards the train station in Framingham at the 6.5 mile mark, and I let their enthusiasm spur me on. Michael and Dominique had discussed taking the commuter train to this spot to cheer me on, but had decided instead to wait on Heartbreak Hill at mile 21. I looked around for them anyway, hoping they might have changed their minds, but knew they hadn’t. I told myself it was okay, it was too early in the race anyway, and I would need their support much later on.

I saw a row of port-a-potties and decided to make a quick stop. This is very unusual for me, as I rarely have to go during a marathon, but I needed a short break. Unfortunately there were already two people in line, but I decided to stop anyway and rest. Once inside, I was annoyed because I didn’t have to go at all. False alarm. I ran back out and hit the road once again.

Just outside Natick we hit the 15K mark and the timing mats. I regretted that long stop in Framingham and hoped my splits still looked good for everyone tracking me back home. The next few miles were quiet and uneventful and the 10 mile mark came and went. Legs still felt good, the hills hadn’t taken too much effort, and I focused on making it to the halfway mark. Wellesley was next, and my only goal was to reach the wall of screaming women.

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