BOSTON – The Marathon: The First Few Miles

I was running the Boston Marathon! Years of dreaming about this moment, months of hard training, hours of reading about the course, and minutes of whispered prayers for a good run—and here I was, in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, on my way to a finish line 26.2 miles away. With a shout and raised fists, we took off.

When I had pushed my way into the corral, I had forgotten to unzip my hoodie and was stopped by two volunteers demanding to see my bib. I was somewhat taken aback by this, and wondered how many people would actually try and bandit Boston from the start line and not somewhere further down on the course.

Before I even crossed the start line I decided to ditch the cotton hoodie. I threw it to a volunteer on the side and quickly regretted that decision when I felt several cold gusts of wind immediately afterwards. The regret was very short lived, however, once I started running and the temperature rose. I still had my gloves—which I did regret eventually ditching much later in the race. I could not complain about the weather. Except for the full onslaught of sunshine, it was in the 40’s and would only get into the low 50’s by the end of the day. Even the sun was replaced by overcast skies later in the race, and the wind was never a factor.

Crossing the start line didn’t take as long as I’d heard it would (less than eight minutes), and since I’d arrived at the corral literally seconds before the start gun went off there wasn’t much time to take in my surroundings. I was amazed at how narrow the street was for such a large number of runners. I was also surprised that we started running before we crossed the start line, thinking we would be forced to shuffle first, then run.

Everyone had told me it would be shoulder to shoulder the first two miles, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. It was very crowded, but after the first mile it wasn’t too difficult to pass the ubiquitous shufflers and four-abreast group runners. Except for a few chatty groups, most everyone seemed to be running “alone,” like myself. There was very little talking, and it would be that way the entire race. Who could talk anyway with all the noise the spectators were making?

Very soon after starting, at the top of the incline looking down the small two-lane country road, I saw the most amazing sight I have ever seen in a marathon. I can’t even describe it. It was simply the sight of thousands and thousands of runners filling up every single inch of road as far as the eye could see. The magnitude of it took my breath away.

We passed the 1 km sign and I heard a man say next to me, “Jeez, I really don’t need to know how many kilometers I’ve run. Am I going to have to see those the entire way?” My thoughts exactly! For some reason, those km signs irritated me the first half of the race. I was only focused on one thing, and that was peeling off the miles, not the kilometers!

Everyone had told me to hold myself back the first few miles because they were all downhill. For the most part this was true, but it was hard not to let go and fly down those hills. I love downhill running, and my legs felt great. Even though I was keeping around an 8:45 pace, I felt like I was holding back. However, by mile 2, I was already aware that my stamina was very low, and that even though my legs were strong and well-trained, I was fatigued from being sick.

I had taken two puffs from my asthma inhaler before I dropped off my bag, but was struggling to catch my breath. My head was still congested and wasn’t clearing, and even though I was well-hydrated, my mouth felt dry. I was definitely not in the best of health, and knew that I wasn’t going to be able to simply shake off the symptoms as I got into the run. I had been kidding myself about how bad I felt, and I knew it was going to be a tough day.

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