Boston DNF and the Subsequent Marathon of Love.
April 19, 2012 § 18 Comments
The past few days, I have been blown away by the outpouring of kindness and love in my direction. I have felt carried by so many (and literally had to be carried at certain points of the day on Monday). I have met so many strangers who opened their hearts to me, went out of their way to help me, and expressed so much compassion. I have gotten countless calls, texts, emails, Facebook messages, tweets, Instagram notes as well as beer on my doorstep and a plate of brownies warm from the oven.
By now, most of my readers (all 25 of you great folks) know that I didn’t finish the Boston Marathon. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, this was one of the biggest disappointments of my life. Writing this 3 days later, I still feel like I’m going to burst into tears. It still feels like a nightmare that I wish I could wake up from.
I had been hurting for about a week, and I can trace it back to running some hills in Austin over Easter. My hip adductor apparently was mildly strained. Over the next week before Boston, I tried stretching, using Trigger Point balls, wearing compression tights, icing, popping Advil, etc. I even tried resting two days in a row! What a breakthrough. But by Sunday night, when I tried running across the street, I knew something was off. I was limping pretty severely.
On top of that, Boston had “heartbreaking heat” on tap for Marathon Monday. The days leading up to it were absolutely beautiful, and I wish I could just write about those days, spent with my wonderful friends Steph and Justin and then my dad. My amazing dad. God knew I needed him to be there. I seriously have no idea what I would have done if he hadn’t come to watch me in Boston.
Honestly, the whole day is really hard to write about. I woke up so excited on Monday. Steph and I popped out of bed and Justin took us to the shuttle bus to head over to Hopkinton, to Athlete’s Village. She was coaching me about letting go of my expectations because of the heat. I had spent a long time the day before working out new pacing plans–one for if it turned out not to be as hot as the forecast, and one that was slower. I knew by 8:00am that I’d be going with the slower plan.
Athlete’s Village was like a dream come true for me in and of itself. I couldn’t believe I was there. I just floated around beaming at everyone. I got some coffee and a couple of PowerBars and some sunscreen and then sat in the grass and read my Bible for a little while. Then I gave the guys on the baggage bus the bag I’d brought everything in and found some shade to stretch in. Dad had bought me a cold pack (one that doesn’t get cold til you break it with your hands) and I was carrying that, had three straws tucked into my bib (duct-taped to my shirt, following a tip from another runner) and four CLIF shot gels with double caffeine.
When they called for Wave 2 to line up, I was trembling I was so excited and nervous. I found Corral 2 and felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. How in the world was I here?!?! I closed my eyes and just prayed for a while, asking God to help me pace, give me strength, keep me cool, and help my hip to not hurt.
I barely remember starting. We were just going. We were running through country roads–there was a bluegrass band with moustached men at one point, little kids holding out orange slices everywhere, people with signs lining the roads…and the sun beating down. I felt awesome. I looked down and was going 7:09/mi pace and barely felt like I was moving. Yes! But I slowed down, knowing I had a long way to go and a lot of hills to face. Plus, I could feel the tension in my hip and I wanted to make sure it held.
Mile 1: 7:39
Mile 2: 7:32
Mile 3: 7:39
Mile 4: 7:34
Mile 5: 7:54
Mile 6: 7:43
Mile 7: 7:44
During that 7th mile, I suddenly had a shooting pain so bad I gasped. I think I only kept going because when you’re in motion, it’s easier to stay in motion (or some law of physics like that). I remembered something I’d read from Catherine Ndereba, the 2011 Boston winner, that during the last bit of the marathon, her legs were screaming at her and she was in terrible pain, but she kept on going. I thought, Can I keep going? And I could. After a few minutes of praying and almost crying from the pain, it subsided and I was able to enjoy the run again.
That happened two more times, and each time the pain subsided after a lot of self-talk, prayer and gritting my teeth.
Mile 8: 7:45
Mile 9: 7:41
Mile 10: 7:40
Mile 11: 7:45
Mile 12: 7:34
Mile 13: 7:46
I think this was the Wellesley mile, with the famous Wellesley girls. Hilarious! All the guys around me slowed down to look at the rows and rows of pretty girls with signs that said, “Kiss Me! I’m a senior!” “Kiss Me! I’m from Nebraska!” “Kiss Me! I speak French!” I saw a couple of guys run over for a peck on the cheek.
I think an incline started somewhere around here. I tried my dad’s trick of looking at the ground and pretending you’re running on a flat road, which really helped. It didn’t feel hard at all. My hip was just tight and I was hot, so I was trying to focus and stay positive.
I saw a guy with a sign that said, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith,” and I nodded and smiled gratefully. Just beyond him, a woman held a sign saying, “Do or do not. There is no try.” And I nodded at her, too.
I loved the kids and the families all out, grilling and spraying us with water hoses. I was soaking wet for most of the race because at every water stop, I took a Gatorade, sipped it a bit, tossed it aside, then took a water from the next station and poured it on myself. It helped keep my core temperature down (thanks, Steph, for reminding me of this!).
After mile 16, though, it all fell apart.
Mile 14: 7:40
Mile 15: 7:45
Mile 16: 7:34
Mile 17: 8:22
I guess the hill had caused my adductor muscle to lock up (in the words of Ian, who I went to see again yesterday). The pain was more than I could push through. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and my thoughts were all over the place–I was freaking out.
I started jogging slower, praying and repeating Romans 8:18 over and over to myself. “For I do not consider these present sufferings worth comparing to the glory that shall be revealed in us.” Not worth comparing, not worth comparing, not worth comparing. I was limping heavily, and trying to breathe through the pain, hoping it would lessen like before.
I fought with my body, not wanting to walk, but barely able to lift up my left leg anymore. I was afraid that if I started walking now, at 17 and a half miles, I’d never start running again. Unfortunately, I was right.
Mile 18: 12:47
Someone in the crowd called out to me, “Good try,” and I’m not gonna lie, I wanted to smack him. I wasn’t trying. I was doing this. There was no way I wasn’t going to finish the Boston Marathon! After my dad had flown all the way up here to see me, and I had been leading up to this for months, putting in mile after mile, workout after workout, early morning after early morning, all for this day. I was having a hard time, and my PR was swirling in the toilet bowl on its way down, but this was no try.
At 17.6 miles, I saw a med tent. I desperately needed some painkillers if I was going to make it up Heartbreak Hill, I knew that much. I veered off, but could barely even get out the words, “Do you have some Advil?” I was sobbing so hard. An amazing paramedic, Jason, soothingly told me to lay on a cot so he could stretch me out. They wouldn’t give out any pills. He tried stretching me out but it didn’t seem to help at all. He said he thought I was just cramping from the heat and dehydration, so I gulped 3 huge cups of Gatorade. I was crying pretty bad and everyone around me I think thought I was in terrible pain. Sitting down, I wasn’t in much pain, but I just couldn’t put weight on my left leg anymore. I knew the race was over and I was heartbroken. I couldn’t believe this was happening.
They put me on a bus with about 10 other people, all who seemed strangely matter-of-fact about being transported on wheels rather than foot to the finish line. I was wailing.
I apologized to the stringy, tanned guy next to me and he said, “Oh, no, this happens to everybody. You’re ok. This happens to everybody.” He talked to me for the next hour and it turned out he’s an ultramarathoner who had done a 50-miler the week before and had been aiming for somewhere around 2:56 for his time at Boston. “I just blew up at about the 10k mark,” he told me. I never asked how, then, he made it through the next 11 miles! He kept me calm.
At the med tent at the finish line, I got out of the bus. My bag with my phone in it was on a baggage bus two blocks away. I stepped out of the bus and stopped dead in my tracks. I couldn’t move. Every step was excruciatingly painful. An incredibly sweet man appeared with a wheelchair and wheeled me into the chaos of the med tent, where runners were flat on their back in various states of disrepair, many with IVs, some curled into balls, some being worked on by physical therapy students.
I’ll do another installment later. I have to go to class. I know this is long and has way too many details, but it’s mainly for me, so I can remember and process it all out.