I want to begin this post by telling you – by just putting it out there up front – that I sit here with a pretty huge lump in my throat that just will not go away. It has kind been there all week.
I am sad.
I don’t want to be feeling this way.
Emotions are all over the place in my heart right now. I am trying to work through them. I am trying to let go of the negative feelings – the fear, the grief, the sadness, the confusion, the worry.
To accept them, but move through them and to send them on their way.
I am trying to clear the ground and make room for all the goodness and love and positivity that I know there is truly so much of.
Because there really really is SO MUCH goodness and love.
Inside my heart.
Inside the hearts of others.
It is everywhere.
And I know I need to focus on that. We all do. I know it will carry us through the confusion and the pain.
It always does.
Ever since I walked on the plane bound for Boston on Saturday, I have had this intensely keen awareness of the importance of each and every moment I am stepping into.
I haven’t understood the meaning behind it all very much yet, but I have been FEELING it all.
I remember thinking on Saturday, how incredibly blessed I was to be going to Boston to run this race. I felt like I was walking right into a dream. Floating. I was so aware of the fact that this experience would be like nothing I had ever done before or would ever do again. And that was such a blessing.
Some of life’s amazing moments happen to us and we don’t really know how awesome they truly are, or how important they are to us, until after they occur. But with something like this, I was so aware of it as it was happening and I was so focused on being present for it all. On having an open heart and a free spirit to really soak it all in. I didn’t want to let any of it be lost on me.
It might sound silly to someone who isn’t a runner, but for me running the Boston Marathon for the first time was up there with other major life events that you look forward to and dream about – you want to savor all the little details and be so present for them, so open to the amazingness of it all. That was what I wanted more than anything for my Boston experience – to be aware and grateful and open to the whole entire thing.
And it was amazing. In so many beautiful ways. And I don’t want to forget that.
My mom came with me and this in and of itself was really special. I can honestly tell you that I do not know the last time my mother and I had one-on-one time together for more than a few minutes. I’m sure it had been years. I love my mom. My love for her is big and powerful and everlasting and the connection and trust I feel with her is cooler than cool.
I am so thankful she was with me.
|on our way!
My mom is and has always been my biggest cheerleader. Not just in sports, but in life. She reminds me to hold my head up high. To believe in myself and in others. To trust that things always happen for a reason, even when we don’t understand it at the time. She has shown me that there are no coincidences in life. Ever. She has taught me to trust in the path I am on, to follow my heart and to never ever ever give up on goodness and love. Even at the darkest of times.
My mom was coming with me to Boston and she was so very proud. I could feel her joy and excitement and gratitude. It meant the world to me.
My trip to Boston was a very emotional one for me for many reasons. Almost 11 years ago my parents were divorced after being married for 35 years. It was painful and shocking for all of us, and it has taken years for us to heal. In many ways we are all still healing. My parents had not seen one another or even spoken in over 10 years. My father lives in Maine and he wanted to come to Boston to be there for me on this very special day, for which I was incredibly grateful. The timing of my parents’ split made it much more painful for me because it was one month before my wedding day. My father was not at my wedding. He did not walk me down the aisle. Since then, we have mended and healed and I have a relationship with my father that I am very grateful for. I love him very much and it was so meaningful to me – and to him – that he was able to be on Boyslton Street on Monday to cheer me on and support me. My mother was also thankful that my dad was coming to support me. Going into the weekend though, I was worried about both of them being there. They weren’t worried, they each assured me many times over – I was. I was afraid someone would feel hurt or so sad and that old wounds would be opened again and I wouldn’t know how to help them. I wanted to focus on my race, on my day, but I was scared about this. I was going to try to split my time between them and avoid them having to face one another and me being in the middle. I tried not to think about it too much, tried to relax about it and trust that things would happen how they were meant to and that it would be ok.
Logistics were going to be rather interesting. A few months ago, I booked a hotel room in Cambridge for myself. My mom was going to stay at a dear friend’s house outside the city. My dad would get his own hotel room. My husband and kids were going to stay home – it was too much to bring them and it was difficult for us to find someone who could stay with them for so many days. This plan was fine, but left me feeling a little lonely and I wishing it could be different.
Then, about 6 weeks before the race, I got a message from a runner from the Seattle area – Meghan – who runs for Oiselle and is also an ambassador for Nuun like I am. She was looking for a roommate to share an apartment she rented just blocks from the finish line and wanted to know if I would be interested in staying with her. I had never read Meghan’s blog. We didn’t know one another at all. But something just told me this would be the perfect thing. My heart told me – DO IT. I couldn’t get out of my hotel room but my dad needed one so I gave him my room for Sunday and Monday nights. It worked out perfectly.
On Saturday night I had a lovely dinner with my mom and we stayed in the Cambridge hotel room together. When we arrived I discovered a beautiful bouquet of flowers waiting for me in my room.
They were from my amazing lululemon family! I was so touched by this, and felt so much love and gratitude. It was coming at me from all directions of my life.
I opened my suitcase and found this note from my husband…
I read it so many times over and over and will keep it forever. I am so thankful. So very, very thankful.
On Sunday morning we left Cambridge and went to the apartment to meet Meghan in Boston.
From the second I met her, I felt like we were old friends. This has happened to me before in life – especially with people I have met through running. I guess when you share a passion for something, there is just so much unspoken understanding. You’re on the same wave length. You just “get” one another. The cool thing with this too was that it was the first time either of us were running Boston. We had both worked so hard to get there and were trained to run very similar times which made it even more awesome. We would soak this all in together, both of us walking (well, running!) into it with open and grateful and TOTALLY EXCITED hearts. I cannot imagine my Boston experience without Meghan. A girl I have never met became a close friend in less than 24 hours, a friend who I will share a bond with for all my life. A friend I am forever grateful for and love with all my heart!
We hung out at the apartment for a little while talking all about the race and the incredible-ness of the weekend – what we’d already experienced and what we were in store for. Mason (CEO of Nuun) was there and he had so much great advice for us. Mason had run Boston many times before and is such a calming presence to be around. He told us something I had heard from lots of Boston veterans – do not get carried away by the down hills and the adrenalin in the first half of the race! That will crush you and make you feel awful by the time you get to Boston. It was excellent advice and advice I would repeat to myself over and over many times.
That afternoon my mother and I went to the expo. I have never ever ever seen anything like the Boston expo. My heart was aflutter and I just could not believe how cool it was. It was HUGE. And just so amazing. People all over Boston were so excited about the marathon. Everywhere we went – riding in cabs, at the grocery store, at restaurants, just walking on the streets – people were talking about the race. It seemed like everyone in the entire city was either a runner or someone who loved a runner or someone who just loved Boston. I think if you love Boston, you love the Boston Marathon. I could not take the smile off my face.
For me, the highlight of the expo (besides getting my race bib of course) was meeting Lauren Fleshman. I was so giddy – so incredibly happy and excited – to meet her. I kind of don’t know how to explain it. She is just as awesome as I expected her to be. Talking with her felt like talking with a good friend. A good friend who is also a freaking awesome elite runner!! If you aren’t totally familiar with who she is and how awesome she is, you should check her out via Picky Bars, Oiselle, and Believe I Am. She also writes a fabulously inspiring and real blog – Ask Lauren Fleshman.
She completely rocks.
|awesome awesome moment
I spent the rest of the day hydrating like crazy with water and Nuun, just like I always do the day before a marathon. I ate well and tried to stay off my feet as much as I could. On their way out of the city, my mom and her friends dropped me off at a great store in Wellesly called Getti Gear – where Meghan and other Oiselle runners were hanging out. I was SO excited to meet other Oiselle runners! It both pumped me up and calmed me down to be with them. After a little while there we got a ride back to our apartment from Ann – who happens to be the mom of one of my favorite Oiselle ladies on the west coast who also ran Hood to Coast with me last summer – Sarah Mac! I had no idea that Ann was Mac’s mom at first. When she told me that I think I beamed a huge smile. It was really awesome to hang out with this super amazing mom of a super amazing girl who made such an impact on me in a short time last year.
The running community is so amazing, you guys. It just really, really is.
It is a big, huge amazing awesome family.
Early Sunday evening I went to grab a quick bite to eat with my dad at an Italian restaurant on Newbury Street not far from our apartment. I loved hanging out with my dad and catching up, but the service was SO slow. After waiting for a very long time (and eating three baskets of bread!) we decided to leave and take it to go. I was nervous about eating the pasta I ordered anyway (just plain bow-tie pasta!) so when I got back to the apartment I made myself a half a bagel with peanut butter and a banana. I laid out my race outfit, quickly ran to Starbucks to grab a coffee to heat up in the morning, chatted with Meghan, set my alarm for the morning and went to bed! I would be running Boston in the morning!!
But at 2:45am, I woke up with a massive, horrible awful headache. I had no medicine for it – I searched my bags – nothing. I took a hot shower and put an ice pack on my head and tried to relax. I was so worried I would not feel well enough to race. I told myself over and over to relax and let go – it would be okay. I think I fell back asleep a little after 4am, and then at 5am Meghan woke me up so we could start getting ready.
I didn’t feel better.
I was white as a ghost. My head was pounding. My stomach was reeling. Meghan gave me one Aleeve and I took it. We got dressed and stopped at an open Walgreen’s along the way. I bought Advil and took just one, unsure of how it would impact my stomach or my race but feeling like it was the best chance I had at getting my headache to go away. My brain was in a fog, a daze. We passed the finish line and I actually asked Meghan where the start line was! Ummm … it’s in Hopkinton! Hello??!! A good 26.2 miles from here which is why we are walking to the buses! This made us both crack up and I started to feel those good, happy race day sillies.
Race day sillies are some of my very favorite feelings ever. Giddy with excitement and anticipation. Grateful to be there. Full of ENERGY. I have so many awesome memories of race day morning moments with my friends and running buddies. We are all so bouncy and silly. I LOVE it.
When we arrived at the Boston Commons to get on the school buses to take us to Hopkinton, I started to feel the pain and the negativity float away. The excitement and hope and joy started to fill me up.
|On the Commons
Meghan and I stopped for a picture along the fence of the Boston Commons before lining up for the buses. I really wanted a picture there. I love that place. One of my favorite children’s books is Make Way for Ducklings and being there was just so happy for me. I thought of my three little ones at home, of how much we all love that book, and how cool I knew they would think it was that I was right by the Swan Boats, right along the busy streets of Boston. I laughed to myself as I realized that they would probably consider that to be the highlight of my weekend, not actually running the marathon.
As we waited in line for the buses, I was starting to feel really excited. I decided right there to leave the negative behind me. I was not going to bring it on that bus. I was going to move forward with a grateful attitude and fill my cup with hope and happiness. I was going to let things happen, and trust that it would all work out.
|in line – HAPPY & SILLY
The bus ride was TONS of fun. We were happy and excited!! On our way to Hopkinton!! We sat way in the back, which we thought was fun.
|best field trip ever – cool kids in the back of the bus
But by the time we arrived in Hopkinton, we were a little nauseous….
|this picture will always make me laugh!
Getting to Hopkinton was awesome. Runners Village was very, very cool. I loved seeing all the runners buzzing with excitement. Runners EVERYWHERE. Napping, peeing, BodyGliding, stretching, talking, laughing, just hanging out with new friends and old. We found Mason and hunkered down with him and the time went by quickly.
|made it to Hopkinton!
|runners runners everywhere
|eating Picky Bars before we run!
Finally, a little before 10am, it was time for us to make our way to the Start. Meghan and I talked about how to run the race, and we both agreed that we wanted to run together as much as possible. And that based on all we had heard and read about the course, we would try to run a conservative pace until we got through the halfway point, maybe even through Mile 16. “Conservative” – we were thinking – would be somewhere in the 7:30s. But we would run by feel and make sure we felt as though we were holding back for a while. We weren’t going to race down the hills and trash our quads.
My goal for Boston, though I knew I was fit enough for a time in the 3:10-3:15 range, had nothing to do with the time on the clock.
I wanted to arrive at the top of Heartbreak Hill, around mile 21, in a GOOD mood. To get to that part of the race, where we are entering Boston, and be able to soak in all the excitement and energy and amazement of those last 5 miles. I wanted to be able to finish strong. To focus on the magic and not the misery of those final miles. If I wanted to do that, I would need to execute a smart strategy and take it easy on those downhills early on, and climb up the hills later with even effort. Steady as I go.
Meghan and I started together, side by side.
We were running our first Boston Marathon!!!
I was worried we would go out too fast, but once we started moving I laughed about that worry. It was SO crowded I felt like we were barely moving. The first mile felt so slow, but we were gradually able to bring our pace down and lock it in.
The course was amazing. Lined with spectators almost every inch of the way. There was only one moment I remember not hearing spectators and it was early on and it was actually a beautiful moment. So many runners, so many feet hitting the pavement. The sound made me smile and feel so at peace. So present and grateful to be there.
8:05, 7:44, 7:36, 7:32, 7:44, 7:26, 7:31, 7:36, 7:32, 7:34, 7:34, 7:31, 7:27
For that entire first half of the race, I felt like I was cruising. My effort was steady and easy. Like that of a long run, I was coasting. I checked in with my body and everything felt amazing. I ate my Honey Stinger gels right on time, regularly sipping from my hand held water bottle. My tummy felt good and this ELATED me. My mind was clear and my heart was so so so happy. It was a beautiful day and I was running the Boston Marathon!
In the 13th mile we approached the town of Wellesly and I could hear the girls screaming as we got closer. It was as exciting as I thought it would be. Those girls were adorable and watching the male runners get their kisses from them was entertaining. Their signs were hilarious – “Kiss me! I’m FLEXIBLE” – “Kiss me! I’m from California!” – “Kiss me! I’m a Jersey Girl!” – “Kiss me! I’m the BATMAN!” – so many funny signs. It cracked me up.
I was having a blast.
Not long after that, we came up by the Oiselle cheer squad at Getti Gear and that was so fun too!
Meghan and I were still right by one another and every now and then checked in, but we weren’t talking much. I knew we were going to have the Newton Hills after Mile 16 and I think I was unsure of whether or not to try to bring the pace down at the halfway point, afraid I would wreck myself too soon.
So we just hung on to even effort and the miles clicked by.
Miles 14 – 16:
7:29, 7:29, 7:29
How’s that for even pacing!!??
In Mile 16 I stopped to fill up my water bottle and dropped the lid and it rolled down the hill a bit. We were climbing up the hill so I quickly took care of it and then burst up the hill to catch back up with Meghan. When I got to the top I though whoa maybe I ran that too hard! But it was pretty easy to recover from and I just kept going.
We were entering the Newton Hills at this point and I could tell I was not going to be picking up my pace for a while. I focused on maintaining an even effort and enjoying it all.
Miles 17 – 21:
7:50, 7:48, 7:29, 7:44, 8:05
I did not stress at all about the slower pace. I repeated a mantra (thanks to Oiselle!) in my head:
There was a pretty major hill in Mile 20. Meghan was near me and when we crested the hill I asked her if that was Heartbreak. She said she thought so and I agreed! It was kind of major. But there wasn’t a big to-do about it with the spectators so I wasn’t convinced. And sure enough, in mile 21, I met Heartbreak.
And you know what? I loved running up that hill.
In my head I was singing to the hill:
Don’t go breakin’ my heart
and I imagined the hill singing back to me:
I couldn’t if I tried
And I laughed at myself and at the imagery of the hill and I having this exchange and I loved it. There were people cheering everywhere. I was entering Boston.
I was at the place in the race where it was just so important to me that I felt strong and happy. And I did. I was having SO MUCH FUN. The kids of Boston College were so amazing. I loved them. I loved their enthusiasm and excitement and guts. LOVED this part of the race. So much.
The streets of Boston were so incredible!! I have never seen so many spectators, never felt this kind of energy in a race. It was so magical.
So very, very magical.
Miles 22 – 26:
7:21, 7:29, 7:49, 7:36, 7:46
I saw the CITGO sign and a huge smile – huger than huge – graced my face. I was so excited! I had no idea what my pace was or what my time would be. I hadn’t even looked at my watch for miles. It just didn’t matter to me at all. I made the right on Hereford and then turned left on Boylston and just could not believe what I was feeling and experiencing.
The crowd was INCREDIBLE.
And then, off to my left, I actually heard her voice. My mom!!!!!!! She was right there!! She yelled my name and I heard her and I saw her and I just felt so blessed in that moment. I remember putting my hand on my heart. It was okay to cry now. To cry tears of joy and gratitude.
I ran the last .47 miles (ran it a little long, but that’s always the case) in a pace of 7:14.
I finished strong. I finished happy.
I finished the Boston Marathon!
With a new PR of 3:21:43, 4 minutes faster than I had ever run this distance before. I never stopped for tummy issues either!
When I came across the finish I stopped and couldn’t believe how good I felt. I knew I had executed the race just as I hoped I would, and it didn’t bug me at all that I still had so much left in my tank. I did exactly what I wanted to do. Walking through the finishing chute I searched for Meghan but didn’t see her anywhere. I was pretty sure she was behind me but I had no idea where or how far behind me she was. I got to my bag and walked to the Boston Commons again to turn on my phone.
Those moments alone in the Commons were really beautiful for me. I looked up at the sky and said THANK YOU.
|happy. proud. grateful!
My mom found me not long after and we were both just SO HAPPY to be together.
At this point I was started to feel FREEZING. My teeth were chattering and I could not get warm, even with the warm dry clothes I put on over my running clothes. We walked to a nearby Starbucks to get a latte and warm up a bit before figuring out what was next. I wanted to meet up with my dad and to find Meghan too.
While in Starbucks I spoke with my father and we decided to meet about a block from the finish at the Four Seasons hotel in about an hour, where my mom’s friends had grabbed a table for us to have tea and free dessert for me since I ran the marathon. The plan was that I would say bye to my mom and then get a beer and a bite to eat with my dad.
But as we walked towards the hotel, in the direction of the Finish, a man stopped us and told us we needed to turn around. He said bombs were going off at the Finish Line and that we needed to get away from there. It was entirely confusing. I think at first I didn’t believe him. What? It just made no sense to me. We were so close to the Four Seasons where my mom’s friends were, so we went there to find them and figure out what was going on.
The door to the hotel was blocked with security and they would not let anyone in unless they were guests of the hotel. My mom and I begged them to let us in. After a few minutes they agreed to let my mom in, just so she could tell her friend what was going on and where we were (cell service wasn’t working). I waited outside by myself for another 5 minutes or so and then the manager came out to get me. They were going to let us stay there in the lounge.
We sat at a table, looking out the window at the Boston Commons. Scared and confused, horrified, worried about what was next. I tried reaching my dad over and over but service was bad and my phone was dying. I was so scared he decided to bide his time by watching more of the race at the Finish Line (which he did indeed do, but thankfully was not in the vicinity when the bombs went off). My mom’s friends had a ride out of the city but my mom did not want to leave me, so they left and she stayed with me. Not long after they left, the hotel went on lock down.
The manager at the Four Seasons could not have been more amazing. He charged our phones for us. He let my father in the hotel. He updated us frequently on what was going on with the bombings and the city.
A little before 4pm, my father came to the hotel. He was safe. We were safe. And there we sat – me and my parents who had not seen one another in more than 10 years. At a table in Boston in a hotel on lock down during a major crisis not long after I finished running my first Boston Marathon.
People were losing their lives, their family members, their limbs, right down the street.
Fear was everywhere.
But love wins. Love matters the most. LOVE is the most powerful thing.
All my fears about my parents just melted away. Gratitude. Healing. Acceptance. Love. That is what I felt with my parents. I felt safe. I felt watched over. I felt assured that even when there is so much ICK, so much to be scared of, so much anger and confusion … love conquers all of that. And over and over again in my head I told myself that. We were in the midst of something so terrible and horrifying and we did not know what would come next, but all the while I had this very strong sense that things would be okay.
Around 6pm the hotel told us that the T was open and people should get back to where they were staying and get out of the city if possible. My mom’s friend picked her up and my dad and I started walking back towards my apartment which was about a block away from the Finish Line on the other side.
Walking down Boyslton Street was eerie. Seeing the HAZMAT and SWAT and Police everywhere was unnerving and scary. Newscasters were on street corners reporting. People were walking in a daze. Helicopters were hovering overhead.
My dad put his arm around me and I put mine around him. We walked like that for a few blocks, both of us feeling like we had been pulled into this strange new reality, a place of confusion and fear.
The only thing to do in moments like that is hold on to the ones we love. Walk with them. Trust that as long as you are together, everything will be okay.
|me and my dad
I remember telling my dad how grateful I was that he was there. Emotionally I was just so overwhelmed. I had been so happy – so INCREDIBLY happy – just hours earlier when I ran my race. I knew I was physically spent, beyond exhausted after getting up at 2:45am with my headache, running the race I ran and then all the chaos that ensued. The fear and uncertainty over the bombings were incomprehensible to me. Being with my parents when they hadn’t seen one another for a decade was still sinking in. I missed my husband and my children and I just wanted to be home and to hug them.
But at the time, all of that took a back seat to the tragedy and horror of what others were going through. People had lost their lives, their loved ones and their limbs. People had been told they couldn’t finish their Boston marathon. People had been right there when it happened.
I focused my energy on praying for those people, and on being grateful that I was okay and that everyone I knew was okay.
We had been turning off onto various streets to meander our way to my apartment, but eventually the police told us there was no way we were going to get there – the streets were closed off all around that area. It was getting dark and we were right near the Marriott at that point so we begged the manager to let us in. There were armed guards out front of the hotel, carrying huge guns. The hotel management was hesitant to let us in at first but I think seeing that we had literally NO place to go, and that I was still in my marathon clothes and freezing, they finally let us in. We were vagabonds there for a couple more hours, along with many other people. I curled up in a chair in the lobby and sat with my dad and strangers who became friends. Around 8:30 we were able to leave and get through to my street. My dad walked me there. We hugged and then he hopped on the T back to Cambridge. I love my dad.
When I walked into the apartment, I was so thankful to see Meghan again. We had been able to text on and off during the chaos of being apart and I knew she was there and that she was safe. But she was ALONE and I hated knowing that she was sitting there all by herself. Being together again was just what we both needed.
Meghan and I had met not much more than 24 hours earlier. I don’t know how to describe how amazing her friendship is to me. The way things worked out – her reaching out to me out of the blue and inviting me to stay with her – I just think it is so incredible. I believe there are no coincidences in life. We were meant to know another, to share this time together, to be there for one another for the amazing highs and terrifying lows of this experience. I don’t know what I would have done without her through all of it. It was like we were both leaning into one another, holding one another up at the same time. I guess that is what friends are for, what loved ones are for. They’re there right when you need them. I will forever be grateful for Meghan.
The two of us stayed up way later than we should have, talking about our experiences. Telling one another about our races. We realized there was still SO much to be grateful for, even amidst the sickening and terrifying chaos. Meghan set her timer on her phone and we took a picture of ourselves with our medals on. I am so happy that we did that.
|people come into your life for a reason
For so long, I never even imagined I would be running the Boston Marathon at all. I could not have dreamed up how incredible the journey was to get to that moment, or how magical the experience felt until I crossed that Finish Line. I certainly never imagined the events that happened after that, not in a million years would I have fathomed that.
I believe with all of my heart that anything is possible, and that things happen the way that they do for a reason. I believe that sometimes we have to fall apart in order to discover pieces of ourselves that are so strong, in order to become completely and truly our very best, whole selves. We find love in the wreckage, light in the darkness. It might take some time, but it is there and we will see it. Maybe the world works that way, too. I have to believe that it does. That when people are hurt and lives are lost, it is NOT for nothing. There must be some greater good or purpose to it. The world will become a better, stronger and safer place I hope. There will be more love in the world now. Not more hate. I think it is up to us to make sure of that. To spread love. Believe in goodness.
I am so thankful for so much about what I experienced in Boston last week. I saw and felt a tremendous amount of love all week, leading up to and during the race and most certainly after the race.
I know that love will prevail over hate. I know it is stronger. I know that light will outshine the darkness. I believe it with all of my heart. I believe in the good in others. I believe in miracles. I believe in the power and beauty and strength and resiliency of the human spirit. I believe in love.
The running community is a truly amazing group of people. I am so incredibly proud and grateful to be a part of it. I can’t wait to get back to Boston in 2014. There is no question, I will be there. Running with that city. Running with my family. Running with my heart.