Friday, June 16, 2023

Boston Marathon 2023 Race Recap (and some life stuff too!)

Well, it only took me two months but here it is. My official return to the blog for a very special reason, my Boston Marathon 2023 race recap. And I guess a little bit extra as well. 

My story with the Boston Marathon started a long time ago. Of which, I've documented here and here and here and here and it is something you can revisit if you'd like. Heck, this blog is old enough that you can go back to April 2013 when I was training for my first half marathon and the bombing occurred and read my raw reactions. Since that's all documented and this post is going to be long enough, I want to focus on the present and what this race, on this day, meant to me. But to start... how did I get an entry?

And for that, I’ll flashback to October 2022 and the London Marathon. At the race… which… how have I not written a recap of that!? I’ve really dropped off, huh? Anyways, in London, which I did through Marathon Tours with my friend Lindsay, we met and became friends with a woman who was also working on her 6 star journey to complete all the World Major Marathons. At some point she mentioned that she may have a few extra invitational entries to the 2023 Boston Marathon and if she did, would we be interested? Our answer was OF COURSE. And there really wasn’t much beyond that. Our focus was London and London we did!

We ran the race, which was AMAZING. And in the post-marathon happiness and adrenaline rush (as well as a few pints at a pub), hours after finishing, I signed up for another marathon - the Houston Marathon on January 15. Having Houston on my calendar kept me running through our wedding, honeymoon, through the winter, and kept me somewhat in shape - all of which comes into play later. I also roped a whole bunch of friends into going to Houston and we ended up having an awesome weekend racing and celebrating in Houston!

On an opposite end of the spectrum, Jonathan and I were also starting the second part of our plan to start a family and our IVF journey. We had been trying to get pregnant for a couple years and in June 2022 right after I did Ironman 70.3 Blue Ridge (also - no race recap, sorry!), we spent the month of June injecting a ton of medications into my body, which, we are so thankful to say, resulted in a successful egg retrieval and creation of healthy embryos. We put our embryos on ice, with the plan of immediately implanting post wedding.

That process kicked off in December, and at the beginning of January I started on a lot of hormone medications prepping to implant at the end of the month. I completed Houston while jacked up on progesterone and we head home the day after the race to start an even more intensive medication regime. Houston was my "final race" of just me and my body (or so I hoped.) Dealing with infertility is hard in a lot of ways. For me, there was a mental challenge of feeling like my body was incapable, or broken in some way, so running and triathlon through the past couple of years has had a bit of a different meaning. It's helped remind me that I am strong, capable, and can do difficult things and Houston was an emotional culmination for me of a lot of the past couple years right before we implanted.

I joked with my friends after the race, which had been difficult to train for with so much going on, “Ok never again will I sign up for another marathon the night I complete one!!” However, life has a way of making a liar out of you because literally, the morning after Houston, as we were on our flight back to Atlanta, Lindsay received a text message from the woman we’d met in London asking if her and I would be interested in bibs for Boston this April!!! We were ecstatic.

But wait. Jonathan and I’s family plans already well in the works, progesterone-in-oil medications waiting for us at home and an implantation date scheduled in the near future… I wasn’t sure what to do.

Doing the math, I figured I would be somewhere near the end of my first trimester when marathon Monday rolled around. And that would only be IF the implantation we had scheduled worked. I knew that for many women, the first implant isn't always successful. I had no idea if my body was capable of carrying a pregnancy and no guarantee that the implantation would work.

Jonathan and I's philosophy throughout our infertility struggles and attempts to get pregnant was always to just live our life, continue to make plans, and if we happened to get pregnant - figure things out then. I always wanted to avoid putting life on hold, because that would make the let down of not getting pregnant would feel even worse.

So after discussing with Jonathan, my coach, and friends who have trained/raced through pregnancy, I decided to sign up for the 2023 Boston Marathon with Lindsay! This would be our 4th world marathon major together, my 5th overall, and her 6th and final star after she did Tokyo a few weeks prior. It felt surreal to sign up and get the confirmation. It was exciting, but I also didn't know what to expect. Plus, I'd been signed up once before but didn't get to run so didn't want to get my hopes up.

We moved forward with implantation and a few weeks later, Jonathan and I got the news that I was officially pregnant! We were thrilled and overwhelmed and also, I was shocked, if I’m being honest. I think, as a form of protection for myself, I had truly convinced myself it would never happen. I was overcome with so many emotions about this next big adventure for us and everything that came with it.

But back to running. I hadn't run since Houston, which was purposeful since I wanted time to recover and because I was instructed to take it easy and not do more than light walking in the weeks after embryo implantation. With this process you find out VERY early in the pregnancy, around 4 weeks, so earlier than when most women even know they are pregnant (and clearly don't have restrictions against exercise.) So I thought that this guidance was until we got the confirmed pregnant news and just to ensure that the embryo really stuck in and didn't fall out or something. So when the doctor called to share the news about our confirmed pregnancy, I then asked the question “Ok, so I can start running now, right?” to which I was promptly told a big fat NO. 

Additionally, the other thing we learned when getting the news that we were pregnant was the fact that we needed to continue with the medications I was on until about 10 weeks into the pregnancy. This was a shocker for us and just shows how pretty clueless we were. At this point I was taking estrogen pills 3x a day, a suppository 2x a day, and a shot in the butt every evening that felt like lead traveling through my body and left me bruised and sore. I had been anxious to stop all of this and wasn't excited about the news of 6 more weeks of meds. As for running and exercise, the doctor suggested I stick to walking until we came in for the first ultrasound. Let me just say that throughout all of this, baby growing was the most important thing to us and top priority, but I also had Boston in the back of my mind. I would love to say as soon as I heard the news I was pregnant this race didn't matter to me any more, and some people may judge me for that, but I still wanted to try and do this. I was thrilled with everything, but stressed at the same time, and counted down the days to the first ultrasound.

When that day came, which is much earlier with IVF than traditional pregnancies, around we were thrilled that everything was looking good with the baby, but the ultrasound also identified a sub-chorionic hematoma - or little blood clot thingy. These are typically harmless and more often than not resolve on their own and aren't harmful - but it also meant that for the time being, I was told still no running.

It was mid-February at this point and I’d like to say that these weeks were filled with newly pregnant bliss, but to be honest, this time was extremely hard with the change, restrictions, and hormones I was going through. I felt selfish for feeling this way and also ungrateful after wanting this for so many years. And I hesitate to write this because I know many people reading this could be going through their own infertility challenges and wanting the news we had received with all their hearts. And trust me, I've been there and felt that too! I didn't expect to be feeling this way and it didn't just have to do with Boston. It was a lot of change and while I knew that if I were to pregnant my body wouldn’t be totally “mine” for a long time, however, I didn't realize how soon that would happen. I know now that I was completely naive to what pregnancy meant for me emotionally and physically. In my head, the first trimester things would pretty much be normal. I had heard about nausea and morning sickness, but not everything else that came along with it. I didn't expect the change in my life to start happening SO soon. I knew of so many people who ran and trained through pregnancy and that was the vision I had for myself. I wanted to be this bouncy little athletic pregnant mom and I hated being told not to exercise. The vision I'd had pregnancy wasn't what I thought and I felt crushed. It scared me. I was frustrated and upset and felt guilty and selfish for having those feelings. Especially after the years of infertility. There were a LOT of emotions swirling around.

At this point, I wasn’t sure when I’d be cleared to run and if I would even be able to do Boston, which I was starting to come to terms with. The good news that I had in the back of my pocket was that the BAA did announce for the first time ever, a race deferral policy for pregnant women. I emailed them to inquire about how it worked, but held out hope that I could somehow do this race. I knew I had fitness from back to back training for London and Houston. And I wasn't trying to get a personal best or anything close, my goal all along was literally just to finish. 

The mental challenge was the worst of it. We weren’t really sharing our news broadly yet, so I felt just sidelined and alone. I had been signed up for the Publix Half Marathon on Feb. 26th and I had to give away my bib as I wasn’t cleared to run. This is my favorite race in Atlanta and I have had a streak of running this race every year I’ve lived there. I hated going and just watching. Pregnancy symptoms aside, I felt fine and wanted to be moving!

On March 1, we went in for our 2nd ultrasound with the fertility clinic. We received good news all around in that the baby looked great AND the hematoma had cleared on it's own. This was our final appointment with the fertility clinic which was bittersweet and involved lots of tears. However, “graduating” from the fertility clinic was a good thing and we felt so excited that we'd made it this far. Plus, I was cleared to run. It was a great day!

The night of that appointment, I did 3 miles, with a walk/run ratio of .1 walk/.4 run. I felt GREAT. It was a beautiful evening. And at the end of the run, I anxiously checked my pace at the end and saw it was about a 12-12:45 minute/mile. I knew that was a pace that would get me in under the Boston cutoff of 6 hours if I could maintain it. I felt excited and for the first time since I signed up - I actually felt like I could do the race in April, which was only a short 6 weeks away at this point. 

I jumped right into training with the help of my long time coach and Jonathan's support. Unfortunately, the rest of training did not continue as smoothly as that very first run. The next 6 weeks were spotty to say the least - but I stayed consistent. Some days I felt great. Some days I felt horrible. And the hardest part about that was that it was completely out of my control. Normally, the formula is pretty simple... eat well, drink water, avoid alcohol, get lots of sleep... you feel good! Not now. It didn't matter what I did, some days I just felt like shit. I wasn't positive if it was pregnancy, or perhaps the side effects of the medications I was on, but I struggled to feel like myself in my body. I had many runs where I thought “There’s no way I can do a marathon.” And one long run where I called Jonathan crying 2 miles in unsure if I could finish. And while I did my best to stay consistent, there were days that I just skipped my run or adjusted if my body told me that’s what I needed. My coach, and Jonathan, were so amazing during this time. They both knew how much I wanted this race to happen and that I don't give up easily - but this was a new challenge for me.

Jonathan was positive and encouraging the whole time. I was amazed at how much he trusted me. To not only care for myself but to care for this growing being inside of me. I felt so much pressure that keeping this growing embryo baby healthy and it was ALL on ME. I had to protect it and keep it healthy. Jonathan’s faith and trust in my ability to do that gave me strength. He took on so much at home to allow me time to the time to rest, train, and just deal with being pregnant. And things were busy on the home front as we also decided in this time frame to move across the country (but that's a story for another day.)

The second weekend in March - or 10 days after getting cleared to run - we went to Charleston, SC for Peyton's Wild and Wacky 50K. The race consists of ten 5K loops (every hour on the hour) that you can do as an individual or a team with up to 5 people. Jonathan and I did it as a relay team so we each did 5 loops of the 5K. I was thrilled to get in 15 miles of run/walking throughout the day, even though it was broken up with lots of rest in between. It was such a fun time with our friends and I was really happy with how I did. But the next day I was SO SO sore. You'd have thought I did a marathon or an Ironman. I did not think that was a good sign, but my coach reminded me that I had just tripled my mileage in a week so being sore was normal. Fair enough.

I decided after that weekend that I was 100% going to be at the start line of the race. I would do the best I could, no matter what. The rules say that the cutoff for Boston is 6 hours from the time that the last person crossed the start line. This is slightly vague and can cause a lot of confusion but I just set sub-6 hours as the time goal from the very beginning to keep it easy. I didn’t care if it was 5:30 or 5:40 or 5:50. It didn’t matter. I just wanted to finish in under 6. That was all.

My strategy was to run/walk intervals for as long as I could during the race. The .1/.4 was working well for me in training. Some days, I was able to stretch that out and sometimes run 1-2 miles with out stopping or running and then returning to intervals. However, I did struggle a lot with hills and Boston is a hilly course. My HR would get high really easily with any incline and I'd get extremely short of breathe. I would say I'm not great at hills even at my best, but pregnancy seemed to really make that worse. The Boston course starts out downhill and then has a lot of rolling hills in the later half of the race. The biggest advice I heard about Boston is to "not go out too fast" on the downhill section of the course and burn out your quads. However, as the race got closer, that was exactly my plan. I wanted to run or run/walk as much as I could in the first half to try and bank time, to then allow myself to walk a lot at the end. 

In early April, Jonathan and I head up north from Georgia for the race, traveling by car a couple weeks ahead of Marathon Monday. We stopped in DC on the way and ran the Cherry Blossom 10-miler on April 2. I did that in an 11:56 min/mile pace and felt great and as if I could have kept going. That was a confidence boost.

We stayed in Provincetown, MA up until the weekend of Boston. I did my final long run of 14 miles the Saturday before the race. I was really nervous about it and pleaded with my coach, "Are you SURE I have to do this?" It was taking me longer than usual to recover from my long runs and I thought it would be too much the week before the race. Jonathan did the 14 miles with me and kept be going because I 100% would have quit on my own. It was a day I just felt terrible and we ran a very hilly route along the Provincetown bike path and... it just did not go great. I cried. I walked a lot. And it was a major struggle that really doubted my confidence in the goal ahead.

However, race day was arriving! On Friday morning, April 15th we drove in to Boston from Provincetown to pick up Lindsay from the airport and head to the expo. Boston weekend was here!

We parked off of Newbury, in a lot right by the Nike store. It was a great location and close to the start line and expo. We walked over, arriving at the expo moments before it opened. There was a line outside running up and down the street, and growing every minute. Once doors opened the line moved quickly and we made our way inside, grabbed our bibs, and head the expo. As with most world major marathons, the official apparel shop was a MAD HOUSE. I grabbed a jacket, half zip, hat, stuffed unicorn for baby, and made my way to the checkout line - which already was getting very long. Lindsay spent more time browsing and trying things on and by the time she reached the checkout line, it was out of control and barely recognizable as a line. And things were starting to sell out already!

Jonathan and I browsed the expo while we waited… which honestly was quite underwhelming if I am being honest. There was nothing else there I was even tempted to buy. When Lindsay was out we were all hungry so we got lunch at Eataly right next door and browsed a number of the pop up shops that different running companies had around the finish line area. Apparently Adidas, the official Boston Marathon apparel sponsor, doesn’t allow other brands at the expo, so they set up their own little pop up stores around the finish line area on Boylston. Unlike other world marathon majors, it really feels like the entire city of Boston is only focused on the marathon that weekend. It completely takes over Boylston and Newbury and is quite unlike anything else I have experienced in the running world. 

We added a few additional things to our merch collection, took pictures at the finish, and when we felt we’d seen what we needed to we left the Back Bay Area. We wanted to make our way to the Sam Adam’s brewery to get cans of their commemorative 26.2 brews and the free pint glass they were giving away for runners. We chose to go to their Jamaica Plains location to avoid traffic and crowds and were SO glad we did. It was a beautiful day and that location was quiet, but still busy, peaceful, and we had the best afternoon enjoying the atmosphere, talking with other runners, snacking, and enjoying the live music. We stayed longer than planned and made our way back to my dads where we were staying for the weekend. He lives in Westborough, which is west outside of Boston and right next to Hopkinton where the race actually starts. We made light salads for dinner before having an early bedtime.

Saturday morning started slow, by design. Being pregnant brought a bunch of changes obviously - one of them for me being the need for more sleep and slower mornings. I have had a harder time waking up and being active first thing (something I previously loved and felt easy for me) so easing into the day is the way to go. Once we had all done our morning things, we head out to check out the drive to Hopkinton and preview the course by car.

Signing up for the race late, having my Dad’s to stay at was clutch. While nowhere near downtown Boston, having a car made it super easy to get around and we were actually only 6 miles from the start of the race. Boston Marathon is a point to point race, with really only the last mile or so being in Boston. You start in the suburb of Hopkinton and then run through Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and then into Boston.

The race shuttles people from the finish line in downtown Boston out to the start on race morning, but for us, staying near the start, it didn’t make sense to drive 1ish hours into Boston to get on a bus to drive 1ish hour back to where we started. The only downfall to going right to the start was that we wouldn’t be able to drop finish line bags but we figured that was something we could live with for the extra hours we’d get race morning.

We drove over to see exactly how long it would take and to check out the drop off area. They have so many roads closed that they don’t allow runners to be dropped right at the start and instead have a designated drop off location in Hopkinton and then a shuttle to the start area. After checking that out, we went to the actual start to take pictures with the start sign and check out the area. There were a lot of others there too and even vendors and t-shirt sales people (yes, we bought even more stuff!)

We drove the course and got a preview and sense of what the elevation would be like. We were glad we did because the downhill at the beginning was actually rolling hills and we got a good feel of different milestones and markers along the course. In Natick, we stopped on their square for lunch at an Italian deli before continuing on. The course preview stopped for us at about mile 21 in Newton at the top of Heartbreak Hill. We felt ready and prepared and it was fun to have the opportunity to see a lot of the iconic route by car!

From there we went over to our friends house who lives in Newton to jump on the train and head into Boston for a Red Sox game. We had an amazing time, Jonathan bought his first Red Sox gear, and the home team won! It was an awesome addition to marathon weekend celebrations.

We got home late and were wiped so it was right to bed before another lazy morning and all around lazy Sunday! We planned to do NOTHING on Sunday and that’s exactly what we did. I think Lindsay and I both took naps on the couch while watching movie after movie of whatever was on TV (Titanic and Forrest Gump, FTW!) For dinner, we made pasta with pesto, chicken, and some Italian bread and went to bed very early despite having a later than morning race morning wake up call.

And then, finally, MARATHON MONDAY WAS HERE!

I woke up at 7am on race day. Many races start at 7am so that alone was a bit weird! Lindsay and I were in Wave 4 which meant the start time was 11:15am. We were scheduled to have our buses from Boston (if we were taking them) load at 9:40am and then leave athletes village at 10:40am. We planned to head over to the start at around 9:45am so getting up at 7 even gave me tons of time to spare!

I showered, put cozy clothes on, and started on my first breakfast of the morning while watching race coverage on TV. It's a bit odd to be in sweats with no bra on watching runners on TV load buses and at the start line of a race you are doing. We actually even got to watch the start of the hand crank division on TV which is a bit odd to watch the race you are doing from the comfort of your house!

As it got closer to time to leave, I got dressed, gathered all my things and we head out to Hopkinton! The drive over was a breeze and just as easy as our trial run. Jonathan dropped us off at the designated area and we hopped right on to a school bus to be shuttled to the start. It was already drizzling out and we had our ponchos on and shower caps covering our shoes in an attempt to stay dry. It was warmer than expected though and so far everything was going smoothly. We were happy we still got to ride in school buses to have the true Boston experience.

The drive to the athletes village was a bit longer than I expected but we had plenty of time and arrived at athletes village to large tents filled with runners, porta potty’s, and lots of energy! We walked through and past the first tents and bathrooms we saw to the back area where there was a near empty tent with lots of space and porta potty’s with zero lines. We used the rest rooms and camped out under the tents for a bit while we finished additional breakfasts, did last minute prep, and made sure we were race ready.

At 10:40 they announced that Wave 4 could make their way to the start line and we decided to head over early. It was a bit of a walk from athlete’s village to the start and it was all through neighborhoods where locals were out in their yards cheering us on as we WALKED TO THE START. When people are out supporting and cheering as you line up to begin, you know it’s going to be a good day. It was funny to be in this parade of people heading out to do this challenging thing and it gave sort of an overall aura to the specialness and uniqueness of this race and day.

We used the porta pottys once more by the start line, dropped some layers and then got ready to start. Lindsay and I lined up in a start corral, waited until the last minute to ditch our ponchos (it was drizzling all morning long) and finally it was time! Our plan was to each run our own race so we wished each other luck as the race took off.

Our friend Anthony works for the timing company for Boston Marathon and was at the start line managing the equipment. I texted him to ask where he was and as we started forward we saw Anthony on the right side and got to get a selfie as I crossed the start line! It was a funny moment and had me smiling as we finally set off on our trek from Hopkinton to Boston.

The beginning of the race was very crowded. We were in a big herd and it was difficult to run a pace that was any different than what the group was doing. For this reason Lindsay and I stayed within eye sight for the first few miles. I was planning to do a run/walk ratio the entire race but honestly there wasn’t really space to walk at all the first few miles. I hung to the right hand side and tried to just stay comfortable. I knew from training that I could run a few miles consistently but sometimes it would wear me out a ton and do more damage than good. As I mentioned, my plan was to try and bank time early, but not exhaust myself, and luckily I was feeling good this day and the miles felt comfortable and easy. When we hit mile 2 there was the first aid station and I was able to see a window to walk and I took it. From there out I walk/ran the race. I walked at least a little bit during every incline.

What was amazing about this race was that there were so many spectators and people cheering, it was incredible. They also really make it an event when you cross from city to city. In addition to the mile markers there was also big flags announcing your arrival into Ashland, into Framingham, etc. which made it really fun. I saw this one aerial picture from the start line (not taken this year) that really shows the scale of running from the suburbs to the city. The crowds along the course brought so much energy - even on a chilly, drizzly day! It was a party and lots of people tailgating, even early on, so I knew it was only going to get more fun from there.

I took nutrition every 45 minutes and drank at every aid station, even early on. I knew staying on top of nutrition would be extremely important to me (and baby), especially as I expected to be out there a long time. 

I always love to chat with other runners during races. It helps the time go by. For the 2023 marathon, Eliud Kipchoge was running and attempting to win and set a race course record. I was really curious to know how he was doing, and apparently others were as well. One girl had her phone out tracking and she said to those around her “Kipchoge is 7 minutes behind the world record right now!” Trying to friendly, I asked what place he was in, being cheerful saying, “even if he doesn’t get the record I know he’s said in interviews that winning was important for him!” 

I don’t know if she didn’t like me interjecting but this girl responded sort of pointedly “ACTUALLY... he said what’s most important is getting the world record. I don’t know what place he is in.” It was not a great start to trying to make friends along the course, and I just figured uhhh ok I will get my updates from someone else.

A few miles in to the race, I started to feel that I needed to use the bathroom (#1) but every porta potty along the course had long lines with it. And since I was trying to bank as much time as I could in the first half, there was no way I was waiting in a line on the side of the course. I kept going. Around mile 8 the drizzly weather started to pick up and turn in to full on rain and for a bit I got really cold. I had chosen to run in a pair of spandex maternity shorts that had a full belly panel and a loose fitting T-shirt. Did I have a big belly at this point in pregnancy and need a full belly panel? No. But I had gained enough weight that my regular running shorts were not comfortable and dug into my stomach so I purchased these shorts to wear throughout pregnancy and they felt great for the race. Up until this point I had been really happy with the layers and clothing choice of shorts/T-shirt but I started to really get chilly and lost feeling in my fingers. It was really hard to unzip/re-zip my waist belt that had my nutrition in it and I was tempted more than once to stop and ask a spectator for help. 

At mile 9, I spotted a porta potty without a line and bee-lined over for it. While it felt good to use the bathroom, I was soaking wet from the rain at this point with numb fingers and I could BARELY pull my spandex shorts back up they were so stuck and rolled and just... a mess. I spent more time in there than I should have trying to get my shorts up and I vowed that if I had to go to the bathroom again on the course, I might have to just pee my pants because I didn't think I could do that again.

Mentally, I had first focused on the first 6 miles of the course on the "downhill" stretch as my first big chunk of the race to get through. Once it started to flatten out, my next "goal" was to get to the Natick town common around mile 10, which I figured would be a fun, crowded spot after driving through it the day before (it was!) I was really glad I had driven the course the day before because it had given me different landmarks and checkpoints to mentally cross off.

From there, my next mental point was the halfway point and shortly after, Wellesley and the cheer tunnel. Breaking the course into little chunks of things to look forward to was really helpful to me. Another big motivator for me is also food. One of the "changes" I learned I had to make with training while pregnant was to eat and drink more often than I normally would. I carried water with me on every single training run, no matter how short. For the marathon, I used the Stinger chews that I like and also brought a "real food" treat I usually reserve for long bike rides or trail runs: an oatmeal creme pie (something I picked up from Jonathan's trail running habits.) I planned to eat half of it at the halfway point and that was an excited milestone as well.

Wellesley was as fun as everyone said it was - the energy was electric. I will say it's probably a bit more fun if you are further up in the race and it's not a rainy cool day and probably more fun if you're a guy, BUT it was awesome nonetheless. Girls were literally hanging over the barriers into the course, sitting on top of the railings or with one leg over, leaning into the streets. It was really loud and made me curious what it was like during the real thick of the race vs. the back of the pack and on a non-rainy day.

After Wellesley, I focused on getting to mile 16 where I knew the hills would start. At the halfway point, I was definitely starting to slow down and struggle a bit more - feeling tired and needing to rely on my regular walk/run intervals. Up until that point I had been trying to stretch out my running intervals and bank time as much as possible but at this point I had to start to focus on keeping up my .4 mile runs and motivating myself to keep going again after .1 walking.

At 15.5 we started going downhill, which I knew following that, the hills would set in. However, I was somewhat looking forward to that because I knew that somewhere amidst the Newton hills, around 17.5-18, I would see my family. Words can't express how much I was looking forward to that and how motivating it was to keep me going and think about. It was getting close enough to taste and I needed that boost bad. The race was getting hard, as expected.

At the same time, I also was REALLY happy with how I had done in the first half. My half marathon split was 2:35 and I knew that I had 3 hours and 25 minutes to complete the second half of the race. And as I'd mentioned, I honestly did not care if I used every minute of that. I know this might sound stupid but I didn't want to have to push too hard in the second half and strain myself too much. I had room to walk the hills, which I knew would get me out of breathe on their own, and I didn't want to ever feel like I was putting my body in too much distress since it also was doing a very important job of growing a human.

I expected to see my family shortly after the turn onto Commonwealth at the Newton Fire Station. I knew that area well and was picturing it in my head, crying, even as I just imagined them on the course waiting for me. I cried a lot during the race, to be honest. I cried thinking about my baby in my belly, along with me for this ride. I cried thinking about the charities people were supporting, and the charity I had raised money and run in honor of in 2020. I cried thinking about my grandparents. I got so emotional all throughout the race. I could not believe I was finally here, finally running this race, finally seeing all these sights and running through the fabled cities on the course that I have heard about for years and years. 

When I turned right onto Commonwealth, my eyes started looking for my family everywhere. I am not entirely sure what I expected because they were in the spot where I had watched the race from in 2021 so knew exactly where it was. However, I think I was so anxious to see them I was just looking everywhere and at one point got so panicky thinking that I might have missed them that I was already in tears -- when I finally spotted them!!

I get choked up even as I write this, thinking about how much it meant to me to have family and friends along the course. My mom was a runner all her life and first introduced me to the Boston Marathon. My brother has always been so proud of my running accomplishments and I still remember his proud texts after my first ever marathon. My childhood best friends that know me better than anyone and who know me from when I started the "slow poke's club" in elementary school because I refused to run during gym class. And finally my husband/father of my growing little baby bud that who had never given up faith in me that I could do this, even on my worst days.

I cried running up to them, hugging them, and was just so appreciative of them being there. I let Jonathan know that from this point forward I was going to be walking a lot more, so not to be alarmed at my splits. 

Throughout the race I tried to talk to as many people as possible. Being in the back of the pack at the Boston Marathon meant a lot of people, if not most, of the people around me were charity runners. Having raised money for a charity myself in 2020, I know the hard work and effort that goes into it and how much motivation you drive from your organization and the people who inspired you to run for that race. Anyone who had written on their shirt or pinned to their back "Running for [insert name]" I asked them, "Who is Aunt Kate?" "Who is Christopher?" "What charity is that?" and I hoped it inspired them as much as it inspired me.

As we were going up the Newton hills I was walking beside someone with "Running for Rebekah" on their arm. I asked the man, "Who is Rebekah?" and he said it was his wife, who had been in the bombing ten years earlier and lost a leg that day. He was running his first marathon in her honor. **CUE TEARS** I nearly lost my breathe it choked me up so much. He was struggling and said that he'd run 20 miles during training and felt fine then but was cramping and hurting. I offered him salt and encouragement and let him know I would be thinking of his wife the rest of the race - which I really did. This interaction put so much in perspective for me and will stick with me for a long time to come.

The last 6 miles of a marathon are hard in any condition. Totally fit and perfect weather? It's gonna hurt. Hot day or rainy day? It's gonna hurt. Pregnant or best shape of your life? It doesn't matter. Miles 20-26 are tough. It's meant to be tough. I pulled on with everything I could at this point.

Throughout the race, my pregnancy was my own little secret. My family and friends knew, but I didn't write it anywhere on me and I wasn't visibly pregnant. At times, I was tempted to tell people I was pregnant but I liked that it was just me and my little buddy doing this together and I had this tiny secret that I was literally carrying around, bandit-ing the race with me. However, at near the end of Heartbreak Hill as I was walking up, a little old woman in a lawn chair on the side of the road picked me out and cheered me on so encouragingly in a way that reminded me of my grandmother. She said to me directly, "You look GREAT!" with I couldn't help myself, I responded with "Thank you! And I'm PREGNANT!" She got SO excited and cheered me on even more, which made me smile and got me to the top of the hills.

I thought so much of my family along the course, and my little baby. I sometimes had to distract myself and clear my mind of that because it would just choke me up and make me cry. As I walked more at the end, it was easier to let the tears come when they wanted.

Mile by mile I ticked off at the end. I was hurting and running in even smaller intervals at times, but I knew I was going to finish and I knew I had enough time to walk entirely the rest of the way if I wanted. 

In the last few miles I started to really struggle with some chafing. I bought new shorts for the race but not a new sports bra and let's just say that my chest was... not fitting into them in the same way. Between that and the wetness from the sweat and the rain, I was having a lot of pain under my bra line from chafing. I also was feeling a lot of irritation on my left leg. The shorts I wore had a side pocket that I had put my phone in. I don't usually run with a phone during a marathon, but again, being pregnant, I just wanted it with me IN CASE something happened and I needed to get ahold of Jonathan. I had run with it in that pocket during training... but never being soaking wet... and never for this long. The shuffling and slight bouncing in my pocket was causing chafing on my leg.

I stopped at a medical tent around mile 23 and asked for vaseline and was given a giant glob on my hands. I shoved it up my shirt and rubbed it along my bra line but I was so wet I don't know if any stuck on or even did anything. So now my hand was covered in vaseline and I had nothing to wipe it off with. I stopped at an empty space along the barricades (crowds were clearing at this point) and tried to wipe it off my hand and on to the barricade. That didn't work super well so I used a paper cup from an aid station to try and scrape it off. I was a mess.

There were a few miles at the end where the roads were a bit dark and dreary and people were packing up from where they'd been cheering all day. I knew there was still amazing crowds and support to come as I got closer to Boston and I couldn't wait. 

Before I get to that, there's one other thing I wanted to call out from the race. Around mile 21, I ran by a cheer squad that at the time, I didn't know the names of, but was supported by the Pioneers Run Crew and TrailblazHers Run Co - two run clubs in Boston that are made up of primarily BIPOC runners. The music was blasting, the energy was loud, and honestly, they didn't seem different than any other large cheer group along the course - EXCEPT - that they had a line of police officers standing along the edge of the road, as a barricade between them and the course. It was startling and disturbing to see and I honestly almost stopped to find out what was going on but I kept going and wondered to myself, "What could have happened here...?" Well, all that happened is that these supporters were black and had showed up to support their friends and other runners as their authentic selves and that was not okay with some people. It really was bothersome to me the more I learned after the race. All along the course, white spectators were rowdy, impeding on the course, drinking, had loud music, etc. but I saw NOTHING anywhere else, except for the group of black spectators. I was and am disappointed that this happened.

This aside, I will move back into my race recap.

I was in the depths of the race and finally, I saw the Citgo sign! The first time you see it it's already so big in front of you which I didn't expect! It was cloudy and foggy and loomed ahead of you in an exciting and taunting way. I took in all these iconic moment as I got closer to the finish and to the places where I have cheered at for Boston Marathons past. 

The crowds got big again and the energy was amazing. I let myself walk when I wanted to, talking everything in. Making eye contact with spectators, who could see the emotion on my face and were reacting to that themselves.

We went under the overpass and shortly after it was a Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston and the finish was in front of me. I ran some of the way on Boylston but I also allowed myself to walk. And cry. And just enjoy the moment. I said a silent prayer as I passed the locations of the bombings from 10 years prior. I reflected on the resilience of runners, of spectators, of the city, of myself for still being here. I absorbed everything I could. Rarely am I ever doing a race where my finish time is something I TRULY do NOT care about whatsoever. This was about starting, and then about finishing. I don't think I've ever walked this much so close to a finish ever before but it didn't matter to me if I finished in 5:35 or 5:40 or 5:45 or anything... as long as it was under 6.

I crossed the finish line at 4:56 PM in 5:40:35 and it was AMAZING!

As soon as I finished I pulled out my phone from my pocket and immediately pulled up the app to see where Lindsay was. Next to me finishing, the thing I cared about most was her finishing. I was shocked and thrilled to see that she was only a mile from the finish and moving forward at a great pace. She would be there within 15 minutes! I decided to stick around right by the finish and wait for her so I could see her cross and then we could go forward and get medals/walk through the shoot together. I called Jonathan to let him know I was okay, feeling good, and waiting for Lindsay. He and our friend Jon had driven in to Boston from Newton to pick us up from the finish.

I took some pictures, cheered on others, took pictures for others, and stretched/waited for Lindsay to come through. I was a bit surprised because some finish lines have officials that try to keep people moving forward and don't want anyone hanging around right by the finish but nobody said anything to me. Even as I walked backwards right back towards the finish when I saw Lindsay coming, nobody said a thing. I was able to cheer and wait for right as she crossed the finish line - sub-6 as well! There were tears and hugs and cries of how proud of each other we were back and forth.

After a few more pictures, we hobbled forward to collect our race medals and to get Lindsay's 6 Star Finisher medal! As we stopped at the first line of volunteers we were told, "We ran out of medals." and we stood there. SHOCKED. I don't think i actually believed them. I thought it was a joke. But they apologized and said, no, we are serious, we have no medals. We both cried and unsure what else to do stumbled forward in a daze. No medals? It just didn't make sense to have just finished that race and not have anything around our necks as we kept moving through the shoot.

Luckily, the Abbott World Majors tent did not have the same fate and Lindsay was able to collect her medal for running all 6 of the majors!! It was amazing and I was so glad she had that to celebrate the accomplishment. After we got that, we returned back to the race medals... just to double check... because I still felt like it had to be a mistake... but were told again. No medals.

We collected our tinfoil blankets, bags of food, and walked towards the exit when all of a sudden we saw Jonathan and Jon! We walked right out of the athlete area to them, and followed them clumsily and slowly back to the car. I had felt fine when I was waiting for Lindsay... not cold or anything. But all of a sudden it hit me and I was freezing and shivering in my wet clothes. After what felt like forever, but really was not, we got to the car and hopped in to drive to Meaghan and Jon's in Newton where we had dry clothes and food waiting for us.

I was so thankful they'd opened their home up to us to cheer, to be a destination for my family to meet at, and to host us after the race. We were able to change into dry clothes, eat some pizza and chocolate milk, get some hugs and additional cheers, before we drove back to my Dad's in Westborough. I was starting to feel MISERABLE with my under-boob and left leg chafing. Even after changing into dry clothes I was still shivering and cold and knew I needed a hot shower but also was DREADING what would feel like (spoiler alert: it SUCKED.)

I'm going to wrap up this Boston blog here because it's gone on long enough. it was a day and a memory I will never forget. I can't wait to someday tell my child about this adventure we went on together. I hope it someday feels as special to them as it does to me. But even beyond that, this race was more than just "the race I did pregnant" (although that's of course a highlight.) It was my first Boston Marathon. A cumulation of many years of dreaming. And quite honestly, a fateful thing that I couldn't have predicted happening in this way. It was something I wanted to do for my family, those here and no longer with us. It was something I wanted for myself. It was more than anything, a dream come true. Thanks for being a part of the journey to the start, and the finish line.

P.S. I did eventually get a medal :)