Monday Morning: Hello, 4:30 a.m.! I see you briefly, then turn back over, headstrong in my committment to sleep until my alarm, set for 5:00. Upon waking, check the weather forecast several times to see whether that overcast cool forecast is staying with us. It looks like it will stay overcast but be warmer than expected, so we decide on one of the several options set in front of us- compression shorts with race ready multi-pocket shorts over the top, smart wool short sleeve for me, and short sleeved Under Armour top for Tim.
Time for breakfast- coffee and steamed rice with fish flakes. Some people might not like this combo(!!!)- rice is a traditional Japanese b/fast food and the dried flakes, called 'furikake', are nice and salty. Some water and a look at the watch to see when our cut-off hydration should start. The last two years, I didn't manage to stop in time, and my overdrinking led for long portapotty delays on the course.
7:30: Our chariot awaits! Great friend Chris (who I ran Nike with last fall) not only drives all the way up from New York, but wakes up early to take us and two other friends to the start line at Hopkinton. She has stocked the car with energy gels, water, treats, and we sit back, knowing we are in the hands of a pro.
8:30 ish?: We are dropped at the bus shuttles at Hopkinton. The long wait and rides to the athlete's village begins and additional rice balls unwrapped and consumed. Buses get stacked and stopped for looong periods of time, and a frantic runner convinces the driver to let him off roadside for some quick relief. Hearty applause greets him upon reboarding.
What time is it?: The buses drop us right at the village! Last year, it was at least a 10 minute walk All we know is that we are looking for our Team, but more interested in the porta potties. We pick a line and get in the slowest one, and discuss our race wear, apply sun block as the clouds magically disperse, and try to stay collected. Once out, we just have time to get our bags and start towards the baggage drop off. Luckily, we spot our Team in another field, and wish everyone a good race. I have brought my sharpie and have been asked to pen the names of people on their arm: Mark, Tom, Lori, JoJo and Kwan Kew. I imagine them all having the best race of their lives.
Here we go down the road to the start. We are in corral 21, but somehow end up back in 25. It doesn't matter- people are packed like sardines, but we know the race only really starts when our chip timer goes off at the starting line. It's happened a bit too fast- not much time to collect ourselves, but we hastily recap our plans, get energy from the crowds and start- first walking, then jogging, and then, many minutes later, actually running.
The first 6 miles are a combination of jogging and running- the crowds seem thicker than last year and people running with iPods directly in front or three across or walking make getting into the groove difficult. My ankle starts to twinge and I know this will be a challenge.
Ashland, Framingham, Natick- this passes by in a blur. I fade in and out of focus and sense a lack of the energy I've had throughout the season. I realize the day will be about running the best I can TODAY. I check in with Tim and figure out where Wellesley is. The cheers are loud, but are only a backdrop today to my effort and desire to get to the community center. I hear at least 2 men start hyperventilating at the cheers and signs at Wellesley College. I think we have seen Justin, our Team mate from last year, holding a big sign and it makes my day.
Familiar territory pops up and my repeated checking back with Tim to see where we are gets me to the community center, where our coach Rick Muhr and our group of friends awaits. We have told them that if we looked to be in good form, that we would not stop. We are not in good form, but we do not tarry. Our dear friend Bob gives me a hug and films us. He will later find that what he thought was smiling was really my attempt not to break into tears. Christine snaps our photo and cheers us along, and our coach advises us to pour water on ourselves and to stick together. The combined support makes me lose it momentarily and I walk until I can breathe again.
Down the hill and up through Hell's Alley: It's getting harder now, but we know after the climb, it will be mostly downhill to the Fire Station and the turn onto Comm Ave. Tim is up ahead, and I know he is doing his best to keep me running along.
Hills of Newton: Tim is off ahead on the first long hill of Comm Ave. I start to walk halfway through, but then pick up to catch him. We do okay at first, but sense that the momentum wanes. Our half time of 2:01 is respectable, but we know we won't make our goal and start to manage as best we can. The rest of the hills continue the same and even Tim starts to struggle. I hear various things from the crowd, but what I can recall is hearing 'this is the LAST hill!' on Heartbreak and start to pick it up. They aren't really right, but they are right enough! We see our great coach Lori and injured teammate Kristen, who is busy helping another Team runner along the course. We start to pass, get passed by, pass again, other Teammates, who I think I try to encourage.
I notice as we turn onto Beacon Street that we are having trouble, but that when we run, that we are running fine- good form, good speed, and hope we can continue in a fashion towards the end. Tim is really working hard now, and needs to stop along the way. I almost lose him once, but find him on a walk, looking pained. We know it's all about the brain now and I start chanting positives: It is minutes to the end, You are strong, Pretend you are on your favorite short course coming home. I get angry at the crowds who press in, yelling in runner's faces to keep moving, thinking 'what do YOU know about it!', when they say 'don't stop now! RUN RUN RUN!'. But they mean well. Our Teammate from last year, Jill, snaps photos of Tim on the course. He tries to tell me she is there, but I am out of it. I think I see Justin again. Am I dreaming?
Kenmore Square- we are coming home. Struggle down and up the underpass and right onto Hereford. There is Dave Tierney, LUCY and a bunch of Team members. I miss Kathleen, who has been on the other side of the street for HOURS, holding this sign:
We turn left and onto Boylston Street. I see that finish line and want to get there immediately. Tim has some trouble and wants to stop, but as soon as he does, our trainer Tessa yells our names and gets us in gear again. Can we believe it??? We are holding hands and crossing the finish line.
We have done it! We later find that Kwan Kew was injured during the race and breaks her femur, that another friend has walked the race and is hospitalized for hyponatremia, and that our supporter Adrienne who was going to miss our fundraising party because she was going on vacation, is in the hospital in an induced coma. We learn that our Teammate Ben
finishes his run that evening, with a team of TNT supporters and our coach leading him in. We also find our teammates Paul and Kelly have done exceedlingly well in qualifying for Boston AT Boston and that other teammates have exceeded their goals. It is a day of high emotions, peaks and valleys, but we know that we have completed the race and raised money for a good cause. Here we are at the bar that night, and as you can see, all your names were with me the whole way.
Thanks for helping this run to happen and thanks for supporting this run in Judy's memory. The official time was at 4:20 and change, but we will take it. We learned a lot about running this season and reminded again about what can be accomplished for a good cause. As our coach likes to remind us of the quote by Margaret Mead:
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."