Marathon Monday: Reflections on the Finish Line

It's been one week since Erica officially completed the 2016 Boston Marathon! Now that she's had some time to reflect, she shares with us her race day story. Read on for the conclusion of our special Marathon Monday series!

This is it!  My final Marathon Monday blog post!  What a great week it has been! I finished the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 18th with a time of 3:57:17.   It feels great to have accomplished my goal of running in & finishing my second Boston Marathon, and achieving that goal in under 4 hours.  And it didn't happen without a lot of hard fought miles, both physically and mentally.  So, I'll start at the beginning of Marathon Monday and share with you my final journey to the finish line..

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My wake up was 5:30am.  I wanted to shower and get dressed without feeling rushed.  And sleeping in wouldn't be an issue anyway, as I was a ball of anxiety.  I showered while my husband made my protein shake (thanks Janie!), dressed and hit the road by 6:30am to head to Boston.  As I'm pulling out of my drive way and onto the street, I am greeted by blue & yellow streamers, balloons, and a poster adorning the front of my house, wishing me best of luck on the run ahead.  I LOVE my neighbors and my neighborhood.  Thank you, LoCoco's, for sending me off to Boston on such a high note!

I boarded the buses to Hopkinton at about 7:30am.  On the bus, I played my SPiit playlist from Thursday evening's SPiit class that past week.  It centered my thoughts, helped me focus, and pushed my anxious feelings aside.  My favorite song on that play list is Carrie Underwood's "Something in the Water".  I play it a lot in my classes, but if you haven't heard it, download and listen.  The words, the music, her voice: it's healing, peaceful, and also empowering.

Athletes' village was next!  It was warm in Hopkinton.  Heck, it was hot, I can't sugar coat it.  It wasn't a 90 degree, hazy, hot & humid, type of hot, but it was sunny, 70's without an inkling of cloud cover.  I tried to find a bit of shade to rest and eat my food (which I did), then I headed over to the port-a-potty line, where I waited for almost the remaining 2 hours.  I made friends with the kind gentleman in line behind me who was running in his first Boston Marathon.  He shared that he was nervous, especially because of the heat (which made me feel good to know I wasn't alone in my nervous thoughts).  Before I knew it, it was time to make our way over to the corrals and the start line of the 120th Boston Marathon!

The gun went off (at 11:15am) and so did we!  All the charity runners in the marathon are in the 5th and final wave (yellow bibs), and we set off toward Boston.  It took about 3 miles to get into my pace and I was feeling good - trying to remember not too go too fast on the beginning downhill course.  The crowds along the way are tremendous!  And I saw lots of friendly faces and friends along the course.  I knew at mile 6, I would see Bret with Ella & Nate, my friend Christine & friend Shauna with her daughter (& Ella's friend) Talia. Just past the train station, they were there with there with their signs and food for me!  I gave quick hugs and kisses to Ella & Nate, grabbed my food and planned to see them again in Wellesley.  I was 6 miles in and feeling good!

In Natick, around mile 10 I was still feeling good, but the head wind and the sun shining was starting to play some mind games. I was second guessing myself on whether or not I was drinking enough water, or could I be drinking too much water (because that is a risk as well).  I forced myself to take a pit stop at the port-a-potti somewhere in Natick.  My legs were feeling good, but I needed a pit stop for my mind.  

Then comes the "Entering Wellesley" sign and the sounds of the roar from Wellesley College.  It is undeniably one of my favorite parts along the Boston Marathon route.  It was also the only area along the course where there was a bit of shade.  So, shade & the roar of the crowd, and the thought I'd be seeing my family again just ahead gave me the mental capacity I needed to push on through to Wellesley Center.  

As I'm running through Wellesley, I scan the crowds searching for my family.  It became clear to me as I neared the end of the town that they unfortunately had not made it in time.  Which I knew might happen, but I had very much hoped would not.  I was emotionally drained in worry about the hills ahead and the heat and my water and salt in-take.  I needed Bret to tell me I was doing just fine.  It didn't happen that way, but what did happen was amazing support of the wonderful crowd that comes to cheer on the runners.  There were kids handing out pretzel sticks (I grabbed one), there was a man handing out coconut water (I took and and held onto the bottle almost for the remainder of the run), but what I needed the most was the woman who was standing on my left, just as I was about to reach Newton, with her arm out-stretched with a full banana peeled and ready.  I grabbed it and ate it as I ran to the Newton hills, knowing at mile 19 I would see my friend, Emily.

Ah, mile 19.  I found Emily and immediately broke into tears.  I was so happy to see her and I was emotionally drained.  I was so worried that something was going to happen to me on the hills.   I mentally needed to get mile 21 and then I knew nothing was going to happen and that I would finish.  Talking to Emily & her friends was the motivation I needed.  "Just look down and go," one of her friends told me. And I that's what I did.  I looked at the road and pushed up HeartBreak Hill.  I didn't walk, I didn't stop, I just ran and got past mile 21.  Downhill from there and Boston on the horizon.  I knew I would finish, and now it was up to me to finish strong. 

My friend, Jackie, was at mile 23 with an ice pop (Pedialite to boot - yay electrolytes!).  I could see the Citgo sign!  I was pushing along, no stopping, no walking, only running.  I saw my friend Suzy & her kids on my left. Kenmore Square was just ahead.  I ran past the 1 mile to go sign. This is it!  Under the tunnel and up the hill on Comm Ave.  I finally heard the lulu cheer squad calling my name as I was pushing up the final hill.  Right onto Hereford, left onto Boylston Street.  I felt like a superstar with the enormous crowd, the roar and encouragement and the finish line in my sight.  I ran and I ran hard all the way down Boylston Street and across the finish line!  Finishing at 3:57:17 - just under 4 hours!  And just ahead on my left was Bret, my friends Karen & Ashley, & my sister Rochelle.  I immediately started crying, because I did it.  I was done!! I finished my second Boston Marathon and my family and friends were right there to share in my celebration!!

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This journey to 26.2 miles is one I will certainly never forget.  I feel a tremendous amount of gratitude to my friends & family who supported me in training and fundraising.  You all gave me so much love and support that is truly humbling.  Special thanks to Lululemon at Market Street for their support and having me a part of their Marathon Maven team!  I have such wonderful memories and beautiful photos (thank you Pat!) that I can one day, when I am old and gray, look back on and fondly "remember when".  That is more precious to me than anything - sincere thanks for those mementos.  And to you, my Studio Poise family, thank you. Thank you for your encouragement along the way, and the support & love you have shown to me.  Thank you, Danielle, for this outlet to share & chronicle my marathon training.  Thank you to the Massachusetts Youth Leadership Foundation for your trust and support and the opportunity to run Boston on behalf of your organization. 26.2 miles is more than just Marathon Monday.  It's the entire journey and without all of you, I never would have made it across the finish line.  Thank you!  

Thank YOU, Erica, for inviting us to join you in your training and your journey to Marathon Monday! We are so inspired by your dedication and so proud of your accomplishment!