I’m a rookie. This was my second marathon. My first was the Hamptons last year and I finished in 4:15. BQ was my goal this go-around. I started training in early May, maxing out at 60 miles per week. I did a combination of Hal Higdon’s Advanced II and Runner’s World plans, which included fairly intense speed work, hills, and strength training. I completed eight NYRR races. In addition, I watched several YouTube vids of elite athletes’ training and picked up a few pointers from that, too.
I tapered sufficiently and was feeling good, despite a nagging dull pain in my left heel and ankle that has lingered for months.
Day before the race: I checked into the hotel and was ready for an early dinner. Much to my chagrin, it seemed there was nothing but fast food joints around. (“Welcome to the Midwest!” a local responded when I balked at the lack of healthy, non-chain dining options.) After driving around for an hour, I settled on a chicken salad and baguette from Panera Bread. Not exactly the dinner of champions, but it was getting late and I didn’t want any digestion issues.
Bedtime was 8:30p after watching my favorite program, Tosh.0. I slept pretty well.
Race day: I woke at 4:30a well-rested. I stretched and stuffed down my traditional pre-race meal of a toasted bagel with PB. I tried eating a banana as well, but jitters were causing my stomach to flip flop a bit.
Man was it cold; I’d say 45 degrees. My hands were stiff and I had trouble tying my sneaks (I have this ritual of retying my laces multiple times before a race). Note to self: next time bring throw away gloves.
I was surprised and pleased by the abundant space between runners at the start. I marched over to the 3:40 pace group. There were about 15-20 of us. Todd was our pacer; he’s run over 20 marathons and has a PR of something like 2:30.
The opening ceremony was exhilarating; an old Air Force bomber flew overhead; it was loud. The canon fired and we were off.
Miles 1-2: I started rehearsing all the tried-and-true advice in my head: Don’t go out too fast. An even split is the best strategy. I just want to bust out of the gates like a thoroughbred on steroids, but I must be patient. All good things to those who wait. Pacer Todd will keep me in check.
Miles 3-8: As it turns out, Todd was not only an experienced marathoner and pacer but a terrific tour guide. As we made our way through the base, he told us about USAF history and landmarks. Fantastic! I’ll take all the entertainment I can get so I don’t have to think about the next 20 miles.
Miles 9-10: We were now off the base and cruising through the city of Fairborn, which resembles a Hollywood movie set - quaint with picturesque little storefronts and homes. The streets were lined with crowds and live bands. I loved every second of these two miles. One woman had a huge basket of Fig Newtons for the runners, my favorite cookie! I didn’t indulge though; my plan was to take only water, Gu, and PowerBar bites.
Miles 11-17 (est.): Feeling strong. Of course I donned my VCTC singlet. Every few miles someone would flank me and exclaim they were from the Bronx or knew someone there. It was uplifting. I’m not as far away from home as I thought.
This stretch was mostly quiet. There were few spectators and the live bands were few and far between. There were 3-4 hills to push through (shocking, I thought Ohio was going to be flat).
Miles 18 - finish: “This is why you run the marathon guys, right here, these last six miles,” Todd said as we crossed the 20 mile mark. I suddenly panicked – why, is it supposed to get hard now? I’ve trained up to 21 miles at a 9:10 pace. How bad can an additional 6.2 miles be at an 8:24 pace?
Bad. I was crying uncle from 22 to the end. I lost Todd and the others the last two miles. I made a final surge but kept up for minutes only. I thought if I just keep Todd in sight I could still make my time. Talk about being under the gun. I was giving it all and then some. I choked down a third and final Gu despite wanting to puke. Most runners when tired take it one water station at a time. I was taking it five steps at a time, and trying desperately not to look at my GPS watch.
As if I wasn’t already challenged enough, we merged with the half-marathoners at about mile 23. We had to weave around these folks, and they were walking. It was frustrating because now fractions of a second matter to me.
You can’t give up now; you worked for this! You lazy sh*t! Were just a few clichés going through my head. This is all you’ve been talking about for four months - Boston, Boston, Boston. There’s no way you’re going home and telling everyone you missed qualifying by five seconds.
“Lauren, you’re grimacing, I want to see your face relaxed!” a coach cried out from the sideline at mile 25ish. I looked and felt like hell (as evidenced in the photos, please refer to corresponding album).
I crossed the finish at 3:41:27. Disappointed, I limped over to the results tent to see how far off I was - I figured I started about 20 seconds after the gun. They printed out my time sticker – 3:40:57! I couldn’t believe it; I made it with only 2 seconds to spare. I shaved 35 minutes off my last marathon and placed tenth in my div. It was surreal. And I can’t wait to do it again.
***ADDENDUM 9/26/11*** Though I qualified, I did not get in to the 2012 Boston Marathon. With the new rules they accepted runners with the fastest times until the race was full. My div cutoff was 3:38:46. It's okay though, I knew that was likely going to happen; I'll try again for 2013.