My Experience Running the Boston Marathon

“You’re everything I hoped for” 

Wow. What else can I say, just wow.

IMG_6443

Enjoying my Sam Adams 26.2 brew at Cheers!

Okay, I do have more to say – a lot more! My experience running the Boston Marathon was nothing short of incredible. I know this isn’t surprising to anyone so, rather than drone on about how great it was, let me take you through it, including some surprises, hilarious happenings and favorite moments.

As this entry got a little longer than usual, I’ve divided out the experience into some nifty subsections; those of you with short attention spans can scan thru and those of you who want to read about the full experience, please do. Cheers!

The People
You think you know what 30,000 runners and 500,000+ fans is going to look like – but you don’t. It’s unbelievable, unreal.

I’ve never seen so many people come out for an event. There was never a time the crowd was thin; the streets were packed every single mile. The Boston Marathon and Patriots’ Day truly is more than just one city’s race, one city’s day – it’s like a national holiday.

And the volunteers. So many volunteers! And thank goodness for them because I felt so cared for the entire time. From the bussing volunteers to those directing us to the start line to the ones who handed us water, gel and Gatorade at every mile – thank you!

And, my personal favorite: the 70ish year-old-man who greeted me at the finish line with a smile and, “Welcome back to Boston. We’re glad you’re here.” I made it the whole day without crying – up until that!

Start

The start line – I still get chills thinking about it.

Early Miles
Most veteran runners give the same piece of advice to newbs: Don’t start out too fast, no matter how good you’re feeling. You’ll need that energy for those later miles. Very true for this race so I made sure to start and maintain a nice, easy pace for the early miles. Not only was I saving energy for the Newton Hills and the infamous Heartbreak Hill, I was trying to look around and soak in as much as possible.

The Signs
Spectator signs have become one of my favorite things at races. This race was no exception, they were everywhere! A couple signs about farting and pooping. A few about Trump and the government. A ton of, “Boston Strong,” and two of the classic, “Run Like Someone Just Called You A Jogger.” The signs were pretty typical, except there was one that stood out to me. It was a small one that read, “Boston loves yaaaaahhhhh!” Made me smile!

The Wellesley Girls
There came a time, around mile 11 I think, I started to hear something. It sounded like cheering, but so much louder than the fans so far. It was the Wellesley girls and the famous “Scream Tunnel,” that I could hear nearly a mile away. Girls lined up just screaming.

Also, the signs. “Kiss me, I’m Canadian.” “Kiss me, it’s my first time.” Dozens of others like that. So I did – sort of. I kissed my hand and high-fived a ton of the girls, blew kisses at the rest.

When my friend Tom ran Boston, he did it in just over 4 hours. Had he not stopped to kiss the Wellesley Girls, he jokes he could have broken the 4-hour barrier. The Wellesley Girls distracted me enough that I missed a sub-3:50 finish by 10 seconds but it was totally worth it. Those girls were rad.

Beating the Heat
It was a warm, sunny day. I knew that was going to be an issue for me. Luckily, I was able to beat the heat by capitalizing on several opportunities. First, I ran through every water obstacle possible – kid in the yard with a hose, giant fan blowing water by the firehouse, the sprinkler tent – I hit em all. I even had a drafting strategy; running right behind a person going thru the aid station, dumping water on him/herself, getting the mist from the breeze. Okay, I didn’t really have that as a strategy, it just kind of happened.

Also, props to the B.A.A. for setting up aid stations at every mile. This was a lifesaver; even though it slowed me down, I stayed cool, hydrated and cramp-free. From about mile 16 and on, I think I took advantage of every aid station for water or Gatorade. The mile 10 aid station was the one where I inhaled a big gulp of water up my nose…don’t worry, I recovered quickly.

Random Things
To my OCR and Spartan Race peeps – around mile 9, I saw a guy step off to the side of the race to do burpees. He was wearing a Spartan headband. I gave him a big AROO!

I wore my Fargo Running Company tank and tons of people yelled, “Go Fargo!” I wish I would have kept count, it was so cool! The best had to be the guy who yelled, “Yeah, Fargo! Go Minnesota!” Well, not quite – but it is practically in Minnesota so we’ll go with it.

Speaking of yelling, from about mile 4 to mile 9, I must have been running next to the town celebrity, Nina. I heard, I don’t know how many cheers for Nina. Maybe she had NINA in big, block letters on her bib? Or maybe she was a local gal who everyone in that stretch came out to watch. Either way, Go Nina!

Numerous countries were represented in this race too. At some point in the race, I saw or heard cheers for Brazil, Canada, Korea, Mexico and Sweden.

A final random note, a lot of people had vicious cramps in this race. I think it was the heat or maybe the hills. A woman got a cramp so bad, she fell into me around mile 17. I saw a few other runners fall or stumble off to the side, rubbing their calves. And, the most heartbreaking thing I saw was right before turning onto Boylston street. A man collapsed in major pain. There were medics there within seconds and I have to think he was able to get up and finish the race. He was SO close – he just HAD to finish.

Recovery

My post-race party, courtesy of the hard-fought miles & hills.

The Hills
Okay, let’s be clear about something – there are hills throughout the entire Boston course. Nothing outrageous, not an excessive amount. But they’re there, throughout the race. Anyone who tells you to only prepare for the Newton Hills (miles 16-17ish) and Heartbreak Hill (20-21 area), they’re forgetting the rest of the race is a lot of up-and-down terrain. Mile 25, for example. Yep, that was a big ol incline.

Living in one of the flattest areas of the country, I did my best to train for a hilly course. I was confident I’d handle them well and I did. I knew my big butt, tree trunk legs and strong upper body would come in handy sometime and they finally did! It was hard to watch fellow runners struggle and walk up the hills while I powered on by – but this ND girl was proud! And because of that, I can honestly say, this might have been my favorite part of the race. Boston Hills=0 Lindsay=1!

The History
This was the 120th year of the Boston Marathon. For a full century and two decades, people have been lining up in Hopkinton and running through the outlying cities before arriving in Boston. And it’s not just the runners; for 120 years, people have lined the streets along the route to cheer on runners. It’s hard to think about that and not feel special to be part of that kind of history.

Another piece of history I thought about several times was the bombings. It has only been a few years since that horrid, senseless act of violence. Seeing all the “Boston Strong” signs and feeling the energy of a community coming together – again, it’s hard to think about that and not feel incredible to be part of it.

Finally, I have to give a shoutout to Bobbi Gibb. 50 years ago, she changed the game for marathon running when she became the first woman to finish the Boston Marathon. Not only that, she kicked ass, finishing in something ridiculous like 3:21. That’s what it means to #RunLikeAGirl!

The Town of Boston
For a race called the Boston Marathon, surprisingly little of it takes place in the city of Boston. I think it’s only the final three miles.

Maybe it’s because it was towards the end of the race. Or maybe because the lines of fans along the streets were just that thick. But I don’t remember any of the sights or areas I ran thru in Boston. What, we ran by Fenway Park? You’d think that would be hard to miss…

What I do remember though were three main things:
1. The Boston Strong bridge. A reminder this race was so much bigger than just me, than any of us runners really. It was about good overcoming evil and bonding hundreds of thousands of people together on one day, in one event, for one moment.

2. The last part of the race that winds through a park-like setting. Something I remember from watching the Boston Marathon on TV. Soemthing I definitely noticed, and it reminded me I was running the same race as elite athletes.

3. Boylston Street. My friend, Kristin, described running the last few tenths of the race down Boylston as one of the most significant moments in her sports life – her life, period. I didn’t fully understand until I was there. It was incredible. Something I’ll never forget and maybe my most cherished memory of them all.

My Friends
Finally, the prerace comments on the blog, tweets, texts, Facebook posts – everything. I was bombarded by so much love and support from you all that I can’t even describe the gratitude. I always knew the Boston Marathon was a big deal to me but the fact so many others remembered and acknowledged this day – I can’t even put that feeling into words. And as you all know, I’m not one who’s ever at a loss for words.

So thank you, from the bottom of my heart – and the soles of my feet. Ugh, my poor, gross feet. xoxo

Whether you were there, watched it on TV or just cheered on the runners from your desk at work, please share your Boston Marathon experience with me. Comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

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4 Responses to My Experience Running the Boston Marathon

  1. Terry Babb says:

    Lindsay just finished reading your blog what a nice re-cap of your journey Iam so prowd to be your father. With Love Dad

    • lindsaybabb says:

      Thank you, dad!! And for all the encouragement over the years, making sure I knew I could do anything my brothers could do – even do it better 🙂 Proud to be your little girl!!

  2. spartenheimer says:

    Hey there, great recap and congrats on a strong finish on a tough day! I ran Boston last year for the first time and am headed back next year. I couldn’t manage a BQ for 2016 so I was stuck at work this year and was super jealous watching everyone’s updates all day. One of my students came in wearing a Boston Strong shirt, though, so that was cool.

    One thing (sorry to be that guy) – but people have only been lining up in Hopkinson since 1924 when the starting line was moved there from Ashland to accommodate the new standardized distance of 26.2 miles.

    • lindsaybabb says:

      No apology, thank you for that info about the race history! I always heard “Hopkinton” whenever the Boston Marathon start was mentioned so just assumed it had been that way forever. Good to know! Thanks for the comment & good luck next year!!

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