I saw a poster with these words Sunday night at the expo, and thought it was a pretty cool poster. I never expected it to fit my experience with the 2008 Boston Marathon so perfectly. The crowd was a definite force in helping me get to the finish.
Our weekend in Boston flew by so fast. I wish we could have stayed longer (I'm sure my girls - and their grandma - were glad we didn't). Saturday and Sunday were mostly spent hanging out with friends and seeing some of the sights. Marathon Monday rolled around with much anticipation and anxiety. Lani brought me into town and I hopped on the bus. It was very overcast, and I started to wonder if we were going to be hit with that 20% chance of rain. Luckily, things cleared up by start time. As soon as I sat down in the bus and started talking to the guy next to me, the nervousness immediately disappeared.
I spent my time in Hopkinton sitting under one of the tents munching on some pre-race goodies. I was hoping for the small chance that I might run into one of my fellow bloggers, but that didn't happen. I did, however, have a nice chat with friendly fellow from England.
By the time 10 o'clock neared and I headed over to the start line, the clouds began to clear slightly, and after the gun went off the sun was out to stay. I managed to heed the many warnings to start off slowly, but it was definitely a difficult task with the down hill, the crowds cheering, and the built-up excitement leading up to this moment. I just kept my eyes up watching the colorful sea of the thousands of runners ahead of me leading the way over the rolling hills. What a sight! I really need to get a camera to take with me to capture moments like that.
As I settled into my race pace, the crowds really became a motivation for me. I was on the outside of the road, and I am so glad I was. It was awesome to run by giving high fives to the kids stationed on the sidewalks. I had "AX" (part of my last name) plastered across my shirt, and this was probably the smartest thing I could have done. How cool is that to have thousands of people chanting "Ax, Ax, Ax!" Every time I heard that, I couldn't help but feel energized. This was definitely helpful when I was making my way over the Newton hills.
I was right where I wanted to be when I crossed the half-way point. And I was definitely thrilled to see Lani just beyond that point. Those hills that followed were definitely tough, though. They really weren't that big, and I actually wasn't too sure when they officially started, but, of all the hills, I found Heartbreak Hill to be the easiest.
After that, it was all down hill. By this point, I was starting to struggle. My legs were beginning to die on me. Once again, the crowd kept me going. It was awesome running by Boston College. It was here that I heard the loudest and most excited chants of "Ax, Ax, Ax!" And from then on the crowds of spectators only grew larger. I could feel myself slowing, and I really wanted to stop and walk, but I couldn't let myself do that. I couldn't let the crowd down. I pressed on.
The last couple miles were by far the hardest miles I have ever ran, but the excitement kept growing. Looking around me, I could tell that I wasn't the only one struggling. As I turned onto Hereford Street, I pictured the "Duel in the Sun" as Beardsley and Salazar made their way to that historic finish. I knew I was almost home. Then the final turn came, and with it the loudest roar of the crowd so far. I could see the finish! What a feeling. I can't even describe it. I get chills every time I think about it. As tired and as exhausted as I was, I had to finish strong, and I was somehow able to push my way forward toward the goal. I had reached the end. As I crossed the finish, I raised my hands with a triumphant smile. I just ran the Boston Marathon!
What an experience! I finished with a time of 3 hours 25 minutes and 35 seconds. A little slower than what I was hoping for, but this race was far from disappointing. I loved every minute of this marathon. The journey from Hopkinton to Boston was the hardest thing I have ever done, but definitely one of the most exciting. I really don't care that my time wasn't what I was aiming for, or that I wasn't able to finish as strong as I started. I made it! I reached my goal, and I am so proud of what I was able to accomplish.
Here are some more pictures from the incredible experience.