By now, you all know that I got my first DNF during the Boston Marathon last week. Hands down one of the most horrible days of my life so far. I can look back at it now and actually laugh at how the events unfolded. This stuff seriously only happens to me!
So let’s start from the beginning. Grab some coffee and a snack. For having my race cut short, this is a very, very long post.
(Side note – this post is also very word heavy and picture light – my phone battery died early on that day).
Sarah and I decided to hire a car service to take us straight to Hopkinton from our houses in New Hampshire rather than making the trek into the city for the buses from the Common. We got a few more hours of sleep and didn’t have to worry about parking, etc. When the swanky black Lincoln pulled into my driveway and the driver opened my door for me as I wore my fanciest throw away clothes, I couldn’t help but laugh at how ridiculous it must have looked to my neighbors. Our driver was awesome. He kept telling us we were crazy and couldn’t understand why we would want to run 26.2 miles.
Since all the exits to Hopkinton were closed at 7 a.m., our driver had to drop us off right on I-495. Sarah and I could not stop laughing as we walked past the state police officers who directed us to take a right at the bottom of the exit to find the shuttles to the Athlete’s Village. We looked like refugees with nothing but the clothes on our back and a small bag of food. Of course, just at that time it started to downpour too.
We continued to walk along the empty street. It was very strange to see no cars or people except for military/police. We stopped at a Cumberland Foods gas station to use the bathroom. Never pass up an opportunity to NOT have to use a port-a-potty! There was only one car parked in the lot – a black SUV full of guys in camo – I think I saw one with FBI on his back.
The guy working the station was so nice to give us huge heavy duty trash bags to protect us from the rain. They were much better than our standard kitchen bags we had brought along. Again, we couldn’t stop laughing at the oddity of it all.
As we continued walking, we came upon a group of state cops. We asked where the shuttle was. The guy looked at us like we were nuts – it was in the direction that we had just come from on the other side of the interstate. We should have taken a left rather than a right. We were 1/2 way to the Village so we just kept walking for about another 3/4 of a mile.
The Athlete’s Village was bumping. A huge tent, music, potties everywhere and just an excitement in the air. We found a spot to sit on our trash bags and just veg for a bit. Sarah didn’t have much time before her wave started. I tried to stay off my phone as much as possible. My battery had been draining really fast lately so I wanted to make sure I had enough for the whole race in case I needed it at the end (foreshadowing – I needed it way before then!).
Sarah’s wave was ready to go. After hugs and good lucks, she was gone and I was alone with my nerves as I people watched. (She went on to have a GREAT race and finish in 3:35). Thankfully, Laura, Jill and Rachel were on the way from the Commons so I’d have company soon. Laura and I had agreed to run with each the day before. She didn’t have any time expectations and wanted to help me try to achieve my goals. I was excited to not only have someone to run with, but a chance to hang out with Laura and just talk IRL.
The whole time in the Village, it wasn’t raining at all. The wind had picked up, but I was bundled up to the max and felt comfy. The girls finally arrived and we made last minute stops at the potties. Before I knew it, we were walking the 1/2 mile to the starting line. I finally ditched most of my throw away clothes but at the last minute kept on a long sleeve 1/2 zip over my tank. Best move ever especially now knowing what was going to happen 8 miles down the road.
I had no idea where the starting line was until the crowd started moving forward faster and eventually I crossed over. I guess it was time to start running! And that also meant, bring on the rain. I was warned it was going to be packed, but it was REALLY packed. The first 3 miles were very congested. I really didn’t want to waste energy weaving around runners, but there were so many different paces (including walkers) that it was hard not to. I tried to stay to the left and was able to find a little bit of a clearer path that way, although I did encounter some elbows and just generally running into people. I kept laughing each time I’d glance to see if Laura was still around. She was hard to miss in her bright orange poncho – she was like a running flame!
By mile 3, things had cleared out a bit and we were able to settle in. Things were going along great. The crowds were fantastic. People cooking out and the smell of beer was quite strong in spots. Out of nowhere, around mile 6, I got a sharp, intense, shooting pain in my left ankle that radiated down into my arch and heel. I started to hobble. And panic. I told Laura and we stopped so I could walk and stretch it out. That did nothing. It just hurt – a lot. I couldn’t get up on my toes and I couldn’t put weight on my heel. I tried to land with my foot flat, but even that was like having a knife dig into my arch. The panic intensified with each step. WTF? Why now? It’s so early in the race. And why isn’t it going away? My thoughts swirled – I can do this. It will go away. You can run/walk if needed. But the more I hobbled, the more I realized the truth. I couldn’t continue this hobble for 18 miles. If I did, I’d either be really, really hurt later or be hypothermic.
We both spotted a med tent at mile 8. At this point, we both knew what I needed to do although I couldn’t really voice it. To drop out of a race in front of spectators cheering in shitty conditions, runners persevering through the tough day, and volunteers sticking it out, was one of the more miserable moments of my running life. I felt (feel) like such a failure.
I held it together until the second that I gave Laura a hug and told her to run on without me. As soon as the EMT took my arm, I broke down. I became a blubbering, freezing cold mess. I guess that’s the look of realizing a huge dream wasn’t going to happen and my heart being completely pulverized into a thousand little pieces.
SO how do you find your family when you are in a point to point race and are clueless of what town you are even in? Here’s where the real fun began…
From mile 8, four other DNFers besides me were loaded into a van that then brought us to a big school bus about a mile away. On that bus there was at least an additional 20 or more DNFers. Our final destination was the big med tent at the finish line. Enroute I got one frantic text out to Ron that I was a DNF. My whole family was at the aquarium still since it would have been hours before I would have been close to mile 25 where they were hoping to spectate. We nailed down a meeting place at the Hynes Convention T before my phone battery died.
Once we got to the finish line, we were given another mylar blanket and basically told “See ya!” if you didn’t need any further treatment. A volunteer told me to walk around the tent to get to Boylston St. and then I could just walk up to my destination. One little problem – I was at the finish line and there was no entry at that point. Somehow I managed to end up in the VIP finish line area and a woman handing out medals assumed I had was one of them. She yelled congratulations! as I hobbled my way towards her. She tried placing a finishers medal around my neck. I mumbled that I didn’t finish and started taking the medal off as I started to cry (again). She refused to take it back and I refused to keep it. In the end, she won. I just wanted to get away from all of it. So now I have a medal that I didn’t earn. I hate that I have it. I want to send it back.
It took forever to get to our meeting spot. There were so many road closures. My foot was throbbing. I was limping. So many people who were congratulating me on my finish that I stopped even saying anything or acknowledging it. I know they were just being nice, but it was like getting kicked in the stomach every single time. I wanted to ditch the mylar blanket so people would just leave me alone, but it was the only semi-warm thing I had. I borrowed random strangers phones to try to get in touch with Ron again.
I finally made it to our meeting spot and stood against the wall, waiting. And waiting. And having more people congratulate me. It was agony. After about a 1/2 hour of waiting, I made friends with three Mass Transit Officers. They got me a chair, water and tried to keep me blocked from the wind so I could stay a little warmer. I used one of their phones to call Ron two more times. They had got turned around on the T and ended up having to walk to find me.
When they finally showed up, I burst into tears. I just wanted to go home, take a warm shower and go to bed.
Everything happens for a reason. Do you know how many times I’ve been told this in the past 9 days? Whatever the reason is, I hope it’s a damn good one. I’m still pissed. I’m still upset. But it’s getting better. That’s the beauty of time. It heals. But I’ll never forget the events of my first DNF and my first Boston Marathon.
I may never know why this happened.
What I do know is that I am not done running marathons.
What I do know is that I am most definitely not done with Boston.
I will run across that iconic finish line rather than posing for a picture.