The Story of My Boston Marathon DNF

Boston Marathon Finish LIne | happyfitmama.com

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.

Refugee runners | happyfitmama.com

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!).

athlete's village  Happyfitmama.com

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.

Boston-waiting-to-start happyfitmama.com

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.

78 comments on “The Story of My Boston Marathon DNF

  1. So sorry about your DNF but I also believe that things do happen for a reason….the “mourning process” might take some time so you have every right to be mad, cry, not understand… but you will be back and will know better what to expect next time. Hang in there !

  2. Oh I am so sorry you experienced this! I did not run a race I’m proud of in Berlin this year and have decided to take a break from marathons and focus on the half distance this year. It takes every ounce of my body not to sign up for a marathon but I know this isn’t the right time. I love your determination and dedication to saying this isn’t the last marathon OR your last Boston! You’ll do it! Good luck :)

  3. Such an emotional roller coaster in a few short hours. I am so bummed this was your first Boston experience–I can’t begin to imagine the frustration you must have/still do feel. But you will heal, you will get back to marathons and you will get to boston. And that’s gonna be one big day for you! Looking forward to seeing it happen.
    misszippy recently posted..Heavy heartedMy Profile

  4. UGH.
    and MAN I FEEL FOR YOU.
    but the thing is I dont do so well with the platitudes (the “all happening for a reasons”)
    so I will just say IM SO SORRY and meet you where you are or were and say:
    oh friend, that just sucks.

    xo
    Carla recently posted..Happiness bullying.My Profile

    1. The strangers offering congratulations was SO tough. I even had a girl take my picture while I was waiting for the T. They were all so nice, but I just wanted to scream. It was horrible.

  5. I don’t even know what to say or type or whatever. There are no words. I cannot even imagine going through all that, and all the ‘congrats’ and the medal, it’s too much. I do know you will be back at that race and I hope that once you race again (even a damn 5K!) you will start to heal a little bit more.
    I’m so sorry this happened to you and there doesn’t need to be a reason. Give yourself all the time you need to be pissed. You deserve it.
    Allie recently posted..The Craziest Thing I Did During My Twin PregnancyMy Profile

  6. This is hard enough to read, I can’t even imagine writing it!!! I am SO sorry! I know you can learn something from every race experience and come back stronger, but it still stinks! I know you will cross the finish line of Boston and because of this it will be that much better!!!! I hope your foot is healing!
    Jen@milesandblessings recently posted..Adding races to trainingMy Profile

  7. Angela I am still so incredibly sorry this happened to you and to be stuck in the boot at the end is just cruel. I am glad you found some humor in the time leading up to the race at least. And as for “everything happens for a reason” I don’t know that I always believe that. I think it’s how you choose the eventual outcome. If that makes sense. It’s what you make of it. And for you, I know that you will come out ahead.
    Heather (Where’s the Beach) recently posted..Salsa Salad with Peanut Butter Avocado DressingMy Profile

  8. This was so hard and emotional to read (yes I have tears at my desk) as I can only imagine what you were/are feeling. I applaud and commend you for writing this and wish I had something to say that might make you feel better but I do believe that time and your determination to continue running and go for Boston will be what makes you through this tough time. You are an inspiration and the fact is: life isn’t perfect. Things sometimes suck but we grow from them and come back stronger. Cry all you want but don’t stop running. And I hope it’s a damn good reason too :)
    Amy @ The Little Honey Bee recently posted..Boston & the 2015 Boston MarathonMy Profile

  9. I can’t always get on board with the whole “it happens for a reason” thing. Sometimes it really irks me cause I just want to be posed and angry and not try to see a silver lining when there isn’t really one. So I totally understand. You are totally right in being pissed, hurt, angry etc. it’s OK. And like you said time will help heal it but what I live is your tenacity to get back there is so strong now…I think it’s going to propel you to some amazing things!

    1. I don’t buy into the “everything happens for a reason” thing either. It feels like something to say to just smooth things over and make it pretty. Let me be disappointed, sad and angry. It’s ok to have those feelings!

  10. I’m just so sorry that this was your first experience. It sucks and there is no way around that. I think sometimes you just need to get through it and it sounds like that exactly what your doing. When you do cross that finish line, it will make that experience even more emotional and grand. Sending you hugs and prayers.

  11. Although I know it was almost impossibly tough you did the right thing by pulling out. We (runners) can get quite crazy when it comes to not listening to what are bodies are trying to tell us. Yours was telling you not today, and instead of making things a million times worse you listened! You should be proud of yourself. Good things are coming.
    Hayley@HealthyRegardsHayley recently posted..Training (and racing) Summary 4.20 – 4.26My Profile

  12. Oh this bummer of a day… and what an unbelievable ending for you. I didn’t know your phone died- what a mess! And it was FREEZING to be waiting around to meet up… it took 15 minutes for us to find an Uber that was willing to pick us up and I was ridiculously cold. I’m glad time is bringing a little bit of perspective and healing. You will definitely be back to Boston!!
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted..What I Buy in Bulk for Easy, Healthy MealsMy Profile

  13. As much as you feel like you failed in some way, you didn’t. This was beyond your control, and the best thing about Boston is that everyone DESERVES to be there. You worked hard to qualify for that race and that is an accomplishment in itself. You are far from a failure and you still deserve that medal because it represents the race that you worked so hard to qualify for.

  14. Oh mercy, I can feel your heartache. I’m so sorry…. I know words do not make any of it any beter, but it wasn’t like you just gave up.. . you had a legit reason to be smart about your body. Can you imagine if you kept on & caused permanent damage to your ankle/foot? So not worth it to say you ran Boston… seriously…

    There will be more races – there will be another Boston… tomorrow is another day. I feel so much like Scarlett O’Hara at this moment :)
    Rebecca Jo recently posted..Les Mills Combat – week 5My Profile

    1. Oh Scarlett…hahaha! I’ve been second guessing my decision now that my foot isn’t as painful as that day. Did I wimp out? Could I have run? But then my doctor confirmed that I indeed do the right thing otherwise the tendon could have ruptured. Ruptured isn’t never, ever a good thing.

  15. I remember how painful, cold, and miserable my walk was after the finish line, I can only imagine yours was 100 times worse!!! That sucks. I was also full of tears. And how frustrating being out of contact with your family and in the wrong place! Glad you can look back at it now with a bit of humor (or angry spite??).
    Lisa @ TechChick Adventures recently posted..It came from nowhere!My Profile

  16. I’m so very sorry. At least you can still walk/run and it wasn’t an injury that was so bad it would stop you from running all together. Plans fall through, and things happen. Hold your head up high, you have done more than most even dream about! Boston will still be there for you to run again!! You’ll come back stronger than before and cross that iconic finish line with a huge smile on your face!
    Amy Barker @ Mama Running for God recently posted..Lonnnngggg overdue updateMy Profile

    1. Thanks Amy! It’s true that it could have been way worse. I could have ruptured the tendon which would have meant months of not running and maybe even surgery. Having to take 4 weeks off from running won’t kill me…but it will make me really crabby! 😉

  17. so sorry about your race :/ that is so frustrating after all the hard training and planning. I would use the metal as motivation to train for another Boston! Like put it someplace I see before every run for encouragement to keep going because you deserve to finish the race and earn the metal!

    1. Hmmmm…that’s an interesting thought. Right now it’s in my bag from that day. I can’t stand to even look at it right now.

  18. Wow I’m sorry :( That must have been so tough for you. But you’re right – everything really does happen for a reason! It sounds like you’re not done running marathons so I think you’ll have your chance to do Boston again in the future and finally get your perfect race! I hope your foot is feeling better and everything is okay!
    Kristen recently posted..Pilates Boot Camp RecapMy Profile

  19. I’m so sorry that your day ended the way it did. It truly sucks. I don’t know if I buy into the whole everything happens for a reason theory – I think it just plain stinks because I know how hard you trained and how very ready you were to run.
    I hope that you are healing – both physically and emotionally.
    I know that you will get back to Boston and finish what you started!!!
    Kim recently posted..The Courage to be DifferentMy Profile

  20. I’m so sorry that happened! I would still be upset too. I hope your ankle/foot is ok.

    I don’t know what phone you have-but if it is an iphone 5, and the battery dies quickly-you may have a faulty battety. Go to apples website and there is a section where you put your serial # in and if it is faulty, you can take it into a store and they will replace it for free.

  21. Oh man that bites! Seriously, how frustrating! I kind of think the more we all run, the more inevitable it is… so maybe the point is to get it out of the way and from here on out you are in the clear? Crossing my fingers!
    Vieve recently posted..Transformation TuesdayMy Profile

  22. You are far from finished. You did the best thing. To seek medical attention. I’m so sorry. There will always be other races and another Boston. It will only make your return so much sweeter. You will wear that medal and never take it off. You are an amazing woman. Xoxo.
    Jen recently posted..Fit FridayMy Profile

  23. Oh, Angela,, this is so heart-breaking. I agree, it can be really hard to hear that everything happens for a reason when it’s hard to understand what possible reason there could be and it makes you feel as if you shouldn’t be mad or upset. But you will get back there and earn the medal and all of the congratulations!

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  25. oh friend. I have tears reading this because I know how hard you worked for this and I cannot imagine how frustrating this is. And then the trek from the finish line to meeting up with your family. I kinda get annoyed when people tell me things happen for a reason. There’s part of me that believes it but another part that feels it’s just a bunch of crap. You will no doubt be back to running, to marathons and to Boston. xo
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..Friday Round-Up: Happy May DayMy Profile

  26. Sorry to hear about your DNF. I think you should keep the medal. It takes a lot of strength to listen to your body and admit you need to stop, and you did. It may not be the same as finishing Boston but that’s also something to be proud of.
    Al recently posted..Purple and Green Birthday CardMy Profile

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