By Alex H.
I am having trouble properly choosing a direction for the recap of my 2018 Boston Marathon experience, but I will dive right into the day and help anyone reading this get a better experience of the carnage they saw on their TV broadcasts.
Heading into this race, I was the most confident I had ever been in my training and racing abilities as a marathoner. The mileage was higher, the long runs were longer and much faster, and the workouts were longer and more specific. That being said, with 30 mph headwinds and driving rain pellets, mixed with a 25 degree real feel, it was anyone’s day! I planned to take full advantage of the “anything can happen in these conditions” mentality I took with me to the line. As the gun went off, I established myself well and found a pack that was running a pace I have mastered over and over again in practice. Through the first few miles, my main objective was to stay keep pace with these complete strangers that I was sharing a life changing experience with. The pack mentality always helps a runner in such a long race, and on a day as windy as Monday, having people to break up the wind with was highly advantageous. Between miles 3 and 8, I moved from around 60th to 40th and eventually into the mid 30s. I was running with rhythm and poise, and trusting the weeks, months, and years of work that went into the preparation moments like these. I saw sponsored professionals that I recognized falling back closer and closer to my grasp. This is when I will share with you all that the feeling I got from confidently moving up towards elite territory was euphoric and I do not regret trusting the fitness I know I have worked so hard for. Through 10 miles, I truly thought it was going to be my day. And then things went south. By mile 11, a switch flipped, and I went from feeling smooth to feeling lethargic in a few steps. My hands were too numb to open my fueling packets (containing necessary calories for optimum marathon performance), and around mile 12 and 13 I started losing mental clarity and the awareness of my surroundings. I usually will take in at least 100 calories every 5 miles of a marathon, but could not take any nutrition after mile 10. The feelings of disorientation and confusion only heightened as I began to fade off of my pack. By mile 16, when the famous Newton Hills began, I was staring at my shoes instead of looking up to prevent dizziness and help keep balance. The latter parts of the race are all a jumbled blur, as my body used all extra energy that I would normally need to race hard, and held onto it to stop the hypothermic conditions I was experiencing from getting worse. At mile 25, a great friend of mine who lives in Boston was holding a sign for me and shouting my name, and that was just enough to get me to look up and drive to the finish. Shortly thereafter, I found myself wheelchaired into the medical tent where I spent the better part of an hour being fed beef broth with a straw and doused with heated blankets.
Directly after the race and until very recently, I considered the day a failure. I ran 12 minutes slower than my marathon PR, and was not able to place as high as I would have liked. It is the first race since college (three years) where I did not run faster than I have every ran before. But what I was able to accomplish is something that I cannot say I have done very often: I took a bold leap in my confidence as a competitor, and got everything out of my mind and body on the day. As an athlete, and really as a human being facing any tough task, our best is all we can ask. One of my good friends sent me my own quote I shared from the last blog post, “failure is only failure if we stop trying,” and that really made me smile. I can look myself in the mirror and say that I ran the best I could on April 16th, 2018 from Hopkinton to Boston, and nobody can take that away from me. In the future, where faster times and brighter days are ahead, I can look back on this day and thank the gritty experience for teaching me my limits and how to push past them. Onward.
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