Many people know there are two ways to get into the Boston Marathon. Way number one is to run a qualifying time (and then some under) to register for the Boston Marathon. The second way is to run for a charity organization (which requires a minimum of $5,000 raised, not including transportation, lodging, or food during the stay). There’s also a few bibs that Boston Athletic Association (BAA) hands out to towns along the course, and military. I got to use one of those third bibs to run the Boston Marathon as a shadow run here in Afghanistan.
I was so excited to be able to “run” Boston out here, and I joked that it was more exclusive because of the chance of taking indirect fire and with our elevation, approximately 5,000 feet above sea level, it was a Heartbreak Hill the whole way.
I was also pretty nervous about running a marathon with minimal support and on a repetitive course, and also that IDF or threats might cancel it before or ruin my race experience.
We had a packet pickup which was like every other packet pickup, except there were no other vendors, and no race merchandise around. We got our bibs, a BAA lapel pin, a special edition Boston Marathon Afghanistan t-shirt (cotton) in the Boston Marathon colors of yellow and blue, and a print out of the map of the course and the schedule.
I made a special effort to go to bed super early because I had my alarm set for 0200. I woke up to pee around 0100 and was too excited to really fall back asleep, which was fine. I got up, put my hair up, applied tons of BodyGlide and went to the office to make myself a cup of coffee.
I met up with some coworkers and we walked down to the start line where everyone else was gathered. We did a quick safety brief; this was the first race I’ve done where there was instructions for what to do if we had an attack while on the course, and then the anthem and then we lined up. We self-seeded so I put myself towards the back of the pack.
Our route was two loops, which sounds worse than it actually was. I was going to do intervals of 10 minutes of running with five minutes of walking, but 20 minutes in decided to go for broke and ran for an hour and walked for five to seven minutes. I think my longest walk break was almost 10 minutes though, a little more than halfway through.
There was tons of support along the course with water, Gatorade, granola bars, and GU. I only saw one mile marker early on and didn’t see it on my second lap, which was fine with me. Not really knowing how far I was and just focusing on the time helped a lot.
At one point on my second lap several buses full of local workers passed by us and the workers whipped their heads around to stare at me as they drove pass. I commented to the man running next to me that they’d sure have something to talk about to their families tonight. He was really amused at how every person on the bus (all men) had stared so blatantly at me and asked if I’d noticed that. Yup. Definitely noticed that and no, I’m never going to get used to that. He joked they’d all have to go see a chiropractor with how hard they’d all suddenly turned.
I mostly felt pretty good. My hamstrings were still tight from my two hard back-to-back Sweet Cakes workouts earlier in the week, and the tendon along my left fibula felt like it was burning and was swollen and painful to touch by the time I finished.
The weather stayed nice the whole way and the sun didn’t come out until about my last hour. Also, we had no rocket attacks which I really appreciated as well, though about mile 22 I was sort of hoping for any reason to end my pain.
Finally, I was in the home stretch. I was running next to two guys and we’d been leap-frogging each other for half the race. One of them asked us where we thought the finish line was because it was hard to see. I told him that “I think it’s by the ambulance…I’m running towards the ambulance” and we all had a chuckle at that.
I used up all my willpower trying to move my protesting legs faster at the end and I could feel how heavy and tired they were, but I finished! I didn’t check the time, but I came in before another coworker who came in at 4:40, which is a MUCH better time than I’d planned on.
I collected my medal and went to get something to drink and eat. They had set up a little buffet for us inside, which was unexpectedly nice. Seriously, they did such a good job of organizing this entire event.
I meant to do some yoga but while I was trying to get my slow network to pull up a video, I got a sudden case of the tireds (I’d been up since 0200, remember) so I opted to skip most of the yoga and go straight to the nap at the end. I’m sure I will be sore tomorrow and I’m planning on taking the day easy and just doing some light yoga and resting. I still can’t quite believe that I ran a MARATHON today!