I’ve never considered the number 3 to be my lucky number before. But this year, the number popped up a lot.
It was my third time running Boston. My bib number started and ended with 3 (32013) and I found a yellow 3 Uno card on my last long training run. Which I did end up carrying with me on Monday tucked in my back pocket.
This year was an absolutely incredible experience from beginning to end.
My charity team was the largest it’s ever been. With several of us unable to finish the race last year in addition to getting bibs for the team, we were 25 strong. And as of right now have raised over $180,000 in donations for Rett Syndrome. I am incredibly lucky to have spent three years in the company of such amazing people. As parents, family and friends of girls with Rett Syndrome, they are no strangers to overcoming adversity on a daily basis and to have the determination to put themselves through a marathon to help further the cause is tremendous. I applaud them all.
We have a Facebook page where we shared encouragement, struggles and stories over the past several months. We got each other through injuries and bad training runs and cheered each other on through races. We hosted virtual 5ks and spread awareness. We became a family.
And we spent the weekend as one. Saturday we had team get togethers and went to the Red Sox game. It was so much fun seeing my group from last year and meeting new members. We clicked like old friends. We laughed, a LOT and just enjoyed a wonderful day together.
Monday, we met back up and after spending several hours waiting to go started mostly together as a group. It was so powerful having so many of us in purple & yellow all together toeing the start line. All that Rett spirit and energy in one place.
And when we crossed that line, I held back and let them go…
I had my own race to run, at my own pace, as did they.
The great thing about the Boston marathon is we all have our own reason for being there. Some people are just wicked fast, and some are wicked determined and some are just wicked awesome. This year – we were all in it, in addition to that, to prove that you don’t mess with Boston.
The crowds this year were the most amazing I’d seen in three years. I think the crowd wanted to prove the same thing we runners did. It was just incredible to see and hear. I had brought my music but kept it muted for about 90% of the race. I couldn’t have heard it in most spots anyways.
I had a sort of goal when I started. I wanted to finish between where I did in 2012 and where I did in 2013. I know that after having missed six months due to injury I wouldn’t be where I was last year. But I was hoping I could at least run strong. And no matter what – I was going to absorb every moment of that route in case I never get back there.
The first three miles went great. I hit the 5k mark around an 11 minute pace and felt great. I’d already seen the sign for Dan Larsen right where it was last year. A gentleman from back home who is on quite a Boston streak, and the person that shared my article in the Post Star with me. As I went by I yelled “I’m from Glens Falls” and got cheered.
The next three miles were just as great… it’s not the prettiest stretch of road through Framingham…but it was loud and I kept right on pace. Hit the 10k mark in about 1:06. And saw a sign for a woman in my neighborhood, Bonnie, who was running her first marathon. As I passed that sign I yelled “Go Bonnie”
Then it got hot…. I am NOT a warm weather runner. There’s a reason I race in the spring and fall. The cold and the snow and all that don’t bother me. I will layer up and trudge out like a trooper. But break 65 and I start to struggle.
The marathon course has no shade. And by 1pm it was upper 60s and a beautiful cloudless sky…aka Sunburn City! (you could fry an egg on my shoulder right now…two days later).
At mile 8 I hit a hill and knew if I pushed up it…it wasn’t gonna be pretty. At that point I told myself my original thought of running the whole thing solid wasn’t gonna happen. And that it was ok. And I walked to the top of that hill. As I would several others to follow.
Coming into Natick I knew I had a coworker who had been on the course every year looking for me. This year, I found her! Ran over for a hug and a couple photos and knew that it was ok to just have fun.
Shortly after I high-fived Santa Claus, who was spectating. Yep – in full santa suit.
Coming up towards Wellesley College I heard someone yell out “An American man won” I yelled back WHO? Meb…. We all let out a cheer. Cuz yep, this was our year.
I then proceeded to high-five about 80% of the Wellesley college girls. I had considered kissing one…but the men were kissing plenty and I settled for the high-fives.
I knew my next goal was mile 16. This is where our Team Rett supporters always gather. And I knew it would give me my next boost. I stopped again for photos and hellos. Snagged a gel from Jeanne (who should have been running with us but had a stress fracture from training) and moved along. (Jeanne – you better go get em next year woman!)
At this point I was scrounging ice and paper towels and water and anything I could… I was having flashbacks to 2012. And yet running more of it than I did then. So I knew that either a) I was stronger than I was then or b) it wasn’t AS hot or c) a little of both. I’m going with C. J
After mile 17 the road turns at the Newton Fire Station. A few of us got a little emotional, thinking about the Boston firefighters we lost recently. Not the first time I got choked up on that course…and certainly not the last.
But up ahead, was the HILLS. The big scary hills. The ones that ruin elites and rookies alike. That day – they didn’t scare me. I had no intention of running up them…just down. That is…until I spotted the photographer on the third one. I was behind two guys and said “Why not” and took off between them for the shot. (Sorry boys, you got chicked on heartbreak hill. LOL Someone should make that into a tshirt)
By mile 21 I started playing a mindgame with myself. You know – that one that goes “if I walk from now til the end I’ll still finish faster than 2012” I played it about every half hour, interspersed with the one going “am I at the drink water mile or the drink Gatorade mile”. Tho by mile 22 I was taking both at each stop. One to drink and one to pour over my head.
I passed a Rett teammate struggling after mile 21. I went over, put a hand on his shoulder and said simply “just keep moving. Whatever you do don’t stop. Just keep moving”
And right at mile 22 the road goes downhill. For a very long time…and so I ran….the whole way down it. And felt pretty good that even that far and that overheated I could still run. Part of it may have been the horde of people in Boston Strong shirts yelling “Go Kelly” and “Got Team Rett” And “You got this”
After mile 23 ahead of me in the road was a group of people. And my heart stopped for a moment. My first thought was NO. Not again. And then I realized they were all in the same shirt. Okay phew, a team. And not just any team…Team Hoyt. The Hoyts themselves had stopped and gathered with their charity runners. I slowed down and admired for a moment. It was something special.
At the base of the hill leading me to mile 25, it all fell into place. The citgo sign to my left, Fenway Park to my right…a bright blue sky and not much further to go. I turned to the guy beside me and said “I LOVE BOSTON”. He laughed and said “Me too. And only people who have run this, get it. You can’t explain it” He’s so right. We walked to the top of the hill together, grinning and then I ran down. And passed the mile 25 marker…and the 1 mile to go marker. And then almost to where I got stopped last year I walked a bit and stared it down.
There was now a couple beside me. I turned to them and said “This is where I got stopped last year.” She replied “us too” I said “We’re all finishing this year you know…” and She goes “I know.“
Then into the underpass with the “1K to go” banner. And a quick sprint for the photographer.
Then the right onto Hereford… about halfway up Hereford was the absolutely gorgeous Ms. Massachusetts. In full gown, sash & tiara. I smiled and waved and she waved back.
Just before the top of Hereford I paused, hand over my heart in a moment of respect at the firehouse.
Then made that last left turn and soaked it all in. The crowd was deafening. Like being in a rock concert, only I was the star. It was truly my Victory Parade. I smiled the whole way down…looking left to right trying to take in as many faces as I could. Knowing it was for them too…that someday they’ll tell their kids and grandkids how they stood there that day. On April 21, 2014, watching a parade of champions.
Past the mile 26 marker.
Almost to the finish….
One last chance to give it everything I had… and I FLEW. Between a few people, up the last .1 and over the finish.
My garmin told me later I was running a 6:53 pace across the finish. Still not a Kenyan pace, but darn close.
My aunt told me she had watched me finish on the finish line webcam. She knew I was going to be finishing shortly when she saw this little shape come flying out of nowhere and she knew it was me.
She saw me raise my arms in victory after I crossed the line.
After that I got my medal. I kissed it. And I just started crying.
Because at the end, it doesn’t matter what might have gone wrong on the course…it only matters what went right.