The entire weekend leading up to Monday was filled with activity and preparation for Monday. On Friday afternoon, I had the pleasure of helping at the Dana-Farber runner check-in. I got to meet some new teammates and catch up with some of the people I met over the course of the season, which was a lot of fun. I've been so grateful to have had the time to get to a lot of the runners meetings and group runs this season, and seeing everyone marathon weekend was the icing on the cake. The topic of the day for all those checking-in was most certainly the weather forecast which had started in the 60s early in the week, and was creeping up and up as the days passed. Everyone was feeling a little anxious and still hopeful that the conditions would change and this cold front that was looming would come crashing through before 10 a.m. on Monday.
After check-in, I went over to the expo and number pick-up with my sister, Katy. My parents came down and met us and we wandered around looking at all the gear meant to help you run fast and look good while doing it! We came away with some samples of snack bars and the infamous marathon jacket, but not much else. We had a nice dinner in the Seaport with a gazillion other runners who found themselves down there, too. It was nice to have a "grown-up" night out with them before the major weekend chaos kicked into gear.
Saturday was less marathon, more family....packed full of soccer games and baseball, which was a nice distraction from marathon mania. The weather was most definitely still the topic of conversation with anyone who knew I was running the marathon, and while the activities of the day weren't running related, the emails from the Boston Athletic Association with high heat warnings and offers of deferrals were rolling in and it was hard to direct attention away from that.
Sunday was all marathon prep....finished my singlet with the names of those to honor and remember. Gathered all my goods to take with me in the morning. Starting eating food with lots of salt in it, while trying to keep hydrated throughout the day. Early in the afternoon, all of us loaded up and headed to Boston for the DFMC Pasta Party. This event is a celebration of this amazing team with recognition of achievements in fundraising and team longevity. It is also a celebration of the pediatric patients at Dana-Farber, both the partners for current runners and the in-memory patients and their families. About 1500 families, runners, patients, and donors attend this beautifully orchestrated event the day before the marathon, and I am so glad I was able to attend for the first time with my husband, kids, parents and sister. It's the first time I've attended in the four years that I've been on the team. Given how emotionally draining the last four years had been on our family and because I knew how emotional this event would be anyway, in prior years we just had a quiet afternoon at home with family. I just wasn't prepared to take that on yet, but this year, while still difficult, it was uplifting and inspirational to celebrate this amazing program and be surrounded by so many people who feel the same.
In addition to seeing all of the patient partners and their runners, and recognizing our teammates who have run for 5, 10, and 15 years, we were treated to kind words from Uta Pippig (3-time Boston Winner in the 90s), Jack Fultz (our fearless, funny, optimistic coach), and Delores Barr Weaver (founder of the Barr Program in honor of her mother). We were brought to our feet with applause and in awe of our teammate, Dennis Moran, who's video I've included. His determination and drive are really amazing, and truly encompass the spirit of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge. We were sent on our way to sleep well and make our way to Hopkinton in the morning.
My trip from home to Hopkinton were not as seamless as I would have hoped...very slow loading on the buses, an accident on the turnpike and traffic, but got to spend the morning with my friend, Chris, who gave me a ride into town and was good company throughout the waiting process. I missed sending Dennis off to the start for the handcycle participants, which I was really bummed about. I did make it in time for the team picture and to get myself coated with sunscreen before dumping my bag on the bus to meet me back in Boston. I decided to bring my camera along for the day since I knew I would be dialing the pace back a bit and wanted to try to capture some of the "fun" of the day. We had about 45 minutes to catch up with teammates and get ourselves ready for the walk to the start. I spent some time talking with Ed Feather, whose video I shared last week. We had not met in person but had seen and read about each other and our reasons for running. I loved seeing familiar and friendly faces at the church, and felt more a part of this team than I ever had. At 10:15, off we went with the masses to be herded into corrals for the start.
I was pretty anxious about the day, and had totally changed my plan for the day. I was hoping to slow down by a minute to a minute and a half per mile, and just get through without a visit to the medical tents. I was worried about getting the right balance of water and Gatorade and food. I think I was more afraid of getting too much water than not enough, and dealing with the fall-out from that. These weren't conditions I was used to experiencing, even in the heat of summer.
We started at a pretty steady pace. I was running with my teammate, Scott, who I had run with a couple of group runs this season. At around mile 7 (I think...it all blends together), I starting taking short walking breaks after the water stops....walking breaks that grew longer as the miles began to build. When I was running, I was holding an okay pace, but it was exhausting so catching my breath and cooling down every mile or so at the water stops was imperative for me to get through.
The hours and miles kind of blur together for me and I can't say I have totally clear memories throughout. Some highlights (or lowlights)....I remember thinking around 8 miles that it was going to be a long, long day. Longer than I thought originally. At mile 10, I got myself psyched up because we were almost halfway. I grabbed a hug from Delores Barr Weaver who founded the Claudia Adams Barr Program at Dana-Farber in honor of her mother, which is funded by the marathon runners. When she spoke at the Pasta Party, she told us where she would be with a huge DFMC flag. I spotted her in Framingham and took her up on the offer of a hug...soaking sweaty wet and all.Wellesley was, for the most part, a pretty good stretch, but after Wellesley was Newton and the hills. I was going back and forth with my teammate, Mike, who I had run with a few times over the past few years. We were on opposite walking cycles so kept passing each other back and forth. I talked with Tony, who I had only known through the online website, Daily Mile, and saw Fran, a first time marathoner who I had a few conversations with this season as his "connection" within DFMC. I saw my friend Katie as I was running down Grossman's Hill and was happy to see a familiar and smiling face!
At Mile 17.5, my awesome family and friends were waiting for my arrival. I was so happy to see them that I was actually running up the hill, which I thought might be unlikely! They had handed out 30 bags of ice to runners and had a hose going for people to run through to try to cool down. I stopped and talked for a few minutes, before heading back out for the final 8ish miles. Their effort each year to be out there with anything I might need is exceptional. It does me wonders to see familiar faces along the course and I am really thankful to them for being there and doing so much for me and for all the other runners! With some hugs and kisses and smiles and cheers, off I went.
The rest of the miles were not quick, but I was checking them off one by one. Caught the friendly faces of the Smith family right near Heartbreak Hill, which was a great surprise. The raucous BC crowd propelled me once again through miles 20 and 21. From then, I was driven to get to Mile 25, the largest of the Dana-Farber Cheering sections and where all of the patient partners gather. They were still going strong almost 5 hours later, and that is a huge gift given how brutal it was for everyone to be out in the sun that day. Many of the cheerleaders there are kids, namely patient partners, and they are standing on the highway overpass where there isn't room to run and play. They just wait there, standing together and cheering us on. It's incredibly motivating to drive you to the finish. It's an amazing spot on the course for all of the Dana-Farber team members, and I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of some more friends standing just before the DFMC crew. They even caught me smiling in a picture as I was heading that way to give high fives to all of the kids!
I ran in the last 1.2 miles, which was the longest stretch I had run in hours. The crowds were huge throughout the entire course, and were still loud and full of energy when I was making the right on Hereford, left on Boylston. The Finish Line, while welcome in any race, was especially welcome that day. Finishing was the goal, and that goal was met. My time was 4:42, which was about an hour under my goal, but as I said, it was a finish.
The spectators got the runners to the finish this year. They were out there with ice, wet towels, cold water, sprinklers, hoses, fruit, flavor ice and popsicles, pretzels, water, beer, and most of all, wicked HUGE enthusiasm and encouragement for all of us. I was taking chunks of ice out of peoples hands and filling my hat and also eating the cubes since the water at the water stops was "room temperature" which was 87 degrees. While it felt good dumped on my head, it wasn't all that refreshing to drink. But most importantly it was serving the purpose of preventing dehydration. I got a cup of ice cold blue Gatorade from a lovely and kind soul in Brookline, and took advantage of the many sprinklers lining the streets. The crowds stayed out for a long time, and from this runner, I offer my thanks and gratitude!!
I also want to offer my thanks to the staff and the hundreds of volunteers for Dana-Farber who make this program as special as it is. We are well taken care of by these many kind people from group runs to the pasta party to the pre-marathon refuge and the post marathon recovery zone. We are treated like rock stars, and they make every single runner feel like the valuable member of this team that they are! Thank you, thank you!
The marathon this year isn't what I thought or expected it would be. But hey, as running often mimics reality, life isn't always what we expect or want it to be. Best laid plans, right? My goals and plans were adjusted based on what we were facing, and I am happy to have again had the opportunity to be a member of this team and to spend the day with so many fantastic people. The upside is that my legs recovered faster than normal since I wasn't running as hard, and it ended up being a beautiful week here so I got to enjoy spending time relaxing and recovering with my family. We accomplished what we intended on April 16...after all, we are out there to run the race against cancer.
If you would still like to contribute, it isn't too late. Visit www.runDFMC.org/2012/jennies to make a gift!
Be good. Be strong.