Summarizing my experience of the Boston Marathon simply can't be accomplished in a mere few paragraphs...So I won't attempt to do so. And the day was about the racers and not about me, the spectator, so I won't pretend it was. Yet there is still much to be said about experiencing the Boston Marathon, even from the sidelines, and in witnessing many people who inspire me accomplish their goals! Marathons are very much so a story of victory, struggle, overcoming and perseverance, etc. This year's marathon included extra elements of togetherness, unity, strength and the fierce desire to "take back the finish line" that was compromised through violence in 2013, making the day and weekend all the more special.
As you probably know by now, getting to the starting line of the Boston Marathon is an accomplishment in itself. There are so many factors that go into running a solid marathon, between training and race day. Pulling all the pieces together to get that BQ time is NOT easy. Also now, with the increased demand that the race has seen over the past several years, qualification standards are becoming tighter and meeting that standard does not guarantee entry (as was the situation in my case). So major kuddos the 36,000 or so runners who made it to the start!
As the athletes staged themselves in the athlete village to start, the rest of my family and I met up with friends in Newton to stage ourselves near the firehouse just past the 17th mile marker. When we arrived, it was definitely NOT what I'm used to seeing in marathon: there were tents, food vendors, bullhorns, tons of signs, security and staffing and orange gates to line the streets and keep spectators off the course. People brought their children, chairs and lunches and settled in for an all day affair. This year the crowd of spectators was thought to be ONE MILLION strong, so yea, you can say the runners definitely got the royal treatment when it came to having huge crowd support!
Monday was a day of great victory for many, a day of defeat for others, but regardless ALL came and gave their BEST. This is exemplified well through the elite race and I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the awesome athleticism of these elites as they pursued victory along the course: Shortly after 11AM, Shalane Flanagan (USA) led the pack of elite women through Newton. I've long been a fan of Shalane, since the Beijing Olympics when we were lucky enough to bump into and have a lengthy chat with her mother. Having been born and raised in Boston, she went into the race with the fierce desire to give 110% to win for her city. Though she fell short, finishing 7th overall, she set a major personal marathon PR on a difficult course with a time that would have won the Boston Marathon every other year but three. WOW! Her stride was incredibly powerful and efficient and it was really quite neat to witness her confident domination of the pack at that point of the course.
Then there is Meb Keflezighi (USA), who past by us in Newton well ahead of the chase pack of elite men. I didn't think much of it at the moment, but how amazing that Meb ran a strategically saavy race and fought hard to the finish. The chase pack doubted his ability to maintain his pace/lead, but he ran a gutsy and confident race and walked away the victor. He has overcome numerous injuries in the past several years as well as being previously dropped by all of his sponsors who thought he was "on the decline." Yet on Monday, he defied the odds, poured his heart out on the course and was the first American since 1983 (over 30 years!) to claim victory at the Boston Marathon. Go Meb Go!!
Shortly after the elites, the upper end amateurs started to appear...among them was friend Graham Peck of Baltimore, whom I interviewed earlier this year. Despite some training setbacks this spring and finishing just shy of his PR, he ran a strong race and finished in the top 50 for the males in approximately 2:26. Great race Graham!
A few minutes later, the 'floodgates' were opened and soon the course was swarmed with runners left and right. To try and find a specific person out of the crowd was quite tiresome and definitely NOT easy! The mass parade had arrived!
I am thankful to have spotted the hubby, who promptly cut across the course traffic to wave hello and offer up high-fives to his fan club. Here he is looking strong with a huge smile. Focused and confident, yet he still took the time to say hello.
Another friend, Devon, came by shortly thereafter and took a quick pitstop to give his wifey a kiss and refuel! Devon completed his first Boston Marathon on Monday, great job buddy!!
Then there's dad, let's not forget about him! In seeing dad at mile 17, I could already tell he was not having a great race. His pace had considerably slowed since the half, likely because of the warmer temperatures, which can really slow down many marathoners, especially after a long winter of training and no time to adjust. Regardless, he looked happy and I knew he would stick out the conditions and give it his best. He came by for a quick kiss before moving on to greet mom a quarter mile later and then set off the tackle the remaining miles.
After sighting dad, I battled the busy metro to make the long trek downtown and find the hubby at the family meet up area (he was well beyond finished by the time I made it there). We worked our way to Boylston Street to catch my dad and take in the finish line excitement. It was a surreal experience to be standing just about a 100 yards from that sacred line, people swarming and screaming everywhere, racers passing by with huge smiles.
Here are a few of my favorite pictures:
What makes the Boston Marathon so special is the history behind it, the course, the stellar production and crowd support, but above all the people who are there to cross that finish line to achieve their personal goals. Amongst the struggle that comes to getting to any marathon finish, I saw mostly smiles parading down Boylston Street into that finish line. What an amazing gathering of runners from across the country, each with their own personal stories of why they are there and the obstacles they maybe had to overcome in the process. I am thankful for the opportunity to be Boston this year and watch this symbolic parade of victory and triumph in taking back that finish line, but above all to see the two people who inspire me most finish the Boston Marathon.
Dad overcome an injury that sidelined him for 3 weeks in February to get to that starting line. This June he will be 65 years old, and it's harder for someone his age to overcome such setbacks and the warmer temperatures that many runners battled later in the day. Regardless, he refused to give up and crossed that line in just over 5:30. Had it not been the Boston Marathon, he said he may have quit, but I'm glad he didn't! Even though he is not nearly as fast as he used to be, he is 65 and continues to thrive off of running with full intentions to continue for years to come. This fall, he is set to run the Richmond Marathon with my sister (her first marathon!) We are blessed daughters for certain!
The husband had a stellar day, setting a new PR by 7 minutes to run just under 2:48. What can I say, he is amazing! His time is impressive as is, but what it doesn't fully capture is all the struggle, hard work and dedication than went into achieving it. The husband is dedicated to his work, his patients and to helping others more so than anyone I've ever met, and this spring he trained consistently despite working overtime at his clinic. In his free time, he is often found assisting members of the Ultra VT team to work through their injuries so they too can perform at their best, or out crewing fellow teammates to help them achieve their goals, or out volunteering at various races. Tomorrow he will toe the line at the Promise Land 50k near Lynchburg, VA, just 5 short days after running Boston. Incredible he is!
Boston, thank you for being good to me and my guys! I am pumped and excited to hopefully return next year, this time as an official racer and not just a spectator!
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and endurance athlete residing in southwest Virginia alongside her husband and dog. Through this blog she aims to share favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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