My Boston Marathon

The day we’ve all been waiting for finally rolled around – it was April 16th and I was ready to run. I had my fair share of nerves leading up to the race, but I knew how hard I worked to even feel “ready” to toe the line that morning. It was go-time.

It was also monsoon-time. Two weeks out, people kept saying that they were looking at the forecast and it wasn’t looking good. I never wanted to hear any of it because I thought it would miraculously change to sunshine with a nice breeze. Even the night before the race when officials were sending out email warnings about the weather conditions I thought that it could still turn around for the morning. LOL I was wrong. Woke up and looked out my window to see gray skies and dreariness. UGH!

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I ended up having to re-think my outfit and faced the fact that I was going to need a jacket the whole race. I had long leggings, thick socks, my Team Challenge ALS singlet, compression arm sleeves, a windbreaker (found out it wasn’t a raincoat before I even got to the start line – no protection whatsoever), a hat and some gloves. I saw that temps were low, but to be honest, it wasn’t anything I hadn’t come across before. My first half marathon was during a frickin blizzard and majority of my training for this race was in 30-40 degree with high winds. The only thing I wasn’t ready for was the rain. I always draw the line there when it comes to running outside – if it’s raining, it’s not happening! But I had no choice that morning and it made me feel better that all the runners were in this together, rain or shine. This was my Boston experience and I was determined to make the most of it.

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I vaselined my entire body, had my pancake breakfast, took a banana for the road and was out the door to board the buses to Athletes’ Village in Hopkinton. It was actually pretty funny to see everyone dressed head to toe in ponchos or plastic bags. But then it got real serious once we got off the bus. This place was a war zone. Mud EVERYWHERE and no shelter from the rain. Thank god I wore an old pair of sneakers because I got stuck in the mud and my foot actually came out of my shoe at least 3 times. I found some pavement and started to plan out how I was going to change all my stuff without getting completely soaked. For the record, it’s really hard to change with a poncho on! Once I had everything situated I got in line to walk over to the start. Met up with Tyler, another runner on Team Challenge ALS and we both couldn’t believe how shitty it was outside!

To put it all into perspective for you guys, here’s some stats:

  • Runners
    • 29,978 registered
    • 26,948 (*3,030 no-shows)
    • 25,746 finished (*1,202 drop-outs, including ~50% of male/female elites)
  • Medical Emergencies
    • 1,298 medically treated on-course
    • 992 medically treated at finish line
    • 80 hospitalized (including 3 elite runners)
  • Weather
    • 30F starting line temp
    • 38F finishing line temp
    • 32mph winds and downpours
    • Noted as the coldest temperature for the race in over 30 years

How I Spent My 6:07:28

The First 5K
The starting line was intimidating. Everyone was coming out of the gate so fast, yet here I was struggling to get my poncho off and trying to get my tracking app to start. Nothing was working and I was afraid my phone was going to get soaked so I took a quick pic and threw it in my fanny pack. I crossed the line around 11:30 but I could have sworn it was later than that, I thought I started around 11:45/12.

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The first couple miles weren’t too bad. I was completely soaked already and my feet felt so heavy because of all the water. There weren’t a ton of people on the course cheering, but I kind of expected that in the first couple towns. I put some KT tape on the outside of my jacket with my name so people would call out “Go Alexis” every so often. If they couldn’t read that they would say “Yeah ALS, you got this!” or “Go Red!”

Around mile 2, my shoe started feeling really loose so I pulled off to the side of the road and that’s when I realized I had to pee! Tied it tighter and then took off to the nearest portapotty. I could write another blog alone about how DISGUSTING these bathrooms were. It was so gross. Now I see why people say they just go to the bathroom while they’re running!

The next couple miles were pretty easy and I was shocked that I was going through them so quick. My plan was to take an energy gel every 4 miles and switch off between water and gatorade at every mile. I didn’t drink the full cup everytime, I mainly just swished it around in my mouth for a little. It was kind of scary though because I didn’t know what was sweat vs. what was the rain so I had no idea how much I needed to drink. I’m a heavy sweater so I played it safe and took fluids often.

On My Way to 10K
This stretch was a little more challenging. I decided to not listen to music before I even knew what the weather was going to be like, but taking out headphones now was out of the question. Instead I started with my mantras. The one I kept using the most was a reminder of why I was even running in the first place: “This weather sucks, but ALS sucks more. You are running for people who can’t. They can’t, you fu*king can.” 

It was also great to hear some of the spectators acknowledge all the charities. They knew we were the last Wave and we were all running for a reason. They keep shouting that out and congratulating us for all our hard work. “You raised all that money. You earned this, now go get it.” A couple people even saw the ALS Association logo on my shirt and patted me on the back as I ran by saying, “that is such a good cause.”

Getting to 15K Was A BITCH
I was really starting to struggle at this point. The rain was coming down even harder and I was forced to hold my jacket closed during some of the winds. I felt super uncoordinated when I was running and could barely see where I was going. Luckily, a woman standing on the corner a little after Mile 9 pointed to me and said “Come here, you need a poncho!” I stupidly got rid of mine at the start because I didn’t think anyone else was going to run with them on. It kept catching the wind so I figured it would be more of a nuisance than anything. But, I really regretted not having one so I ran over and she helped me put it on. What an ANGEL. Honestly, this is what saved my race.

I got to Mile 10 and I almost forgot half of the ALS Association staff was there waiting. There were barely any people out watching so I figured they might have left, that is until I heard my name being called out. I was so happy to see some familiar faces! They asked how I was doing and I mentioned my back was hurting but everything else felt okay. I was determined to finish no matter what! I waved goodbye and got right back to it.

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My watch wasn’t working to track my mileage because it was so water logged, but I could still check the time. I knew my family was in Wellesley (13.1 mark) but they told me beforehand that they would have to leave to get back on the commuter rail by 2:50 or else they wouldn’t be able to see me at the finish line. I wanted to get there by at least 2:30 to give them some time but I was nervously checking my watch the whole way. I desperately needed to get some dry socks, pass off my gloves, and get rid of some of the weight in my fanny pack so I busted my butt to get there in time.

I knew I was close when I passed the Wellesley girls who were screaming in their red lipstick and begging for a kiss. I had heard people joke about that for months, but I didn’t actually think it would happen especially on a day like that with the rain. I ran by to give them all high fives and they all tried to grab me for a kiss. It was crazy!

After that was supposed to be the famous “scream tunnel” in Wellesley but it was almost completely empty when I got there. I looked everywhere for my family but I didn’t see them. It was a few minutes before 2:30 and I kept thinking, “Please be here, please be here, c’mon I made it in time, please be here.” (Since I thought I started the race closer to 12 I was like “WOW, I just PR’d” but my time was actually 2:55 so today wasn’t the day!) Came over a little hill and that’s when I saw them standing out in the rain with their ponchos. I threw my hand up in the air and then ran over as fast as I could! Switched my socks, got some hugs, and was off again.

Funny story: I loveeee Zac Efron so my boyfriend made me a sign that said “Run like Zac Efron is at the finish line.” When I left them at the 13.1 mark he shouted out to me, “Zac’s waiting at the end!” Little did I know that he WAS ACTUALLY at the finish line because his brother, Dylan, was running in the race! What are the odds?!? Sadly, I didn’t get to meet him, hence the face below 😦

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The Second 13.1
I started to take it easy a bit because the rain was picking up and I knew I wasn’t on any other time constraints with my family. I never ran this 5ish mile stretch of the course after Wellesley so I didn’t really know what to expect. My back was still killing me and the bottom of my feet were starting to ache. I gotta give it to my knees though, they didn’t hurt one bit! I tried popping into a med tent for some advil but they said they didn’t have medicine to give which I thought was super weird. Luckily some spectators had a tent up with water, gatorade, gels, food, and ADVIL! I snagged a couple peanut butter pretzels, had one of the girls give me two pills, popped them and then I was off. Looking back on this, they didn’t even touch my back pain 😦

Around Mile 17, a guy on a bike who worked for the race pulled up alongside me and asked if I was warm. I kinda laughed at the question because I wasn’t “warm”…we were all running in the freezing rain! But to be honest I didn’t really feel the chill or get to hypothermia conditions like other runners out on the course. He gave me a warning that the pace I was at would be putting me over the 6-hour mark which means they’re opening the course to traffic, my time would not be counted or official, and I wouldn’t get a medal. Well, you can imagine I said a few choice words to myself after he rode off. I kept looking at my watch and thinking there was NO WAY the course is closing already. The rules said it was 6 hours from when the last runner crossed the start line. Still, at this point I kept thinking I crossed closer to 12 so I thought 6PM should have been the cutoff. I should have been fine.

But then I saw some people start walking after the guy on the bike talked to them and this one girl pulled off to see her family and started hysterically crying that she wasn’t going to get a medal. I was terrified. I DID NOT put all this work in and run in these conditions to just get “disqualified”.

For about 2-3 miles I didn’t even enjoy the race because I was so concerned about this time thing. I tried to ask every volunteer, officer, or staff member I passed what the cutoff time was but NO ONE KNEW. Finally this woman saw that I was frantically flailing down the street and she was said “see that black car up there, go get it, that’s your medal.” I literally thought she was dehydrated and going crazy but then I realized she meant the car was the 6-hr pacer and if you wanted a medal, you had to get your ass in front of it. The car wasn’t that far away, but at mile 17 after the first hill and in these conditions, it seemed like it would be impossible to reach. BUT LET ME TELL YOU, I started sprinting to get in front of it. My lungs were burning, my back was tensing up so bad that it was shooting down my legs and I was almost tripping because I was wincing with every step.

This is when I brought back my mantra, you fu*king can, you deserve this, now go get it. I kept thinking back to my training and all the times I would randomly get some energy and do sprints down a city block, or in a MyStryde class when we would have sprint intervals and endurance prep. This was the time to make my move and make it happen.

I got in front of the car, ran a little ahead of it, and then walked for a bit while massaging my back. If you saw how slow this car was moving, you would have been like, “Alexis, cmon it’s not that hard.” I was able to walk for almost a quarter mile and stay ahead of it. It made me laugh that I put so much effort in to get in front of it, but again at that point in the race, it was pretty damn difficult.

Getting Close to Heartbreak Hill
Now we were around mile 18, and I saw a familiar landmark, the Newton firehouse! This is where we started our last long run on the course just a week before the race. I tried to reassure myself that I’ve already done this before, it’s a piece of cake. I have no idea how I did it, but I found enough strength to keep jogging to put a pretty good distance between me and that damn car. It was my main concern in the moment and I kept checking back over my shoulder every 15 seconds to make sure it was far away from me.

Although I knew what to expect with the next couple hills, I also knew my body was going to have a hard time going up. I got closer to Mile 20 near Heartbreak Hill and was amazed that there were people still cheering. The rest of the ALS staff was there and again I almost missed them because I was shocked everyone was still waiting – they are the BEST!

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I decided to conquer the rest of the hills by attempting to jog up and if I couldn’t I would walk, then I would use the downhills to my advantage and run through those to pick up lost time. Worked out pretty well for the most part! I was so focused on my running (and on my pain) that I didn’t even realize I only had 6 miles left. The closer I got, the more real it started to feel. I made it to Boston College and what was supposed to be thousands of drunk kids cheering turned out to be three girls dressed in hot dog costumes. They still got me pumped up though! And made me hungry, this is when I really started thinking about food.

Bema, Help Me Out!
When I got past BC, I knew I had to take it easy. My back was tightening more than it was before and made it difficult to even move my arms in a stride without feeling pain. By now it had spread to my upper and lower back. Feeling discouraged, I took a minute and asked my grandmother for help. I made a joke about the weather, started crying and then asked for some strength to make it to the finish line because I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I actually had some energy to continue jogging after that so I know she pulled through for me.

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Learned the true meaning of what it takes to be “Boston Strong” that day!

The Final Miles
Going through Coolidge Corner was such a weird experience. I knew where I was, but I didn’t at the same time. I can’t describe it, it was just very strange. I ran by Shawn, another runner for Team Challenge ALS and we exchanged some words of encouragement before we split up. I kept trucking along and finally saw that beautiful CITGO sign! Made my way through Fenway and was shocked at how few people were there. Again, I was told the last couple miles are so incredible because the streets are packed with spectators cheering for you. I’ll give credit to the people that were there though because they were cheering their hearts out for us. They kept saying “You didn’t come all this way to give up now, go go go.” And they were absolutely right.

Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston
As soon as I started going through the underpass on Commonwealth I saw a sea of discarded ponchos and jackets. I assumed people got rid of them for the finish line picture so I did the same. It was a bittersweet goodbye to the thing that got me through 75% of the race, but at the same time I was so glad to rip it off!

Now it was time for the big moment. I was about to make the famous Right on Hereford & Left on Boylston! It was so surreal, I still can’t believe it happened. I saw my boyfriend, Matt right before the turn onto Boylston and ran over to give him a hug. He was screaming, “LEX, YOU DID IT!” and all I could say was “AM I UNDER 6 HOURS?” hahaha! He was so confused and just told me to keep running.

Boylston was a dream. The crowds were the thickest I’d seen all day and they were all hooting and hollering for the runners passing through. I almost wanted to stop right there in the middle of the road and soak it all in, but I was scared I wouldn’t physically be able to go again if I did. Everyone kept telling me this stretch would feel 18 miles long, but having walked it almost everyday for the past 2 years I brushed it off. Boy, I was wrong! THIS WAS THE HARDEST STRETCH OF THE COURSE. You could see the end, but it just felt so far away.

Finish Strong, Boston Strong.
I was running past the Prudential Center when I saw my Dad waving his arms with the rest of my family. I hugged everyone and waved to my two little nieces all bundled in their stroller. My mom was hysterically crying and she almost got me to do the same, but I was all smiles at that point. (She has been one of my biggest supporters through this, but in the beginning, one of my biggest “doubters.” Her and my Dad just didn’t want me pushing myself too much and end up getting hurt – every parent’s concern so it was understandable! Even when I saw them at the halfway mark, they kept saying “Are you okay? It’s alright if you can’t do it, these conditions are horrible.” But I felt good and there was no way I wasn’t going to finish what I started.) So those tears at the finish line were happy ones, she was so damn proud.

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Ran up a little further and saw Shawn’s wife cheering near the Lord & Taylor. We met at the pasta dinner the day before and it was such a nice surprise to hear my name called out! Then I was near the Lenox Hotel and I knew some of my friends would be there, but I didn’t know that my brother & brother-in-law would be over there too! I WAS SO HAPPY! I had like a row of fans in the front, it was amazing. At that point I didn’t care about the time, I just wanted to go see everyone. (Huge shoutout to Kelly, Carolina, Deepika, and Katie for making me signs and waiting out in the rain – MVPs!)

Finish Line Feels
This was the moment, I was about to finish the Boston Marathon. The skies were gray, it was still raining, and the lights from the finish line were so bright that it felt like I was on a stage. I looked around at all the people, looked down at that beautiful line across the road and mustered enough strength to push my arms up in the air when I ran through. I did it.

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I imagined that exact moment for months. What it would look like, sound like, feel like. Would I cry, would I hyperventilate, would I collapse? (All possibilities knowing me!) I would practice that moment in some of my training runs and it always ended in tears, so when it actually happened I was shocked when nothing started streaming down my face. I think I was just so happy, there was no time for tears. I could not stop smiling.

After you walk through the finish line, you have to continue to make your way down the street. The first stop was the medal station and a man was waving me over. I saw my time when I crossed and it was 7 minutes past the 6 hour mark – I guess that pacer car was BS after all. I did the confused look and pointed at me chest, like “who me?” He laughed as he put the medal around my neck and said, “Congratulations, you just finished the Boston Marathon.” 

This is when it hit me. I started to tear up and was just looking around in disbelief that all of that just happened. I didn’t care about my time, I didn’t care about how I looked, I just did something I once thought was impossible and I was so proud of myself.

I got my finisher blanket next and then grabbed a banana and come Craisins. I agreed to meet up at Marshalls with my family, so I was making my way over there when all of a sudden Matt popped up out of nowhere. He gave me the biggest hug and just kept saying, “You did it, I’m so proud.” I started hysterically crying and finally said out loud, “I fu*king did it.” Seriously the greatest feeling, I can’t even put into words how amazing this accomplishment felt. I’m getting emotional all over again even as I’m typing this.

I met up with my parents and my brother and walked back to the apartment. On the way there I happened to run into the girl who was hysterically crying about not getting a medal. I said, “Hey, we did it, we got the medals!” and you could tell she was still in shock from the whole thing but smiled back and said “We did it.”

Recover & Refuel
Next thing on the agenda was to get some food and FAST. All restaurants over by the finish line were crazy busy so we opted to get some Cheesecake Factory to-go. I inhaled my burger and fries and then just relaxed for the rest of the night. Going to bed was a struggle because everything hurt and I felt like I was dying. My back was still in a lot of pain and no sleeping position felt comfortable. But instead of focusing on that, I decided go on my phone which finally came back from the dead. I thought there was some serious water damage and it was gone for good! I had almost 200 notifications to reply to between texts, Instagram DMs, and Facebook comments. I was definitely feeling the love ❤

Marathon Tuesday aka #MedalTuesday
Of course the next day the weather was beautiful out, figures! I went to go get my medal engraved with my name and finish time and then walked around the city some more to get some of the soreness out. It was so cool to see everyone in their finisher jackets around the city. It was a sea of pink! Like my brother-in-law was saying all weekend, “You just joined an elite club, wear this with pride.” I definitely did and you could tell everyone else was too. We earned that jacket and that medal.

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What Lifted Me?

IMG_0881Well for starters, the crowds that day! It definitely wasn’t the full “Boston Experience” everyone raves about, but it was still pretty amazing. I am still in awe of the idea that complete strangers stood out in the rain for over 6 hours to cheer on runners. Like, what!?! That kind of stuff just doesn’t happen – except in Boston. You couldn’t help but smile the whole way because of the encouragement and support from these people. They kept telling me, “you’re an inspiration, you got this!” but I definitely feel like they were the ones that inspired me that day.

Second, the volunteers & staff members. Holy shit, they all deserve medals too! Young kids, older folks, and every age in between – they were such a huge help on the course and such great motivators when we needed it the most. I can’t say enough about them, they were the best.

And last but certainly not least, all of my family & friends. You guys have been with me on this journey since day 1 and have been cheering me on for the past 6 months. I’ve had many highs, but even more lows and I’m so thankful I had such a strong support system to pick me up when I couldn’t bounce back on my own. I have never felt more loved in my entire life than I have these past few weeks and it has made my heart so damn full. I will always, always, always remember what you guys did for me these past few months and hope one day I get to return the favor. I’ve said this from the beginning, but the support really does mean the world to me. You helped me achieve something I never thought would be possible in my wildest dreams, and for that, I’m forever grateful. On top of that, you helped me raise over $8K for a cause that has been close to my heart for over a decade. I JUST CANNOT SAY THANK YOU ENOUGH, I LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH. ❤

What’s Next?

Training for this race has really made me fall in love with running all over again. It’s hard, it makes you feel crappy about yourself somedays, but it’s soooo rewarding in the end. You surprise yourself with what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it and that feeling alone is worth all the pain and long hours.

I really want to start doing more races whether it’s a 5K, 10K, a half and yes, I’m crazy enough to want to do a full marathon again. I’ve seen some incredible athletes throughout this journey; you see how much work they put in and it makes you want to be better too. I would love to get faster and years down the road (many years down the road) actually qualify for the Boston Marathon. I also have my sights set on the Abbott World Majors and hope to become a Six-Star Finisher which means I would have to complete 6 of the most prestigious courses around the world: Boston (check!), NYC, Chicago, Berlin, Tokyo, and London. Seems pretty crazy now, but then again so did the thought of me running Boston over a year ago!

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But for now, I’m going to ease back into running. I want to take some time to focus on myself and fully recover before going through another training cycle. I’m still going to use this platform to share my progress and my journey to become a stronger, faster, and better runner. Hell, one day I might even become a six-star finisher! After all, Boston was just the beginning 😉

 

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