My #FinishStrongChallenge 2020

Hello again. It’s been a while since I last checked in, and boy have things changed since April 2019…

A couple years ago, I was celebrating the newest Boston Marathoners–smiling and cheering for the runners on Boylston during their final stretch to the finish line. I was elbow to elbow with spectators and we were all enjoying our mask-free living on what turned out to be a really beautiful (and sunny) Monday afternoon.

I was still trying to get my body back into shape to run again and seeing all of the victory dances that day definitely inspired me to keep going. I had high hopes of making a comeback in 2020 with the B.A.A. Distance Medley which included three races: the 5K in April on marathon weekend, the 10K in June, and the Half Marathon in October.

Obviously, we all know what happened almost a year later in March when the world shut down. Which meant, for the first time ever in the history of the race, the Boston Marathon (and the Medley) were postponed. During that time, I wasn’t as concerned with running since my mind was on many other things…like surviving a pandemic. But once the weather started to get a little nicer and warmer, I got the itch to try lacing up the shoes again. I went for my first run post-marathon in June of 2020 (2+ years later). I felt surprisingly good after my long hiatus and was really optimistic about getting back to distance running. I was feeling so good in fact that I signed up to run a virtual 5K for the Massachusetts ALS Association and racked up those miles Independence Day weekend.

A few months later, the B.A.A. announced a new race called the #FinishStrongChallenge which would be a virtual distance medley to replace the 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon races that were canceled earlier in the year. I signed up without hesitation because I knew I had it in me, and more importantly, I realized that I could still make that 2020 comeback like I had hoped. Plus, each race had a charity sponsor, so portions of my registration fee were benefitting amazing local organizations like Special Olympics of Massachusetts, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund.

The 5K

The #FinishStrongChallenge started at the beginning of October and gave runners until the end of December to finish all three virtual races, anywhere and at any time. I immediately created a running plan for myself to ease into the heavy mileage and to knock out a race per month. Up first in October was the 5K and I finished in 47:10 which was just over what I was hoping to get – but in my defense, the distance tracked on the app was not synced with my watch so I actually had to run a little bit more in order to complete the race on the app 🙂

The 10K (x2)

I felt good after that run, and during most of my training runs throughout the week, so I was excited to tackle the 10K next in November. My mileage was slowly adding up, as were the layers I had to wear for those early 6:30 AM runs along the Esplanade. The chilly air felt good when I was halfway through my run and overheating in my mask, but damn was it tough to get started most mornings.

I actually had to attempt the 10K twice because on my first go, I took quite the tumble on the uneven sidewalks of Back Bay once I hit the three-mile mark. No shocker there that I fell and got injured…tripped on a big crack–my phone went flying, my shoe fell off, and I went down pretty hard on my right knee and hand. The shock soon wore off when I realized I didn’t break any bones, but I looked down and saw a scratched up, bloody hand and a huge cut on my knee. Had to call a Lyft to take me home because the cuts were stinging so bad and I didn’t want to make matters worse. Lucky for me, my angel of a boyfriend had a full first aid spread ready for me as soon as I strolled into the apartment.

Fast-forward a couple weeks on my road to recovery with lots of Neosporin and treadmill walks, and I was ready to try the 10K again. I even wore the same outfit because I thought it would be dramatically symbolic for whatever reason lol. Second time was the charm! Your girl finished with a time of 1:39:00 and I was pleased given the circumstances. With those two races down, I was just left with 13.1 to finish which I was half excited for and half dreading.

The Half

Time was running out to finish the medley since I had to take a couple weeks off in between my 10K-attempts and only had about 20 days to increase mileage in order to, no pun intended, finish strong. I was getting weekly active release therapy treatments at Wellness In Motion again and doubled up on strength training to prevent injury but was still very nervous for this half marathon. I hadn’t run long distance like that in a longgg time and I wasn’t sure how my body would hold up, let alone in the cold December weather.

In typical Alexis fashion, I waited until the last possible moment to run the race and ended up completing the Half on 12/30, just one day before the Challenge closed. My official time was 3:37:37 which is probably my personal worst, but I still finished and that was all that mattered to me. I was greeted at the virtual “finish line” outside my apartment by my boyfriend and our puppy with a cute little sign, and flowers (and sushi) once we went upstairs.

But the real goodies came about two months later in the mail – all three finisher t-shirts and medals! I was so excited to add them to my collection and display them proudly on my wall. Like I said after the marathon, these medals mean so much and remind me of huge accomplishments in my life that I never thought would happen. Despite all the setbacks I faced over the past couple of years, I am so proud of myself for pushing through and continuing to reach my goals.

2021 is looking pretty good and I’m excited for new challenges ahead.


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