It’s here. If you have ever participated in any sporting event you know the feeling of race morning. Pretty much you could throw up at any moment (although I would save this for later). Questioning my sanity 6 months ago when I signed up to do this, I manage to get my race gear on, layer myself in warm clothes (it was 39 degrees outside!) check (and recheck) the gear in my official BAA race bag and walk the .5 mile from our hotel over to Boston Commons to get on the buses at 6:30 in the morning.As the Boston Marathon is a point-to-point race, runners are required to take an hour long ride on one of the 380 school buses they have arranged to transport them out to the athlete village staging area in Hopkinton, MA.
On the bus I sat next to a woman from Boston who was running for the MS charity. Thankfully the ride went by quickly as I listened to her stories of her training runs along the course and what to look for during the run. She was a charity runner and this was her first marathon. She was diagnosed with MS last year, had raised over $5000 for her charity and she just wanted to finish.
I don’t think she did.
After an hour long bus ride you, and 27,000 other runners who have to pee very badly, arrive at Athletes Village.Athletes Village is a school yard that has basically been turned into a temporary refugee camp surrounded by porta potties for the runners to wait until their start of the race (note: most runners are there for about 2 hours).
Wrapped in our plastic trash bags for warmth and carrying our bright yellow race bags filled with our only possessions, we resemble what a convention of the homeless might look like. Runners filled every inch of space in the compound – sitting, walking, stretching, laying down, jogging, slathering themselves with Vaseline and sunscreen, standing in porta pottie lines, sleeping, eating, etc. Nervous chatter and excitement filled the air.
Here in Athletes village I had plans to meet up with a woman I met online. Kind of like a marathon blind date. I had met her in one of the Runners World online forums and we had discovered through email that we were about the same age, in the same wave, had approximately the same qualifying time, we were both injured and had the same goal for Boston (which, by the way, was to relax and enjoy the whole experience!). Matchmakers.com could have not done a better job! We had agreed that we would meet before the race and start out together in an “uncommitted marathon relationship”. Meaning, if one of us wanted to go faster at anytime we would.
Finding someone you never met in a large crowd is not easy but we finally meet up at the buses where we drop off our race bags. We make our introductions as we head over to the porta potty lines for our final pit stop. Unfortunately the lines were long, moved slowly and we gravely underestimated the time to walk the .75 miles to the corrals.Us and a few other wave 2 runners quickly tried to weave our way through the remaining 8,000 runners that were lining up for wave 3 and finally made it to the start line. Only just a few minutes too late. Our wave had already left and they told us we now had to wait 20 minutes for the next wave to go off. In the moment I dismissed this because I was just there to have fun and didn’t care when I started. Plus, it gave us a good photo op at the start line. Later, I wonder if I would have started when I was supposed to if I would have been past the finish line when the terror occurred.
I must interject here that meeting my marathon buddy was the one of the best things that happened to me for the Boston Marathon. Things are always so much better when you have someone to share them with. Strangely enough, although I was surrounded by thousands of other people, I was ultimately alone to run the race. But now I had a new friend and she became my someone. My best friend for the next 20 miles. Two strangers, from different states, brought together by the same wave number and common thread of running, who could share their first experience of Boston with each other. We talked about family and training but mostly talked about what was happening around us. We pointed out to each other the sites along the way, commented on the great fans, kept each other on pace and reminded each other to GU and hydrate. We also kept reminding each other that this really was happening. We were running the Boston Marathon.