Thursday, April 23, 2009

My First Boston Marathon!

By Rebecca Rosenberg-Beran

This past Monday, I finished my first Boston Marathon! Like so many runners, I had built Boston up in my mind as the marathon of marathons. When I was in middle school and a member of my town’s recreation track team, my dad ran the NYC Marathon. I remember telling him that I’d one-up him when I was old enough – I’d run NYC and then I’d qualify for and run Boston too. I’m not sure if he thought I’d go through with it, but now, 15 years later, I did it!

I’m a new member of PPTC – I’d moved from Albany to Brooklyn in September and once I started getting settled in my new home and I started running regularly, I decided that this would be the year that I’d give Boston a try. But I knew that I’d need a supportive club to get me through the winter training. Meeting at Prospect Park was convenient, so I showed up at one of the weekly Wednesday night PPTC group runs to see if the club might be a good fit. I was immediately welcomed. When the group found out that I was training for Boston, they insisted that I come for the Saturday long runs. I made it out for some shorter group runs early on, and the few of us training for spring marathons added a few twenty-milers. It was so motivating – I’m always intimidated by the 20 mile training runs leading up to a marathon. Knowing there’d be other runners to get in the miles with made it much easier to get out the door on those Saturday mornings.

I got in all of my long runs and Boston weekend finally came. I took the bus up to Boston on Sunday afternoon and went straight to the expo. There I had my typical expo experience, where I walk in to the expo, get incredibly nervous waiting to get my number and t-shirt, and then try to walk through as fast as possible while looking for a pair cheap running gloves to throw away in the first few miles of the race. Something about expos really gets my nerves going....

On Monday morning, I took the bus from the finish in downtown Boston to the start in Hopkinton with what must have been thousands of other runners. The line of buses on the highway must have been a sight to see. The ride took what seemed like hours but fortunately, my seatmate, an experienced Boston runner and also from NYC, had lots of tips for me. We chatted about the many local and far off races he’s run, which really helped pass the time and make me a little less aware of how far away from downtown Boston we were driving.

Once I got to the “Athlete’s Village” I had planned on finding a place to sit and read a magazine to pass the time. However, I couldn’t help but watch the runners walk by as they got ready for their big day, meeting up with friends, meeting new friends and discussing race day plans. I met the two women sitting next to me who were both there for the first time too. We talked about how the scene was both very exciting and also a bit overwhelming. You could tell who’d been to Boston before, as they had blow up rafts to sit on… We were just sitting on the concrete.

I finally made it to the starting line just in time for the gun to go off. Because I made the cut for the first wave, my corral was pretty far back. I’d expected it to be crowded but nevertheless I was surprised at how long it took to get going and how crowded the early miles were. The first few miles were pretty emotional too – I’d finally made it to the starting line at Boston!! I was able to keep the pace under control and got into a rhythm about 2 miles in. I was ready and everything was going according to plan.

But those downhills were rough on my legs! By mile 10 I knew that it wouldn’t be my day for a PR. My quads were not happy with the course. So I backed off a bit and just tried to hold on. It was tough. At one point, I’m not really sure where, I found myself distracted by one of the guys running near me. Without warning, he grabbed a huge family-size bag of potato chips from a spectator… I couldn’t tell if they were being offered to him, or if he just grabbed them on his way by. He had a few, offered them to those of us around him, and then stuffed the bag in his shorts for later, saying that he’d need some salty food later on in the run. Gotta love the characters a big marathon brings out!

The hills started at around mile 16, and I was surprised to find that they felt good – it was just so nice not to be going downhill. I made it over Heartbreak Hill and then back to the final, downhill portion of the course. The only thing that kept me going in the last 10K was the cheering all around me. I sure was glad I’d thought to tape my name on my shirt the night before. I felt like a rock star, everyone cheering “Go Rebecca, You’ve Got It!”. I kept repeating their cheers to myself and counting down the miles. I even found the energy to pick it up when I saw the finish line in the distance. And then it was over – I had finished my first Boston Marathon! My legs are still not too happy about it, but now I’m even more determined not to let those downhills get me next time.