Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The most fitting word for this race.

Look at the concentration. It was quite an intense race.

This was right before mile 9. I thought the runners would thin out a bit but, I guess that's hard to do with 25,000+ runners.

This was at mile 9. I was SO excited to see my parents.

Thank you so much for coming to support me Mom and Dad. I love you!

This was mile 16 where Jhordan joined me to run the rest of the race. I was obviously thrilled to see her too!

This was at mile 20 when Linsey joined us.

We just crossed the finish line . . . you can see it in the back ground. I was dead. Really.

I was so grateful for these two friends who helped me to finish.

The medal.

Finding Michael after the race was all I wanted to do. He has been my rock of support through all of the training, injury, and execution of this race.

Dana Farber really takes care of their runners. Inside of the recovery zone they had a place for you to change out of your drenched clothing, some nice food prepared for you to enjoy, but most importantly, over 40 massage tables with volunteers prepared to work on your very sore muscles. What a dream come true!

I admit that I look terribly tired here! It was such a rewarding tired though.

What a wonderful experience all of this has been. Thank you everyone for your love and support.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Boston in 4:15

I finished the Boston marathon. It was wicked awesome.

I'm sore, very sore. And tired, very tired.

I arrived at the Boston Common where 25,000 runners, give or take a few, were trying to load buses to head to Hopkinton--the start line for the race. It was amazing to witness a sea of runners file onto these buses. It was so efficient.

Hopkinton was electric. I had about an hour before my wave started and I enjoyed the time to relax, stretch, get a few last minute pieces of advice, and prepare for the mental battle ahead. The weather could not have been more perfect! Just as we were lining up to start the second wave of runners, the sun was peaking it's way out from behind the last of the clouds. The temperature was a perfect 52 with a slight breeze.

I was surprised how quickly I was able to cross the starting line with as many runners as there were, I think my delay time was only about 6 minutes. I started the marathon running 9:43 minute splits per mile and finished the VERY hilly last half of the marathon running 9:44 minute splits. I stopped to visit with people who had come out to watch, to stretch, to walk through the water stations--generally, I didn't push myself too hard until the end of the race. I don't know where my energy came from, but I had it . . . until mile 23.

I thought I'd be very emotional at the end . . . and I wasn't, I was cranky and couldn't believe that I had run so far and I still had to keep running . . . 3 more miles. My legs were killing, my feet aching and my body tingling. And there were still several hills to overcome at the end. I thought if I saw another hill, I would just swear . . . literally.

Once we finally rounded the street onto Boylston, the thousands and thousands of people in the crowds were just a blur in the backgroud. The finish line was about 700 yards away and I was behind a man who stopped. So I stopped. The way I was feeling, I was fine walking to the finish at this point. It's amazing to me how far I had come and with only 700 yards left, I felt SO justified in walking to the finish. I was convinced that my body could not start running again. And then, out of NO where, I found myself sprinting to the finish line. Talk about psycho. My mind was off and my legs were on and I didn't feel like I had any control over either.

Crossing the finish line was so relieving. I don't think I would have made it as far as I did, with the pace that I did, without Jhordan or Linsey there to help run me in. I was so grateful for their support on the course. Jhordan ran me in from mile 16 and Linsey joined up with us with 6 miles to go. It was great to be flanked with love and support for the last 10 miles. I loved that they were able to cross the finish with me too! The way the course is laid out, they have barriers to keep the crowds back for the last 2 or 3 miles of the course, so they literally weren't able to jump off the path anywhere. (Thank you both for being with me!)

I'm going to throw together some pictures of the race that my family and friends took, and I'll add a few more details . . . I just thought you might want to know how it was. So amazing. I even have thoughts about do it again next year, and I'm close to convincing Michael to join me!

Thank you for all your love and support. I can hardly believe that I just finished the Boston Marathon!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Boston Marathon

There are only 5 days left until the race. Every time I think about it, my stomach drops into my toes and my heart skips several beats. I am so excited, but as excited as I am, and I equally nervous. After all of these months of training, and these MILES of running, what if I get sick, or my knees give out, or the weather is atrocious? I feel pretty certain, that no matter what happens I’ll be running on the 21st of April, but what if???

The boys and I met Michael after work yesterday to join him for dinner. He works downtown in a beautiful building in the heart of Boston’s Back Bay. There is no way to be in Boston and not be aware that the marathon is fast approaching. Adidas is the main sponsor for the race and they have larger-than-life size ads everywhere you turn. They are photos of previous runners with their bibs, their number and a quote scribbled across the front them. Just seeing them triggers the aforementioned stomach-heart reaction.

Several of my favorites are:
A girl, her blonde hair pulled back, she has a white jacket on (it must have been a cold race day), she looks like she was struggling. Her bib said “my legs were screaming, but the crowd was screaming louder. Impossible is Nothing.”
Two men with white shirts on, both look filled with fatigue. “We started together, we ended together. Impossible is Nothing.”
My favorite:
Two women running, their brunette hair pulled back, black jackets on. They must be close to the finish line because they are holding hands and they have a look of relief on their faces. The bib reads: “Make sure your friends are right where you need them. Impossible is nothing.”

For some reason this ad always evokes so much emotion in me. I can’t pass it without welling up with tears. I can just imagine the fatigue I will be feeling after 26.2 miles. To know that my family will be at the end to strengthen and support me is a little overwhelming. My parents are arriving on Thursday with my sister Kristen and her son Tyler. Michael’s parents are flying in on Saturday night. And there’s Michael. Michael has been amazing during these last 8+ months of training. He’s never once complained about my Saturday runs that consume the entire morning, or the naps that I love to take after them. He has been so encouraging and accommodating.

If you’ve never watched the Boston, let me try to paint a picture for you. This is the most prized marathon in the nation. This is one of the only races that you have to qualify for . . . and the qualifying times are rigorous. (Unless you are running as a charity runner like I am. There are only a small percentage of us and we’re going to be bringing in the rear!) Imagine 25,000 runners. And then, imagine ten times that number of spectators lined along the course—the entire course—all 26.2 miles of the course to cheer, support and encourage the runners. I hear that there isn’t a quiet moment the entire run. I’m so used to hearing my heart pound and noticing the rhythm of my breathing. I doubt I will even be able to hear those over the roar of the crowd. I hear it is magical. I hear that near the end you experience one of two emotions: you are so exhausted that you don’t want to finish the race, the fatigue is so great that you will gladly give up all the months, hours, and miles of training to just stop running; or you are so exhausted that you just cry for the last 5 miles after ascending Heart-break Hill.

No matter the emotion, I am determined to finish this race. In September of last year I started training for the Boston because of my friend Catie Stubben who was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma. This is a rare disease in which cancer cells are found in the bone or in soft tissue. Catie was 22 weeks pregnant when she was first diagnosed and because of the progressive nature of the cancer, it was imperative that she begin chemotherapy immediately. It overwhelmed me to imagine being in her position: a mother of two and pregnant with her third with seven months of chemotherapy, doctors appointments, surgery, and radiation ahead of her. She and her husband Steve were incredibly courageous and optimistic through the whole process.
Because of our concern for Catie, Michael and I became involved locally with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. It was through this involvement that I received an invitation to race in the 2008 Boston Marathon with the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge (DFMC) team in honor of Catie.
To support DFMC, we have been raising funds for cancer research. With many generous donations, we have nearly reached our personal goal of $7500. If there are some of you who would still like to donate to this wonderful cause, we are allowed to accept donations until May 21, 2008.

Here's how to donate:
By following these instructions, any donations will be applied to the DFMC fund-raising goal.
1. Click on www.RunDFMC.org.
2. On the left side of the page, click on the "Support a Runner" button.
3. Enter my first and last name: Jennifer Smith, and follow the prompts from there.

In case you wanted to track me on race day:
On April 21st, go to www.baa.org and put in either my name or my bib number: 22210
The race starts at 10:30 am east coast time.

Here's a really cool site with an interactive map of the coarse: