Thursday, April 25, 2013

Perspectives on Boston 2013: Part 1

[I qualified for Boston this year in the hopes of making the trip with a group of my friends.This was my fourth time qualifying, but I have yet to actually be able to make the trip. Unfortunately I was not able to go again this time.  Little did I know that I would be missing probably the most historic Boston ever.  

Several of my friends did go, and some of them have agreed to share their experiences of Boston 2013 with you. This is the first of a series of posts from my friends who attended Boston this year and  who were willing to write about the experiences.  This one is from my friend, Kate Johnson (mom of the famous Nick who wrote the Turkey Trot race report).  It was her first Boston.]

Kate in Boston

4/15/13 was a day that I looked forward to for months. I found out in September that I had been accepted into the 117th Boston Marathon. Miles and miles of training and it was finally time to “Enjoy the moment. Celebrate the pain” as my friend Tori put it. 

I am very fortunate to have an awesome support person in my husband Mark. Without him I would not have gotten in the training needed to qualify for Boston let alone train for the race. He upgraded us to the VIP Boston experience which was so exciting! [Best husband ever!!] The highlight for me was the opportunity to meet the pioneer in women’s running, Kathrine Switzer. Mark had given me her book, Marathon Woman for Christmas and it is an amazing read.

The night before the race we had dinner with Kathy. There were 19 runners in our group, mostly women. She told us that we were setting a record to have 11000 women running the 117th Boston Marathon!
She signed my book with this note: “Kate – This is in Honor of your 1st Boston! A Victory Forever! Be Fearless!

Kate and Kathy
I didn’t sleep much that night, but I didn’t expect to. I couldn’t eat much the morning of the race either. I spoke to my kids who wished me luck and got ready to head to the start. The transportation was a Limo bus for the 19 runners and we had a lot of fun. Many of us were running our first Boston. One amazing woman was running her 9th Boston and another, Janine, who started running at 45, was running her 2nd Boston and 35th marathon. She showed me the ropes at Athlete’s village.  I felt like a new runner and excited to be a part of history.

Kate and Janine

I was pretty short on time with the bathroom stop at Athlete’s Village and the walk to the start. Suddenly it was time to get to my corral!

The race was very exciting. I had read the book, 26 miles to Boston by Michael Connelly, another gift from Mark. We had also driven the course on Friday morning. The crowds were amazing. I took a friend’s advice to have my name on my shirt and I lost track of how many times I heard it called out.

There was not a lot of talking among runners and I was running mostly with women. I kept a comfortable pace and took the rolling hills in stride. About mile 12 I saw Hannah Johnson on the course and that was a lot of fun. Soon after we went by the famous Wellesley scream tunnel and the energy was amazing.  I knew there was a big downhill about mile 15 and made sure to focus on my form. I looked forward to the timing mats, knowing how many friends and family were cheering for me back home.  I knew Mark and Geoff’s son Garrison would be near mile 17. I saw them and the wonderful sign that Tori Menold had surprised me with.

Mark and Tori

We all knew the first of the Newton hills was approaching after a 90 degree turn. The first was the hardest as it was ½ mile long. But the sign at the top that said, “9.2 miles to beer” made me laugh! It was a series of uphills and downhills and I still felt pretty good. Running by Boston College was amazing. Heartbreak Hill was approaching and it was tough mainly because it is at 20.5 miles into the race. It was my slowest mile but I didn’t stop to walk.  About 23 miles into the race my body wasn’t feeling that great. I kept pushing and took a few extra electrolyte tabs to help with the nausea. I remembered my mantra, “The faster you run the sooner you are done”. I kept looking forward to the timing mats, knowing the cheering was continuing at home.

Once we were on Beacon St, I looked forward to Citgo Hill. We had perfect weather up until this point and then the wind hit and it was cloudy.  Citgo Hill was just another landmark to me, I didn’t slow my pace.
I bought a great shirt at the expo that says, “Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston. 26.2”  I was looking for Hereford as I got past the 25 mile mark. I was still keeping on pace but my body was resisting. My heart was not giving up. I finally saw Hereford and it is a short street. The left on Boylston marks 600M to go. I didn’t have much left at that point but the crowd was amazing. I kept going to the finish and was thrilled to have earned a PR and another BQ!

It was the hardest race I have run and by far the most exciting. Only about 30% re-qualify at Boston, and I did it, along with my fast friends Geoff and Rex. 

The finish area was very crowded. This was my first large marathon, so I had no idea what to expect. There was a lot of stop and go to get water, snacks, blanket and, of course, our medals. Then we had to walk even
farther to get to the school bus that had our gear that we checked in at the start.  It was by bib number so at 17,161 I had a long walk.
The Medal!

I was very cold and tired and ready to collapse at this point.  I still had about 3 more blocks to walk to find Mark in the family meeting area. It was when I was walking on this street exhausted  that the first bomb went off. I didn’t know what it was. No one reacted, and we just kept walking.

I finally got to where I was supposed to turn right to get to the family meeting area. Everything was blocked off. They wouldn’t let me through, and I was almost in tears. My watch said it was 2:55. I had been on my feet since 9:00 when I got off the limo bus at Athlete’s Village and had finished my marathon at 2:05. A woman let me use her phone to call Mark, but of course there was no service. 

The family meeting had hundreds if not thousands of people. I happened to find Mark in that crowd. I was so thankful he is 6’2”! He never would have seen me. It took a few more minutes to get over to him, and then we met Geoff and his son Garrison and congratulated each other.  We were getting some information at this point and were told to clear the area. They had closed the subway, and we couldn’t get over to the finish area at all.  So we had to walk 2 miles back to our hotel. I think it took me close to an hour.

I was overwhelmed by the number of messages and phone calls I received during that afternoon, evening and the next day. Watching everything unfold on the news was very difficult. I had a lot of different emotions. I was so thankful to be safe but very sad for those who were not as fortunate as us. My son shares my love of running, and I am so thankful that he, along with the rest of my family, was safe at home. I am thankful that I ran fast enough to be able to finish safely.  

I am still angry at what was taken away from the runners. Those who trained and didn’t get to turn onto Hereford then to celebrate running down Boylston and cross the most famous marathon finish in the world.  I am part of the 117th Boston Marathon, and it will always be a part of me. I look forward to training and running the most prestigious marathon again.  

Related Posts:
My Thoughts on Boston 2013


  1. Thanks, Kate! And congratulations again. :-)

  2. Thanks for your moving story. I was lucky enough to get to the family meeting area a few minutes before you. This and other blogs and podcasts are helping the lucky uninjured ones along a mental healing process, I'm sure.

  3. Thanks for sharing. I was lucky enough to run Boston 10 years ago in 2003. I remember how much the spectators made the race so much more enjoyable. Glad you and those with you were kept safe. How special to meet Karen, too!


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