I turned the last corner onto the infamous Boylston Street and could see the Boston Marathon banner that hangs over the prestigious finish line. I had less than half a mile to go. The end was in sight. Yet the 26.2 mile run from Hopkinton to Boston, Massachusetts started long before I began the race that day alongside 27,487 other runners.
My long road to Boston actually began four months prior, back in mid December, when I started my training program that would put me in top shape for this particular marathon. My goals were lofty this time around; I wanted to break 3:00 in the marathon or, at the least, run a personal best time. I was coming off a great summer and fall of racing and workouts and there was no reason that I should think otherwise. I had envisioned months of long runs on the weekends, speed work and marathon pace workouts twice a week, hill repeats to ensure I had the strength to endure all the downhill early in the race and the guts to conquer Heart Break Hill, and easy run days to recover my body and mind. All was going great until I reached the halfway point of my training program. Two months into my program, after a 16 miler, I had unusual pain in my right arch. Instant fear settled in the pit of my stomach. Having had several injuries in the past that required time off from running, I knew well enough to take it easy for a few days, ice, and take an anti-inflammatory. I suspected that I had plantar fasciitis and when it was not improving after a week of rest – which is mentally torturous during the midst of training for the biggest race of your life – I decided to get my foot checked out. I was given specific instructions on how to really treat my foot. Within a few weeks, my daily schedule of heating my foot before running in a sink of hot water, self-myofascial release with a tennis ball, stretching, strengthening, brutal ice baths after runs, and then massage, were improving the pain level in my foot. My at-home therapy became even more important to my training and running well as did my actual workouts. With my foot feeling improvements each week, I began to feel confident that all would go as I had planned and my fears subsided.
That changed quickly after a few short weeks later when I began to develop lateral knee pain in my right knee. I knew almost instantly that my iliotibial band and a tight piriformis had been irritated and was causing the pain. I spent another week cross training and not running and then slowly easing back into it. My fears returned, even more severely this time, that I might not even be able to run the whole marathon, let alone run a good time. I was now babying two injuries in the midst of trying to keep up my mileage and fit in long runs and speed work. I had entered a marathon runner’s nightmare. Nevertheless, I did not give up. In addition to my foot therapy, I added heating and icing my knee to the list, stretching, and foam rolling every day and sometimes more than once a day. I adjusted my training once again until I felt my knee slowly improving. On race day I was so thankful to run pain free, at least in my foot and knee, and finish in a personal record of 3:03:15. My finish time put me in the top 1% of females, as I was the 121st female out of the 12,610 that started the race. It was a race of unpredictable outcomes, but I knew at the end of the day, no matter what happened, I would be overjoyed and honored just to run in the Boston Marathon.
All races teach you something if you look for it, and as Olympic Gold Medalist, Eric Liddell, said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure.” I’ve always believed that running is a gift that I have been blessed to enjoy and to glorify God with. No matter how the race turns out, I understand that there is purpose in it and there is purpose in the training to get there. This season brought me through both physical and mental highs and lows. I learned that the knowledge and skills I’ve gained to help others feel better and improve their ability to run, exercise, or just do life, are truly the keys to doing so.
When Marathon Monday came, I was ready to race. As I walked with thousands of other runners to the start line, I knew more than ever before that each of us had our own journey to the Boston Marathon. No one runner approached that start line without struggle. And for that reason, it made it all the more rewarding to see the finish line and cross it.