Boston Marathon 2018 Recap: DNFing is Harder Than It Looks

Well, this wasn’t the trip I had planned when I booked it in February. It certainly wasn’t what I had in mind when I qualified for the Boston Marathon in November 2016. But life is funny, and it’s the trip I ended up having. Here’s the rundown on my trip to Boston to NOT run a marathon – runner’s version.

We landed in Boston Thursday morning and went over to the expo. Let me back it up a bit. About 15 minutes before we were going to board our flight, I realized I had left the one thing I had to bring: my Boston Marathon Passport.

BQ-1

This was my ticket into the expo and getting my bib. Luckily there is a special booth set up for people just like me who forgot their passport, and I was issued a replacement easily. Phew.

BQ-2

Got my bib, celebration jacket, and wandered around for a bit. The expo is huge and you could literally spend hours in there. In fact, I would probably park myself in front of the Clif booth and try each and every sample! But, I was with a civilian (i.e., a non-runner) so we didn’t spend too much time in there. The expo definitely pumps you up and, not gonna lie, this is where I got one of those awestruck moments of what I had accomplished and what was happening. It’s hard not to get that feeling as you see all the signs welcoming you.

Everything is geared towards the marathon on this weekend. It’s like the city holiday, with many people having Monday off. All over the city, you see fit people in their running shoes sporting the BAA 2018 marathon jackets. As an athlete, you feel pretty special, like the city is celebrating you. Which, why not, most of us worked super hard (like four years hard) to get here. This is quite a change for me as most of my races are low key and no one outside of running cares much about the race.

Here, everyone cares. Pretty cool.

BQ-4

The only other pre-race marathon-y thing I did was take photos at the finish line.

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I initially thought I would have little to report on race day since I didn’t plan on running more than a mile or two. When I saw my sports ortho towards the end of March I knew the choices were (1) gut out the marathon and risk at best an indefinite delay in my racing season and at worst damaging my foot to the extent that it could affect my quality of life, or (2) stop training and begin rehab immediately. I chose option 2. Perhaps if it had happened a year ago I would have chosen option 1, but I had already put my next goal on hold for a year and I was no longer willing to keep postponing it. Plus my real goal was to qualify. I liken it to me getting the degree but just not being able to walk the stage for the ceremony. So given that, my goal was to simply line up and run the one mile I was cleared to run on that hallowed course, and then just drop out.

I had researched the B.A.A. website, and this is what it says regarding not being able to finish the marathon:

BQ-7

There would most likely be an emergency vehicle at each aid station, and I would catch one of those to the finish. Easy-peasy, right?

If you’re reading this recap, you know the race-day conditions were cold, rainy and wind- gusty. Athlete’s Village provided some protection from the elements but was also a muddy biohazard. You actually wanted to spend time in the port-o-potty since it was warm and relatively clean. The village is basically a large tent jammed with people sprawled out on reflective strip blankets, surrounded by throwaway clothing, discarded banana peels, and trash bags. So many trash bags – some to sit on, others to hold actual trash, and still more to put over running shoes to protect them from the mud. Thankfully, Boston runs like the German train system: on time. I didn’t have to wait long before we started out to the starting line. The start line was one mile away. In the cold sideways rain. It was at this point that I realized my feet were frozen.

For such a grand race, the start is charmingly small-towny. The corrals are wee, and we lined up on the main strip outside of the local pizzeria. We barely got settled, and then we were off! Down the streets of Hopkinton we went, and despite the inhospitable weather, a good amount of people lined the streets to cheer us on. This was the first time I had run an uninterrupted mile in four weeks, and I was excited and wary, especially running on frozen feet. I hit mile 1, looked to my left, saw a red vehicle, and stopped to carry out the rest of my DNF plan. I walked up to a state police officer, told him I injured my foot and couldn’t finish and needed one of the emergency vehicles to take me back. He had no idea what I was talking about. Yikes, but he was willing to find out, so cool. He turned me over to the state police in charge, who also didn’t know what I was talking about but said I could sit in his warm truck while he figured it out. Done! Wow, that truck felt amazing.

He came back to check on me, offered me a peanut butter sandwich, and confirmed there would be emergency sweep vehicles. Only thing was we had to wait until the last runners went by. Still, no problem. I was warm; I was dry.

The last runner came and went, and no emergency sweep vehicle arrived. After more communications, another state police officer showed up and said that the emergency vehicles were further down the road, but that we could not get to them since all the roads were blocked. However, he said he could drop me off in town or at a train station. Well, I was prepared for this, and this was exactly why I have no photos of this event. I had wanted to save the battery on my phone in case I needed it for an emergency, like an emergency Uber trip.

The second state police officer dropped me off at the pizzeria near the start line where I requested an Uber, watched the replay of Des Linden’s awesome victory and waited. And waited. And waited. I eventually got the call from the Uber driver that he could not get into town because the roads were still closed.

Now I started to panic. I found yet another state police officer. And this one, well, I am still processing whether he was trying to be helpful and thought I looked like a capable person who could get myself back from the suburbs into Boston, or if he was messing with me. He told me he was taking me to a train station which, I envisioned as a covered somewhat bustling structure in the middle of the city/town. Nope. This officer dropped me off at a deserted bus stop next to a nature preserve. There was no one there, barely any cover, and the freezing rain was coming down hard. I attempted to request an Uber… and got the alarming message that my starting point was outside of their area. WTF.

It was at this point that I lost it. I had been out in this cold and wet for over six hours and was alone, out in the middle of nowhere, and starting to panic a little. It struck me that this was the type of scene from a horror movie like The Descent. I began to feel like a tragic Greek hero just trying to get home to his long-suffering wife. (Or maybe it was just the overactive imagination of a hyper dramatic city-girl freaking out.) Anyway, luckily I got hold of my husband, and my hero was able to get an Uber driver to pick me up at that desolate location. An hour later I was in a hotel room and warm.

So there you have it. On my 10th marathon, at the most prestigious marathon, almost six years after the seed of wanting to qualify for the Boston Marathon was born, my marathon career ended with my first DNF. Somewhat anti-climatic and totally perfect for someone unconventional like myself. No regrets. Not one second of it.

And with that, I can finally turn the page and enter the next chapter of my running career. I’m excited — let’s go!

 

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