As we're finishing up our third mother runner book, we're going green this summer and recycling some of our blog posts. This post originally appeared on our site on April 7, 2013
With Boston Marathon a mere week away, my thoughts turn back to that epic race. I’d worked for years to qualify, narrowly missing my age/gender cutoff by roughly a minute not once, but twice. Third time was the charm, and I eagerly anticipated the 26.2-mile journey from quaint Hopkinton to urbane Boston. Then race day dawn with a ferocious heat, predicted to make it the hottest running of the race in its 116-year history.
The sun beat down mercilessly as hordes of runners walked to the corrals; I was sweating freely in my, ahem, hot pink Another Mother Runner tank before I even crossed the starting line close to 11 a.m. The one saving grace was low humidity, but the air was still thick and stagnant. Near Mile 8, I had to quell a panic attack as it suddenly felt like I was running in a massive oven. I had tossed out any time goals as soon as weather forecasts told of the heat, so my revised goal was merely to finish without walking. (No disrespect to folks who walk in races—just not my M.O., except when GU’ing.) In addition to slowing my running pace to prevent overheating, I dumped water on my head at almost every mile, ran through every misting station, sought out the shade of buildings lining the course, and gratefully accepted ice from generous spectators.
It was a tough, ragged slog, but I fared far better than many racers around me. Through Newton and Brookline, in the final 10K of the marathon, it felt like I was flying by four out of five racers—despite running at a speed 90 or more seconds slower than my usual marathon pace. My finish time was more than a half-hour slower than my previous slowest marathon, yet I didn’t care: I had triumphed over brutal weather. In the days and weeks that followed, my Boston pride flourished as I talked to many participants whose finish times were 60 to 90 minutes slower than their usual 26.2 results.
Maybe this is hyperbole, but I view my Boston experience as a “triumph.” In a sea of athletes to whom I felt utterly inferior (I had only squeaked into the race with a barely qualifying time), I pulled out a stronger-than-expected-given-the-weather finish. That, to me, is one of the things that makes a tough race so much more rewarding. When I reflect back on races, it’s not the icing-on-the-cake, everything-went-as-expected ones I play in my head. Instead, it’s the races where wild cards got thrown my way, yet I dealt with them.
The half-marathon on a blustery January morning, with copious rain blowing parallel to the flat roadway. Yet I kept my foot on the proverbial gas the entire 13.1 miles, trying to break 1:50. The 2010 Big Sur Marathon, when the unexpected hills in the second half of the race (the infamous one climbs two miles to Mile 12) tested my mettle, yet at Mile 15, I made the decision to push hard to the finish rather than be defeated. The Portland Marathon six months later when rain fell in sheets and the face of my Garmin fogged up, leaving me running by feel from Mile 14 on. (That was the 26.2 that got me into Boston, by the skin of my water-logged teeth.)
In running races, as in life, you never know what you’re made of until you are tested by adversity. Sounds ripped from a Hallmark card or a needlepoint pillow, but that’s why tough races rule.
We'd like to know from you: What was the toughest race you've ever run?