This past Monday, I had the pleasure of cheering at the 118th Boston Marathon.
Even though I didn’t run and am far from qualifying, it was a truly electric and magical weekend. It took only a few minutes of being in Boston to understand why runners so desperately want to run this race. It’s about more than the prestige of hitting a qualifying time. It’s about banding together with thousands and thousands of people just like you – people that love a sport that can be so uplifting and heartbreaking – and having an entire city there to support you, like you’re a rock star.
My magical weekend started on Saturday with a 4.5 hour drive up to Boston after my last longish run before this weekend’s half marathon. The first event on the list was a Strength Running meet-up in Clarke’s at Faneuil Hall. Since Jason is actually my running coach, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to meet him in person. Of course, being the awkward turtle that I am, I simply introduced myself as Danielle and just assumed he knew who I was (who do I think I am?!). Since the e-mail I use for running related things is tied to my blog, it would make sense that a lot of people know me as “Foodosaurus Rex.” So it wasn’t until I was leaving that I mentioned my last name, and of course felt like a jerk for not having said something earlier. But at least we got a picture together!
After the meet-up I went to Veggie Galaxy in Cambridge for dinner and had a phenomenal veggie burger. I always like to search for vegetarian restaurants when I’m traveling since there aren’t a lot in my area. So when I saw this was a vegetarian diner, I was pumped to give it a try. I started with a beer (of course), and ordered their Kendall Square burger (hello beer battered onion rings) with a side of french fries. It was so delicious.
Since I was in the area for work, I drove back up to Lowell (about 30 minutes north of the city) and crashed hard. And before I knew it my alarm was going off and it was time to head back down to the city – this time for an Oiselle Team meet-up! I got to the city early to make sure I wouldn’t have a problem with parking, and did a quick lap around the expo. After the expo I made my way to our meeting spot and we posed for a picture before heading off towards the Charles.
I had three miles on my schedule that day, so I decided to run with a group that was doing a 4 mile shakeout, including Stephanie, Mollie, Mary, and Sara. I also had a nice mini-reunion with (two out of three) of my favorite North Carolina runners, Allie and Ellen! While on our run we actually passed Desiree Linden, and we got a little head nod and wave from her. Of course I geeked out and tweeted about it, which she favored… which resulted in more geeking out. After our run we took a short walk to Render Coffee, which a teammate’s brother owns. They were kind enough to offer free coffee for all of us, and I thoroughly enjoyed my hazelnut latte. Of course I continued my geek fest when I sat down next to none other than Lauren Fleshman, and wanted to say everything but instead said pretty much nothing. She was (no surprise) super friendly and down to earth, and I wish that I actually had things to talk to her about!
After coffee I took the T and wandered around Harvard a bit, had a delicious Easter brunch at Beat Hotel (in running clothes, while everyone else was in their Easter best… whoops), and then got to meet up with one of my college swimming teammates for dinner and drinks!
When my alarm went off Monday morning I was ready to go. I knew that the earlier I made the trip from Lowell to the Boston area, the better. I wanted to cheer around mile 23, figuring it’d be far enough from the massive finish line crowds and at a point where people really start to need encouragement. I made it to Brookline around 8am and stopped in to Eagle’s Deli for a breakfast sandwich to fuel the day of cheering. I walked up a few more blocks and positioned myself a few hundred yards away from the mile 23 marker. I had expertly staked out my spot, and was ready as soon as the first wheelchair competitors came whizzing by.
I’d been following the elites on twitter, so I knew what was going down in both the women’s and men’s race. At the beginning of the race I – along with almost everyone else – was completely consumed with the women’s race and Shalane. Unfortunately her race started to unravel a bit by the time she reached me at mile 23, but that didn’t stop me from screaming basically in her face as she ran by. I could see the discomfort and disappointment in her face, but I knew she was doing everything she could, and everyone in Brookline was thrilled to see her and applauded her gutsy race. And then, all of a sudden, we realized that Meb was leading the men. I’ve always been a big Meb fan, but my appreciation for him grew after the 2013 New York City Marathon, where he struggled but ran it in with someone and was so humble about it. To think that at (almost) 39 he was leading the race was such a thrill. He was almost 5 minutes ahead of the chase pack when he flew by, and we all screamed as loud as we could in hopes of propelling him those last 3.2 miles to the finish. Of course I was mesmerized by the thought of Meb winning, and followed along on the live stream… I was ecstatic when I saw him cross the finish line!
After the elites went by, I focused on trying to find all of the people I was tracking either via the app or text messages. It was kind of hard to keep track of everyone – for whatever reason I had a hard time figuring out from the 30k alert how long it would take them to get to me at mile 23. Plus, I was so afraid I’d look down at my phone and miss someone! I saw almost everyone I hoped to cheer for – Jason, Jess, Jenny, Laura, Mary, Sara, Corey, Lindsey, Dani, Mollie, Julia, Stacey, and a few others I’m probably missing. It was tricky to try and yell loud enough for everyone to hear me and see me, but I was able to pierce the sound of the crowd around me for a few runners. My favorite was Mary, who happened to be running right on the side I was cheering. I basically screamed in her face – I’d like to think it helped propel her to her amazing PR! Unfortunately I missed a few people, and some people didn’t hear me, but I spent four solid hours cowbelling; I have the bruises and raw skin on my hand to prove it!
I was exhausted by the time I got back to my hotel, but it was so worth it. I would do it again in a heartbeat – and I hope I can be back up in Boston for Patriot’s Day 2015! Next up on my cheering schedule is this Sunday at the New Jersey Marathon. So if you’re running, let me know… I’ll be sure to cowbell for you! But first, I need to run my own race – Asbury Park Half Marathon tomorrow!