As we drove past the sign reading "Welcome to Hopkinton" it occurred to me that we'd been driving in the van for a long time. We started at CRI and were about to be dropped off for a 21 mile run along the course to Boston College just past the top of Heartbreak Hill. This was going to be my longest training run for Boston, my longest run ever, actually. I'd done 18 two weeks earlier so I felt ready, but just four weeks ago I had to walk back from a run because my ACL had seized up. There were nine runners, five who had run Boston before and four of us who'd never been to the start of the marathon.We got dropped off at 8:00, grabbed a Gu or two, used the porta-potty one more time and without even thinking about it we were running on the course at 8:15.
Because it was just under 30 degrees I was wearing wind pants and my jacket plus hat and gloves. The first 6 miles are generally downhill and I started out faster than I should have. I was running with two women from our group and we fell into a pretty good routine. We didn't stop at the first water stop but did so at the second one where we began to separate. Heather and Jen ran slightly faster and I hung back a bit and ran at at my target pace. The middle miles passed under my feet easily, and I stopped briefly at each of the water stations, grabbing a handful of M&M's or Swedish Fish.
There were lots of images along the way that stuck in my mind. The "Entering Framingham" and "Natick" signs, passing Bacon Street which seemed like a taunt at the time, the two vans of screaming women that drove along the course, crossing 128, making the turn at the fire station and heading up the hills. There were a few people that I kept seeing the whole way; I'd pass them and they'd pass me, not sure who finished first. At mile 17 I caught up to Heather and Jen, who decided to walk at 16.5. Heather was coming back from an ankle injury and Jen walked with her for a mile and then resumed running. She ended up finishing just a little bit behind me so she must have run the last 4 miles pretty well.
At the fire station I was entering familiar territory - I'd run this stretch of the course many times so I knew what was ahead. There are three main hills and the first one went by moderately quickly. On the second hill I started feeling a little cramping in my calves, something I have dealt with in the past and probably should have stopped to stretch but I knew the end was in sight. So I changed my stride a bit to help my calves and started up Heartbreak Hill. If it wasn't for the cramping it would have been no problem, but it wasn't bad. I crested the hill and someone said that the finish line was only a few 100 yards ahead. I saw a crowd of folks and a line painted on the road. Some people cheered, a kid handed me some St Patrick's Day beads, I hit the stop button on the watch and stopped running for the first time in three and a half hours.
I felt surprisingly good after the run, no knee pain, legs and hips alright, and just a bit of cramping in the calves. I'll work on my hydration and start my taper which should help. I've got the hard work out of the way and I'm feeling strong enough to make it the starting line in good shape. The run this weekend left me feeling sore, but confident for Patriot's Day weekend. I felt good enough at mile 21 that with a little stretching I could have run another 5 miles.
Right on Hereford, left on Boylston, here I come!