Melissa the Marathoner!
This year I had the privilege of running the 123rd Boston Marathon, one of the oldest and most prestigious marathons in the world. People keep asking me how it was or how I felt, and honestly, it was a day filled with lots of emotions. It took a lot of sweat and hard work just to qualify, then hundreds of miles and months of training, but in the end, it was all worth it. The experience was one like no other.
I woke up a bundle of nerves, but I went through my race morning routine, and made my way to the Boston Commons to catch the shuttle, where thousands of people boarded school buses, bundled up in sweatpants and rain ponchos ready to take on the 26.2 mile journey. Volunteers pointed us in the right direction and wished us luck, with so much enthusiasm, at 7am on a rainy Monday morning, like they had caffeine running through their veins. “It is a BEAUTIUL Boston morning, and a GREAT day for a run!” one volunteer shouted as I walked past him. There was a sense of camaraderie on the bus, a bunch of strangers with a mutual love for running, chatting and bonding over their experiences. I talked to a nice woman from Michigan, who was running her 3rd Boston Marathon, and the man who sat next to me had traveled all the way from Alaska. The shuttle took us to what they call “Athletes’ Village” in Hopkinton, where runners hang out and warm up before the race. Only runners are allowed in the Village, and a lot of people were by themselves so this was a great time to make friends. I talked to an older woman from France while waiting in the 25-minute-long bathroom line. We were both nervous about missing our start time because the line was so long (luckily, we both had a few minutes to spare!). When it was my time to start, I took off my warm up clothes and threw them in the donation pile and made my way to the start line. It was packed shoulder-to-shoulder with runners, volunteers and even local TV stations reporting on the race. The gun went off and suddenly it felt surreal to actually be part of it all.
There was immediately an excitement in the air, like a 26.2-mile-long party. The crowds screamed so loudly. Little kids stuck out their tiny hands, ecstatic to get a high-five from every runner. Spectators along the route had make-shift water and food stations, handing out everything from full water bottles, energy GU’s, orange slices, bananas, wet paper towels, ice cubes, and even cookies and Twizzlers! I will never forget the feeling of running through Wellesley College, at mile 13, where the girls create a “scream tunnel” so loud you can hear them before you even see them. The crowds got thicker at mile 18 in Newton, because even spectators know that the Newton hills are the most challenging part of the race. The last of a series of hills, known as “Heartbreak Hill” at mile 21, truly has the power to break any runner, both physically and mentally. The love and support I felt from every spectator, complete strangers, helped me push through. Seeing my friends in Kenmore Square put the biggest smile on my face and filled my heart with joy, even though I was hurting at mile 25. Somehow, they made me forget about the pain for a few seconds and for that, I will forever be grateful.
Running down Boylston St. was surreal. It was packed with spectators roaring with excitement, and knowing my mom was in that crowd cheering for me made it all the more special. I crossed the finish line, and threw my hands in the air, screaming with pride and crying with joy. I felt like an Olympian as I bowed my head and a volunteer put my medal around my neck. She could tell I was emotional and gave me a big hug and congratulated me, a simple act of kindness from a complete stranger that I will never forget. I shuffled down Boylston Street with my fellow runners, picking up water, food, and Gatorade along the way. Finally, I made my way to the family meeting area where I found my mom beaming with pride. I stood in Copley, looked around one more time, taking it all in because, after all, you only get one first Boston Marathon.