This past Monday was the pinnacle of marathon running — the 120th Boston Marathon. Over 26,000 runners from all around the world converged on the great city of Boston to run this historic race, and I was lucky enough to be one of them.

Qualifying for the Boston Marathon was my dream since 8th grade when I started running with my dad. Back then we would only go a few miles, yet in my head, running the Boston Marathon was completely attainable. It was only once I got older and actually ran a half marathon that I learned that not only was running further not as easy as I thought it would be, but I also had to run a lot faster too.

As I toed the starting line in Hopkinton (or, rather, as I stood about 200 meters back from the starting line, in the second wave of runners), I thought of all the hard work that it took to get me to where I was. The Boston Marathon was my 8th marathon. It took me 5 tries and four years to get a “BQ” and the work it took to get there made the race all the sweeter.

As my wave started, I took off with them, nervous and excited. Five miles in, I knew that it was going to be a tougher race than expected. Running hard downhill wasn’t something I practiced, and my quads were starting to feel it already.

At mile 10 I passed my husband, mother-in-law, and two sister-in-laws giving me a huge surge of energy. It was warm (just over 70 degrees), and everyone around me was grateful when we passed over a bridge and felt the start of a few sea breezes.

By the time we hit Wellesley, we finally had some more space to run without bumping into what felt like a million other sweaty bodies. I’ll tell you what, as a female, it seemed like the Wellesley “tunnel” (really they are only on one side) was over-hyped. They were great race supporters, don’t get me wrong, but they were much more interested in the men running around me than cheering me on in my race.

Lorianne DiSabato/Flickr.com

Lorianne DiSabato/Flickr.com

The dreaded hills started around mile 17. Of course, I had been running up and down hills the entire time, so by this point, all I could think was “bring it on.” Of course, that thought definitely came too soon. The hills were tough, and the down hills worse than the ups. Seriously, if you have a hilly race coming up, train running downhill because my quads are toast!

At mile 19 I saw my old Coach and she was cheering for me. Another surge of energy hit me as I kept pushing up and down the hills. Finally, I hit Heartbreak Hill. While it wasn’t easy, surprisingly, as I got to the top, all I could think was, “the hill at mile 17 was worse.” Now, all I had to do was finish the last 5.2 miles and get to the finish line … if that’s what you want to call “all.”

For the last five-plus miles I let the crowd carry me. The support from the entire city of Boston and the history and grandeur of the race started to overtake me. As I crossed the finish line, exhausted, I started tearing up because of  how hard I worked, everything I had accomplished, and everything this city and other runners had given up in the pursuit of this race.

As I met up with my family in the reunion area and received their hugs and congratulations, I decided that, yes, I would be back next year. Boston, I’ll be ready for you. Dare I say, bring it on?

 

Guest Contributor

Stephanie Balaconis is a runner, writer, and adventurer living in Ohio, with roots in Texas and Boston.