It has been 2 years since my Boston marathon. By now I would have already run one of the spring marathons, but due to the lockdown I’m sitting in the garden drinking my favourite cup of tea looking at the photos from the 2018 races and wondering how I should put in words something I’ve experienced and felt for the first time during my running journey.
I hope my story will inspire you and will be useful in this challenging time.
When as I started my marathon adventure, I had a burning desire to participate in Boston marathon. It was “The Marathon” I always wanted to run but I had no idea how to get there as Boston is considered the most prestigious of all world marathons with everyone having to beat a qualifying time to run. At that time, it felt like mission impossible. I had no idea how to get there, but everything is figureoutable as Marie Forleo says. Fast forward after 3 unsuccessful attempts and 9 marathons later I broke my personal record in the Chicago marathon and qualified for Boston.
Yes!!!! Qualified for my dream marathon. “If you can dream it you can achieve it”….
As soon as I received the conformation from Boston and since London marathon was less than a week afterwards, I came up with the idea to run “back-to-back” marathons. In order to add some fun, I ran in a suit in attempt to set a Guinness World Record in the London marathon. I had the opportunity to run the London marathon several times, but never before in a costume… and never before 6 days after a marathon in another continent.
So, after a long and strong 20 weeks of winter training here comes the day when we fly to Boston. I was so excited to visit a new city, excited that my husband and our two boys were coming, excited to experience the vibes, excited that I would get to run in such a prestigious race, and excited to celebrate the fact that I had qualified to be there.
Little did I know that the day before the race I would set another record by staring at weather apps and praying that the forecast for very low temperatures with torrential rain and a 30-mile-per-hour headwind somehow wouldn’t come true. I never in my running journey experience anything like that and yet tried to somehow stay calm planning what I was going to wear for the race. My dear husband almost ran a marathon trying to find a pair of warm gloves and a rain poncho for me as this was the most needed gear for the race…and all shops sold them out. I was sure that for the 122 years there have been more epic conditions for this race, but I never consider myself running the hard-earned dream marathon in almost apocalyptic weather conditions.
Here comes the Monday 16thApril 2018 – the day I will never forget. I have to say that I appreciate many things in my life, I’m extremely grateful for the amazing opportunities that are coming my way but the participation in this marathon felt very special and it was a turning point in my life and my running journey.
My alarm clock was set for 6.30 am. I woke up in a hotel filled with runners from all over the world not really knowing what the day would hold and a friend who was also running with me said, “Whatever you do don’t look through the window…” The weather looked like a still from the Armageddon movie. I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh so just went to breakfast surprisingly very calm thinking of my plan for the race over a bowl of porridge with banana.
I knew I trained hard to give my best, I knew I was ready, but I also knew in this condition it would be crazy to beat my personal record. I felt physically and mentally ready to perform my best. I had my wonderful support team with me and a lot of motivation until I arrived at the marathon village and walked to my start wave feeling like some form of “punishment” where everyone kept their heads down as the heavy rain pelted our faces. I was already cold; my shoes were wet, and my feet numbed.
I was coming to terms that it was my new reality and wondering how the next few hours were actually going to be.
Well… it wasn’t fun as I hoped to be, it wasn’t as easy or pretty as I’ve imagined to be.
It was actually quite the opposite truly brutal and tough, and yet despite the conditions my excitement grew I was actually running the one and only Boston marathon.
The raincoat was the real saver from hypothermia, and I ran gripping the insides of my sleeves so my hands could stay dry, despite this my hands became so cold and numb that I had trouble getting energy gels out of my waist belt. Regardless of the tough conditions I kept my pace going through puddle after puddle, feeling the freezing water splash out of my shoes.
I knew I was doing what I came to Boston for and even I got into that race motion hearing the supporters cheering us all. At some point it become much more tolerable and even exciting. When a big gust of wind would come, some runners would cheer loudly as if to remind the others that we’re tough and this is still Boston, so embrace the feeling.
…. Suddenly after mile 13 the real struggle started, my airways narrowed due to the cold and I fought with the shortness of breath I was trying to take deep breaths, but it was hard. I didn’t want to panic but, in that moment, I felt really scared. I slowed down, hoping my breathing would normalise but unfortunately it didn’t and instead I began overthinking the situation, and it was becoming harder and harder to continue running. I had to stop to catch my breath, so my legs became heavy I started shivering, my teeth were chattering so hard that I was afraid that I would bite my tongue.
I knew that the real challenge was starting here and now. I still had to face running up to the famous Heartbreak Hill. As my breathing continued to be heavier, I started to really worry myself, this wasn’t what I had planned. I wanted to sit and cry, I had enough for the first time in my marathon history. I was angry as I didn’t know “WHY” this was happening to me. I wasn’t a newbie to running I knew how to plan the race, how to pace myself, nothing would really surprise me and yet something so unexpected happened which was totally out of my control. I knew I was determined to finish this marathon and I would not give up that easy.
In that moment my only option was to focus on one thing only, finishing the race against all odds but with the heart, the grit, the willingness, the courage and energy to make it strong to the end. I picked myself up and started running and walking more calmly, trying to breathe more fully, absorbing the atmosphere and getting motivation from other runners and the unbelievable supporters who were continuously cheering us up despite the weather. Thinking about my BOYS, my supporting team standing somewhere in the rain waiting to see me, kept me moving. I knew I didn’t want to disappoint them so I was constantly repeating to myself “you can do it, just keep going, one more step, keep going, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”…and suddenly from the crowd lined along the route I heard someone screaming my name….
That moment I saw them standing in the rain, soaked and cold themselves shouting on top their voices “mummy you are almost there, we are so proud of you, you only have 700 meters left” it gave me a kick of most needed energy, I took my poncho off and started sprinting.
In the middle of drenching freezing rain, soaked and full of emotion I crossed the finish line of 122nd Boston Marathon. I knew I didn’t break any personal records, but it didn’t matter.
Everyone who finished the race was a HERO. All of the hard work, the years of training, the countless hours I’ve struggled to run alone, sun, rain, wind, cold – and the final 700M sprinting make it all worth it and nothing compares to the feeling of having my medal put around my neck after the hours of hard work and dedication.
My plan was to go to Boston for fun and celebration, but this quickly changed after I came to grip with reality, I just wanted to make memories. And I did exactly that. Some were amazing others weren’t that great. I experienced highs and lows, just like in life but that’s where the lessons are learned. The entire time I was on the course, I’d say most of it was pretty painful and uncomfortable, but I did it. I was mentally and physically exhausted and yet I didn’t give up because I knew that:
Shifting my mindset from problem orientated to solution orientated I would find the best outcome of the situation. I had my Support Team who was motivating, supporting and cheering me all the way and keeping me taking the steps towards my destination.
Today I know I’m stronger and forever will be. Boston taught me the biggest lesson of all, how to master the endurance mindset so 6 days later, I changed from my raincoat to my suit and in a temperature of 27 degrees Celsius I ran the London marathon becoming the Guinness World Record holder for fastest female to run a marathon wearing a suit. It wasn’t easy but it was fun it wasn’t comfortable, but it was worth every effort and every step.
Like in life with every step we take we can either rise or fall and learn from our experience along the way and there are many lessons we can’t learn until we face certain situations ourselves, but the most important lesson I have learned is you’re your MIND is the key to success in the marathon called life.
I would thank you my most wonderful “Personal Support Team” you are BOYS the best and you always be. Without your support I would be were I’m today.