After stumbling over the finish line of my first ever half marathon in a world of pain in September 2011, I decided I quite liked running. Learning more about the races that could be run, two went on my bucket list. Two races way beyond my capabilities and like a dream. One was the Marathon des Sables, and the other was Boston marathon.
What's the point of a bucket list if you can't tick them off eh?
Boston marathon is the oldest marathon race in the world and the hardest in terms of the course out of the 6 world major marathons. You need to reach a qualifying standard to get in, and then have to go through an application selection process. To run it feels like a privilege.
Last year two explosions near the finish line killed three and injured 260 people.
This year the race was the biggest to date in terms of entrants. 9000 people where added, those who did not make it to the finish line last year due to the bombings.
On Monday the 21st of April, 36,000 athletes descended into Boston to reclaim the finish line back for the runners.
Myself and my super speedy cousin Samantha joined them. For me, it was like a dream being able to stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the worlds fastest marathon runners at the start line of the infamous course. It had taken me 2 years 6 months and thousands of miles run to make it here. After the events of last year, the anticipation was felt thought the field of runners at the start. It was a start line anticipation like nothing I have ever experienced before in any race. Emotions were high.
The race itself really is for marathon runners. There was lots of chat about how to handle the race and I heard mixed reports about the severity of the hills. This was to be my 10th marathon and being perhaps a little blasé, I decided to run it hard, ignoring the detailed advice about how to best to approach the course.
In terms of my race, I was textbook bad running!
The first 5 miles are down hill. Being corralled in wave starts with runners of a similar ability you set off pretty much at your PB pace. I ran this bit way to fast. Miles 5 to 16 undulate which made it hard to pace evenly. At 13 miles is Wellelsey College famous for it’s “Scream Tunnel”. Part of the Boston tradition since 1897 you are supposed to kiss a college girl. They hold up signs, I kissed a girl holding the sign "Kiss me I'm British!"
The hardest section is all uphill between miles 16- 21. The temperature had hit 22 degrees and my quads felt like they had run a marathon already. The crowd was just unbelievable in their support, and knowing the worst would be over shortly I made it up and over Heartbreak hill at mile 21 pleased it had not entirely broken me.
The last 5 miles are downhill. My legs were completely shot at this point. I fought cramp and fed off the incredible crowd support, crossing the line in 3hrs 35 minutes. Even though my race did not go according to plan at all, I'm happy with the result. The finish line was one of the happiest moments I have ever had running.
The race organisation was exceptionally good. The good quality race goody bag, the pre race/post race party invitations, the expo, transport, start line athletes village with food, drinks, was all laid on. Whilst security was understandably extremely tight, it was not overbearing. It felt very safe. Everything seemed to work seamlessly. People where thanking and congratulating us everywhere we went..
It has been a struggle to find the words to express this race. 'Brilliant' 'amazing' and 'fantastic' simply do not do it justice. It is more than a marathon. In the few days before the race everything within the city is geared towards it. The shops, bars, restaurants, hotels, in taxis, on the subway.. it feels like the whole city of Boston is behind you like you are being acknowledged for the hard work you have done to make it to the race.
My few days there felt like an all-consuming, life affirming event. I met some inspiring people, had huge fun, and tested myself on the tough course. Support both in the UK and there has been heart warming.
This race is one of the best races in the World for a reason. The course is challenging, the organisation is superlative, but the thing that makes it is the city of Boston itself. Steely in it's resolve, proud of its history, the supporters, the atmosphere, the city itself was willing every single person over the finish line.
Thank you Boston, we were 36,000 runners, but we ran as one.
NEXT UP; 100 miles in one go. YEP. The big one.
PICTURE - Inspiring people; a collection of UK runners with our medals. Four of us in this picture did the double, London Marathon and Boston.
Myself, bottom left, Jacquie Millet - brown hair standing in the middle, (an incredible woman who has run 46 marathons in 4 years) Sophie Raworth - here with both her medals (she beat me on aggregate) and Ben Wickham (he ran Boston in an impressive 2.47)
Special mention and congratulations to my cousin Sam Ridley, in orange who ran 3.46 and came an impressive 560th in her category.