It took me a long time to write my Berlin Marathon recap, but I could not wait to write this one!
It feels downright surreal to be writing the following phrase.
Here is my 2022 Boston Marathon experience!
I LOVE American history, particularly the Revolutionary period, but my interest in visiting Boston and in running the Boston Marathon goes beyond that.
It even goes beyond the fact that Boston plays host to one of the six Abbott World Marathon Majors.
Boston is the running mecca, the People’s Olympics, and holds its own place in American history.
And I, an ordinary runner, got to be a part of it.
Interesting fact: The Boston Marathon is the oldest annual marathon in the world. This year, also, was the first year that it was held on it’s normal date, Patriots’ Day, since the pandemic.
Here are the ways you can get into the Boston Marathon
- Elite (i.e. super fast people)
- Qualify based on time
- Competitions (rare)
- Invitational entries/sponsor organizations (again, rare)
- Travel agencies with marathon/tour packages (international only)
- Charity (largest fundraising minimums that I’ve seen for a race)
- Para athletics division & adaptive programs (separate rules apply)
(Note: Boston does NOT offer a ballot option.)
As some of you reading this may know, I am not the fastest runner.
And I am certainly not “Boston fast”.
Originally I had dreamed of being able to qualify, but I decided to be more realistic with myself.
I am not the most patient person either.
Therefore, I went with the only other option available to me…a charity entry.
For those thinking this might be a “cop out” or the easy way, let me show you why it is not.
- You have to apply, and sometimes interview, to run in these highly coveted charity spots. You do not automatically get accepted.
- Each charity sets their minimum, but the prestige of this race comes with a lofty “price tag”. My charity’s minimum fundraising requirement, for example, was $9,000.
- You are responsible for the full minimum amount whether the race is held, you run, you finish, or not. This requires a lot of time, dedication, energy, and creativity that runs right alongside everyday life and marathon training.
- You are still required to run the race within the time limits…which is stricter than other Majors I’ve done up to this point (6 hours).
The charity I chose, and that chose me, was 261 Fearless.
261 Fearless is an organization co-founded by Kathrine Switzer.
Kathrine was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon with a bib.
Talk about history!
She registered with her initials and the organizers assumed she was male. Come race day, they found out otherwise and tried to literally pull her from the course.
Her then-boyfriend tackled the race organizer and she went on to finish the race.
That day started something that would change everything for female
This year’s race marks the 50th anniversary of women being officially allowed to run the Boston Marathon (5 of the 8 women who ran in 1972 are pictured below).
261 Fearless is an organization that is creating a global, social running network for women of all abilities and backgrounds to support and communicate with each other, encouraging healthy living and a positive sense of self-esteem and fearlessness.
With my background with running and experiences of being put down for my pace, the phrase “for women of all abilities and backgrounds” really meant a lot to me.
I first heard about 261 Fearless from Kathrine’s book “Marathon Woman” (definitely a must-read).
Her story, and the organization’s message, really inspired me so I knew, if I was ever going to run Boston, I was going to run for 261.
Plus, running the 126th for 261 just sounds right, am I right?
Side note: Getting a chance to hang out with all of these amazing women in person at the team meeting was amazing. We were definitely spoiled (see above)…as were my initial plans to meet Kathrine. She wasn’t able to make the meeting and I wasn’t able to make her Expo talk after. DRAT!
I stayed at the Omni Parker House.
Well, for part of my stay.
You see, hotels were SO expensive (the sticker shock was real, ya’ll) that I decided I needed another plan.
I couldn’t find a roommate this time, but one of my husband’s best friends lived (semi) nearby.
He and his girlfriend agreed to not only take me in, but to take me around.
Let me tell you, the amount I owe to both of them for that and for dealing with me in my “marathon weekend state” is more than my fundraising minimum.
(Tip: budget for taxis/Ubers or the T, if you won’t have a car. Budget for parking, if you will.)
I chose the Omni for my hotel stay (starting Sunday), not only for it’s culinary history (it is the birthplace of Parker House rolls and the Boston cream pie), but because it was by the finish line, was in proximity to a lot of the other (race) activities, offered private bathrooms (something I didn’t know wasn’t a given in downtown Boston), and was able to accommodate my main room request…a bathtub.
While I wanted to save my legs, and was busy trying to channel my nerves (was this really happening?!), I still had a laundry list of things that I wanted to do.
I didn’t get around to all of them either which means, o drat, I’ve got to go back (maybe as a volunteer? Wink, wink).
Here is what I DID get to do.
(Note: Check out my #storytimeseries on Instagram for more in-depth details about some of these and the meaning behind them!)
- The Boston Tea Party Museum
- “Hocus Pocus” location tour/Salem
- Axe-throwing at The Rugged Axe
- The Blessing of the Athletes at Old South Church
- Fan Fest
- Easter lunch at Omni Parker House’s table 40
Again, with all the other activities I had planned, I opted not to do the B.A.A. 5K as a shakeout run.
I kind of kicked myself for that one as it would’ve been an opportunity to meet Kathrine (I had, and missed, all of my other opportunities, too).
Alas, another reason to go back to Boston!
Josh (my husband’s friend that I mentioned earlier) and I went to the Expo straight from the airport.
We lucked out here as we went into the Hynes Convention Center from our parking garage and had no wait whatsoever.
It had not sunken in yet (still hasn’t) what I was doing and was all still pretty dreamlike at that point.
Of course, I had gotten up super early and was operating on very little sleep.
I got my bib, my merch, tons of photos (Josh also played the role of photographer A LOT this trip. Thanks!), AND (drumroll) WAGAMAMA!
Side note: I always seem to just miss my chance to go to Wagamama when in Heathrow and was so excited there was one connected to the convention center.
Speaking of food, my pre-race dinner was AMAZING!!
Side note: I got the opportunity to ride the T but, again, missed Kathrine at the 261 Fearless team dinner.
The restaurant we went to was called Antico Forno and was the perfect “carb-load and chill” meal with friends.
(Tip: Make a reservation FAR in advance and make it for early evening so that you can rest…or try. Thanks for scoring those, Jen!).
Side note: Since I was SO nervous about the time limit, I was planning on NOT wearing a “costume” for this race. After I saw the disappointment on a friend’s face when I told her this, though, I changed my mind. I went with something simple and that coordinated with my charity’s white shirt, but jazzed it up a bit…and I’m glad I did. It turned out to be a hit. I was a unicorn, the symbol of the B.A.A., and a “fearless” one at that!
After a bagel and peanut butter breakfast, I headed to meet Jackey and Jen at Jen’s hotel.
This was super nice other than having to walk “against traffic” to get there.
Worth it…and not just for the SUPER nice bathrooms.
Once we all met up, we walked to the starting area together.
Not much to report here other than I happened to catch my charity team’s group photo and that the bus lines were PURE PANDEMONIUM!
It was, to put it lightly, a mess.
There were times we were pushed up against each other so tightly I felt we were in a mosh pit.
Eventually, we did get a bus (one of the last ones) and were off.
Now, Hopkinton was about a 45 minute to an hour-bus ride away.
I found out that this was plenty of time to doubt myself.
Jen was calm and trying to point things out to me (sorry that I was such a bad tour attendee, Jen) and I was sitting there trying to remember if I knew how to run.
We made it to the Athletes’ Village just in time for one final bathroom stop (in which, TMI alert, I had a false alarm of the same “female problem” from Berlin. No lines, though), to ditch our throwaways, grab some pics, put on some more sunscreen, and to start our .7-mile walk to the start line.
I didn’t even have time to check out the indoor space reserved for the charities.
No matter, no matter.
Side note: I was concerned I would be cold, even in my throwaways, but the weather cooperated beautifully. Also, my throwaways came from and smelled like my parents (laundered, of course). I found that extremely comforting.
Then, they started “corralling” us to our zones.
I’m glad, again, that we didn’t have to linger.
This can’t be real.
O. MY. GOSH.
Those were my two primary thoughts for the first few miles of this race.
I kept having to pinch myself…ok, just remind myself…that I was running THE Boston Marathon.
In all my disbelief, and maybe because I never wear one, I forgot to start my watch.
I tried not to stress about it, but I also wanted to be aware of my time at all times…so I improvised.
I added six hours to what my published start time was (even though I think I set off a bit earlier) and did mental math with my watch times from there.
Also, I had this race split into sections to try to “mind trick” my way through it.
My brain was certainly occupied.
My first section, or stop, was for Spencer and Penny.
Spencer was named the official dog of the 126th Boston Marathon and, along with his sister Penny, has become a “symbolic supporter” over the years.
He is currently in a battle with cancer and I knew going into the race that I wanted to stop for him, if at all possible.
After Spencer and Penny, I wanted to get to 7.2 so I could tell myself there was under 20 to go.
I took a fueling stop every 8 miles, so that was added into my “schedule”.
Then, I focused on getting to the halfway point as the “scream tunnel” (true to it’s name, by the way) was there.
Side note: I thought the crowds were amazing for other Majors, but the people who spectate the Boston Marathon are a different breed. By the time I got to certain spots on the course, there weren’t many spectators left, but the phrase “quality over quantity” could not have been more true here. They may have been few, but their voices were mighty. They were not only loud, but they were so specific in their cheers. They said my name, sure, but they weren’t just screaming “Go!”. They had whole encouraging monologues and chants to go with it. That is what struck me the most and I fed off of that energy. I didn’t think I was going to have “cheerleaders” for this race, but I was wrong…and SO happy to be. Thank you to you all, both ones I knew and ones that I did not, for being WICKED AWESOME!
After getting a proper screaming at by the Wellesley girls, it was time for a couple of “film points” before I hit the hills.
Side note (yes, another one. Sorry!): I was SO nervous about making the time limit for this race, as I’ve said, that I wasn’t going to film. HOWEVER, I thought it might provide a distraction from the pain AND provide something I hadn’t been able to find in all my race research…a view from the back of the pack.
I counted those hills down, as well, knowing there were four.
Then, I was aiming for that Citgo sign…first seeing it, then reeling it in.
I got to the sign and knew there was still a little hill under an overpass to deal with.
However, that came and went and, suddenly, I was faced with the last two infamous turns.
Right on Hereford, left on Boylston.
They truly had snuck up on me along with those same thoughts from the start.
This can’t be real.
O. MY. GOSH.
It WAS real, though.
I could (literally) see it.
All that heartbreak, worry, and hill work had led to this.
The finish line.
After I crossed the line, a lovely volunteer handed me my medal (I didn’t have them put it on for a special reason), I took a few more pictures, I got a heat sheet with tape, I collected my finisher’s goodies, and I started the mile or so-walk back to my hotel…don’t worry, it felt A LOT closer than anything in Berlin did.
I actually felt great, all hills considered.
And, if you can believe it, I had a new PR (by 26 seconds but, hey, it counts!)
Catherine and I checked in with each other a couple times on my walk back, via phone, and agreed to meet at my hotel.
I was able to meet up with her and her dad in the lobby of the Omni with no problem and…
(super loud drumroll)
SHE GAVE ME MY MEDAL!
This moment is why I requested to be handed the medal at the finish.
I wanted Catherine, as the person who began my running journey, to put it around my neck.
That’s what I call a FULL CIRCLE moment (even though, I have a few more laps in me)!
Side note: Catherine also completed Boston that day. Can you tell…other than from her medal?
I immediately went to take a bath in that tub I requested with a bath bomb and quickly discovered the drain wouldn’t go down/hold.
Now, I was undressed at this point, so calling maintenance was out, and on a time crunch.
I didn’t have time to soak in the bath as long as I wanted to (the rest of the night) since I was meeting up with my friends for a slew of celebrating.
I needed to get in and out in a (relatively) quick manner.
After debating my limited options for a minute or two, I did the only thing I could think of.
I shoved a hand towel in the drain and kept the water running.
It did stay warmer that way and it worked.
After that, I got ready in bed with my feet up and headed to meet my friends (the ones I stayed with pre-Omni).
We went to the Mile 27 post-race party, at Fenway Park, to start with.
I didn’t get to touch/put my legs up on the Green Monster as planned (the line was WAY to long to stand in on marathon legs), but I did see a proposal and was able to get Cracker Jacks, a Fenway Frank, and vanilla soft serve in a mini cap cup.
Then, since our original destination of Wahlburgers was closed, we grabbed Tasty Burger (where a guy tried to, jokingly, buy my medal) and we headed to Cheers!
Yup, where everybody knows your name…and it ended up feeling exactly like that.
Check out my YouTube video called “Boston Marathon: Trip Haul-Part Two” for why.
Then, it was back to the hotel and to my bed.
While I didn’t get the deep sleep I expected (now I feel those hills!), the relief was real.
Once again, I stayed for a full day after the marathon to get some more sight-seeing and celebration in.
(Note: There were “race papers”, the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald, available the morning after at the bigger 7-Elevens. They didn’t list finisher names, though.)
And what a celebration it was.
It started with brunch at Clink, an old prison, with Jen, Kim, and Katie.
“Decompressing” over eggs and bacon was a great idea, ladies!
Then, I met up with Catherine, again, for some more adventures.
Those started by going back to the beginning…meaning back to Hopkinton…to take pictures of the start line and the marathon statues.
Next, we were able to meet up with Betty Robinson’s (check my Berlin blog and Instagram posts) granddaughter to deliver a gift I had for her.
Then, we grabbed some food (that pizza…yum), cannoli, and headed back to the hotel.
After “testing” the cannoli, I packed up, we had a sleepover, and Catherine drove me to the airport early the next morning.
Did I mention how amazingly generous my friends are and how I owe them SO much?
‘Cause they are and I do!
Then, just like that, it was over.
Been there, got the jacket…and the sore muscles.
I did “people watch” in the airport in case Ms. Switzer happened to be nearby.
Side note: Masks weren’t required for the flight home!
This was a BIG race, but an even BIGGER experience.
Thank you all for joining me for it.
Please leave me a comment below if you have any questions.
YouTube Boston Marathon Video:
Star #4…just two more!
Next up: The 2022 Bank of America Chicago Marathon