As some of you may already know, I love to run. I have always loved it even though I didn’t run in high school or college (I played tennis). In 2001 spent my fall semester in Washington, D.C. during my time in college and all of the runners around there were gearing up for the Marine Corps Marathon. I never really gave running a marathon any thought, but this sparked my interest. I signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon and I ran my first marathon in 2002.
In the fall of 2016, I attended a legal seminar in Boston. Although I had kicked around the idea of trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon (there are certain qualifying standards for this race – you can’t just sign up), I had never really taken it too seriously. However, after going to Boston, I really wanted to run that race. I started training with the goal of qualifying for Boston and in April, 2017, I ran my 9th marathon and qualified for the 2018 Boston Marathon!
The Boston Marathon is run on the third Monday in April. This is Patriots Day in Boston. The race starts in a town called Hopkinton and travels east for 26.2 miles to the finish line on Boyleston Street in Boston. My family and I traveled to Boston the Saturday before the race. The weather forecast looked terrible, but you can’t control the weather!
The forecast kept getting worse and worse throughout the whole weekend. I truly didn’t care. I was going to run the Boston Marathon! And – even if the weather made it impossible to run my best time – I intended to enjoy every minute of it. And – if nothing else – I’d have a great story to tell people!
On the morning of the race, the weather was even worse than we expected. It was pouring rain, the temps were in the 30s (and the wind chill made it feel like it was in the teens and twenties) because there were also 20-30 mph headwinds. This literally continued all day long.
I layered up with clothes that I would later discard (the clothes that the runners discard are donated to a homeless shelter). I also had a poncho and small umbrella. What I didn’t think about, thank goodness my Dad did, was covering my running shoes. He tied plastic bags onto my feet which worked like a charm!
The runners were transported to Hopkinton on buses and we then had to wait outside until the race started in a field located at Hopkinton High School. The field was beyond muddy! My shoes would have been caked in mud if not for the plastic bags. Shortly before the race was going to start, I made my way to some pavement where I got the bags off of my feet and I changed my socks. I had a moment of fear when I thought my Dad tied the plastic bags on my feet too well. My fingers were so cold that I struggled to get the one bag off of my foot! But I got it off, threw off the poncho, sweatshirt and sweatpants and I was ready to run!
I managed to keep my feet dry for about 2 miles by staying in the middle of the road (normally the higher flatter and on Monday the dryer part of the road). Unfortunately, that normal formula failed around mile 2.5 where the road was sunken in and I ran through a giant puddle. I gave up on avoiding puddles at that point. I just plowed right through them because – really – at that point it didn’t matter any more. I was soaking wet, everyone was soaking wet and there was no way to avoid the puddles. Run on!
There were people cheering on the sides of the streets in the small towns we passed, but I’m told that there was a much thinner crowd than in prior years. Obviously the weather scared away some people. I just kept running and after I got over “Heartbreak Hill” at around mile 21, I felt amazingly good. My pace picked up and I was feeling confident and I actually felt good almost the rest of the way to the finish line. I was so happy! What made me even happier was that around mile 23, I saw a small sign that said “Des Won”. I realized what the sign said right after I passed it and did a double-take and got a big grin on my face. One of the other spectators saw me smile at the sign and yelled “YES” – and I yelled “YES” back at him! That was all the energy I needed to get my through the next 2 miles and then the final mile was just pure joy!
Side note: For those of you who don’t follow distance running (and I know it isn’t a mainstream sport so this may be a lot of you) Desiree Linden is a United States distance runner. She trains in Michigan and she just seems like a great person. This was also the first time a U.S. woman won the Boston Marathon since 1985.
Anyway, I made the right on Hereford (the only moment of the race that I felt the wind slightly at my back rather than directly in my face – I felt like I was flying!) and the left on Boylston! (These are the last two streets of the marathon.) The crowds were yelling, I saw the finish line (I did not see my sweet family…but they were there) and I was there! I finished the Boston Marathon in what some have said to be the worst weather conditions in 30 years. My time was nearly 20 minutes slower than my best time – but I’ll take it!
What an experience for all of those reasons! If you get a chance to run Boston, treasure it. It really is amazing and I don’t know that I’ve wrapped my head around it yet. I do know that the experience would not have meant nearly as much to me if my family had not been there. That made it truly magical for me! They are the best! The Rafferty family caught the unicorn! (and…for those of you who don’t know, the unicorn is the symbol of the Boston Marathon).