Boston Marathon 2015

Traveling from Southern California to Boston takes an entire day of travel. I like to arrive a few days ahead of race day to give my body time to adjust to the time change and recover from jet lag. I arrived in Boston on Thursday evening, and I attended the expo on Friday to be the first group at packet pick up. The expo is a little less crowded on Friday and everything is fully stocked, so I had first dibs on everything!

I had been keeping close tabs on the weather reports for race day, and it had changed dramatically over the week. It went from full sun and highs in the 60°s to rain and a high of 50°. Thankfully, I packed a variety of race outfits to choose from.

Marathon Monday was cold, and the weather predicted bouts of rain and wind with increasing winds near the finish line. The morning temps were in the 40°s, and the high was 50°. I was not letting the weather deter my mind from doing well in the race. My training over, and the past 16 weeks had gone remarkably well, even though I had started with a hamstring injury. My faith was in God to see me through the tough times, and that I would finish strong. Here is the interesting thing, I don’t sleep well the week leading up to the race, and I often lay awake or in twilight as I can’t seem to let myself fall asleep. The night before we left for Boston, I was in that twilight state, and a number popped into my head - 3:38. I wondered to myself if that was God giving me my finish time. My friend Heather had mentioned only the day before that I shouldn’t stress over the marathon and trust in my training and in God. She reminded me that God already knew how the race would go and my finish time. Still, my previous finish times at Boston were 3:55 and 3:46, so it would be quite a significant PR. 

My goal at Boston was to BQ so that I could return the following year. My Boston Qualify time is 3:55, but as I have learned you need to take at least two and a half minutes off of that finish time to actually make it into the race. My hopes were high, and I was trying not to stress about the weather. I had received so many positive messages and prayers from friends, family and followers that I had to trust and know I would be just fine.

I decided to wear capris to keep my legs warm, a long sleeve shirt for insulation and a wind and waterproof jacket. I had on my Nuun hat and wool merino socks by Feetures! to keep my feet dry. My Saucony Kinvara shoes were not waterproof, so I knew my feet would be subject to a lot of rain and puddles. For Athlete’s Village, I packed some clothes to wear over my race outfit to keep me warm until the race started. I also purchased a rain poncho just in case it was raining at the village, and I packed a plastic tablecloth to sit on so I wouldn’t get my clothes wet.

I met up with my friend Kate from Running On My Mind at 8:15 a.m., and we boarded the school bus for the one-hour ride to Hopkinton. It was warm on the bus, and the windows were all fogged up so we couldn’t even see the scenery or the weather. When we arrived we went straight to the port-a-potties and stood in line with the thousands of other runners. We set up our little spot under the tent and sat on the tablecloth until it was time to start walking to our corral. I had forgotten how far we had to walk to get to the start! It probably was because it had started to rain by then, and I was not happy about starting the race already wet. I stopped at the last section of port-a-potties before entering my corral, and I saw a man slip on a water bottle and fall. Thankfully, he was in such great shape that he was able to catch himself and not fall on his bare legs and skin his knees.

It had started raining pretty hard, and I had already discarded my clothes to keep me warm at Athlete’s Village so my race clothes were already wet. I entered Wave 3 and then Corral 7 and gathered there with the others until we were able to make our way to the starting line. There was no hoopla; our wave was well under way, and before I knew it, I was running and crossing over the Start Line.

Right away, the rain started, and the streets were already wet with a lot of puddles. Runners were dropping clothing right and left, so the course was already littered with clothing, gels, gloves, water bottles, etc. I saw a runner slip and fall on my left and almost take out other runners in the process. I knew right then that I had to keep my eyes on the road ahead of me and make sure not to slip as we began to run those downhills. It was a sea of runners, and I had to weave in and out whenever a pocket opened up so I could keep some kind of a pace which I had trained for. A lot of runners were wearing rain ponchos or trash bags which made it hard to make passes because they were so bulky. 

To my surprise, spectators were still out cheering us on in the rain. The motivational signs were all wet and smudgy due to the rain, but we could still hear the crowd loud and clear, even over the rain. The weather was not ideal to be a spectator, but they were still out there supporting us.

As I do in every marathon, I pray for a different person during each mile. I have a Prayer Band on my wrist with all the names written on it so I don’t miss anyone. This keeps me mind on others, and I lift them up and carry their burdens for them during that mile. Many have heavy burdens, and I keep telling myself I can carry some of that burden for them for one mile. My mind is in prayer during the entire race, and I do check my pace every so often, but it isn’t the only thing on my mind.

It rained off and on during the entire marathon. At times my hat was dripping water, and I would shake my head to get off some of the excess. Then I had all the puddles to contend with. Of course, I didn’t want to land in a huge one and end up with soaking wet feet and shoes. I did get splashed on a few times where I could feel the wetness on my feet, but I did avoid it whenever possible. My legs were soaked, but my upper body was warm, and the jacket did work to keep the chill off me. I remember telling myself to keep running to Boston and never stop or slow down because then I would get colder.

My legs were pretty much numb from the wet and cold, and my right hamstring into the glute area had that familiar ache. It wasn’t the kind of pain that affects my running, but it was there. In my head, I kept thinking to use my glutes and not my hamstrings, to land with my foot directly under my body, forward lean, and relax the calves.

Around mile 12 I could hear the scream tunnel in the distance, which meant I was heading into Wellesley College marking the halfwaypoint. The time seemed to have flown by, and I couldn’t believe it was already half over! Now, if only this second half could go as well. Since I was cold, I noticed I wasn’t drinking much even though I tried to remember to take a sip every mile. I carry a water bottle of Nuun with me to keep me hydrated and to keep the muscle cramps away. Usually my husband meets me every seven miles where he hands me a fresh water bottle, but in the Boston Marathon it is impossible for him to get around all the different cities. I had to pull over and fill my bottle with three cups of water and then drop in another Nuun tablet. Thankfully, I chose an area just before a downhill, so I was able to make up my stoppage time.

A few highlights of the race included seeing my friend Kate during the beginning of the race and giving her a high-five to keep going strong. Then I heard my name, and Diana of Mini Runner was behind me so we ran a bit together then grabbed each other’s hand as we ran under the photographers to get a quick photo together. Then I was back into my own little world, running at the pace that felt right without working too hard. My endurance felt great, and my mind was focused on the prayers and on staying strong until I crossed that finish line. 

At mile 18 I happened to look up at the spectators on the left side of the street, and I noticed a Nuun sign. There they were! All of the staff from corporate that I had just met at the expo and at a shakeout run the day before the race. I gave them all high-fives and continued into the Newton Hills and then Heartbreak Hill. This year the hills felt like nothing compared to last year. I think I did so well for three reasons. The first being that I finally changed up my long-run route to include four miles of downhill running followed by rolling hills. Second, I was so cold and my legs were pretty much numb so I couldn’t feel the pain or fatigue. And third, my endurance was great! I cruised up and down those hills like they were nothing, and before I knew it I had finished them all and saw the arch announcing that we had just finished Heartbreak Hill.

The last few miles were pretty much downhill and flat with only a few little hills. I so wanted to see the Citgo sign knowing that was my “one more mile” mark! And then I saw it! The crowd was larger at this point as we were entering Boston crossing over Fenway Park and then right on Hereford and left on Boylston. I was ecstatic at that point.  I started throwing kissed to the crowd and yelling, “I love you Boston!” I ran over to the left side of the street and high-fived the spectators. Then I heard my name. I looked over and saw my husband. He was near the 26-mile marker shooting video of me. I threw my arms out in excitement and … smacked the runner next to me right in the face with my water bottle! I was mortified! I felt terrible and immediately apologized to her, but she kept on running as if it didn’t really faze her. Thankfully, my water bottle was empty at that point.

I continued running down Boylston taking in the crowd, the cheers, and then I heard my name being announced over the PA system, “Jody Stoops of Yorba Linda, CA.” I almost didn’t even realize it was me! I was thrilled to hear my name being called at the Boston Marathon finish line!! There were so many other runners crossing at the same time, not everyone gets there name called, so it was an honor.

I was so glad to have finished strong, and to have run a race where I finally felt good at the finish. I had prayed for a long time to finish and feel great and not be completely depleted and beat up, and I finally did. It had been years since I felt this way, and earning a new PR really helped too! My previous PR was in 2012 at the L.A. Marathon - 3:43:16. I had just finished the Boston Marathon at 3:39:00 with a new PR and a BQ! I grabbed the first volunteer I saw after crossing the finish line and hugged him!

My next thoughts were to get a quick photo before I left the finish line area. My phone had been off for the race, (I always carry it with me for safety.) so I turned it on and snapped a picture then quickly began to walk through the long exit corrals. The next thing I know, my best friend Heather was calling to congratulate me! She was back home in California watching the race from home and tracking me. I love how she describes it when I run the Boston Marathon saying, “It’s like her best friend is in labor!” Well, she pretty much has that right!  I talked with her just like she was there with me as I walked through the corrals gathering water, electrolytes, and then the medal. Heather was still on the phone as I was getting my photo taken with my medal and gathering up finishers food: a banana, protein bar and goodie bag. We said good-bye and then I called my husband and found him shortly after. I was in such a hurry to get back to our hotel and into a hot shower that I hardly had time to hug him in celebration. Get me on the subway and into the shower please!

Because I felt so great after the marathon, we decided to go out for dinner a few hours later to celebrate. Mike had made a reservation at Atlantic Fish Company on Boylston Street, right near the finish line. I had my very first lobster roll in Boston and a special dessert too. What a wonderful way to celebrate an epic day. Thank you Boston!