NPR

8 runners take on the 2014 Boston Marathon

That’s All, Folks!

Last year, we had this crazy idea that we could recruit a bunch of strangers to write for us about training for the Boston Marathon. So, we did a call-out on Facebook and the response was impressive.

We looked at the responses and then we looked at each other.

"I guess we’re doing this."

"Yep, I guess we are doing this. It could be good."

And it was good! Through the #NPR8, we told the story of training for a marathon, running as a way of life and, of course, the special meaning of the 2014 Boston Marathon.

It was an amazing journey and we want to thank Eric Ashe, Amanda Burgess, Demi Clark, Matthew Conlon, Dawn Castillo Harper, Jannine Myers, Amelia Nelson and Arielle Rausin for opening up their lives to us. Each and every one of them told a personal story that moved us. That was more than we’d ever hoped for when we started out. 

Wright Bryan and Eyder Peralta

The Next Bad Ass Thing

I ran the greatest 26.2 miles on this planet seven days ago. This finish line that started out as a 30-before-30 goal ended up becoming a 2-year journey that unknowingly would change my life.

The day after the marathon, a friend asked me how I was feeling; my response: “pretty sad, actually.” She said, I get it; you just accomplished a really bad-ass thing and now you are thinking, well, what next?  My friend directed me to this article about the astronauts who were depressed after traveling to the moon.  Wow, yeah, what do you do after that?

For me, it was those “what’s next” feelings on top of all of the build up to get to 4.21.14; running, the marathon, everything about it, had become my life, and now I don’t have that anymore.

So, this past week was tough for me for all those reasons. I had a lot to process emotionally on top of ridiculously sore quads.

The conclusion:  There is a lifetime of what’s next. What’s the next bad-ass thing to do. This training season, the last 2-years will forever be inside me and NO ONE, NOT A SOUL, could ever know what that feels like inside me and, more importantly, take those feelings away from me. I know that those feelings will never be shaken. And I love that; this jam is something I can live with.

And not only that, but, I learned that I am crazy loved by some many people. Crazy loved. I’ve had moments with each of my special friends and family members leading up to the marathon that I will never forget. And this year, post-race, I had messages from friends and family on every form of communication and every mode of social media. But this time, it was messages of joy and accomplishment: “You did it!” But the truth is: “WE DID IT!”  Everyone played a roll leading up to Marathon Monday and I will never forget you.

And now, the city, my city — Boston — can get out of Groundhog Day, never forgetting, always remembering, and now making a new memory at 26.2.  Boston 2014, NPR8 for inspiring me to open my heart, friends, family — thank you, thank you for changing my life.

Here are a few highlights leading up to the finish.

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Mom and Papa Bear accompanied me to get the qualifying bib number.

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Special friend and his Puggle who met me 3x along the course to provide water, baked sweet potato (my request), and a wet towel thingy that managed to stay wet the whole course.

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Post-race foot soak surrounded by an apartment full of friends and family.

— Dawn Castillo Harper

We are so incredibly honored to be calling this day one of the best memories of our lives. The “lucky ones” who, for one reason or another, were fortunate enough to have snuck away with no injury or physical pain.

Instead of basking in this glorious day, my family had another focus.

The night before the marathon this incredible, amazing, beautiful woman we call “Greek Memere” had a stroke. Her name is Elaine Ethier and she is my Mem, my grandma, my hero and such an inspiration to me. It came out of nowhere.

She is in the ICU at Mass General breathing through a tube. So the marathon became an after thought. A reminder that life is so incredibly precious and real, that taking the time to say what you wanted to, love endlessly and live like it was the last day you had.

I struggled every mile, my knee throbbed out of the gate. But I focused on Mem, my mother’s mother, the woman who took me to Disney World the first time, who partied at my college graduation, who gave me advice on love and life. The woman my children adore and love.

My marathon was for MEM!!!! Every smile … every tear. She is an example of life, love and happiness! I love her to pieces and am heartbroken. Take that Heartbreak Hill!

— Amanda Burgess

Just The Beginning

A few weeks before the marathon, I was sure that after I crossed the finish line I would break into tears. This only happened after two out of the six marathons that I had done before. But I was sure it would happen for Boston.

They’re not sad tears, or even happy tears. They’re tears of accomplishment, fatigue and, mostly, relief. I can finally stop pushing; I can finally relax.

But, to my surprise, after Boston, the tears didn’t come.

I had put a lot of pressure on myself to do well. I felt like I owed it to my team, my coach, my family and friends, my readers(!), all of whom supported me and my efforts an incredible amount. I was so terrified of letting people down that I had a dream that I didn’t finish. I ended up only getting a few hours of sleep the night before the race. So when I crossed the finish line — all in one piece — only 2 minutes and a few seconds away from my goal, I wasn’t sure why I felt so … empty.

Sure, I was probably a little dehydrated and my fuel storage was at an all-time low. But I didn’t experience the kind of euphoria that I was expecting after finishing the most important race of my life.

After three bottles of water and hugs from my family, I pepped back up. Looking back now, I think I realize what I felt when they hung the medal around my neck.

Sadness.

I know that seems strange. I had just achieved what I had been striving for since the start of my college career. But that’s how I felt. I think the quote that really rings true here is Hemingway:

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

And training for this incredible race was definitely a journey. I learned a lot about myself — how far I am willing to go and how hard I am willing to push myself. I made a bunch of amazing new friends through working on this blog and the friendships I already had grew stronger as so many cheered and rooted for my success. I had my ups and downs. But the experiences I gained from this adventure are worth much more to me than any medal ever could be.

Now that my journey has come to an end, I can already feel myself itching to start a new one. Part of me thinks it would be really cool to finish a total of 10 marathons before I turn 21 … What’s three more marathons in the next four months?!? Now that I’ve done Boston, I feel like I can do anything. And I will.

— Arielle Rausin

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2014 Boston Marathon — A Race To Remember

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I’m writing this while waiting in Tokyo for our final flight home to Okinawa. I’m trying to find the words to describe Monday’s race experience but it isn’t easy.

The morning of the race, I woke up early to check my Facebook and email accounts. I could not believe the number of “good luck” messages and prayer offerings that were steadily flowing into my inbox or across my Facebook timeline. They just kept coming and by 7:15 a.m., when it was time to make my way to Boston Common, I was completely overwhelmed by the enormous amount of support I had received.

During the bus ride to Athlete’s Village, I sat quietly and thought about everyone’s messages. So many people had expressed their faith in me and I did not want to let them down. I didn’t want to let Wilson down either — my friend’s 8-year-old son with leukemia.

A few hours later, as I started running, these thoughts were still on my mind and the first few miles went by with ease. By mile seven, however, I began to feel as if I were “losing control,” even though I was sure that I had been keeping a comfortable pace.

At mile 13, I was relieved to see my husband on the sidelines. I felt encouraged as he ran down the sidewalk, dodging bystanders, so that he could cheer me on for at least a few more seconds. I needed that moment; I was already feeling exhausted and my confidence was wavering.

By mile 15 I was feeling physically ill and I made the hasty decision to throw away all of my remaining energy fuels, including the hand-held bottle I had been carrying. The only thing that would keep me going from this point on would be the water and Gatorade offered at the aid stations.

The next few miles were a mental battle as I fought the urge to throw up. As I approached Heartbreak Hill, I wondered how I would make it to the top without having to stop and walk. The difference between the Boston Marathon and other marathons is the local support. It is so tremendous. From start to finish you are surrounded by thousands of spectators screaming at you to keep fighting and to not give up. I couldn’t let them down; I kept running.

The last five miles seemed slow and torturous. I was stopping by this time at every aid station, slowing to a walk, taking sips of Gatorade followed by sips of water and then pouring a full cup of water over my head. At one point I passed a guy hosing people down and I gladly allowed him to cool me off.

It was also at this point that I heard someone yell out, “Hey Kiwi, you better start running if you wanna catch those Aussies that just passed you!” If there’s one thing that motivates a New Zealander, that will do it!

Just a few more miles to go. At the Athlete’s Village, two veteran marathoners had told me that the crowd would carry me through the last three miles and they were right. As ill as I felt, the loud cheering and high-fives and frequent cries of “Go Kiwi!” spurred me on. I saw the Citgo sign and fixed my thoughts on reaching Hereford Street.

Most Boston marathoners know that once you take the right turn onto Hereford Street, there’s a final left turn onto Boylston Street and then a short distance to the finish line. I almost cried when I finally saw Hereford Street. I found a sudden surge of energy and ran, with all my heart, all the way to the finish line.

I didn’t achieve my 3:30 goal. But I did qualify for Boston again and I’m thrilled!

I’m also thrilled, and proud of myself, for refusing to give up. Marathons are tough; they are not for the faint of heart. I believe that is why there is such camaraderie among marathon runners; we have mutual admiration and respect for one another. We all understand the level of pain that is endured. We don’t question each other on why we continue to test ourselves in this way; we simply accept that we each have our reasons.

As I reunited with my husband after the race, feeling both broken and victorious at the same time, I told him I never wanted to run another marathon again. But today is another day, and like every other marathon experience, I always recover from it. In fact, next year’s Boston marathon is already on my mind …

— Jannine Myers

This Is Our City

Yesterday, I finished the 2014 Boston Marathon in 3:48. This was almost half-an-hour over what I had been planning to hit, but it was still a major accomplishment.

The first half of the race went almost exactly as planned. I went through the half-marathon split in just over an hour and a half. However, the heat gradually got to me and really slowed me down over the second half.  I ended up walking through the water stops at every mile and trudging along at a slower pace. It was tough to watch my goals slip away, but I knew there was no way in hell that I was going to stop. 

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Here I am receiving my medal from my mother, who began volunteering at the finish line when I first ran the race in 2012.

More importantly, this was the day that Bostonians reclaimed their city from the events that struck the race a year ago. There were more people there than I’ve ever seen before There were plenty of times when I couldn’t hear my music over the roar of the crowd. Yesterday, Boston showed that it was not afraid and that it was going to celebrate what is the most storied long distance road race in the world.

Only adding to the celebration was the fact that American Meb Keflezighi brought home a Boston Marathon win for the United States for the first time since 1985. In the year where Boston needed it most, Keflezighi’s front-running performance both shocked and delighted all who were watching the race. In an interview afterwards, he revealed that his mantra for the race was to try and win as a gesture of respect and remembrance for those who were lost in the bombing last year. I’m sure that this was a common theme for all the runners; I know that it helped me through those last miles.

There were many people who were screaming “Go UMass!” or “Go for Krystle!” as I ran by them. The support from the huge crowds definitely helped me finish stronger than I would have otherwise.

I don’t know where my running career will take me from here. I want to run a better marathon time and I know I have it in me. This training season was tough. But I know that I can take it and improve upon it next time. The combination of an illness a few weeks ago and the heat probably didn’t help. But I will still celebrate my victory and my city’s victory because this race means so much more to Boston than how fast we finished it.

— Matthew Conlon

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And so we have come full circle. And like I started this blog, I figured it was appropriate to end it with a jumping picture … this time with my best friend Jes!

Well, the race was just about as hard as I anticipated it would be, with the nice added bonus of the heat. I went out too fast, like everyone warns you not to do. By the time I got to mile 15-16 I was having cramps in my right leg. I stretched out a little and they went away! Thank goodness … because I was not going to make it if that continued.

I had an incredible support system — my cousins, my parents, my incredible friends were all along the course with signs and cheering and hugs to get me through!! I would not have made it without you guys!!!

The rest of the race I made sure to have gatorade and water at every stop. I had to walk a little more than I was hoping to and I finished a lot slower than I thought I would.

I’ll never forget that incredible feeling of seeing the 1K sign. I started realizing that I was going to make it. What an incredible feeling that was! My parents and brother and best friend were right before the 1K sign and with a few last hugs I headed for the finish.

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Now, everyone tells you about the crowd and the unbelievable feeling that rises when you turn right of Hereford. It was an incredible sense of pride and community as we then turned right on to Boylston. And so I made it all the way to Boylston, head held high with tears in my eyes. And I will admit it was incredible. Although I cannot wait to be right back volunteering next year at the finish line, I would not trade this experience for the world! We took back the finish line and we showed everyone that we are BOSTON STRONG!!!

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The very real truth is that none of this would have been possible without the unbelievable support team that has believed in me, supported me and put up with me over the last year as I battled through training and through recovering from last years events. So THANK YOU to all those that liked and commented and read throughout these last few weeks … and THANK YOU to all of my amazing friends, co-workers, family!!!!!

— Amelia Nelson

Post-Race Thoughts

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After coming through on pace the first half in 1:08:36, a stomach cramp and heavy legs caused me to fatigue sooner than expected and I faded to a 2:21:41 finish … 3 minutes and 41 seconds off of my goal for the race.

I balled my eyes out when I crossed the finish line, overwhelmed with too many different emotions at once!

Disappointment of not achieving my goal.

Happiness for all the support I’ve had leading up to the race — and during it — from friends, family and the million spectators.

Inspiration from all the people that overcame adversity to participate in the race.

At first, I was really upset about not hitting my sub-2:18 goal. I’ve never put as much emotional and physical effort toward one goal as this one. It also felt like I let down friends and family who were following my race. But, after a day to reflect … there is really no reason to be upset; 2:21 is a solid time.

There will be more chances (and on easier courses). And the race confirmed my belief that I am capable of a faster time in the near future. I’m already itching to map out a plan for a fall marathon!

You can check out my daily running log and more details about the race at LogARun. Thank you for reading!

— Eric Ashe