Joe and I were honored to be spectators last weekend at the Boston Marathon. As many are aware, the Boston marathon is the most coveted marathon in the U.S. Many people aspire to one day run this race, but only very few actually get an opportunity to do it. It is a combination of blood, sweat, tears and sheer talent.
As many of you know, my sister Kelly has it all. She is an amazing running and a natural athlete and it has been her goal to run the Boston marathon now for at least 5 years. After running 3 different marathons, Kelly got the qualifying time for women less than 3 hours and 40 minutes (just to give you a perspective, this is running 8 and a half-minute miles or less the entire 26.2 miles) and she got a chance to put her hat in for the 2012 marathon. (Notice, I said ‘got a chance’ believe it or not even with a qualifying time, it doesn’t guarantee automatic entry).
We made a vow that if Kelly were to gain acceptance, we were going. We got the notification that she was accepted in February so last weekend after work, we took the 4 hour drive up north.
We met my family in the Italian North End (stereotypical I know, but would you expect the Costanzo’s to hang out anywhere else?). We had a beautiful pre-race dinner and then turned in early as we knew what the next day was bringing.
We had a leisurely breakfast that morning as Kelly wasn’t slated to start until 10:20 am and we got our things and headed to drop her off at the start line in the small town of Hopkinton.
Joe and I are super spectators so we headed first to the 3.5 mile marker and we got there early catching the way beginning of the race. We knew we had a while to see Kelly, but one of the first people I saw meant almost as much. I had read and watched the story of the father son duo Team Hoyt and they were one of the first racers we got to cheer. Their story has been one that I’ve looked to for inspiration and so seeing them, I knew this was going to be a race to remember.
At a marathon, the wheelchairs start, then the elite women, the elite men and then all the other runners. Boston takes it a step further and organizes all the qualifying runners into heats based upon their expected finishing times (i.e. if you have bib number #1, you are expected to finish first and you are in the first heat to start). Kelly was in the 15,000′s which was the dead middle of the racing pack. However, when you are running with all Secretariats, racing in the middle of the pack is quite the honor.
Joe and I both had our own jobs during the race. Joe was the navigator extraordinaire and the camera man and I was the over zealous cheerleader and on-call drink refiller and pacer. I took my cheering job a little too seriously at mile 3.5 and became the “go to high-fiver.” I high-fived anyone and everyone who wanted to high-five me with my left hand while clapping using my right hand to my right thigh. For the future, I do NOT recommend doing this. You must pick one: high-fiver or clapper. Reason being, we walked away from mile 3.5 and I looked down at my leg to find a hand print embedded into my thigh. The combination of me brutally beating myself up and the record heat had caused me to break all the capillaries in my upper leg. It was not even 4 miles in and I already injured myself as a spectator. Only me!!
We saw Kelly run by us and we then went to our next mile marker. At the 9.5 mile marker, we again were in a little suburb of Boston. We had to park on a side street and walk about a mile to meet up with the course. As we got parked, I tracked Kelly and I told Joe that she was running way faster than expected. Thank God we had our running shoes on! We booked it up the hill and made seeing Kelly with 3 minutes to spare.
Our next mile marker was Kelly’s request: Heart Break Hill. This is the most challenging part of the entire marathon. It is a good 1-2 miles of steady elevation and it is late in the race (between mile 20-22). We parked and walked a mile and a half up the hill. We got there a little early and so we were seeing the elite runners and everyone was struggling. I knew at this moment that when my sister was going by, I was hopping in with her to get her over this. We waited for a while and I was debating as to whether or not running in the heat with people who could run 2 miles faster than I could run one was a good idea?
Then the most miraculous thing happened. Another spectator asked if I was “hopping in?” I told him I was debating and he said he does it every year and then he told me the perfect place about a half a mile to hop out. That sold it. I grabbed a full Gatorade for my sister and waited until I saw her. I ran down the hill greeted her and asked her if she wanted some Gatorade.
To my chagrin, she politely declined and told me that she needs me to run in front of her to pace her. In my mind, I was thinking, “you are joking right?” However, I figured I better not question someone who has just run 21 miles. So I went and I went fast. I probably could have gone a little faster but having a big bottle of Gatorade in my hands wasn’t the easiest. We got up Heart Break Hill and the spectators were tremendous. It was so much fun to hear everyone cheering with everything they had. We soon got to the hop off point; however, I decided to keep going as it was too much fun not to. We went on a little while longer and then instead of spectators being on both sides, the train started to face our left. This made me nervous because I knew that Joe was on this side and I was afraid I couldn’t get back. I said a quick goodbye to Kelly and told her I would see her at the finish line.
My parents were at mile 21; however, they never saw us and we never saw them. I finally got a hold of them and told them to go to the finish line. Unfortunately, taking the T was the only way to go so when Joe and I got on, we noticed that my parents were right behind us. The T ride took forever and unfortunately we missed Kelly cross the finish line.
After the race, we enjoyed a little hot tub time and reminiscing about how awesome the experience was and how amazing it was to be together as a family. I know that we may never go to the Boston marathon again, let alone know someone who is running it, but I will remember it for the rest of my life. I am so proud of my sister and best friend Kelly for finishing and finishing strong 3:56. (I do take credit however for the 6 in 56 as I did bring you down a minute on the mile I ran with you! ;p). Love you!!