Thursday, April 24, 2014

The 2014 Boston Marathon Experience

This is the story of how I was initiated into the Order of the Unicorn (yes I just made that up, go with it.) The Order of the Unicorn is an elite group of athletes who successfully meet the criteria and complete the challenge of crossing the finish line of the Boston Marathon. If you were following on social media over the past week, then you know I was blessed to be able to run in the 118th running of the Boston Marathon. My journey to Boston started on April 15,2013. That was when two bombs exploded near our finish line and shook the spirit of America and the running community. Well, luckily the running community has a HUGE resolve and unwavering spirit. We banded together in support of one another. My thought immediately when I heard the tragic news was "What can I do, I need to be there to help!" That is when I began donating to the One Fund and researching charities. I knew more than anything I HAD to be a member of the field in 2014. My spirit was pulling me to Boston. After several regrets letters from June to December, I was offered the final spot on the Boston Bruins Foundation charity team, and together we raised more than $8000 in less than 65 days. A good friend of mine Adam who was lovely enough to house me this week also was a charity runner with Beth Isreal Deaconess Medical Center. Katie won her entry into the big show. We packed up and headed to Boston!

I landed on Thursday afternoon in Boston and Katie was waiting for me in bag check. 3 baggage carousels and a cup of Dunkin coffee later we were picked up by the awesome Adam.

Hugs were exchanged and I could tell at that moment that this was going to be an unforgettable weekend. Our first stop, the Newton hills...lovingly called Heart Break Hill...I'll get to that. Adam showed us the hills we would be running over on Sunday and the famous Newton firehouse.

Newton Firehouse Selfie
We even took selfies in front of the Johnny Kelley statue! I was inspired already. Oh I almost forgot to mention, when I left home it was in the 80s, I got to experience weather in the thanks. After our brief tour we made our way to Union Street Grill where we met up with Dani and I had my first Samuel Adams 26.2 brew of the weekend.

Linz and Dani
This stuff was so good! We were joined by fellow so cal running pal, Julie. We shared laughs and talked about our weekend plans. After a great dinner and several beers, we headed to the #CorralG Mission Control Center...also known as Adam's house.  We settled in and headed to bed, we had early mornings every day in Boston.

Friday was gonna be awesome. Jen landed in Boston. We fetched Jen around 8, then headed to Mike's Pastry in the North end...canollis!!!!!!

YAY Jen is here!
After delicious morning pastries we headed to Boylston Street. We made a stop at the Boston Public Library to view the Dear Boston exhibit/memorial of last year's events. That was a very beautiful, touching, and moving experience. Last year in Boston I had the chance to see the Copley Square memorial before it was moved, so this was very touching and well put together.

A collection of shoes left at the Copley Square Memorial last year turned into art

Once we finished there we walked across the street to the Old South Church. I had been following the Marathon Scarf project online for a few weeks so I was excited to see that the church was open and scarves were being distributed to runners that passed by. We stopped and thanked the church for their wonderful efforts and received our scarves and blessings. We got to pick our scarves and I love mine.

Katie and I selecting our marathon scarves

Special thanks to Pamela from CT for creating such a wonderful gift especially for me. I totally teared up.
After that we headed to the Hynes convention center. I knew INKnBURN was unveiling a secret item at the expo and whatever it was I wanted it. It was the exclusive windbreaker. I was in love instantly.

After that, I made a stop over at the Skechers booth to see what all the hype was about the Skechers GoRun 3...that shoe is pure magic! I hope to pick up a pair soon, and I will tell you all about it. I made a point to stop and say hello to some of my pals, you know Jeff Galloway Bart Yasso.

Before I knew it, we headed upstairs for the moment of truth...packet pick up. I got really nervous and anxious at this point. It would become real at that very moment. I would be picking up my bib number which would identify me as a participant in the race. Boston is a big deal, so imagine how I felt sweating standing in line.

I'm on the guest list.

I am surrounded by veteran Boston marathoners in their jackets, picking up their packet like this is their neighborhood 5K. It is VERY intimidating being among athletes with such a pedigree. This race attracts the best of the best from around the world. What I will say is that every person I spoke to was nice, warm, and welcoming. They even wanted to share their stories. It was my turn next. I handed the wonderful volunteer my ID, signed my packet pick-up card in my Runner's Passport (which is one of the coolest things ever) and received my bib! I didn't know what to think or what to say.

What shock looks like

I was just overcome with emotion and happiness. I hurried over to watch Adam get his bib and exchange a hug with his dad! Katie obtained her bib and came over shouting "OMG OMG OMG" repeatedly, then we had a photo shoot...because that's normal.

After the expo, we made our way over to my friends at RunKeeper. They were having a special Open House for those that signed up. They had great refreshments, beer, and I got to meet so many great people from the team, like Erin! Many people participated in the scavenger hunt, we made it in time for the awesome gathering and watched the prizes get distributed. RunKeeper is a solid operation with great folks, I always enjoy getting a chance to work with them. Jason met us at RunKeeper and I was happy to have my marathon support with me...lord knows I couldn't have done it without him but let me not get ahead of myself. After RunKeeper we hopped in the van and made our way to Wahlburgers! This was my second time going there so I already knew what kind of delicious food I was in for. While we were waiting to be seated, a Bostonian woman walked up to us and asked if we were running the marathon. We said yes, she extended her hand and thanked us for being in Boston. She then described where she was on April 15th, 2013 and how the tragic events affected her, her family, and friends. She got teary-eyed and gave us all hugs. Hearing those types of stories and seeing those type of responses from people affirmed for me that we were doing the right thing not just for the running community, not just for the City of Boston, but for the American people who are still coping with this. We sat down and enjoyed a delicious dinner. I even got the chance to reunite with Lizzie from Team #RunDisney, I hadn't seen her since Wine and Dine of 2012 so this was special. A great Friday night indeed.

Saturday came and it was time for the B.A.A. 5K. What a chilly morning that was. We made our way into Boston and parked near the Boston Common, which is where the race started. We connected with various friends behind the t-shirt pick up tent and conversed for a a few moments. There were lots of smiling faces that morning. Plenty of marathoners (myself included) were using this 5K as our shake out run prior to the marathon. We lined up in the corral and made our way around the Back Bay of Boston. We ran the 5K in 33 minutes. I felt great afterwards! After the race, lovely TRD friends Angela and Matthew were gracious enough to let us use their nearby shower to freshen up before continuing with our broadcast day. They were only two blocks from Boston Common so this was quite spectacular. Nothing like a hot shower on a chilly April morning that's for sure. After we showered we made our way to The Baseball Tavern down on Boylston for the Marathon fundraiser that Adam and I co-hosted. Adam did a wonderful job coordinating everything so major hats off to you!

We enjoyed some lovely food and beer and I got to meet some pretty awesome folks. After the event we headed over the bridge to America's Most Beloved Ballpark, Fenway Park! We had GREAT seats for the Red Sox game.

Fenway Selfie
The tickets were a part of the fundraiser so this was pretty cool. I enjoyed a Fenway Frank, another beer, fried dough, and of course singing Sweet Caroline at the top of my lungs. Jen was also sitting next to me and felt it would be funny to steal my phone from me. You can't blame me for wanting to keep all of you in the know! Lots happened this weekend HAHA! After the game we went back to the expo (ya know since it was on the way back to the car) and picked up a couple last minute things we thought about. We also spent some time at the Saucony booth checking out the Find Your Strong Boston wall collage. It turns out I was in the collage 7 times! HA! I win! After a day like this you can imagine we were pretty tired so we made our way back to Adam's.

Easter Sunday was upon us. It was the first day we got to kind of sleep in. And I say kind of because some of us were planning on heading into the city. Adam stayed home with his beautiful baby girl Caitlyn and enjoyed a day of rest. Jen, Katie, Jason, and I headed into town. Since we were in town I took this opportunity to take some pictures at the Finish Line. It was so humbling and awesome to be able to sit on the finish line with a smile on my face knowing that tomorrow I would own it and become a Boston Marathoner. I kept the picture to myself until I finished the race. After that we made one last trip to the expo for last minute fuel and items for the race. I packed poorly and didn't have my normal fuel. Thankfully EnergyBits was expoing and had some packets they hooked me up with. I got my supplemental fuel items so I would be stocked and ready to go. My fraternity brother recently moved to Boston and we met at the Thinking Cup for a few hours of catching up and humor. I had just seen him a couple weeks ago, but it's always nice to have a chat with someone you don't see often. Jen had to take off to get ready for her volunteer shift at the pasta party. We would meet up with her later on. After coffee and tea, we met up with Angela and Matthew and headed to the Pasta Party which takes place at City Hall. The line was wrapped around the block. Literally. You would swear that Oprah was there giving away bags of money...although I would have waited for that...the struggle is real. After some deliberation we decided to join the line. I personally am glad we did. The pasta was pretty delicious and there was Sam Adams Summer Ale on draft! I have to give it up to the BAA and the volunteers! They really made the pasta party a really fun event with awesome energy!

The snackage bags they gave us afterwards were quite fantastic! I was very happy. After Jen's shift we headed to the car. Tomorrow would be the day. Race day.

I woke up with butterflies in my stomach. I woke up excited. I woke up anxious. I woke up ready for the moment. We were all getting ready for our day, discussing logistics, eating our fuel filled breakfast items and headed to Hopkinton. Adam lives closer to the start line than he does to Boston Common so we elected to get dropped off at the bus shuttle in Hopkinton. We cleared security and were dropped off at the Runners Village. We continued int he opposite direction to One Ash Street. Does that address sound familiar? It's because it is the corner where the start line of the Boston Marathon is. It is also the location of the Boston Athletic Association.

We were invited to hang out in the same building as the BAA and enjoy some breakfast and comfortable seating before the race. EPIC. We were able to go downstairs and we had FRONT ROW seats to the wheel chair, elite women, and elite men start. THAT was a treat!!!!! I mean I saw Shalane and Meb less than 5 feet from me!

ELITES! Front row seating!

After the start of the elite men we made our way to the corral chute. This is the fun walk where everyone can discard their warm up clothes and begin fueling up. I ran into Kelly and fellow INKnBURN ambassador Melissa on the walk. After a quick potty stop I turn around and see Dani! Of course we run to each other and exchange a hug and take a selfie. Before we knew it we were all corralled for the start. I turn to my left and there is Jeff Galloway ready to run his race!

That was a really fun and energizing way to begin the morning in the corral. Before the wave got underway I looked at Katie and Adam and we just gave one another the biggest group hug ever.

Then we we crossed the start line. Everything became real and this surge of life altering energy shot through my body! We paced ourselves and took it easy and maintained around a 11:20 pace. The last thing we wanted to do was burn out to early especially since the first part of the course is downhill. It's easy to go out and blow out in Newton around Heart Break Hill. I have to say that the architecture of the buildings in the Boston suburbs is just BEAUTIFUL! So many great brick buildings with so much history. I had an idea to take a selfie at every town sign...I mean why not. From Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick (which felt like we were there forever), Wesseley (where they apparently have moneeeey), and Newton around mile 16. It was really awesome to see the Chambos, Jason, and Jen throughout the entire race course giving us lots of support and cheering! I know it meant a lot to Adam, Katie, and myself! Now let's talk about Newton. The weather on race day was in the low 70s. Being from So Cal I am used to running in this weather, in fact I love it. But something was different. Boston has a little thing called humidity. Newton is where Heart Break Hill starts. HBH is not just one hill...oh no...its a series of 4 gradual inclines. It starts at mile 16 and you aren't done until mile 20.

HBH is certainly named properly. Around mile 18 I experienced one of the worst cramps of my marathoning career. I had to lay down and stretch it out and it made me real nervous. Luckily, I was able to work it out and continue on without medical assistance. Katie was right there and encouraged me the entire way. That hill will try to break your spirit! I didn't let it at all!I stayed focused and made my way to the top of those hills! I meant what I said earlier...I will not let Boston beat me! The Boston Marathon is a historic marathon and it is to be respected. Giving up or not giving it your all wasn't an option for me, especially on a year like this.

One of the most amazing this about this race is the course support from the spectators! The streets are lined from start to finish with SHOUTING fans! They were cheering for US! No one was left out or forgotten! What I found most touching was when spectators would call us by name and thank us for running and being there. Since the Bruins are in the playoffs and I was wearing my foundation tee, I got lots of BRUINS! shout outs...that was so much fun! I love Boston!

As we entered the final stretch of the race passing Fenway Park and the Citgo sign we knew we had done it. In less than 10 minutes our lives would change. We turned right on Hereford Street and tears started flowing immediately. We held hands as we walked up Hereford, turned the corner onto Boylston and saw the finish...queue more tears here. Katie found her parents on Boylston and Angela and Matthew were right behind the mile 26 sign and greeted us with hugs and congratulations! I personally needed that extra boost. We held hands and the announcer called all three of our names as we crossed the finish line of the 118th Boston Marathon. Then we hugged and cried some more trying to figure out what just happened. WE RAN THE BOSTON MARATHON! We did it together! We gave a new meaning to the tag line #WeRunTogether.

We reunited with our family and friends after getting our medals and some snackage. Jason greeted me with my Boston Marathon jacket and all was right with the world. I had done it. We had done it together.

The entire experience of running the Boston Marathon is insane. It is a complete journey and not one thing can be missed. I raised $7500.00 for the Boston Bruins Foundation in 60 days, I am now well over that minimum thanks to all of you. Knowing that those funds will go to needy children is priceless. This race is bigger than any single person. It is a community of people that banded together to heal a city and a country. The race was amazing and the experience unforgettable. What I love most is that I was part of healing the community. I was part of providing resources to children that need them so badly. I made a difference. I touched someone's life. That made it all worth it. Thank you to all of you again for your support and for cheering me on through the entire journey from start of fundraising to finish! I couldn't have done it without YOU and I am forever grateful.

***Photo credits to Katie, Adam, Kira, and Jen!***


  1. Absolutely amazing!! So incredibly proud of all 3 of you :)

  2. Aw I'm sitting here at work bawling like a complete idiot. So proud of all you guys!

  3. Really great to hear of your adventures!! You are all very inspiring!!
    Thanks for sharing

  4. I WANT TO GO DO ALL THAT AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. What a great read, congrats on the race!

  6. I'm crying. Seriously. I don't even know you but I'm so proud of you!

  7. Hi Linzie, I stumbled across your blog via a Google Blog Search. I was a Marathon Scarf Project scarfmaker and volunteer. I don’t know if you found Pamela yet – I searched through our Ravelry members but couldn’t find a match. If you're interested in learning more about what went into the project you can read about it at my blog:

    1. Hi there! First, thank you so much for making scarves and for volunteering. Every single runner I spoke to that had a scarf was absolutely touched. Many (myself included) cried when we picked ours out at Old South Church! THANK YOU! Also, thank you so much for being a volunteer. We can't do anything without you guys! I love your blog post, and I feel compelled to share it :)! Thank you again!!!!!!!

    2. Aww, thanks for your kind words! And thank you for sharing my post. We love hearing from runners about how much they like their scarves. :)

  8. Hi Linzie, If you want to try and track down Pamela, I've written up a post with ideas for how to find scarfmakers! If you've already seen it I've added a few ideas in the past couple of days. I just managed to match a scarfmaker and recipient with a search I hadn't thought of before.