Keepin’ It Real

“Running is my therapy.”

Over the years, I’ve heard this statement from many and have said it myself. Some use running as means of recovering from an addiction, some are running down one problem at a time and some just need to escape life for an hour to help manage stress or anger. Consciously or not, I think we are all often in search of the “runner’s high” – a little bit of euphoria before we tackle our day or to escape whatever the day heaved upon our shoulders.

Sometimes, running alone in silence can be therapeutic – just tuning into the rhythm of your footsteps and the sound of your breath. Some of my best thinking occurs during a run; away from all of the distractions of life. Nearly of my blog posts have been mentally hashed out and many decisions have been made as I logged my miles. The road is a good listener.

Other times, running with a friend may create a safe space where you feel comfortable letting your guard down. Running side by side, runners often offer each other advice, sympathy and support. Over thousands of miles in my lifetime, I’ve listened to stories of heartbreak, vents of frustration from work and relationships, sadness over divorce and death. I’ve played devil’s advocate, I’ve suggested gifts for birthdays, holidays and anniversaries. I’ve also experienced the positives –  times of excitement over exam grades, proposals, pregnancies and promotions. Thankfully, others have also listened to the good and the bad I’ve shared. Running tends to break down barriers. Some days it’s not about speed or miles; it’s just therapy.

Social media has become a highlight reel of our lives. Marriages look picture perfect, our children look like Albert Einsteins or Michael Jordans and we all have bottomless bank accounts to experience exotic vacations. The marital arguments, financial distress and the times when Junior failed history stay hidden offline; where we may pretend they do not exist. I feel the reason many may struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s vibrant highlight reel.

But you know what? Life is hard. We all struggle sometimes…and that’s okay. We fail. We get sick. We have bad days. We make mistakes. We doubt ourselves. We are human. As positive and cheery as I may seem, I too, am pessimistic at times. I stumble and fall; yet pick myself up again and again. Some days, I have terrible runs. Some races, it’s just not my day. No need to make excuses. I am human.

Especially in the darkness of pre-dawn runs, I’ve learned just how much we all struggle. You know, the types of stories that don’t show up on our news feed. No one wants to read stories of sadness and no one wants to be the Debbie Downer. I’ve chatted with people who have been afraid to share goals or stories with others in fear of being a disappointment. People who feel they aren’t “enough”. Friends who have distanced themselves because they feel alone in their struggle (whatever it may be). We tend to be hesitant to share the “real” version of ourselves to each other.

Why am I writing about this? I want people to know they are not alone. I want people to know life is not about being rich, or popular, being highly educated or being (or seeming) perfect.

Life is about being real, being humble and being kind. I want you to know I will be there if you need someone to run (or walk) a mile with you and hash out the ugly. Or I’ll run/walk by your side in sacred silence just so you know someone is there for you. Running has taught me to plan for life’s obstacles and showed me how to tackle the tough parts while making sure to enjoy the journey. I’ve learned that, in order to get where we want to go in life, we have to keep moving forward no matter how difficult it may be. And I’ve learned we don’t have to do it alone.

My offer will always stand. You know how to reach me 🙂

Follow Your Heart

The Shenandoah Valley Runners Winter Series starts on Sunday! This year, the series kicks off at the South Berkeley Christmas 5K which is a very festive and fun way to begin. Are you signed up yet? Why not?

Based on my experience, here’s a great reason why you should sign up plus I’ll share my goals for this year.

The first time I ran the SVR Winter Series was in 2016-2017. Still new to the area’s running community, I would show up and nervously smile and say hi to the few runners I knew. I loved the energy; listening to some of the guys exchange a little friendly trash talk and seeing family and friends running together; I felt excited to find this wonderful group of people. Every other weekend, I continued to show up and meet more and more friendly runners.

This is where I found my tribe. Somewhere in the middle of the first Winter Series, I started joining a few of the guys who were training for Boston for weekend long runs. Being around the easy and humorous banter between them made the miles fly by and pushing myself to keep their pace helped me improve immensely. At this point, I had never even considered qualifying for Boston a possibility, but they inspired me to reach higher than I had ever dreamed about. With my newly rekindled passion for running, my competitive fire was ablaze and I was able to finish the last two Winter Series as the 2nd Overall Female.

The first Winter Series was a springboard for me back into competitive racing. In training runs and during races, I chased the guys which helped me stay in the top of the women’s field. I will confess I did have serious FOMO (Fear of Missing Out); running a lot of races within a year. If there was a race, I wanted to run. I set some Becky v.2 PRs in every distance from the mile to a 50 miler; and qualified for both Boston and NYC. It has been a lot of fun not only from a personal standpoint but the social aspect as well. I sometimes find myself wondering if I would have ever have attempted some of the challenges I have without the encouragement and support of the inspiring runners I have had the pleasure of meeting.

This year, things started to change. Races I once loved, I didn’t find myself excited for. I found myself searching for the next challenge. Seeking out where I felt I belong – is it the 5K? Half? Marathons? Trails?

As I ran through the trails with friends Sunday, a conversation took place discussing doing what others think you should do versus what you feel you should do. Which brings me to the reason I am writing today.

Looking towards this Winter Series, at this moment, running the 5K races competitively is not jump starting my heart. Maybe this will change on Sunday, but I’m unsure. However, this does not mean I will stay home under the blankets while you fools run in subzero temps and snow. I have just decided to take on the WS in a different way – I am the race director for WS#3 and the others, I may volunteer, maybe pace a friend and yes, I will still race a couple too. I am just going to have fun being involved, no matter the role I play. Giving back makes me just as happy as racing.

As for my 2019 goals, my race calendar is still full of holes as I continue to scour available races while listening to the pitter patter of my heart telling me I am on the right path. Until I share my plans, I sure hope to see you out at the SVR Winter Series! Be sure to become a member first (if you are not, shame on you!) and then sign up for the Winter Series – you can’t beat this deal! I truly hope you not only have fun at the Winter Series but maybe you’ll find your tribe too.

And if you’re lucky, they’ll help you achieve more than you ever imagined.

With love,
Becky

 

 

Mission Complete!

If you landed on this page from my personal Facebook page, sorry for the click bait. Since you are here, you might as well keep reading!

I promise, this does have something to do with cake pops.

On November 11, I began the For Lucas 10×10 Challenge! Why? Top 10 Reasons I joined the 10×10:

  1. If I’m going to run, I might as well run for a good cause!
  2. Thanksgiving Prep. One would think you might drop a few pounds running 100 miles in 100 days. Wrong. You are hungry. All. Day. Long. This challenge should be called 10x10x10 (gain 10 pounds by doing 10 miles 10 days in a row because you want to eat everything in sight).
  3. I love a challenge. You might say, “But Becky, you’ve run 50 miles in 1 day. Surely, you can easily do 10 miles 10 days in a row.” Not the same. Knowing I had to run 10 miles every day for 10 days in a row was a little mentally overwhelming.
  4. To push my limits. I learned I am capable of running more miles in one week than I previously thought. 100 miles and I feel surprisingly great (other than a bit sleepy!).
  5. Our family has a connection to UVA Children’s Hospital. Dylan had surgery in 2017 at UVA Children’s Hospital. We were so pleased with his doctors and all the staff who took great care of him during his procedure.
  6. November is Prematurity Awareness Month. Dylan was born approximately a month early and had a short stay in our local NICU.
  7. To bring awareness to the Sanders’ new goal. $30,000 in 3 years to the UVA Neonatal Intensive Care Unit’s Bereavement Program. This program will use the funds to help emotionally console families with hand and foot molds, memory boxes, photography and to offset funeral costs.
  8. To encourage you to aim for a goal you feel may be slightly out of reach. Set your goals high and don’t stop until you get there! Believe in yourself.
  9. To give back. A little over 2 years ago, I met Jeremy as I returned to the running community. He has helped me surpass many of the goals I set for myself (including Boston and becoming an ultrarunner) in addition to introducing me to so many runners I now call friends.
  10. To pay it forward. I get the miles; one of you gets cake pops. To thank you for your generosity, I sweetened the deal with the offer of yumminess.

So, how did I do?

FL (2)

Okay, okay, I’ll get back to what you really came here for – cake pops!
You have 10 more days to have a chance to win cake pops. Visit my personal giving page to donate.

Anyone who donates any amount to the For Lucas Fund through my page will be entered into a raffle to win 2 dozen holiday cake pops.45886317_499003043924990_8787057643672829952_n

You know me – simply meeting a goal is not quite enough – help me surpass this goal for the Sanders family and other UVA NICU families!

I will pick a winner on December 1, 2018. Don’t miss your chance!

#ForLucas 10×10 Challenge!

10 days. 10 miles a day. In a row. I will take care of the miles, but I need your help in other ways!

First, read all about the For Lucas Fund. Then, visit my personal giving page to help Jeremy and Jen Sanders achieve a new goal: $30,000 in 3 years to the UVA Neonatal Intensive Care Unit’s Bereavement Program. This program will use the funds to help emotionally console families with hand and foot molds, memory boxes, photography and to offset funeral costs.

In addition to your generous gift, I am going to “sweeten” the deal. Anyone who donates any amount to the For Lucas Fund through my page will be entered into a raffle to win 2 dozen holiday cake pops.

For those of you who don’t know, I was a cake artist in a previous chapter of life at Beckaboo’s Cakes.

You don’t live local? You are in luck. I will even ship the cake pops to you f you are the winner.

Win-win right? Your pocketbook may experience a temporary strain, but I am going to take on the majority of the physical discomfort. You get to help NICU families and you may win dessert. You have until 11/30/2018 to make your donation. On December 1, I will pick 1 winner! Let’s blast my fundraising goal out of the water together.

Again, go to http://get-involved.uvahealth.com/goto/bmcgraw and make a donation #ForLucas!

Race Recap: Fire on the Mountain Trail 50K

After JFK50 last year, I was intrigued by the ultra world and researched what would be my next ultra-marathon. I loved training on trails for JFK50 and was hoping to find something with challenging and beautiful terrain. Soon after, I started training for Boston and my 2018 ultra decision took a backseat. In mid to late summer, a post appeared on my Facebook news feed about Fire on the Mountain 50K – trail, only an hour away and $45? Sold.

Fun with friends on the training run

Before I dive into race day, I’ll first mention one of the official training runs I attended. My friends Jamey and Sara joined me for a course preview in October. The race director, Kevin, willingly gave up his time on a Sunday to follow us along for the first 16 miles of FOTM. As we waited at the Log Roll Overlook, a SUV came barreling through the unpaved road, stopped before us and the driver said, “Here to run? Jump in!” As Kevin traveled at a good rate of speed through the backwoods roads (very familiar to him), Sara and I bounced all over the place, laughing all the way. What did we get ourselves into?! The course preview was so beautiful and ended up being quite an adventure as one of the runners became lost along the way. (First piece of advice – if you can, research the course and if you are able to do a couple training runs there, do it!)

Race weekend – I was so nervous! My first ultra was a 50 miler; some may feel your first step into the ultra world would be a 50K. FOTM would be my first 50K and my first full trail race. Longest I had been on the trails was 16 miles. As you know, I embrace crazy challenges, but I was thinking maybe I should have started off with a trail half?!

When I woke up race morning, my stomach was a ball of nerves. We hit the road a little early just in case we were lost trying to find the middle of nowhere and to ease some of my pre-race anxiety. Although we didn’t arrive until nearly 5:50 am, I was one of the first runners to show. I picked up my Tshirt and bib and was ready to go. The temperature was hovering around 30 and we were surrounded my fog (so much for the overlook!). However, the “fire” began to rise on the mountain.

My goals going into the race were (1) Do not get injured, (2) Do not get lost,
(3) Top 3 Female and (4) Sub 7:00

We headed down to the starting line and we were all ready to go. Knowing we had a mile on road before we entered the trails, I knew I wanted to start off at a good clip to fight for positioning. Little did I know, I’d run a 7:41 first mile and still be slowed down when we hit the trail. No worries, a couple guys let me pass and it was time to play. The first couple miles were a little faster than I wanted, so I tried to settle in to a comfortable pace. We hit our first few creek crossings in the first 3 miles and a lot of mud. The first big climb was near 3-3.5 and I power hiked most of the climb – then came the downhill. Unlike downhills on road, this steep descent (called the “Buttslide Descent”) is not “let gravity help you; free running”.

The “fire” rising on the mountain

More like, try not to fall off the mountain or face plant against a tree. Thankfully, I descended as best as I could, and managed to stay on my feet.

My crew enjoyed the beauty as I ran.

Mile 4-5, I took a weird step, twisted my right ankle and have no idea how I did not fall. Stayed upright, but yeoooch! Had to walk that one off for a little bit, but was excited I’d see my crew near mile 6. I ran through Aid Station 1, saying hi to John, Mario and Dylan. I started another mile of road with more elevation. All of a sudden, the girl who had been in first place comes running from behind along with a guy who had been running with her. They had taken a wrong turn and added on some bonus trail. We exchanged a few words and entered back into the red trail. This part featured it’s own challenges – billy goat single track trail, uprooted trees, and some rolling hills. Two guys were hot on my tail, so I let them pass.

Somewhere around this mark, I started to think, “Today, I am running for me.” I LOVE helping others – it’s my passion. It’s what I do. I was on my own today; and I could just focus on me and my goals.

So, I continued forward. I knew good race management would help me have a good race. My worst fear was running the first half too aggressively and then dying on the way back trying to ascend the mountain. When I felt my heart rate was too high, I hiked. When I felt amazing, I took advantage. Like any race distance, I had high and low points. After a couple tough miles, I felt like I was flying during mile 15. Knowing I had quite a hike up to the halfway point, I planned to eat a PBJ as I ascended The Oasis.

The view from the Oasis
Dylan packing Mom a PBJ

As I reached the top, I saw Jamey (thanks for volunteering), got some Nuun from John and Dylan and headed back down and on the 16 mile homestretch! I passed the 3rd female who was just heading up to the The Oasis. My favorite part came over the next few miles – getting to cheer on the runners coming my way! As I passed the unmanned Aid Station #5 and tried to descend the “stone staircase” back onto the trail, I felt the first twinges of fatigue in my hip flexors/quads. Then, from miles 17-24, I ran a good clip with barely any stops other than going through the creek crossings (almost 3 dozen in all!). After tripping a good bit early on and catching myself a ton, through these miles I ended up falling 3 times. Once on the right side (I did a good tuck and roll made popular by Coach Jeremy), then the left and then full frontal smashing my hand into a rock and leaving a small cut. Oh well, keep moving. This quote was often in my mind:

If you can‘t fly then run, if you can‘t run then walkif you can‘t walk then crawl,
but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

Dylan received the job of handing out logs to runners to throw into the fire at the finish!

Although FOTM50K is an out and back course, the return trip seemed very different than the first 16. However, I did have landmarks I remembered from earlier in the day – the large uprooted tree we had to climb around, the waterfall, and the log Sara and I stopped at on our training run. As I passed the log, I knew it was time to climb back up the “Buttslider Hill”. Don’t look up; just keep moving – grab a root, a tree, anything to help climb. This .2 mile featured ~426 foot of elevation and took me nearly 8.5 minutes to ascend. My legs were screaming; I was breathing hard but I knew eventually I would be rewarded with a downhill.

Eventually, I crested the mountain and began going down the other side. Which you feel would sound lovely, but honestly, it almost hurt just as much. Add in a leaf-covered path full of roots and rocks, and the downhill adds quite a challenge. Finally, I could run a little until I hit the mud bog again. After all the runners passed through (some twice), the mud was full of shoe holes and some steps threatened to remove my shoe. I crossed over a deep stream of water and just kept moving. Just a few more creek crossings, up a switchback and I’d be on the road to the finish. After my last creek crossing, I ran into a hiker who gave me an update – 2nd female; top 10 overall. “She’s not too far ahead.” I could hear cheers in the distance. Keep going. Finally, I see the road and volunteers cheered me on. About 1 mile to go and of course it’s uphill. Time to power hike. As soon as I crested the hill, I started running which felt great! I cruised in; passed Dylan (who I didn’t realize had the job of giving out the fire logs); ran back for mine and threw my log into the bonfire – then finished with a cartwheel. I did it – 6:16 – time to cartwheel!

Kevin announced I was the 2nd female and gave me the award for 1st in the 30-39 age group. I did it!! Can we eat and have a beer now??

Throughout the day, I tried to rank this challenge among others I have accomplished. 2018 Boston was probably the most mentally challenging day. JFK50 was tough; but was manageable and fun with Sara. FOTM50K was definitely the most physically demanding. One of the reasons I feel I succeeded was because I ran my race and didn’t get caught up with others. I feel early on, seeing the lead female and a male runner right in front of me was pressuring me to run faster than I planned. As they were swallowed into the forest, I felt I was able to focus more on me. I also didn’t waste much time at the aid stations; I’d grab a few things and go. Fueling happened when I knew I would be hiking – much more efficient use of time. All 32 miles, I was mentally positive and in all honesty, felt physically stronger than I anticipated. My gear performed extremely well – all the mud and all the creek wading – not one blister thanks to my Injinjis and Altras. My Legend Compression Wear leg sleeves kept my calves happy, my RaceDots kept my bib secure (yes, even after falling 3 times) and my new pack carrying Nuun was lightweight and I was well hydrated.

No blisters!

Check out the women’s race recap!

Would I do Fire on the Mountain 50K again? Definitely. Sometime soon, I want to share this trail with friends on a group run. A beautiful forest not too far from home.

 

 

So….what is next? Two days post race and of course I am already researching 2019 ultras. More trail? Hit a new distance – 100K? Try for a coveted 100 mile belt buckle? Time will tell.

 

 

For now, I have a short-term goal to help out my running family.
As you may know, Jeremy Sanders recently completed his 10×10 #For Lucas Challenge.

Now, it’s my turn. And, I need your help.

First, read all about the For Lucas Fund. Then, visit my personal giving page to help Jeremy and Jen Sanders achieve a new goal: $30,000 in 3 years to the UVA Neonatal Intensive Care Unit’s Bereavement Program. This program will use the funds to help emotionally console families with hand and foot molds, memory boxes, photography and to offset funeral costs.

In addition to your generous gift, I am going to “sweeten” the deal. Anyone who donates any amount to the For Lucas Fund on my page will be entered into a raffle to win 2 dozen holiday cake pops.

You don’t live local? You are in luck. I will even ship the cake pops to you f you are the winner.

Win-win right? Your pocketbook may experience a temporary strain, but I am going to take on the majority of the physical discomfort. You get to help NICU families and you may win dessert. You have until 11/30/2018 to make your donation. On December 1, I will pick 1 winner! Let’s blast my fundraising goal out of the water together.

After a little rest, I will begin! Follow my #ForLucas10x10 journey on Facebook!

 

Erie Marathon 2.0

Friends, it has been a long time since I have written a blog post! After Boston, I took a break from stepping on a starting line after running several races in a short amount of time. I knew in May, I would start another marathon training cycle, and finally worked on my FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), which is NOT easy. This July, a new 8 hour endurance run directed by 2 local fabulous females was created and as much as I wanted to enter, I knew jumping on the start line was a bad idea for several reasons based on my goals. I’ve enjoyed the races from the perspective of a volunteer this summer and I believe this has helped me stay focused on race day (and healthy!).

A year ago, I ran the Erie Marathon as an attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon. A few years ago, running a marathon alone was a dream, and not until I met my tribe did I even feel Boston was a possibility. 2017 Erie will always hold a special place in my heart for so many reasons – it’s the first marathon I asked someone to coach me, I was blessed to train with several running friends over a hot summer, Mario traveled to run with me and friends drove 5 hours one way just to surprise me on the course. And, in the end, I got my BQ: 3:25:24!

Here I am, 1 year later, headed north to run the Erie Marathon once again. This time, we have a small group (including my husband!) striving for PRs, trying to improve their Boston qualifying times or chasing the unicorn for the first time. Race day isn’t quite here yet, but the 2018 Erie Marathon experience has already proved to be just as memorable for me. Jeremy gave me the opportunity to help create the group training plan and a number of us have been able to meet before dawn at least twice a week to train together. Through social events as well as our runs, we have grown closer as friends. The positive attitudes are contagious and being part of a group training for a common goal is inspiring and motivating. We’ve shared both successes and struggles with one another since we began this journey in May. I am very excited to see how race day goes for each of us! Sad to tell you no runner tracking is available, so you’ll need to wait until we have reception to post results. Although it is sad to see our training cycle come to an end, I feel once we cross the finish line this bunch will not dissolve – I see many more early morning runs from Dunkin Donuts in the future!

Since I already acquired a BQ time earlier this year (Shamrock and Boston), I am chasing my marathon PR which was set at Erie last year. I feel I’ve learned something new each time I’ve run a marathon and I’m hoping I can pull it all together for #5 and execute better. Let’s see what happens! 🙂

What comes next is still mulling around in my mind. After doing a little bit of everything since I returned to the racing scene, I feel my heart is calling me in a certain direction. I have some big decisions to make in the near future and I can’t wait to share what’s next!

Let’s do this guys!

2018 Boston Marathon Recap: Part 2

The worries about race day weather started many days before we left for Boston. We could see the temps would be in the 40s-50s with rain and wind. I never let the forecast lessen my spirit because after all, it’s the Boston Marathon. I was going to run this race no matter what. As I posted the day before the race on social media, my mantra was “Magic in the misery” and I wrote this on my arm with a Sharpie before falling asleep Sunday night. 

After my head hit the pillow, I slept for a few hours then I kept waking up imagining I had missed my alarm: 12:06 am, 2:20 am, 3:15 am. My alarm was not set until 5:30 am, but around 5:15 am, I finally surrendered and started my day. I tried to be as quiet as I could as I made my first breakfast of the day (peanut butter bread and applesauce) and began to put on my layers. At the last minute, I added leggings over my shorts/compression socks and under my throw-away sweats to

The radar when I woke up Monday

try to keep myself as warm as possible before the race. Around 6 a.m., I headed out to make the trip to the T. As soon as I stepped outside, I received a taste of what was to come – cold, blustery winds nearly took off my hat and poncho. I quickly fixed my gear and continued on to the T station. Only 2 other runners got on the train with me and we all had a look of concern on our faces. As we traveled to the Arlington stop, more and more runners boarded the T all with waterproof outerwear to try to stay as dry as possible.

Once I arrived at the final stop, I headed to gear check to at least leave a dry sweatshirt and pants to put on after the race and then started towards the buses. Going through security wasn’t too bad but many runners were stopped due to trying to bring unapproved bags on the bus, including me. The email sent the night before mentioned we could bring dry shoes in a clear, plastic bag, but they did not specify a size. I had to discard the bag I brought along and shove my shoes into another gallon-sized bag. No big deal and an easy fix. I heard one woman arguing with the inspectors about not being able to bring more due to the awful weather.

Jeremy and Mario had informed me the bus ride was about 40-50 minutes long so I hit the port-a-pots before boarding the bus. The ride was long and I kept drifting off in little cat naps while I listened to the conversation between runners from Alaska, Colorado, Washington and Minnesota. We finally pulled up near Athlete’s Village and I watched runners trudging up a slight incline through rain and gusty winds. We tried our best to avoid puddles as long as we could and once we entered Athlete’s Village, yikes. Mud everywhere. Jeremy said to look for him and Mario near Tents 1 & 2 and I was determined to find them among the sea of runners. I passed Tent 3 and continued to the back side of the school in search of the other tents. Walking from the blacktop to the tent was so mucky and I was so glad I brought old shoes to wear

The mud in Athlete’s Village

before the race. I tiptoed through the mud towards Tent 2 and went inside. Wow, runners nearly covered every square inch of real estate under the tent, huddled on the ground on trash bags and blankets. I circled the tent looking for the guys with no luck and headed towards Tent 1. Tent 1 literally had a moat around the outside and I thought, “no way Jeremy and Mario are in there” and headed back towards Tent 2 for another loop. No luck. Still I was determined and headed back to Tent 1. I grimaced as I trudged through the mud and looked just inside the tent to see Jeremy sitting there. Bingo! So good to see a familiar face.

Trying to stay clean and dry!

I spread out my trash bag and huddled down with my heat sheet while Jeremy told me he couldn’t find Mario at the bus area and still hadn’t seen him. Although we sat there for over an hour, we didn’t chat much. I think we were just focused on the challenge we were about to endure. We looked up at one point and saw Tom Thomas who Jeremy met at 2017 Shamrock. Tom had a great pre-race outfit – disposable galoshes and a full rainsuit – smart guy! We said a few words about how most time goals were probably out the window. Jeremy offered a fellow runner who came in looking a bit overwhelmed an extra trash bag to sit on. We both ate a little more food – I had more peanut butter bread and a banana. At times, the winds would gust through the tent and we’d have to hunker down. This weather was no joke – the rain falling off the tent had turned into slushy snow/ice on the ground. Soon, announcements were being made for Jeremy’s wave to start lining up. I looked outside the tent and saw Mario standing at a trash can and we yelled to him. He was so excited to see us! Jeremy joked he looked like a baked potato because he had a silver heat sheet tied around this waist. Jeremy wished me luck and went to join Mario for the walk to the starting line. Mario and I waved or maybe threw a thumb up; I can’t remember. I watched the two of them start their trek to the starting line while I tried to stay as warm and dry as possible. At one point, a huge gust of wind came through and the gentleman making announcements said, “You are all dedicated. There is no way I’d run in this.”

I made my 3rd trip of the morning to the port-a-pots and then came back to change into my racing shoes. Using the extra trash bags I brought, I tied one around each of my legs to ward off the mud and rain until I was closer to the starting line. Throughout the morning, I kept making gear adjustments – I put my ear warmer over my hat to help keep the hat on with the winds, I decided to run with Goodrs on to protect my eyes and I decided to just keep my leggings on to have less skin exposure to the elements. Sometimes you just need to go with the flow and make game-time decisions on what you feel will work best for you. As my bib color was called, I confidently walked through the mud moat and out to the next stop. I wasn’t sure how long I could keep my extra clothes on for and I definitely took them off too soon; now I have a better idea of distance and how much time I have until the starting line for a future Boston. We walked down the street towards the starting corral area and I entered into #6. I kept looking around for other runners who were slated to be in my corral, Jill and Anna, but did not see them. I took off the last bit of my gear just as we were released to begin our 26.2 mile trek. My heart pounded as I crossed the starting mat and clicked my watch. Here we go!

Knowing the dangers of the first miles being downhill, I tried to go out as easy as possible and just get into my rhythm. I looked ahead to see thousands of runners ahead of me filling the street – it is a sight to see. The first mile went by so quickly and felt so easy: 7:47. I reminded myself to not push and try to stay as even as I could. I remember Shane said he was going to be around mile 1 and I was bummed I forgot to look for him, but excited to know he would be running with Renee.
(Side note: I keep clicking back to my Garmin stats as I write this because I lost track of exactly when certain things happened.) Right away, I was so excited and appreciative to see spectators braving the conditions to cheer us on. A few miles in, I passed someone blasting Rocky music (how can that not pump you up?) and then Jump Around by House of Pain. This song reminded me of my college days with my teammates Keri and Andy and I started singing the lyrics out loud as we passed by.

Every now and then, I’d have a sense of panic. I’d get a cold chill and I did think to myself, “Am I going to finish today?” I promised myself to just keep moving forward and not worry about my time. Reminded myself of two things over and over – one was something my son had said to me over the weekend: “Mom, no matter what, you are going to have a course PR!” Keeping this in mind and also the fact I had already qualified for Boston 2019 kept me in check. As the freezing rain fell all around me and the winds gusted, I realized it was going to be a long race. Just keep moving forward.

Around mile 11, I realized I had to pee. I have never stopped in a race to pee, but I think the cold, wet conditions caused me to have to go. I actually contemplated not stopping and again thought, “Just go. Make yourself as comfortable as possible.” I veered off course to the next port-a-pot. I was not as speedy as Shalane’s pit stop; trying to pull two layers of wet clothing back up was very difficult. I tied my left shoe and jumped back in the race. I had been averaging pretty decent miles and this stop caused me to clock a 9:36. “Oh well” I thought. Next stop, Wellesley!

The Wellesley girls did not let the weather keep them inside. I ran right up the fence and high fived every girl I came across. The noise from their screams was deafening but so motivating. Soon, we were at the halfway mark and I think this is where I had to tie my other shoe. Trying to tie your shoe with wet, freezing cold fingers is not easy. Somewhere around here I was once again reminded how brutal this race was – I heard the announcer say there was a warming center set up for anyone who needed to stop. By this point, I had seen several runners being walked off course by medical personnel with heat sheets and the medical emergency carts going up and down the course picking up runners who could not continue. I can remember running past a gentleman who was on his cell phone calling a family member and I heard him say, “My race is over. I’m done.” It was heartbreaking.

Somewhere near this point, my feet hurt with each step. I felt like I was running with ice cold bricks for feet and it certainly was uncomfortable for most of the latter part of the race. Here are a few things I thought of or things that happened every time I would get start to feel very uncomfortable:

– I thought, “Becky, think of those people who missed getting accepted by a few seconds. Even with this weather, they’d wish they were running Boston. Just run for them.”
– Another time, I ran past a double blade runner and thought “you have no reason to whine – look at him go!”
– Up a fairly good incline, I ran by a wheelchair athlete who was inching their way up and again, realized I am blessed.

– One runner I passed was running with an AFO which made me think of my friend Kris and how she would love to run Boston one day. Run for Kris.

Running past the enthusiastic spectators and athletes of all kinds of abilities kept me going. At times, the rain absolutely dumped on us which for a second I’m sure we all thought “Really??? Could it be much worse??” However, when the deluge happened, the crowd went absolutely wild and made you feel like a beast. So I trudged on. At some point, we passed an area that was blasting the Cupid Shuffle and when they said “to the right, to the right” you better believe I shuffled right to the fence line, high fived a few people (who roared) and then shuffled back “to the left, to the left” then kicked now! I did what I had to stay sane. Also at points, I remembered listening to Deena Kastor speak at the RRCA convention the weekend prior about smiling when you were hurting which will help your body relax. I probably looked like a deranged goofball, but I smiled through the insanity several times. Even around so many runners, the race felt lonely at times and I was glad Jeremy and Mario were together. Some of my (crazy) family was around 17-18 and were able to capture a photo/video of me.

Right around Heartbreak, I wanted to fuel again and could not get my food out of my bag. I decided to stop, take my time getting my fuel out, eat and then get moving again. And I did. I’m unsure what sparked my reboot, but after Heartbreak Hill, I felt like I was on fire. I just felt like I was flying and I knew I had about an hour to go until I would cross that finish line. Heading into the these last miles, I have never seen so many people walking in a race ahead of me, standing on the side against the fences trying to stretch or limping along the route. I felt grateful to be still moving at what I thought was a decent pace (I had stopped looking at my watch after the potty stop). Mile 22, 23, 24…getting so close. I see the Citgo sign – keep pushing! Soon, I recognized the area where I had run the 5K with Dylan just 2 days prior. I looked ahead and saw the arrows pointing us right – Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston. I was almost there. I glanced around hoping for a glimpse of my family; if I saw them I was going to go over and hug them but the noise was deafening so I wasn’t able to hear anyone calling my name. I looked ahead and saw the finish area ahead. I was about to be a Boston Marathon finisher. I raised my hands in a double thumbs up and crossed that line with a smile and continued through the chute.

As that medal was placed over my head, I choked up and tears came to my eyes. The final 26.2 miles to this medal was most likely one of the most brutal, difficult runs I have ever experienced. I won’t lie, I felt like a complete badass (or completely insane; deranged; call it what you will). I ran directly into that storm and I prevailed.

After I was given my medal, heat poncho, food, water and continued through the chute. I will never forget looking ahead and seeing hundreds of runners in their ponchos slowly moving forward away from the finish line. I started

A volunteer handed me this bar unwrapped at the finish line and I downed it!

shivering badly. When I arrived at the gear check area, it was a zoo. I almost considered leaving my gear because trying to find your bag was a nightmare but I really needed more layers. Thankfully, it didn’t take me too long to find my bag and I headed towards the family meeting area. My heart dropped as I didn’t recognize any familiar faces and then realized my phone battery had died. At this point, I feel I went into survival mode and was a little panicked. All I could think about was, find a warm area. I boarded a warming bus they had for the runners and pleaded to use anyone’s cell phone. I dialed John’s phone; no answer – I left a message with somewhat garbled information of where I was. Several minutes later, I borrowed a 2nd phone. Called again, no luck. Called my mother-in-law and tried my best to relay my location. I heard someone at the front of the bus call, “Becky McGraw?” I quickly grabbed my bags and went outside to find no one. Maybe I had imagined my name? Shivering, I headed back onto the bus to wait. A few minutes later, I saw John outside the window. I yelled up front, “Someone please yell John!!” Several people realized I was freaking out a bit and thankfully yelled until John heard and headed onto our bus. I was so glad to see him.

Someone gave me a 2nd heat poncho and we quickly headed toward the nearest T stop which was jam packed with people. Thankfully, the return trip to our hotel was short since I desperately needed a hot shower and warm, dry clothes.

Next up: Part 3 for my final thoughts on the 2018 Boston Marathon!