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197 likes – “I am safe in Boston”

Ever wonder if anyone pays attention to your updates on Facebook? Find yourself in the middle of a terrorist attack with no cell phone reception and you will quickly appreciate Facebook for more than just silly banter.

I’m slow. Literally and figuratively. Anyone that knows me well would agree. I am a slow runner, reader, writer, eater, blonde…and certainly a slow processor. It has taken me a long time to even begin to process what happened on 15 April on Boylston Street in Boston Massachusetts and I am sure I still have a ways to go. But I feel compelled to write something down so I will start with a few details. I crossed the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon in a time of 3:44:11, the first bomb exploded when the clock read 4:09:43 and the next 13 seconds later. I had enough time to make it through the finishing area, retrieve my drop bag, change my clothes in the typical marathon changing room that is the space blanket toga, and double back towards Cuffs, the bar I had agreed to meet up with all of my speedy friends, some finishing over an hour before me. Wow. Since then, the most common questions people have asked me isn’t the typical, “how was your race” or “did you have fun in Boston” but rather “where were you when the bombs went off” and “were you close enough to hear or see them? “ I was in the intersection of St. James and Dartmouth, roughly one block away but blocked by a building. I heard the explosions and the screams, could not see anything but the masses of people around me and honestly I thought nothing of it…in my mind the booms were thunder (not a cloud in the sky) and the screams were just typical finish line excitement. Nowhere was I thinking of anything malicious. I was not scared. I made it to the bar, found all of my amazing humans, many with new PR’s, was greeted with hugs and smiles and got my first Sam Adams 26.2 Brew. A GREAT day to be a runner! I found out when the rest of the world found out that there wasn’t a sporadic cloudless thunder storm at the end of the marathon, but sadly a senseless, cowardly attack on the city of Boston and our day “quickly became a day in which running a marathon was of little importance.” – BAA . I will once again extend my deepest sympathies to the hundreds of injured spectators, the families that lost their loved ones and to the 12 individuals that are still in the hospital working towards their own recovery.

I believe the media has more than covered the details from that point on, so I’ll share a bit about the race which was, in fact, absolutely incredible. Boston, Massachusetts LOVES this race. They are proud of it, embrace it, have a holiday to celebrate it, line the streets and scream their freaking heads off for HOURS. This was my first time running Boston and also to be one of my last road marathons…if not the last as I don’t love them as much as I love the mountains and trails.

My new BI friend, Ashley recently posted her race report, which was not only a great write-up but a great write-up of a terrifically executed race. http://sherannosaurusrex.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/boston-marathon-2...
I admire how she was able to plan for each mile and then just get it done…from start to finish. I adopt more of the “chunky monkey” plan to races. Break the race up into chunks and work on that chunk rather than thinking of running 26 miles, mile by mile…that still after a dozen or so marathons seems like way too many miles to run in one day as fast as I can.

Chunk #1 – The longest bus ride of your life!

Boston is a point-to-point race and somehow you must get to the start line. I have run a few other point-to-points and that ride never gets easier. You sit for what seems to be hours, driving what surely must be 100 miles all the while freaking out that you have to run back that far to cross the finish line. Several months before the race I received an email from my friend JT with information on private busses that I would have to pay for (regular race transportation is free for everyone) with a note that simply said, sign up for these busses. Now. JT saves all of his money for PBR and race entries and an occasional plant for his wife from the dog, so it made no sense to me why he would be a proponent of me spending money on something that I could get for free. So naturally I ignored him. The next day he re-forwards the bus email asking if I had reserved my spot and the next day, after the third email, I finally contacted Duke and saved myself a seat for the whopping price of $30. This turned out to be the BEST $30 I spent the entire weekend. Thanks, JT. No waiting, extra hour of sleep, bathrooms on the bus, reserved seats with three other girls from Colorado, warm…perfect! This made the drive seem much less painful than in past races and before I knew it I was in Hopkinton surrounded by the most affluent collection of homeless people you could imagine. Runner’s outfits at the start of a marathon could very well be footage for Mackelmore’s next Thrift Shop video. Everything from mismatched pajamas to trench coats and bathrobes…I clearly need to step up my game for my next race.

Above: Starting area in Hopkinton, who knew a trash bag could be a
scarf.  Right: QDW and Josh, the pride of East Jersey Hoffman wrestling getting ready to head to the starting corrals.  


Chunk #2 – A marathon is made up of two half marathons, neither of which is your race, Amy!

The race starts in Hopkinton and stretches through Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brighton, Brookline and finishes at Boston's Copley Square. If you read my dissertation from before Boston you may remember that my only goal was to not start too fast. So what did I do? I started too fast. Kim told me no miles faster than an 8:10, I am sure my sub 8 minute miles weren’t what she was referring to when she talked about running a smart race. I did make an effort to ease up and at the time I was just proud of myself for not running a bunch of 7:30’s like the rest of the people around me. Regardless, a plodder such as myself truly has no business below an 8 minute pace in the beginning of a 26 mile race. But that is where I settled for the first 25 kilometers.

Unlike all of my friends, I didn’t have a detailed race plan but I did happen to find the “Idiots Guide to the Boston Marathon” online and I read that before the race to ensure I knew what I was getting myself into. This guide provides a detailed description of the groups of people as they pass his favorite spot around the 13-mile mark. Judging by his time stamps, I am fairly certain I would fall in the group just behind the “Really, really hot, scantily-clad chicks in superb shape. God bless the invention of the jogging bra” and sadly in the “ FREAK portion of the race: People trying to finish in four hours or less, running alongside college kids carrying fraternity flags, transvestites, people dressed in Viking garb and wackos wearing Larry Bird jerseys or multi-colored afros.” But nonetheless I’m smiling, and have just passed the famous “scream tunnel”. It's tradition for the women of Wellesley College to cheer on Boston Marathoners who race past the campus. Thousands of women line about a quarter mile of the course screaming for kisses and waving some of the funniest signs I’ve ever seen in a race. “I’m majoring in kissing” and “keep going…KEEP GOING…that’s what she said” and finally “KISS ME, I’m ALREADY pregnant” are some of the best that I still remember. My sister made me a new playlist for the race with some of her favorite songs and by the half way point I am sure I had listened to “On Top of The World” by Imagine Dragons no less than five times. As cheesy as it sounds, it is exactly how I was feeling.

"Kiss me, I'm a Hungarian Gypsy Princess!"

Recap: 25 kilometers. 15.53 miles. 2:06:41. Average pace 8:09/mile

Chunk #3 – “Rolling hills are a bugger” – Nick Clark

So if the Boston Marathon is all downhill, what’s with all the uphill? After running 15.5 miles of mostly downhill finishing off with a half-mile spill into mile 16 you are faced with the first of three hills in Newton. None of these hills are particularly difficult, especially compared to what we run around the hood but I didn’t expect how hard it would be for me to switch gears and then continue to roll up and down for the next 5 miles. Just past mile 17 I made the “turn by the firehouse” and then back up Firehouse Hill which is a bit steeper but not nearly as long as the last one. I made it up and over the third and final Newton Hill and shuffled on to mile 20. This mile in many marathons is marked by some wall or imaginary wall, celebratory arch, sign or fire-breathing dragon to symbolize you not hitting the wall. Boston slaps you with Heartbreak Hill, the longest and steepest climb of the race...just for fun. This was actually a less painful climb for me than the first of the hills, which I would guess was because my legs had finally given in to the “you like hills” pep talk. Doing my best country-girl math it was right around mile 21 that I knew I wasn’t going to end up close enough to a PR to go for it (where were my 7:30’s now?) so I revised my very detailed race plan to eliminate all numbers and replace splits with cannoli’s, high fives, landmarks and I even managed to find a cold beer. Another great observation made by the Idiots Guide was “Why is it that you can't buy most products unless they have tamper-proof packaging, but when you run the marathon, you eagerly accept oranges and water from complete strangers who might be raging psychopaths? No idea.” I am reminded of this as I’m eating a cannoli from a total stranger covered in body paint, standing shirtless on the side of the road screaming at sweaty runners…seemed perfectly normal at the time.

The Golden Mile of Boston College, Coolidge Corner, Citgo Sign, “1 mile to go”, CANNOLI CORNER, I have chills! Right onto Hereford and left onto Boylston Street…“The sweetest left hand turn a runner will ever make.” – A King. At this point I can see the finish line, I have tears in my eyes, the crowds are UNREAL, I feel like I must be running 6 minute miles with perfect form but judging from the finish line photos I am in fact doing some sort of hunched over shuffle but make no mistake, I am grinning from ear to ear!

“That was f’n awesome” – Mackelmore

Recap: Last 17 kilometers. 10.56 miles. 1:37:30. Average pace 9:13/mile
Overall: 26.5 miles (extra credit). 3:44:11. 8:27/mile.

Chunk #4 – “You didn’t start off too fast, you ended to slow” – JT

For me, 3:44 for a marathon is actually a good time. Compound that with the fact that I was slogging a 10:30 pace a few months ago and it’s a REALLY good time. Did I start too fast? Probably. Did I end too slow? Absolutely! Regrets? Nope. To get back to Boston, I would have needed to finish this race in under 3:40, I made the decision to relax and enjoy the last miles when I knew I wouldn’t set a new personal record because I didn’t actually want it to end. There was no way to know how the day’s events would change my desire to repeat a big city marathon, but they certainly have. To date the only marathon I have run more than once is the Pikes Peak Marathon and that’s because it is such a ridiculous event that it can be an entirely different race each year. I left Boston sad, angry, tired and feeling cheated. What started out to be the perfect day was quickly 

stolen from us as runners and forever changed the lives of so many people that were on Boyleston Street at 2:50pm on Patriots Day, 15 April 2013. This just seems to be a bad way to end my marathon love affair. So will I go back? You had better believe it! When? Hmmm…stay tuned I guess.

I worked for a very long time to earn my own entry into the Boston Marathon and my friends and family have cheeredfor me each and every time I toe the line of a new challenge. Never have I been so overwhelmed with encouragement and excitement as I was leading up to this race. I have tried to thank you all personally but I will say one more time, without the support of my family, the miles with my running family, the encouragement of my friends and the complete and total confidence that my friend, and gracious coach Kim has in me I don’t think I would have been anywhere close to where I am now. I am among the slowest of my friends, rarely win an award and certainly won’t set a course record in a 50k after running in a pool for a month (Peter) or end up on the podium of a 50 mile race after doing a whole bunch of hot yoga (Brandon) but I’m a whole hell of a lot better than the 36 minute 5k girl that started this craziness years ago. So again, I thank you.

“We carry on. We race. We strive. We build and we work and we love and we raise our kids to do the same. And we come together to celebrate life. And this time next year on the third Monday in April, the world will return to this great American city to run harder than ever and to cheer even louder for the 118th Boston Marathon. Bet on it.” – President Obama

EXTRA CREDIT:  Special thanks to Lululemon, Colorado Springs for my terrifically girly race day get-up, BI friends for organizing all of the social functions, reserving rooms, providing packing lists and for the hours spent cheering and screaming for all of us at Cannoli Corner (Photo above is Megan enjoying a cannoli and a beer), Kim Dobson for pushing me, believing in me and helping me finish well under a 4:09 and my amazing family who are all awesome at being awesome.   

On Top Of The World - Imagine Dragons (not smart enough to embed a link today!)

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Comment by Amy (Arcuri) Perez on May 21, 2013 at 9:39pm

Thank you, Ann!

Comment by Ann Labosky on May 20, 2013 at 9:34pm

Great article, Amy - you're a fantastic writer! Thanks for sharing your experience.

Comment by Amy (Arcuri) Perez on May 9, 2013 at 8:16am

Thank you, CJ.  Pedro...a pool of beer?!  Think it was all of those bubbles that made you so fast?  Thanks for the kind words and no worries, I tend not to wear see through clothes if I can help it! 

Comment by Peter Maksimow on May 8, 2013 at 10:33pm

Amy, I "like" your status as well (I have to do that since I am not on Facebook). Congrats on a race well run! Most of the time, you will not remember what you ran during the race but who you hung out with before and after. That is my reason for training so hard...well, when I am not injured. And just a FYI, I ran in a pool of beer for a month before that 50K, so it wasn't just luck!

P.S. I hope that was not one of the see-though Lululemon outfits, I hear those are circulating. Next time, if you want see-through, just get mesh...it's a lot cheaper!

Comment by CJ Hitz on May 8, 2013 at 4:05pm

Fantastic post Amy! Thanks so much for taking us along on your Boston journey

Comment by Amy (Arcuri) Perez on May 7, 2013 at 9:23am

Thanks GB!  I love that texting to you and Susie is now considered old school.  I do remember a time, not very long ago that you didn't even text!!  PROGRESS!!

Comment by David Mulligan on May 7, 2013 at 8:46am

Great post GB!  You would've had a couple more "Likes" but Susie and I had to resort to the old fashion text to make sure you were safe and was happy to hear that you were.  Such a tragedy for those that did suffer needlessly and ashame that such a special day and accomplishment of a goal was stolen from you and all the other runners.  You will make it back to Boston!

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