Musings just-the-beginning

Published on April 28th, 2014 | by karlyn


Just the Beginning: Reflections on the 2014 Boston Marathon

One week ago today, I finished the 2014 Boston Marathon. Here’s the video I shot while running the final stretch down Boylston street, a moment I have literally been fantasizing about for over a decade:

For months, I thought the marathon would be the end of the journey. As it turned out, it was just the beginning. Ironically, the marathon was the first run in weeks that I didn’t experience all of the nagging injuries that plagued my training. There was no calf pain, no knee pain, even the IT band kept itself in check. Don’t get me wrong – there was PLENTY of other pain. It was much hotter than expected and sunny, my quads (which had been fine the entire training season) were completely shredded by the half way point and the bottoms of my feet were as sore as they had ever been in my life. When I reached mile 16 and saw my husband and my mother waiting in the Dana-Farber tent, I literally broke down in tears and told my husband that I wanted to sit down on the sidewalk and just cry.


Of course I, along with my marathon partner Jess, kept going and put one foot in front of the other until we finished.

But here’s the most surprising part: I was fully recovered from the marathon four days later. I did my first post marathon run on Saturday – two miles at 11 min/mile pace – and felt great. I just did my second run today (Monday) – two miles at a 10 min/mile pace – and feel amazing. No pain at all. So in some ways, the marathon represented the beginning of my real journey with running. I went from doing a 5K here and there to marathon in six months. While working full time and doing lots of other side projects. That’s a lot. I never expected to have the greatest run that day – I just wanted to finish.  It says something that two runs that I’ve done within a week of the race have been some of my best runs in at least a year. Now I’m already thinking about next year, if Dana-Farber will have me back. More on that in a moment.

Here are some reflections on the day, in no particular order:

Do it for charity. 

I first thought about doing the Boston Marathon 12 years ago when I was a junior in college. The problem was the qualification – I’ve never been a fast runner and don’t necessarily have any desire to be. But on the other hand, I always felt like getting a bib through a charity would leave a sense that I hadn’t “earned” it. But through the process, I found that fundraising for Dana-Farber was one of the most rewarding experiences. I had personal reasons for doing it, but the stories of my Dana-Farber teammates, as well as the individuals that donated to me of their friends and loved one battling cancer, really made it worthwhile. One teammate – Teresa – was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer while she was training to run the 2014 race, and had just completed her forth round of chemotherapy. Still, she was going to start the marathon, even if she couldn’t make it all the way (She met her goal and made it to the 10K mark (6.2 miles) before leaving the race).

Then I went to the Dana-Farber pasta party the night before the race and listened to Darby, a team member selected to give a speech to the crowd, who told the story about how she had planned to run this year until she found out that the cancer had returned and spread, and would take her life far too soon. I watched as people who had run for 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 years for Dana-Farber were honored on the stage, and listened to story after story of triumph. This year, the Dana-Farber team raised over $7 million to fund innovative cancer research. That is an amazing thing to be a part of. I said above that I was already thinking about next year. To be honest, it’s more for the cause than it is for the race. I have my Boston Marathon medal. I want to be one of those people who has the 5, 10, 15 year milestones. I want to hit the $8,000 pacesetter fundraising milestone. I want to keep giving to this great cause that has a real impact.

Charity – it’s not just for the cause. 

Now before we get too lovey-dovey, it’s important to note that running for the Dana-Farber team also comes with some perks. Dana-Farber hooks their runners up on race day. The vast majority of runners – all of the amazing athletes that qualified by running super fast times – are bussed off to Hopkinton High School in the morning to wait around outside for hours. Dana-Farber has it’s own refuge at a church just a few blocks from the starting line where there is ample food, coffee, art supplies to decorate your singlet and (most importantly) a large row of very clean port-a-potties. It’s a wonderful place to spend your time.

The point is this: Even if you qualify, consider running for charity. It’s extremely rewarding and you get perks. It’s a win-win.

It’s a lot of sitting around

I didn’t start running until 11am, but I had to be on a bus to make it out to the starting line at 5:15am, which meant I had to meet my teammates at 4:30am. That was an early start! Then, you get to the bus….sit around until the BAA folks decide the bus can leave….and drive a ways out to Hopkinton where the start is. The whole affair took about two hours – we didn’t get out there until well after 7:15am.

On the drive out, it finally started to dawn on me that I was about to run the marathon. I’m not lying when I say that I kind of felt like I was on the hunger games.


So then you get there….and then you keep sitting around for three more hours! I’m not complaining at all – like I said, Dana-Farber took great care of us! – but it just wasn’t something I thought about beforehand and definitely makes for a really long day.

Run the Boston Marathon If….

  • You want to feel like a rock star for a day. Seriously. Make sure you put your name on your shirt (though I was called Marilyn at least 75 times) and you will have people cheering for you every few minutes for the entire 26.2 miles. The spectators were absolutely unbelievable all day, from a word of support, to sitting out on the course with a  hose to run through, to offering you their beer.
  • You want the support of the best volunteers I’ve ever seen at any event. Just like the spectators, they were so high energy and supportive all day. My absolute favorite was the volunteer at the very end of the race that I caught a moment of in the video – he was so into it and just screaming my name and so excited. I don’t know how they kept that energy up all day long. It was incredible.
  • You love running hills. Over and over and over and over again. It’s not just Heartbreak Hill in Newton (which is actually more like a series of three hills) – the entire course is up/down/up/down/up/down. Making a concerted effort to train downhill is so incredibly important. My quads were the biggest problem I faced in the entire race.
  • You want to be cheered on by hundreds drunken bikers in Framingham, which was way cooler than it probably sounds. This may have been my absolute favorite part of the course.
  • You want to have hundreds of girls propositioning you at Wellesley.
  • You love that green gatorade. I will never drink that stuff again. (Until next year?)
  • You want to be cheered on by really hot, drunk college guys that would never have given you the time of day in school.
  • You’ve ever fantasized about running down Boylston street when you’ve been out on a run. Its even better than you could ever imagine it.

Totally worth all the suck

I don’t have children, but I keep hearing from women who do that the marathon is like pregnancy – it’s unbelievably painful but the minute it’s over, you forget all of the pain. And then give it a few days and it doesn’t seem so bad. And give it a few more days and you’re ready to do it again. The minute they put that medal around my neck I (a) cried like a baby and (b) forgot how miserable I was for most of the race. Then a few days later, all I could remember were the fun moments. Then a few days later (when I was recovered), I was ready to go again.

I’m so happy I took on this challenge. To say it was life changing would not be an understatement. I raised over $5,000 for innovative cancer research and got to have the experience of a lifetime in the ultimate marathon. All of the hard work was worth it and it’s an experience I would recommend strongly to everyone who is willing to take on the challenge and commit themselves to it. It’s totally doable for most people – you can finish it.

Will I do it again? The deal I’ve made with myself is that if I can get back to the weight I was the last time I ran a marathon by the application time (totally doable), I’ll be happy to join the Dana-Farber team again if they’ll have me. I would do things a little differently – I would join in on more of the team activities, especially the training runs that take place on the course. I would also take advantage of the coaching they have (former Boston Marathon winner Jack Fultz!) and do fundraising a little differently, really focusing more on doing the events I wanted to do this time but just couldn’t pull off.

So this time next year? Maybe so :-)



About the Author

I'm a non-runner (i.e. a proudly slow runner) training to run the world's most famous marathon. This will be my third marathon, and second Boston Marathon in a row. I will be running as a part of the Dana-Farber Marathon Team and will be raising money for the Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Cancer Research. Follow my journey by joining my mailing list, following me on Twitter or on Facebook.

One Response to Just the Beginning: Reflections on the 2014 Boston Marathon

  1. Robin2go says:

    I knew you could do it. I never doubted you for a second. And for all the people in my life who have been taken much too early because of this goddamned disease from hell, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for doing something so brave and strong and amazing. You rock, Karlyn. Don’t ever doubt yourself again. Because I might have to threaten to kick your ass again.

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