Race Recap: Big Sur International Marathon 2013

I thought after two days passed I would know how to begin this race recap because I would have time to let the race ruminate but I’m still having trouble finding the words to describe just how incredible my first marathon was.

I know what I don’t want to do with this race recap and that is to give you a mile-by-mile breakdown of every moment on the course, because who really cares? Plus, I don’t think I can really remember what happened during each mile the moment it happened because honestly, I can’t remember some of the miles. Seriously, mile 19, I don’t know what happened to it.

What I do want to do is to try to express just how fantastic the Big Sur International Marathon was for me. It was an experience of a lifetime and I made every effort to soak in each moment of the weekend and the race. So instead of a typical race recap I’m going to give you highlights from the weekend.

  • The shakeout- On Saturday morning I went for a shakeout run led by the one and only Bart Yasso. The shakeout was with the Runner’s World Challenge, our marathon training program, and I was finally able to meet the runners I had been interacting with for the past few months. Bart led the shakeout run and took us to the beach. With the size of the group we had, it looked like a scene out of Chariots of Fire. A bunch of kayakers even cheered for us as we ran by.


  • Strategy- Runner’s World hosted a race strategy session on Saturday afternoon where I learned some helpful tips about how to run the course the next morning. One of the best tips I got out of the session was to take the downhills easy. “Gentle, gentle, gentle should be your mantra on the downhills,” Jen, our special projects editor, said during the session and let me tell you, I repeated that mantra to myself on every single downhill the next day.
  • Ravioli (carbs, yum!)- Myself and the Runner’s World ladies (Megan, Caitlin, Laura and Lindsey) went to an Italian restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey called Café Fina to carb up before the big day. Our waiter was hysterical and I’m pretty sure he thought we were all crazy for running a marathon.
  • Driving the course- After dinner, Megan, Laura, Jeff and I hopped into Jeff’s white Mini and took a drive down Highway 1 to review the course (and take a ton of pictures). I was a bit hesitant about driving the course before racing it. I thought either I’d get really intimidated and become even more nervous than I already was, or I would feel more prepared and ready to go into the race knowing what lay ahead. Luckily for me, I came out of it the latter, feeling prepared and less intimidated than I felt by simply looking at the elevation chart. I took mental notes about where the hills were, when I needed to save my legs and when I should look around and take in all the views. (The answer for that last point is- look at the views all the time. The entire course is so unbelievably picturesque that it’s impossible not to appreciate every moment of it. )
Big Sur - 26 miles

Big Sur – 26 miles

  • Race day nerves- I must have had quite the nervous look on my face when I got to the hotel lobby for our 4:30 a.m. bus ride to the start, because people either steered clear of me or tried to console me somehow. Except when I told them it was my first marathon, many of them gave me a look of concern and said something along the lines of, “Well, I’m sure you’ll be fine.” That didn’t help.
Can you see the fear in my eyes?

Can you see the fear in my eyes?

  • Race game plan- I decided to hang back in Wave 2 and start with the 4:30 pacer. The rest of the RW ladies hung back with me so I had some support while we waited for the race to start. As I stood there, listening to the race announcer over the loud speaker, I was in my own head going over my race plan, deciding how I was going to run this, what my mantras were and what I was going to do if it got too hard.
  • Big Sur, Boston and doves- Big Sur has a unique partnership with the Boston Marathon in their Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge where runners run both marathons, less than two weeks apart. Because of the bombings at this year’s Boston Marathon, the B2B Challenge seemed even more special. A man from the B.A.A. served as the official race starter and they released white doves (something they always do) right before the bullhorn started the race.
We wore blue and yellow ribbons for Boston.

We wore blue and yellow ribbons for Boston.

  • And we’re off!- Before I knew it the bullhorn sounded again and it was time to go! The first four miles of Big Sur are a complete downhill and in the strategy session I learned I should take these first few miles extremely slow to save my quads for the hills that were to come. The only problem is a lot of people don’t know this and they take the first few miles hard and try to bank time. Not a good idea. So as I was taking it slow, other runners were passing me in waves. I didn’t get discouraged though because I knew I was on my way to running a smart race and it definitely paid off in the end.
  • Confidence boost- I got a bit of a rush around mile 5 or 6 (I can’t remember) and the Runner’s World truck went by with Bart, Amby Burfoot and Warren (Runner’s World brand manager) in it. They actually spotted me too and started beeping and yelling “GO HANNAH! LOOKING STRONG!” When Amby, the 1968 Boston Marathon winner, and Bart, the mayor of running, tell you you’re looking strong as you’re running a marathon, you can’t help but get a little confidence boost.
  • Along the course I saw– a whale (!), taiko drummers, the piano man, some pretty good bands, cows (moo!), and lots of happy volunteers!
  • Hurricane Point (dun, dun, dun…)– I had settled into a really slow and steady pace in preparation for Hurricane Point, the 2-mile stretch from mile 10 to 12 where the course ascends more than 500 feet. Everyone talks about Hurricane Point like it is Mt. Everest so of course I prepared as much as I possibly could by doing hill workouts and making my long runs pretty hilly. The taiko drummers were set up at the base of the incline at the mile 10 marker and that got me pumped to run up this infamous hill. The verdict? I’m glad I did all those hill workouts because honestly, I didn’t think Hurricane Point was that bad and I HATE hills. The incline is a gradual 6 percent ascent and it twists and turns so you never get a glimpse of the whole thing. Climbing for 2-miles is no easy task, don’t take this as me diminishing it, but for me it helped to not be able to see the entirety of the hill. I knew it ended around mile 12 so I just waited until I saw the mile marker and once I did I knew it was over.
  • For every uphill, there’s a downhill– Once I got up to Hurricane Point I was greeted with a long downhill, about a 9 percent elevation drop. This descent allowed me to catch my breathe but Jen’s mantra came back into my head, “Gentle, gentle, gentle.”
  • Bixby Bridge and we’re halfway there!– This downhill spits runners out onto the iconic Bixby Bridge at mile 13. I couldn’t believe I was already at mile 13 when I saw the bridge- I was halfway there! I saw the pianist and it was amazing how his melodies echoed throughout the entire area. I could hear him playing from across the bridge!
Running across the Bixby Bridge.

Running across the Bixby Bridge.

  • The weather and the wind– The weather was near perfect for the entire race. It was clear in the beginning but became slightly overcast. It also wasn’t too warm at any point during the race and I felt pretty comfortable. The one factor was the wind which was so strong at points, I felt like I was moving in slow motion.
  • Camaraderie and a new running friend– I met Sabrina around mile 20. We had been going back and forth, chasing each other for the last couple of miles and decided to support each other the rest of the way. I knew she would be a good running partner when I told her I couldn’t talk and she said, “I can’t either.” This was her second marathon and she was aiming for a PR. I told her it was my first and I was aiming to finish.
A shot of Sabrina and me nearing the finish.

A shot of Sabrina and me nearing the finish.

  • Carmel Highlands– We were about to enter the Carmel Highlands, arguably the hardest portion of Big Sur. The Highlands are the last few miles of the course and they include some steep hills and the canter of the road is hard on your legs. My running buddy, Sabrina, and I took these hills easy and willed each other up and over them. We stayed on pace, checked with each other at the water stops to see if we needed anything and kept trudging along. We stopped around mile 23 to get the fresh strawberries we had heard so much about (if you ever run Big Sur, do this! They are amazing) and continued along the route.
  • Mile 25 hill– At mile 25 an insult of a hill hits you like a slap in the face. Thank God Sabrina was with me here because at this point in the race, I just wanted to see the finish line and if I never saw a hill again it would be too soon.
  • 200 meters– When we hit mile 26 she said she was on pace for that PR and before we knew it, the yellow finish line was in sight. I started to get emotional and we both took all the energy we had left to finish the last 200 meters of the marathon. As we came barreling down to the finish line we grabbed hands and threw our arms into the sky and she said, “You’re going to be a marathoner!” We crossed the finish line in step with one another and she gave me a huge hug. She got her PR and I became a marathoner.

Finish line

Sabrina and I parted ways soon after crossing the finish but Megan was right there to capture my post-marathon reaction face and give me a huge hug. I got my medal, a hand-crafter ceramic medal with a leather necklace, and we headed over to the RW Challenge tent. The first person I wanted to find was Jen since she was the one who convinced me to train for the marathon in the first place. I went up to her and said, “Jen, I did it!” and she just gave me a hug and said, “Look at you, marathoner!”

I finished the marathon in 4:33:41 and came in 28th in my age group, not shabby for my first 26.2! I was so proud of the other RW ladies who cleaned up the rest of our age group category. The entire experience was more than I ever could have imagined it would be. I’m planning on writing another post in the coming days about what it really meant to me but I had to get all the memories down on paper before they left my mind. But honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever forget Big Sur.

The race director talked to me before the race and had told me, “You’re life will change when you cross that finish line.” After I finished he found me in the Challenge tent and asked, “So, was I right?” I smiled and said, “Absolutely.”

Why You Shouldn’t Be Nervous for Your First Marathon

922874_4931838093758_1915257636_nI won’t be the first to tell you that running a marathon takes a lot of hard work. Most training programs last anywhere from 14 to 18 weeks and over the course of that time period you’ll log literally hundreds of miles. And what for? A few hours of running on a single day culminating the entire experience in a celebration of all of your hard work and dedication. Now, for a first-timer like myself, that is a lot of pressure on a single day, a single run. That pressure cannot amount to a lot of anxiety the week leading up to race day. But remember when I said this is a “celebration?” Well, it’s true.

My marathoner friends tell me I’m ready. I’ve logged every workout, tackled my 20-milers and (knock on wood) have made it to race weekend relatively injury-free. As I write this on the plan ride out to California, I found a note one of my coworkers and friend, left on my desk in the middle of this past week. She outlined 10 reasons why she is confident I’m going to “rock Big Sur.” The note was genuine and helped put me at ease. It was also too good not to share, so I’m sorry Megan but I’m putting you on blast and letting everyone know why they shouldn’t be afraid to run their first marathon either.

  • “You’ve conquered 10th Street how many times? Like a million. Look at your log and count the number. It’ll surprise you.”- 10th Street is a very hilly road near work that we use for hill workouts and hill runs are vital to Big Sur preparation. But this is good advice for any first-timer- look over your log, look at your workouts, your miles. You’ve come SO far.
  • “You dominated your 20-milers. I remember how nervous you were before it and how ecstatic you were when you finished it successfully.” –This is true, I was scared out of my mind for both 20-milers but I finished both of them feeling strong and happy. Even if your 20-milers weren’t perfect, you still managed to get them done and that’s what counts. You can cover the miles, what’s 6.2 more?
  • “You did all the little things- you’ve done enough core/strength/yoga for the both of us. You’re strong girl!” – This is true and every first-timer should try to incorporate as much core, strength and yoga exercises to supplement their running as possible. I credit all of that to getting to the starting line injury-free.
  • “You followed your plan to a T. I’ve never seen someone so committed to a plan- that means you’re prepared.” – Again, yes I may have been a little neurotic in sticking to my plan but as a first-timer, I didn’t know how to train for a marathon so I figured following a training plan as close as possible would be the best way to learn.
  • “You’ve actually seen your progress- figure out how much your average pace has dropped since you started. Instant confidence booster.” – I’m not the only one who has seen a change in pace throughout marathon training. Many of my other runner friends said training for a marathon made them faster overall and it was definitely a confidence booster.
  • “Unless a landslide falls on you, you will finish. This is your only goal for your first 26.2 and there’s absolutely no reason you won’t make it.” – True, my only goal is to finish and I would advice other first-time marathoners to have the same goal. Time doesn’t matter because you really don’t know what to expect. If your goal is to just finish it’s a lot easier to handle.
  • “You’ve said it yourself that you’re committed to sticking to your game plan. That’s like 95.6 percent of the battle. You’ve got this thing in the bag before it’s even started.” – It’s good to go into any race with a set game plan but also to be willing to make changes along the way and be flexible depending on how you are feeling.
  • “If Joey Fatone can do it, you can. Period.” – Enough said.
  • “You can bank on those freaking stunning views to get you through the last 6.2 miles. Seriously, your first marathon is Big Sur…. Umm… Awesome!” – True. Big Sur is rated one of the top marathons in the country and it is on many people’s bucket lists of races. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to run my first marathon at Big Sur.
  • “You’ve made it to the starting line healthy and ready to go. Remember, the race is just a celebration of all the hard work, dedication, freezing cold miles, and sacrifices you’ve made to get there. There’s no pressure. You’ve got this!”

It’s true, there really isn’t any pressure on me and like everyone has told me, you only run your first marathon once. So now that I know I’m ready, I am going to enjoy every mile.

Big Sur Will Be My Victory Lap, But Not My Finish Line

Big Sur“This is your victory lap.”

A coworker said this to me last week as I began my minor-freak out that yes, this Sunday my Brooks will toe the starting line of my first full marathon on the opposite coast at the Big Sur International Marathon.

This past year has been an incredible journey and training for Big Sur has been no different. I’ve had flawless training, nailed my paces, conquered some pretty significant hills and followed my training plan to a T. So, why am I still so anxious for Sunday?

I think race anxiety is 100 percent normal. To me, what makes it such a confusing emotion is, although I’m nervous to run 26.2 miles, I’m also really excited for the entire experience. Other friends and coworkers have reminded me, “you only have a first marathon once, so enjoy it.”

That’s what I plan to do. I plan to take it all in. I’m going to have the most beautiful views to keep me company along Highway 1 and I don’t want to miss any of them. Also, the pressure of a target time is completely off because the good news about racing a new, longer distance is no matter what, it’s a PR!

But for some reason, as excited and nervous as I am for Big Sur, another emotion has recently surfaced that I wasn’t prepared for- sadness. For the past year, I’ve considered myself a beginner. I started running in March 2012 and have built up from there. Running (and finishing) Big Sur this weekend feels almost like I’m closing my beginner’s chapter of my running story. Some people might not like to admit this but I like to call myself a beginner. I like that I can relate to new runners and help them just as some of my other runner friends have helped me. And sometimes, calling myself a beginner gives me a sense of security so when I tell people I have a new PR, I can follow up with, it’s good for me because I’m a beginner.

Finishing Big Sur will officially mean I’m no longer a beginner runner. But it won’t change my status as a new runner and it won’t mean I’m done learning new things about running- believe me, I have a lot more to learn. I’ve learned a lot through this training cycle and I will continue to learn more as I recover in the following weeks and start up a new training cycle, whenever and for whatever that may be.

As I make my way up the coast of California, on the breathtakingly beautiful Highway 1, I vow to take it all in, listen to the runners around me, see every view, laugh at every unique mile marker, listen to the piano man and the taiko drummers and just enjoy it because it will be my first full marathon, but most certainly not my last. Big Sur will be my victory lap but not my finish line.

When I began training for Big Sur back in January I bought myself an Erica Sara “Say It Do It” bracelet with the words, “She believed she could,” engraved on one side of the medallion. The words are from a quote, “She believed she could, so she did.” As I cross the finish line at Big Sur on Sunday, probably with tears in my eyes, I’ll be able to complete the quote- “so she did.”

Big Sur Marathon Training- Week 12 and 13

Running this bridge in less than one week! (Source: Big Sur Facebook Page)

Running this bridge in less than one week! (Source: Big Sur Facebook Page)

I’ve been in full taper mode and with last week being so busy for work with the Boston Marathon, and then the bombings, and then the follow-up, I haven’t had time to write up my workouts from the past two weeks. Also, because we were very busy traveling, I missed one of my runs which really bummed me out. But, I was assured by my coworkers that it wasn’t a big deal and I am more than ready for Big Sur this weekend. It may be the taper crazies talking, but I really hope they’re right!

Week 11- April 8 – April 14

Monday: Stretch and foam roll

Tuesday: 5.32 miles in 44:19 at 8:19/mile pace

It was a very, very hot lunch run today. Full sun and 80 degrees the whole time. Apparently, that makes me run faster? My Garmin died before my run so I used the Runmeter app on my phone. According to my splits, I ran pretty fast but I felt like it was such a slow slog the entire time. I’m not sure if these splits are accurate but here they are:

Mile 1 – 6:28/mile (I’m not kidding, that’s what it says)
Mile 2 – 8:40/mile
Mile 3 – 8:53/mile
Mile 4 – 8:50/mile
Mile 5 – 8:38/mile
Mile 6 – 8:25/mile (for 0.32 miles)

I also did Oiselle’s dirty dozen core workout.

Wednesday: 5.32 miles in 44:36 at 8:23/mile pace.

This run was just not working for me. It was so hot when I went out for my lunch run I just didn’t feel good the entire time. I was supposed to run 6 miles but I didn’t have it in me to complete the run, I needed water asap. I think I’m just not used to the heat yet and thankfully it’s not going to stay this hot for too much longer.

Thursday: 8 miles in 1:13:00 at 9:06/mile pace.

I ran this morning before heading home to Massachusetts for the Boston Marathon. It was SUPER humid out due to the storm last night but it was a bit cooler than the past few days so that was a nice break. However, because it was so humid out I felt like it was a little bit harder to breather. I felt pretty good the whole time and just wanted to take it easy. My splits:

Mile 1 – 9:32/mile
Mile 2 – 8:58/mile
Mile 3 – 8:55/mile
Mile 4 – 9:09/mile
Mile 5 – 9:13/mile
Mile 6 – 9:04/mile
Mile 7 – 9:00/mile
Mile 8 – 9:06/mile

Friday: REST

Saturday: I was too busy with work to get my long run in so that didn’t happen. Womp womp.

Sunday: B.A.A. 5K

2-mile warm-up: Meghan and I did a quick warmup run before today’s B.A.A. Boston Marathon 5K. Ran around and did some strides.

3.1 miles in 25:23 at 8:11/mile pace. This morning I ran the B.A.A. Boston Marathon 5K and set a 2-minute PR! I had kind of high hopes for this race because I knew it was going to be a fast, flat course. It was super crowded which made it kind of hard to maneuver around people but overall it was a great race!

Week 12- April 15 – April 21

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 5.5 miles in 51:00 at 9:16/mile pace. #runforboston

Wednesday: 6.5 miles in 59:00 at 9:06/mile pace.

Thursday: Detox flow yoga and Oiselle dirty dozen

Friday: Rest

Saturday: 10 miles, long, slow distance in 1:30:43 at 9:04/mile pace. It’s bittersweet but this was my last long run of Big Sur training. I can’t believe I’m running a marathon in a week!!

Sunday: 3.32-mile recovery run in 28:55 at 8:45/mile pace. Easy shakeout run today around the neighborhood. I wanted to do 4 miles but I had some blisters in the making that were killing me.

See all training recaps here.

In Other (Happier) News

To say this past week has been nothing short of a whirlwind rollercoaster of emotion, stress, sadness, anger and just shear confusion would be an understatement. Even still as I work through my emotions of this week I remember today is the three month anniversary of the day I lost one of my very close college friends in a horrific accident. If I’ve learned anything from this week, I’ve learned life is short and it is meant to be lived and celebrated as if it could end at any moment. So, I’ve decided to share some of the good things that happened this past week.

Awkward pre-5K photo.

Awkward pre-5K photo.

  • On Sunday, April 14 I set a two-minute 5K PR at the B.A.A. Boston Marathon 5K, finishing the race in 25:23. As superficial as this sounds, especially in light of the events that transpired the next day, I’m genuinely proud of my 5K finish. I hadn’t been training for shorter distances so I just decided to go into it with little expectations. I just wanted to enjoy it because the course ends with the infamous, “right on Hereford, left on Boylston,” and leads runners across the finish line of the Boston Marathon. It was a really incredible moment made even better by the fact that my parents came to watch me race and then took me out to a really nice breakfast afterwards- an altogether wonderful morning.
  • After a very long day on Monday, followed by a longer day on Tuesday, I needed to get out for a run and when I was about to head out my dad said he would join me. My dad used to be a really amazing runner but he doesn’t do much more than a mile or so on the treadmill at the gym. He ran with me for about a mile and then I continued on but it was such a nice gift to be able to share that time with him.
  • On Wednesday, I found out that I was accepted onto the Nuun Hydration Hood to Coast relay team! This was a gem of news in a very dreary and quite awful week. I’ve never run a relay but I’m really excited to join Nuun and the other girls picked to be on the team on a 200 mile journey through Oregon!


  • Because of the bombings at the Marathon on Monday and the way our coverage unfolded in the following days, I was able to work from home in Massachusetts for the remainder of the week which was a great treat since I was able to spend time with my family. We were all having a difficult time dealing with the Boston bombings and everything that followed so it was a blessing to be able to work through our emotions together and just be supportive of each other.
  • I got to see the strength of Boston firsthand and I’ll never forget the resilience, courage and absolute bravery the entire city exhibited this past week.
  • And finally, ONE WEEK UNTIL BIG SUR!

A Block Away From the Boston Marathon Bombings and These Are My Thoughts

From inside the press room on lockdown, the race clock never stopped running.

From inside the press room on lockdown, the race clock never stopped running.

I don’t know when I stopped shaking.

Even now, two days later, I can’t stop hearing the booms. One boom, I looked at my fellow editors. The second boom, I looked at the TV.

A spokesperson for the B.A.A. ran out of the press room at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel. Seconds, though they felt like minutes, went by. He ran back in- two explosions went off near the finish, he said. We were in lockdown.

Someone has attacked my city, my family, my life, my love, I thought.

My dad has run the marathon many times. My mom worked for the city of Boston as deputy arts commissioner, under Mayor Tommy Menino, and his predecessors. My grandparents immigrated to Brighton from Ireland in 1955 and my grandfather founded the New England Irish Cultural Center. My uncle was the head EMT leading operations at the finish line medical tents when the bombs went off. This was my family’s city.

Boston is my home and the Boston Marathon is our city’s homecoming celebration. In the days that have passed I’ve tried to remain strong. I’ve tried to hold my ground. But we all have a breaking point. Kind of like a long run. There’s always a point where we have to stop, take in how far we’ve come and catch our breath. The unfortunate part of that is the reality that once we stop, we find it easier to stop in the coming miles, moments, or days.

I was waiting for my stopping point, my walk break. I knew it would come. I was trying to be ready for it. But it came like a bonk. A wave of emotion I had no control over. Since it came yesterday afternoon, it’s returned at the most unexpected moments.

I can’t stop hearing the booms, seeing the images on TV of people’s limbs, and shaking, just shaking.

All I know is someone, on that horrific day, attacked my city and our support group. Marathoning, when it comes down to it, is a selfish sport. We train for our own goals, miss out on time with loved ones, family and friends, all in the name of meeting our goal- to run 26.2 miles. At the end of the day, what does that goal mean if we don’t have someone to celebrate it with? If our support group is not waiting for us at the finish line.

And on Monday, April 15 someone attacked our support group. There was no one to meet us at the finish line. The helpers ran in and did what they could but at the end of the day we were all looking for answers. But if I know anything, marathoners, the running community, and most importantly, the people of Boston, are strong. We will reach deep into our energy reserves to rise up and help each other heal. It’s going to take time but I truly think we will come out of this stronger and closer than ever before.

As for me, I’m still shaking and I don’t know when it will stop. But I know it will stop and I’ll find my finish line in Boston, with a huge support group waiting for me and the rest of the community, at the end.

What the Boston Marathon Means to Bostonians- Especially This One

At mile 20 of the 1990 Boston Marathon, my Mom holds me as she watches for my Dad to run by.

At mile 20 of the 1990 Boston Marathon, my Mom holds me as she watches for my Dad to run by.

Long before running became such a big part of my life, running was in my life. My Dad was a marathoner who ran the Boston Marathon religiously with his group of running friends, the Ragmen. They called themselves the Ragmen because they were a group comprised of half runners and half wheelchair racers, including one of the first wheelchair racers, Bob Hall.

I was a baby when my Dad was coming to the end of his running career. That didn’t mean running stopped being a part of our family life though, because every year, on the third Monday in April, we would return to mile 20 of the Boston Marathon, Along with some of the former Ragmen, we would cheer on strangers, elites and friends as they made the ascent up Heartbreak Hill.

Team Ragmen with my Dad in the blue and yellow jacket.

Team Ragmen with my Dad in the blue and yellow jacket.

The Boston Marathon is a tradition rooted in the lives of many Bostonians and my family is no different. Since infancy, I’ve been out on that course. My parents would always pack a cooler with sandwiches and drinks so we could spend hours out on the course cheering as endless waves of runners passed by. I’ve handed out fuel to runners with one of my Dad’s friend’s sons, aptly named Myles. We’ve made signs. Brought that morning’s Boston Globe with the list of bib numbers and names so we can cheer on friends or call out runners in need of support. I’ve handed out water and Gatorade. Even once, when I was little, I remember running alongside some of the runners as they passed by, wondering if I could do it too.

But, in all those years, it never occurred to me that one day I would run a marathon. My Dad was a marathoner but for most of my life, I hated running. But now, in my 23rd year attending the Boston Marathon, I am a runner and about to become a marathoner after April 28. I’m returning not as a spectator this time but as an editor at Runner’s World. I won’t be at mile 20 this year but I’ll be in a pressroom near the finish line, not-so-patiently awaiting results and post-race interviews. It’ll be different this year but the tradition will still be there.

In a video interview with Shalane Flanagan yesterday, she, a Massachusetts native, said it perfectly, “Boston is everything.” She grew up watching the marathon every Marathon Monday just as I have. She watched the elites in awe, she cheered on her Dad just like me and now she’s returning as the American female favorite. She called it a “full circle moment,” and I have to say I agree with her. Shalane’s full circle moment will be a “W” at Boston but for me, if I ever get a chance to qualify, that would be mine.

Although I’m not even close to qualifying for Boston based on my training run times, I can still say being at the Boston Marathon on Monday will be special. I know my family and the remaining Ragmen will be at mile 20 cheering on the runners and I’ll be at the finish but I’m coming back a different person. As a spectator, I’ve always attached memories and nostalgia to being at the Boston Marathon but now, as a runner, knowing how hard these people worked to make it to Boston makes me appreciate it even more.

But as a Bostonian, the marathon is so much more than an elite race, it’s our city’s shining moment. People say what sets the Boston Marathon apart from other major marathons are the spectators because no matter where you are on the course, someone will be cheering for you. And in Boston, that’s what we do best- we cheer for the pros, we cheer for the underdog and we cheer for the Ragmen, who is everyone else.

Tips and Tricks for Surviving the Taper Madness

With my peak mileage weeks behind me, my final really long, long run done, I am heading into my taper and although I’m (honestly) welcoming it with open arms, I’m hearing the taper is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I’ve been logging my highest mileage weeks ever throughout this training cycle, which makes sense since it’s my first full marathon, so the prospect of lesser mileage totals seems appealing to me right now. But, hey now, stop right there, my coworkers say, the taper is the hardest part of marathon training.

Why is this, you ask? Well, while you’re training for a marathon you get used to always having a very long run on the weekends. You get used to logging double workouts to hit your midweek mileage goals. And, you get used to spending most of your time running. Then the taper comes and all of a sudden you have some free time and you don’t know what to do with it. Some people start to doubt their training and others just enter into the taper crazies.

Upon hearing all of this, I thought I’d seek out some advice to avoid taper madness and hopefully make it out alive- and more importantly, make it to the starting line at Big Sur confident in all of the training I’ve put in during the last few months. Here’s what I found:

So moral of the story? Find a way to distract yourself from the fact that you’re not running as much as you’re used to. Whether that means catching up with friends, reading a good book or straight up sleeping through the taper, try to get your mind off the fact that everything you’ve been doing for the last few months is about to culminate in one goal race. I’ve told many people before to trust in their training once the training cycle starts to wind down and race day slowly approaches but now, it’s my turn to trust in my training. And the extra naps don’t sound too bad either!

Do you have any tips for surviving the taper? If so, mention them in the comments section below!