I’m still not entirely certain that it’s sane to walk 26.2 miles but, if I’m not altogether there, at least I’m in good company. On Sunday, I walked my third marathon in support of The Jimmy Fund – the fundraising arm of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. That part is completely sane…so sane, in fact, that I’m super-proud to say that I made “Pacesetter” again this year (which, this year, meant raising a minimum of $1,500).
The day started early enough: my alarm was set for 4:00am. Since I get really edgy when I have my alarm set for very early times, I slept fairly poorly and woke up a few minutes before the alarm went off. DH and I crept out of bed, got dressed and headed out the door at 4:30am, heading to Copley Square to park the car. The theory is, if you park the car in Copley, you take the shuttle bus to Hopkinton and walk back to your car. And so, we repeated what we’d done in the two prior years, making great time to Copley and boarding the first bus we were able to get on. After a quiet drive out the Mass Pike and a quick pit stop at the registration area for dh’s hat, we grabbed a bagel (thanks, Dunkin Donuts!) and hit the course at 6:18am.
I know this sounds like I’m just making it up, but the first 9-10 miles are always the easiest. You’re excited. You’re enthusiastic. You’re fresh. We took a couple of stops along this part of the route, pausing to change socks at the 8mi “refueling” station (the first of three such changes I’d make during the walk), and then on we went. It was at this point that the bursitis I’d been fighting all week – and that randomly, rather cruelly hobbled me for DAYS preceding the walk – started to come into play. Following the advice from the nurse practitioner I’d seen earlier in the week, I iced my hip at the 8mi point, while we stretched and rested, and I took 600mg of ibuprofen at the start and partway through the walk. It helped, but it only really took the edge off and never really made the discomfort go away entirely.
I felt like I ate my way through the course, though really all I ate on the course pre-lunch was a peanut butter and honey sandwich. My breakfast was a hardboiled egg eaten in the car, along with a granola bar, and half of a wheat bagel (dry, untoasted) before hopping on the course. Mostly, I tried alternating between water and Gatorade, just to try to stay hydrated. Lunch was a turkey and cheese sandwich, some chips and a couple of brownie bites. It was a fantastic balance of carbs, protein, sugar and salt to refresh myself. I only snacked minimally after that, although I have to say the Ritz Bits cheese sandwiches I had when we turned onto Beacon Street were all kinds of awesome.
The weather was rather lovely for the start – brisk without being chilly, and cloudy to a fault. But then, once we were about a third of the way through the walk, the clouds started to give way to the sun, and things started to warm up a bit. When we stopped in Natick, I changed my shirt from the long-sleeved “2012 Pacesetter” shirt to a tank top. I teased dh that I was probably challenging town decency laws, but he shrugged it off as, “Enh, you see more skin in a Target flyer.” Touché.
The latter portion of the middle third of the walk was probably the toughest. When we were deep into the hills of Newton – which are steep and tall – there was virtually no cloud cover and the trees were spaced out enough that there was very little shade to be had. Worse still, there was almost no breeze. For the last two years, our arrival at the Boston College refueling station was where I would hit a wall that I’d have to climb over. This year, I started to feel a bit out of it while climbing one of the last hills in The Heights (the area that includes BC), but I only needed a few minutes to sit in the shade and rehydrate to get myself back on track.
Then, up I went..and up WE went. My slightly awkward gait from the bursitis flare-ups, combined with sweatier feet from heavier padded sneakers, led to a couple of blisters atop the balls of my feet. These managed to pop – or something – as we were making our way through the five miles from BC down to the finish, but I didn’t really mind. Fortune smiled on us during the last portion of the walk and most of the final stretch was done in shade and with a cool breeze blowing on us. I was loving every minute of it, while dh was actually complaining that he was getting chilly. I suppose it’s the few extra layers of fat I have on him that probably meant I’m better in cold than he is.
Regardless, right around 4:20pm – nearly 10hrs to the minute from when we walked across the official start line in Hopkinton – we crossed the finish line in Copley Square. This includes about 1-1/2hrs of stops and breaks along the way, so we still made fairly decent time (averaging about 19-1/2mins per mile). We flew through the early miles, but the ones in Newton were much slower due to heat and hills. (I’m utterly convinced that the person who designed the Boston Marathon course loved hills and hated people.) In reality, the time we made is a little better than that, since we walked MORE than 26.2 miles (the finish line of the walk is a good block farther down Boylston than the official finish line of the Boston Marathon, and we start our walk from the official start line of the Boston Marathon, rather than the slightly-farther-down walk start). No womens tee here, folks.
Anyway, it was a great day…so great, in fact, that I did a post-walk, post-stretch plank, just to prove that I could. We had so many great supporters along the way, like Joel & Jesse, and The Orange Guy, and there were so many others who were new or regulars that clapped, cheered, gave us MOAR COWBELL and all that, and it was phenomenal to know that there are others out there who were helping us along the way.
I dedicated my walk to four people whose lives were directly affected by cancer. One year ago as of Saturday, we lost my dear, sweet aunt to lung cancer after a lengthy fight. Jackie had breast cancer twice before, and this was her second occurrence of lung cancer (most likely from having been a heavy smoker for years). Just a handful of weeks ago, we lost our friend Tim to mesothelioma after a battle that didn’t even last a year. He will always be remembered as a sweet, kind, funny, and wonderful person. Within the last few months, a friend’s mother – Rosette – began her own battle with brain cancer. Rosette is another sweetheart, and she’s been quite perky in her updates as she has her appointments at the “Dana-Farber spa”, as she puts it. Clio is the only one of the four I haven’t yet met; she’s the young daughter of my sister’s neighbor, and she’s been fighting cancer for more than a year. It’s unfair that kids should have to deal with this crap. It’s bad enough that adults have to deal with it. If anyone ever asks me why I walk, why I’d be nuts enough to walk a marathon and spend a day on my feet, I can answer easily enough: because my marathon is nothing compared to that of a cancer patient.
I’ll leave with this quote, from a sign left to cheer on a walker up one of the nightmarish hills in Newton, because it made so many of us smile. It’s so true.