Patriot's Day, April 18, 2011


The finish line.. the day before the race!

Picking up my much covetted BOSTON bib!

Denise, myself and Holly waiting to go to the start line - brrrr!

Myself, Denise and Holly at the Boston expo.

Well it is finally here, Patriots Day, which means today is the day I run my FIRST Boston marathon! Our day started early with a 6:30AM alarm! We all tried to eat some food (even though we were WAY too nervous to eat!) and made our way down to the long lines for the buses. The temperature was in the 30's with a strong wind! Luckily the lines were moving quickly!

Once on our bus we have a 1 hour ride out to Hoptington where the race starts. It was cold waiting around. Holly, Denise and I huddled under a blanket to stay warm. I remember thinking I could do with a hot cup of coffee and some hot food. I found myself quite hungry, as I am not used to starting a run this late! I had eaten a Cliff bar on the bus but still felt hungry.

Eventually as we were directed, we moved our way down with the rest of wave 2, checked our bags and moved towards the start area. It is quite a LONG walk and as we got closer we realized there would not be much time to hit the bathrooms again and get in our coral. We hurried along and made it just as the back of our wave was heading out!! Denise and I stayed together for the first few miles. I tried to remember everyone’s advice on NOT going out too fast but we were just getting swept along by the group. It is a gentle down hill and felt nice and easy so I went with it. I ran next to the spectators and high-fived many of the kids that were standing there cheering. It was really fun but gets a little tiring after a while so then I would head back to the middle of the road so I could take a break from that!

Denise was going to have to run/walk this race due to an Achilles injury so after a little while I pulled ahead. I took a GU about mile 4 to try to combat my hunger and then another one at mile 8. I was nervous to take too many as they are not the easiest things in the world to digest, but running low on energy was not good either!

The streets were lined BOTH sides with local residents cheering us along. They had dragged out noise makers, BBQ's, music, and they yelled and waved signs. It was just amazing. Mile 10 came up pretty quickly but I realized that my quads were already tiring. I had never thought about how much harder you pound them when running down hill! The course at this point is fairly gently rolling hills but there really is not one flat spot of road. All of a sudden we hear this terrific noise. It is the wall of sound from the Wellsley Ladies College! The screaming is overwhelming. They held signs that said KISS ME I AM SINGLE etc. LOL. I knew this much be about the half way point. Up until this point I still had on a long-sleeved top as it had been chilly but it was a little warmed now and near perfect running temperatures. I took it off and tossed it aside... my gloves had gone the same way earlier in the race. My quads were really getting quite tired now so I decided to take 2 advil (tucked in my pocket for emergencies only!). I knew the 4 big Newton hills were coming up and I wanted to make sure I could tackle them!

After all the hype I honestly didn't think the Newton hills were that bad. I kept running up them, albeit slower, but didn't feel the need to walk. Once at the top of the famous Heartbreak Hill you can see quite a long way along the course ahead of you. Some nice lady congratulated me on making it to the top and said “it is all downhill from here”. I looked at the rolling hills ahead of me?! Apparently she did not see what I saw!

I chugged along pretty good after this knowing I only had a few more miles left to go and no major hills. Out of no where, about mile 23, my calf muscles started to spasm. I have never had any issues with my calves so the first time it startled me. I thought about stopping but I was now starting to see people stop and try to stretch. I know from past experience it is very hard to get running again after stopping at this point. I did NOT come all this way to go home without a medal! I slowed down pretty abruptly. All of a sudden a big crowd of spectators started chanting my name over and over again. I kept running along. I started doing my usual end of marathon math.. if I keep running this pace I will be done in X time whereas if I walk it will just take me XX time. It is not much of a consolation but it makes me keep running because at that point I just want to be DONE! My calf muscles continued to randomly spasm the rest of the way in but i figured this slower pace would get me there. I tried to live in the moment and enjoy the crowds. A lot of people were passing me but there were also a lot of people walking so I figured I was doing OK somewhere in between! As I make the final turn on to Boylston Street I can see the finish line but it looks SO far away. I felt like I was running in slow motion but finally I made it there. The announcer looked right at me and said my name as I finished, CONGRATUALTIONS HELEN MCKENZIE!

I can now see why so many runners make this an annual event. The crowds are amazing and so is the course. It is very challenging but I cannot help but think that now I know what to expect I could come back and do so much better! I knew better than to expect a PR on this course but I had hoped to do a little faster than I managed and I heard the same from many other runners. Overall I was pleased to have finished under 4 hours and I collected my medal and wore it proudly for the rest of the day.

Later that evening we headed over to the post-race party which was awesome. We got to see the winners, the new fastest marathoner (no matter what they say about the course!), and many of the other elite athletes. They all spoke briefly about their race and seemed so nice and down to earth. We then partied till late, all celebrating all the hard work and training that went it to running this prestigious event. This will definitely be a day I remember forever.


I ran the 26.2 miles in 3:54:32
Overall place 14663 of 23879
Gender place 5011 of 10073
Age Group Place 3190 of 5202


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