April 16, 2018 was to be my 3rd installment of Boston and final chapter running marathons. I had hoped it would be great!
For the record, I had planned to wear compression tights for the marathon. After the BAA 5k I stopped to take this photo and I burned my injured right leg on the exhaust after I was warned to be careful. I’m smiling and wincing from the pain. That burn was brutal!
That alone made my race nothing like I expected it to be. On top of that the weather was crazy, not Sharknado crazy, but still crazay! Winds were high, constant rain, torrential downpours and the temperature was set on ‘Almost Freezing’. The last two years I Boston Qualified (BQ’d) on the course. Patriots Day 2018 was definitely not a day for me to BQ, but a day for an OUTSTANDING finish.
This was my first year running as the Achilles Freedom Team member. While most of them use a push rim or handcycle, a couple of us run. It was neat to watch my teammates fly by me on the course.
If you think that Monday was just a bad day for runners, you are mistaken. The weather conditions made their visibility and ability to stop more difficult. There were a couple of accidents and several people were taken to the hospital for hypothermia.
Monday was the most memorable Boston Marathon yet. You may think it was because it was my most miserable marathon, but that is not the case. I was very uncomfortable, but who isn’t when they’re are running a marathon. You must realize you are pushing your body to endure something natural for an unnatural amount of time or rate of speed. For parathletes, we have a comprised system. Some of us have short limbs, are missing limbs, our sight, some us like me have difficulty regulating body temperature, cognitive impairments, spasticity, impaired muscle power and the list goes on. To toe the line with them is amazing within itself. We toe the line feeling 100%, but honestly we are never 100% , but it is as good as it gets and we smile. Just as you are inspired by us, we are inspired by each other.
Prior to loading the vehicles, one of the police officers leading our motorcade gave me medical gloves and glove liners to put on under my gloves. Unfortunately, my other gloves weren’t large enough to fit over them so I ran with just that.
A few of us caravanned to race in the van with Fallen Heroes while others rode the bus. It was fine except the heat was set on hell and we had on thermal run gear, and layers. I knew that if you sweat you get cold fast. I am trying to avoid sweating before the race and I was burning up. I am generally 20 degrees warmer than everyone else and that was definitely the case on this morning.
We leave our hotel and drive to the Sheraton We head to meet the other bus for mobility impaired runners. Once they were loaded on their busses we rode to Hopkinson.
One of the runners, on the van, asked if I was hot because he heard me complaining. Nate is just to calm for me. He patiently sat there and said nothing as I told the guy, “If he doesn’t turn down the heat, I’m gonna get naked back here.” Of course the guy thought I was joking, Nate looked at him with the look, “Little do you know she isn’t lying; you gone find out today.” A few minutes later when the guy looked back I had taken off both shirts and was wearing them like necklaces.
I figure women run in exercise bras as if they are shirt. I’m wearing one…why not? Besides I gotta listen to my body I had to run 26.2.
We got to the Hopkinson, there was snow is on the ground and it’s raining. nothing looked familiar to me.
The first problem was I had to pee, I have difficulty holding it once I’m alerted (the nature of Spinal Cord Injury [SCI]). When we got out of the vehicle were guided to the handcycle tent. Immediately I realize I am in the wrong place. I go to use the handcycle latrine, but its occupied. I start frantically running around and I ask a volunteer to use the bathroom, but he said I can’t get in without a wrist band. I tell him I’m a Mobility Impaired runner he is like what’s that? Thank God for Dana and her crew of people that walked up just at that moment and further explained that we were MI runners and should have access to get in the area. I turned around ran back to the tent and yelled at Nate, “I told you were in the wrong place!” It was his first Boston he didn’t know any different. He gathered our things and we walked around in the rain with the rest of the MI runners. Ten freezing minutes later we are directed by another volunteer to the correct location.
New this year there was no gym, there was not an area to stretch out on mats.
There wasn’t enough port-a-potties and the situation was nothing like it had been in the past. We congregated in the tent with chairs, bananas, bagels, coffee, water and Gatorade. One runner had a trash bag that I used to stretch. It was great to see the Fantastic Four return this year for annual photo. Three consecutive years we have started this race together. We socialized for a bit then we were instructed to go stand on the start line. There was so much positive energy in that tent. A few people were already defeated with negative thoughts. I tried stay near the positive athletes.
Ten minutes before start time we all walked out to the start line where a line of volunteers stood looking like Gandalf with a staff saying, “You shall not pass!”
They were friendly. Dave, the race director, was walking the line and doing race director stuff. He always allows us to bother him for photos and selfies before the start. He’s really a great guy you should hear him speak, phenomenal speaker. I was scared to get close, I don’t know why because for the past 2 years I have taken a selfie with him.
He briefed us and told us this year there wouldn’t be a start pistol instead he was going to tell us, “Ready Set Go.” I was thinking to myself huh? Wait…what, no pistol? Who cares its Boston. I’m just gonna go with it. I continue taking selfies, saying hi to familiar faces and just taking in the energy before the race. Nate tells me to put away my phone. I pout like a little kid and at the moment I am caught on film on national television. Yes, he is laughing at me; he does that a lot.
We wait patiently for a few minutes and Dave walks over to the side and says, ” On your Mark, Ready..
Set…Go!” We all started our watches and we were off.
Nate and I took the lead as I do every year, but this time within the first half a mile I had to stop. I had to tie my shoe. A few minutes later I felt my shoe sliding up and down on my braced leg (that could cause a blister later). I apologized to Nate, stop, take of my gloves to fix my shoe and everyone passed me by. I was hoping to catch one person and I did! Later he passed me again.
This year I couldn’t seem to get my breathing right. I would alternate breathing through my Turtle Fur and breathing in the cold wet air. I felt winded and I didn’t know what to do.
I looked but there was no Santa between the start to mile two and it was sleeting by mile three. At mile 2, I made my 1st trip to the port-a-potty. It was sleeting by mile 3 and the push rims flew by us with a vengeance. By mile 4 Nate and I were cracking jokes, and I was at my 2nd trip to the port-a-potty. By mile 5, I had stepped in at least 2 puddles with the foot drop foot although Nate was navigating and cutting the wind for me and guiding me around the puddles. The Elites came up on us quick this year, which means I was slower than normal and behind schedule. It brought me joy to watch my guide watch the Elites with a big grin. We could see they weren’t having a great race either. Some were struggling with the weather as they were basically naked and not accustomed to the temperature with 35-51 mph winds and rain.
Soon after, my stomach began to cramp; I had a weird sensation as if I struck a nerve running down my legs. I had the urge to release semi-solids. Unbeknownst to me I had diarrhea between miles 6 and 7. We had to stop because I refused to do mess on myself. Nate ran ahead to ask a spectator in the store if I could use the bathroom. She asked the owner and the owner of Creative Carpet said yes. I was soaking wet and dripping water all over their floors, yet they were still kind.
I did my business thanked them and asked for a business card and headed toward mile 7.
As we were running I saw a fellow Eagle. It was Rene, for the 3rd year in a row I have seen him at mile 7 wearing his Team RWB shirt, holding Old Glory and cheering on runners. I typically stop to take selfie with him, but not this year. I couldn’t use my fingers. Just as I told Nate he’s here every year. Rene smiled and said, “Hey is that my girl from Texas?” That made my mile 7 so much better. I have no idea how he recognized me all bundled up. I was so happy to see him this year. He had his phone available and we took a video.
I was starving by this time because my friend Julie, who I met last year at the Achilles dinner, said she would be at mile 7 with Uncrustables. She wasn’t there. I had timed my nutrition based on my snacks.
If you didn’t know, a person burns more energy trying to stay warm, which means you need to fuel more. I learned that from my coach!
I was a little disheartened, but we kept on to mile 8, my stomach was hurting from hunger. We didn’t know she sent us texts telling us she was at mile 9. I broke down and got teary eyed upset that I had to break out a gel to suck down. As I started to eat… guess who is standing on the corner? Julie and her wonderful mother! I was so happy to see them I continued to tear up. They came over to us handing out hugs and kisses, sandwiches and chicken broth. Julie was just snapping away taking pictures. The best part of that was mom hugging and kissing me and cheering me on. At that moment I forgot about my guide I downed the broth like I had never had cold broth before (I hadn’t). I needed sodium who cared if it felt refrigerated. I knew she brought warmed broth, but it was so cold outside that the warm broth was ice cold.
I knew Mayor Rich would be at the 15k mark cooking up warm food and broth for us, because he shared the menu with us two days prior. He is a freaking boss! Unfortunately, we couldn’t text because our fingers were frozen and I would have to take off my gloves to use my phone. I just wasn’t in the mood to do that. I had hope he was tracking me and knew I would be there soon. To our surprise he wasn’t ready with warm food, but he had more Uncrustables and a special drink to keep us going. I was so happy to see the Mayor, he had everything. We were greeted by Pam my Fifty State half marathon club member and she filmed our 15k experience. For three years she has met me on the side of the road and cheered for me. She is a true friend and an awesome runner, words can’t express the love I have for her or Mayor rich. Everyone under that tent was there to cheer on family, friends and/or Boston Marathon runners. When we arrived they took a pause from cheering to get us warm and feed us. They gave us hand warmers that didn’t seem to work. I thought, “What? Broken hand warmers?” Nah, our hands were so cold we couldn’t feel it,” We ate at least 2 sandwiches a piece and I took one to go. Then I requested we take pictures with his favorite sign that was destroyed by the weather, then we were off again. The Mayor is the “The Man”!
He offered me cream for my burn (Yes, a burn; I burned my leg Saturday after the 5K on a Police motorcycle muffler). He told us to get warm by the heater. Fun Fact: I met Rich last year and took a selfie with him. He asked me to text it to him and the rest is history.
We say our good-byes and head back to the course. At this point things began to become a blur. I don’t remember at which points we stopped at the med tent. My guide says for a while we stopped every mile. I was taking precautions, because I needed to listen to my body, but I couldn’t hear it. I don’t feel hot or cold on my left side of my body. Which means I can’t tell if it’s too cold. I felt fine temperature wise, but that scared me. At one point my guide was talking to me and I couldn’t understand him, so I went to the med tent to warm up. When I felt weird things beginning happen to my body or things got blurry I went to the med tent. A couple of times I stopped for him, because I worried about his safety.
He was out there in that crazy weather for me; we were a team. I had to take care of my guide because my guide was there to take of me. It’s interesting, while he may give up on himself, he wouldn’t give up on me in any day and especially that day in that outrageous weather.
My body didn’t really hurt as it had in years past, but I had difficulty wielding my legs at times, but never did I think I wouldn’t finish. We ran together from town to town, two disabled vets, two athletes; two friends running the Boston Marathon.
A Guide is the hardest working volunteer at a race. A Guide’s job isn’t to take your pictures, but my guides sometimes do, lol. They run for/with someone else because they want to help. A guide is selfless! They put in WORK! They must stay within 20 inches of the athlete or the athlete could get disqualified (DQ’d). Although they have a timing chip they don’t get an official time, they get a medal and a shirt and an experience of a lifetime. They protect the athlete from the sea of runners. They run ahead to get help if needed. They run the risk of never finishing because if the athlete stops so do they. They maintain the athletes speed no matter how fast or slow.
Each time we stopped at the med tent I took off my gloves and someone squeezed about 2 oz. of water out of them. When I took off my gloves my fingers were soaked from sweat about 1 oz. of water poured from my gloves. We would get new gloves. Running Boston on Monday was It was like running with your hands in ice water buckets for 26.2 miles. My clothes were drenched, feet were wet, but wearing Swiftwick compression socks, with Dry max socks on top with my Altras made my feet A-OK. I only felt my feet get cold only when I stepped in a puddle and I tried to avoid that at all costs. There were not alot of spectators like in past years, yet I was surprised to see as many as I did! Each one of them deserve more than the thanks we gave them. Most stood in the cold cheering on random strangers. They truly blessed the runners that Monday. A few of them stayed warm and cheered from afar.
When I could hear them they gave me energy, just knowing they were out there suffering to cheer on a family member, a friend or some random stranger made me smile and gave me a little push. The only disturbing thing I saw was a crying 2 or 3-year old girl with bright red cheeks and nose, no hat, no gloves and jacket open on the side of the road as her mom cheered. I wanted to go back and reprimand the lady standing next to that child. I pray that the child is ok.
As we ran by the 10 Elite women’s water stations tables. Nate yelled out where’s is water for Elite #11. There was an empty table on the end. The volunteers looked perplexed at first. Later they realized he was joking. For miles when we hit a water station he would tell them he was running with Elite. That made me smile and laugh out loud. Once we reached the male Elite water station tables he asked, “Where is my bottle? Hey, where’s my stuff at? The volunteers looked perplexed, but quickly realized he was joking. Along the course spectators gave us bananas, oranges, Twizzlers and a Popsicle.
Once we hit mile 13 I was better mentally and my legs felt ready. Nate kept cracking jokes and I kept talking crazy and messing with the spectators to keep them energized. Each time I stopped to pee each time it became harder to pull down wet clothes, remove gloves and reapply body glide. The challenge is touching toilet paper and toilet sit covers. I had no strength to hover, so I had to line my thrown. Monday was a germaphobes nightmare. I’d squeeze hand sanitizer on the seat, wiped it off. Lined the seat and try to hover each time my legs gave out and would fail. I’m sure if the rain and wind wasn’t so loud people would have heard me plop down. It was weird to watch body heat escape from my body in that enclosed space. Each time I would leave that warm box I was whipped by the cold wind.
Somewhere along there I was running and Nate started walking. I was so disappointed that my run was no faster than a slow walk. He said something encouraging and I felt like telling him shut up. Instead I pushed harder and I ran pseudo fast for 15 steps he started to run and would have to walk because his knees were hurting with the short steps.
A man was holding a container of chocolate for runners and peanut butter crackers for himself. I asked him, “Hey can I have your crackers?” He passed them over without hesitation. I will forever be grateful to him. I shared them with my guide as we ran. I opened the pack and pulled out the cracker trying to put it in his mouth. I punched him in the nose the first time. Trying to grab the cracker he bit me. Now I have to get rabies shots.
We ran by people with a sign that said dry socks, yet the containers were empty. When I ask for dry socks the spectators yelled something to me, but then the rain picked up. About a tenth of a mile later I saw a guy running with a pack of sock trying to give me a pair of dry socks. I stop he opens the pack I thank him and ran on. I immediately go to the medical tent to find a seat. The medical tent was so crowded and people shivering everywhere. I left the socks for someone that may have needed them more than I did. There was a lady that kept screaming at one tent, “My hands are so cold I can’t warm them up.” I told her to put them in her crouch, but she wouldn’t. I grabbed her wrists and put them near her lap and covered her with my Mylar blanket and left her under the care of a medic. Around mile 16 a nearby church was donating clothes and Mylar blankets to runners in the medical tents.
Somewhere between miles 18 and 19 I lost my glutes entering Newton where the hills are. We stopped at the fire station Nate knowing I’m a germaphobe took of his poncho so I could lay on it. It took me 2 minutes to get down on the floor so he could help me stretch. People ran over to help me, but he said I was fine. He cracked a joke. “People don’t know you were jacked up when you started the race. This is normal for you.” I laughed because he often makes light of my disability. He had to pulled me to a standing position after I stretched. When I stood up I saw another med tent across the street. We ran med tent to med tent for 5 miles total.
While he stopped to use the port-a-potty I danced to the drums acting like I was from Wakanda. After that stop I was determined to finish. I began to run past the last medical tents. Once I sang out Phil Collins Take, Take Me Home! Another time I told Nate, “ I wish they would try to take me to the hospital. I’d be taking out them suckers and they won’t know how I did it.” Which was a play on the lyrics Just Call Me D-Nice. Can you imagine me feisty like Scappy Doo…well they weren’t taking me anywhere. I felt great mentally. I had no doubt in my mind I would finish. Quitting was not an option. It did tick me of a little that they could see Nate’s bib and would say good job Guide. I was like what about me, lol. We got equal share of cheers. My favorite was go Red White and Blue. We cheered on other runners; we thanked the spectators when we were crack jokes making them laugh.
Stacy, volunteered at mile marker 21 and had a special needs kit for me, which included my gloves, extra pair of socks and nutrition. I was so happy to see her. I just put the clothes in my pocket and kept going. By 23 I was angry. Someone said you are almost there I yelled out no I’m not I got a 5k that’s 3. 1more miles. Nate just looked at me and shook his head and said something else to distract me. I was starting to get hungry again at that moment I had a hot flash of some sort.
Before I could tell my guide I heard Candice, Candice and some little girl waving her hands frantically running up the sidewalk. It was Bernie! As she ran up my water broke. Not just from my eyes. I couldn’t stop it. I was disappointed that I christened the Boston Marathon Course. Two days before the marathon I talked about how I would never to that. Unfortunately, I didn’t choose to do it; my body was shutting down turning of switches to keep me warm and moving. Bernie hugged me offered us warm hats, gels, gloves, which we declined, hand warmers we took and Pop tart. The funny thing is I only eat Strawberry Pop Tarts. If Bernie gives me a cinnamon Pop Tart I will eat it. It was the best Pop Tart I ever had. Mile 23 was probably the fastest mile I had run in 8 miles because Bernie just gave me energy. We took a selfie at mile 24. Bernie knew said she saw that we stopped for a long time, but wasn’t worried she knew I would finish. She knew something was wrong but she knew something was going on, but never mentioned it was like I could not let her see me down.
A male spectator said there is a hotdog, cheese burger and beer waiting for you at the finish line. I didn’t here him, but sped up like a Gazelle for 15 steps. Nate said,” Oh you hear food and you wanna speed up?” I was looking crazy because I didn’t know what he was talking about.
I decided to play Red Light Green Light to mile 24.5. As we turned right before the final left we ran through a sea of jackets. I spotted a cool new Adidas cap and asked Nate if he wanted it. He said nah man, the person wearing it might have lice or something. I said well they probably froze to death we can wash it.
We ran almost to the 26 mile sign and I said, “Hey let’s do something cool across the finish line, let’s skip. I slowed my running to walk and tried to skip. I looked like I was a robot or something I couldn’t get my leg to skip. Nate yelled “What the hell is that? Is that how you skip?” I laughed and said no. I was really trying. So I walked a little, ran a few steps and tried to do it again. My legs were like B!%@$ please! So I stopped trying, I said well I’m gonna try harder once we get to the finish line.
We passed mile 26 and started running again. I tried to kick, no kick. We got to the 2018 sign on the ground before the finish line and said to Nate we gonna skip over than line. He said Ok! He was probably thinking you ain’t gonna make it. I was thinking God when I fall down on this Finish line, please don’t let my skirt come up and don’t let me lose any permanent teeth. I mustered enough energy to skip across the finish line. We skipped across the finish line like a professional skip team synchronized and everything. 8 hours 43 minutes and 15 secs a full day of work with breaks and some overtime.
When we got past the line there were two people in tower chairs. The guy says to us looking at our bibs. Where the hell ya’ll been? This is a race not a social event. We laughed and kept moving past to the medical tent. Medics were on standby, I really wanted a wheelchair, but I wanted medal more and I was ready for a warm shower. We got our medals and then we were sent on a half a mile wild goose chase to find our checked bags.
To top it all off our Uber driver was an idiot. He had no idea where he was, let alone where we were in relationship to him. We finally got in the car and he had the air on. Nate asked is that the heat? I replied, yup. Then the guy tried to drop us off at the docking bay of the hotel. After we protested he drove us to the front of the hotel.
Nate and I went to our rooms to shower and changed. I discovered in the shower my She Fit bra hates me I was rubbed raw in several places. I dressed omitting a bra and donned my medal. Nate and I met at the elevator to go down to dinner that had already started. I had to stop to take a picture with my Soror though.
We met with team members over dinner and learned of their struggles. After dinner we waited for well-deserved massages. My lower back was the issue on the race course. My left side over compensated for the spasticity on my right. I contract in cold and extreme heat, just the nature of my injury. The massage therapist gave me a heating pad because she noticed I was trembling uncontrollably. When she was done I went upstairs to sleep. I enjoyed this year’s Boston marathon because it was eventful. It actually was one of the best times I have spent on the race course not because I had my own entertainment, but because of people like Rich, Julie, Maria, Stacey, Bernie and others that enjoy being a light in the midst of darkness.
This Boston was to be my final marathon running and I enjoyed it. Physically it is so taxing to me and instead of getting faster I’m getting slower. I told a few friends that if I am to continue the marathon journey God is gonna have to speak to me on this course. God did speak to me through the actions and words of others on the course. There were miracles out there and I have never felt so blessed. I have never experienced this type of energy or excitement at the end of a marathon course.
When we finished I told Nate we would have to come back as long as the qualifications standards remain unchallenged for 2019. I am sure I have one more marathon in me. After that who knows where my journey will lead me. I may join the exhibition and handcycle with my comrades on the Achilles Freedom Team.
I am proud to say I completed the Boston Marathon 3 years consecutively. I am powered by Faith.