Although I had been nervous leading up to the marathon, in the couple of days before I calmed down a lot; I think I realized that at that point stressing out about it wasn't going to help matters at all, and that the marathon was going to happen whether I was ready for it or not. I went to bed early on Saturday night, and slept pretty well. I woke up at 5:30 to eat breakfast and start drinking water and an electrolyte-containing beverage (I'm anti-gatorade). I'm lucky in that my parents live about 3/4 of a mile from the start of the race, so I left home at 7:30 to jog to the start. As soon as I got to Battery St. Park it started raining fairly heavily. I found the 8 minute/mile pace marker, and did some stretching and my usual pre-race jitters-induced jumping/ dancing around routine. My feeling prior to the start of the race were pure excitement, I couldn't wait to start running. Finally, at 5 past eight the gun went off, and we were off. I crossed the start line about 30 seconds after the gun went off, and felt really comfortable with where I was in the pack - the pace felt perfect. The first 3 miles is through downtown Burlington, and there were lots of people out cheering. I passed the first mile marker in 7:27 (although it felt much slower than that), and started telling myself to calm down and slow down. I didn't, really, and ended up running the first half of the marathon at about a 7:30 pace. That whole time I felt amazing, I felt like I was floating, I was having the time of my life, I was giving out high-fives and yelling to the crowd and generally acting like a doofus. The sun started to come out shortly after I passed the half-way point (it had stopped raining a couple miles in), and I started to feel the heat. The big hill comes at mile 15, and going up it was the first time all morning where I felt like I was really struggling. My parents were waiting for me at the top of the hill to pass me my hat and tell me my pace (they were tracking me online), then we were off for the North End portion of the race. By mile 18 I was starting to feel tired, and realized that I really needed to concentrate on slowing my pace if I wanted to make it all 26.2 miles. I consciously slowed my stride, and started to focus all of my energy on the task ahead of me. The next few miles passed in somewhat of a daze, I was just putting one foot in front of the other. With 3 miles left to go we were on the bike path for the final stretch. I found the dirt path on the side of the pavement (my legs were killing me), and tried to pretend it was just another easy 3 mile run. It was not easy, however - I was really struggling through every step. It's a hard portion of the race because there aren't many people out cheering, but the few people that were there were very encouraging, and it helped a lot. A half-mile from the finish there was a final water station, and I keep laughing about this in retrospect, but I grabbed a cup of water like my life depended on it and downed it - at that moment a half-mile felt like a marathon. I entered waterfront park to the cheering crowds, although I wasn't able to enjoy it as much as I would have liked to (it turned out my family was cheering for me loudly right next to me and I didn't hear them - I was so focused on finishing.) I crossed the line in 3:26:21, with a net time of 3:25:59. After crossing the line I stumbled around for a few minutes, unable to decide whether I should keep trying to stand or fall to the ground. Finally a nice man suggested I sit on his foil blanket for a moment, so I did. I started feeling better shortly thereafter, and left the runners area to find my family. I was so excited about my time and my run, and have pretty much been excited ever since. Of course, now I'm thinking about what I can do to get a better time next time, which I think I can. I'm psyched that I qualified for Boston, and am totally planning on it for 2012 (provided I get in given the new registration process).
You know, this spring has been amazing. While running has always been a part of my life, I think that I have realized the extent to which it contributes to my quality of life. In January I simultaneously moved to Boston and started my marathon training, and through running I was able to make new friends, keep a positive attitude, get to know my new city & neighborhood, stay grounded and healthy, and basically just have the time of my life. I'm SO happy. I'm just so happy, and I think I can thank running for allowing me the freedom to feel that way.