Head versus Heart

Even though I’ve qualified for Boston several times, this was the first year that I decided to go and  I was looking forward to the “experience” – the hills, the challenge, the support from the crowds.  I was not looking forward to the crowds.  In fact, the thought of running with that many people really intimidated me.

I got through the pre-race ritual of getting to Hopkinton, lining up for porta-potties, checking bags and getting to the start line.  And I wasn’t even flustered when it took me 10 minutes to cross the start.  But the shear volume of people was absolutely insane.  Trying to run an 8 minute mile was tough, not because of the heat, but because it was so hard to run through the crowd. 

With the high temperatures, I made sure that I was drinking water at every station that I passed – and I drank everything in the cup.  I’ve been dehydrated before – more than once – and it is awful; I knew that I had to be extra cautious. 

Just after crossing the 10K point, a runner on my left saw some friends cheering her on and ran towards them.  I didn’t see her coming; all I heard was, “Hi, how are you?  Thanks…” and, suddenly, I saw hands waving wildly in front of my right shoulder.   Yes, she ran in front of me and, somehow, she managed to hook my left leg around her own and send me flying towards the curb.

Down I went: hands first.  I also ended up banging my elbows, drag my right toe along the sidewalk and squish the outside of my left foot into the ground.  With thousands of runners still behind me, I did the Batman roll onto my side to see what was behind me before I got out of the way and managed to scrape my left butt.  And, yes, there was blood.

“She” apologized – again and again – and I yelled at her that she shouldn’t run in front of people like she did.  As she left, I walked to the First Aid station, which was luckily feet away.  There, I cleaned my hands, tried to determine how badly scraped by already swelling butt was (today, four days later, it is still scraped and bruised) and decided to use the porta-potty – since I was there anyway.

Despite all of the water that I had that morning, I couldn’t pee.  Nothing.  Nothing at all.  I was obviously already dehydrated.  And, lucky me, this porta-potty had a little mirror on the door (for all those runners who might want to fix their make-up, hahaha) and I saw how red my face was.  I realized why the First Aid guy kept wanting to put a cold towel over my head to cool me down.

I checked my hands again, saw that the blood was drying, drank more water and left the station.  “Slow down your pace,” I told myself.  “You’ll never be able to hold onto 8 minute miles in this heat.”

So, I did and I thought about what was ahead of me over the next few hours.  I knew that I was in for  4 hour marathon, maybe longer, and I didn’t want that.  I thought about how I could have run Goodlife in Toronto and not have to contend with the same heat or crowds.  I worried about how I would feel at the end: Just how dehydrated am I going to be? Will I be too sick to work tomorrow?  Will we make it back on time for me to get to work?  If I miss work, will I lose a day’s pay?  I thought about my boys.  I worried that if I didn’t get sick, I might be setting myself up for injury and that would mean I couldn’t run all spring.

Between 10K and 13K, I weighed the pro’s and con’s and realized that I would be more unhappy with a slow time than with pulling out.  It wasn’t worth it; I have a family and a job, and Boston is just one small part of my life; I didn’t need that medal that badly.  So when I got to the water station just past the 8 mile mark, I picked up a water cup, put it back and reached for the upper left pin on my bib.  “No, thanks,” I said.  “I’m done.”  And off came the bib number.

Quite honestly, had I not used the porta-potty, I probably wouldn’t have realized that I was dehydrating.  But I did, and because I did, I had to make that tough, tough decision.   For the past several months, I put my heart into the training and organization that was necessary for me to get to Beantown; on Marathon Monday, my head took over.

And, days later, I still think that I made the right choice.  Of course, I’m frustrated that I didn’t finish, but I would have been more frustrated by a marathon longer than four hours (and, judging by what friends ran, it would have been closer to 4:15).  I wasn’t sick at the end, I got to work the next day, and I can look forward to running for the rest of the Spring.

2 Replies to “Head versus Heart”

  1. Wow, I think you were super-smart. I ran the Seattle Half last fall, and after about 3 miles, I was so nauseated I had to stop running – every time I picked up my pace, I felt like vomiting. I managed to run about the first 6 miles, but at that point I had to start walking. At every aid tent I contemplated quitting, but I kept walking, and it turned out to be a very bad decision – I had dressed to run, and it was also raining. By the time I got to the finish, I was drenched, freezing, and I ended up in the medical tent with hypothermia. If I had to do it again I would have taken a DNF. It took almost an hour longer to finish than the time I had run 1 month earlier for the same distance, and it turned out I had a mild flu, which was why I felt so bad. You totally did the right thing.

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