Friday, April 23, 2010

Opportunity of a Lifetime – Annie

How long does the runner's high last? I'm not quite sure, but I am definitely still feeling it! My Marathon weekend started off with a trip to the Expo on Saturday morning, where I began to soak in the atmosphere and energy, and got lots of free loot from the many vendors. My favorite item was the beautiful aqua Marathon jacket, which I think I wore for several days straight, only taking it off to actually run the race! As many had told me, the night before the night before the Marathon is the critical time to get lots of rest, so my sister Caitie came in after dinner, we plotted strategy a little, then I headed to bed early. After a good 9 to 10 hours of rest, I started Sunday off with a light jog of about two miles around my neighborhood, to make sure my legs still worked after tapering for a few weeks! A solid breakfast and lots of relaxation were the main items of the day, and logistics were ironed out for the cheering squad. We headed off to the Pre-Race Pasta Dinner at Boston City Hall around 7:00 pm, with me decked out in my jacket, of course, and giddy with excitement. The dinner was great, though a bit overwhelming with many people and so much going on, but the mac and cheese was heavenly and it was fun to be a part of the festivities.

Marathon Day - I was up a little before 6:00 am, outfitted with my snazzy Newton-Wellesley singlet (ANNIE emblazoned across the front with athletic tape). After making sure we had all our gear, Caitie and I headed out to the T and were off to Park Street and the school buses to Hopkinton. I met up with Newton-Wellesley runner Maureen Lydon there, and we rode the bus together, sharing our excitement and getting psyched up. What a beautiful day it was for running! Just perfect - I like that coolness to the air and the sun periodically broken by clouds. We met up with Donna Dunn at the Newton-Wellesley Tent, and soon set off to the starting line. Our bib numbers had us way in the back, and it took a while to cross the starting line, but soon we were shuffling off to begin the race. I liked having the crowded field at the beginning, as it helped keep the pace under control; I was wary of starting off too fast and then burning out too soon! The crowd was amazing throughout the small towns at the beginning, with such pride for the race and their role in it, and palpable support and excitement for all the runners. I was so glad I had my name on my shirt! It felt like everyone knew me, and was pulling for me. Maureen and I ran together for about 5 or 6 miles, then I saw that I was about 4 minutes ahead of my pace (according to the awesome bracelet my sister made for me) and I pulled back a little, feeling strong and wanting to conserve. There was a bar right on the course that was in full-on tailgating mode, and then the scoreboard showing the (dismal) score of the Sox game.

I saw my family and friends first in Framingham, by the train depot - a wide and flat stretch just perfect for cheering! One of my favorite moments came shortly thereafter then the conductor of the commuter rail leaned on the horn for a long time as he drove by, powering the runners on, energizing us. Also in Framingham I was almost lured off the course by the tantalizing aroma of burgers on the grill…dangerous! I felt strong through Wellesley, passing a good amount of people but also trying to keep my pace consistent and not let my excitement speed me up. I was in front of a few men dressed as Elvis for a while, which provided some entertaining comments from the crowd! The "wall of sound" at Wellesley College was fantastic - those girls can really holler! Several of the gentlemen around me took advantage of the kisses being handed out ("Oh boy, now my heart-rate monitor is all out of whack!"). I started to lose a little ground on my pace a little after the half mark, miles 14-15, but the support in Wellesley Center powered me through to Newton-Wellesley, where I was met with friends, family and coworkers, and felt like a rockstar! I stopped to pose for some pics, and it really provided the surge of energy I needed at that point! My sister jumped in with me for a few minutes, holding a "Go Annie! That's my sister!" sign, riling up the crowd for me, which was pretty sweet! On to the Newton Hills - hard, but I had trained on them, so felt comfortable and knew what I was in for. I gritted my teeth as I turned onto Comm Ave, and began to power up. The crowd support ratcheted up a few notches, and the sun came out, and I dug in. I had a moment of delirium as I crested the second hill, and thought it was Heartbreak Hill, only to realize it was just the little hill before - oops! I grabbed a luscious orange slice and some extra high fives and actually passed quite a few people on my way to the top! No walking for me! Again, the crowd support here was just awesome.

On the back side of the hills, I tried to relax and lengthen my stride, using gravity to my advantage, but felt a little tapped out. I knew I had lost the edge on my pace and was now a few minutes behind. The BC kids were cheering like maniacs at that point though, which helped a lot, as did a fellow runner ("Hey Lightning, you can do it! You've got this!" - in reference to the lightning bolts on my shoulders), and then my friend Alicia, who leapt out of the crowd and ran a little with me, egging me on! Just after that, in Cleveland Circle, my sister jumped in with me for the last four miles. The rockstar feeling truly kicked in here. What a feeling to hear so many people screaming your name, so excited for you! It really is a rush. Caitie had water for me and ran alongside, trying to distract me a little from my obvious fatigue. More high fives, though some felt like they would knock me over! We pressed on. I saw my a cappella singing group friends right after Mile 24, who enveloped me in a shrieks and hugs, and sent me back on my way, where I soon saw Co-Fellow Andy Wurtzel cheering his heart out further down Beacon!

Even more rockstar feeling at Kenmore: chants of my name, impromptu songs starring "Annie" (of both "the sun'll come out tomorrow" and totally improvised varieties), fist pumps and high fives, general euphoric waves of support. I was torn with the conflicted feeling of "I want this to last forever" and "I want this to end NOW." I was really tired and the balls of my feet felt like they were directly pushing through the bottoms of my shoes to the pavement. However, I was able to still pass people, which provided a great competitive boost! Turned on to Hereford, then Boylston, then the sweet sight of the finish line. Rockstar-style, I grinned like crazy, waved to the crowd, and kicked it into gear for what we in my family like to call the "Huppert finish," passing more people in the last dozen yards and surged across the finish line!!! "Anne Huppert, from Cambridge!" I did it!

Then mylar blanket, water, medal, banana, potato chips, baggage pickup, dazedly wandering over to the Family Meeting Area to, you guessed it, meet my family. The sun was angling through the buildings so beautifully, making all of us runners look like angels in our silver capes. Pictures, hugs, general excitement and stories! We headed to Legal Seafoods for a jubilant post-race meal, taking our time to digest the day as well as the food, and also having the amazing opportunity to reconnect with old dear family friends who were all in town from Wisconsin for the Marathon! We couldn't have planned it to work out this well - just an amazing, amazing day all around.

I am so grateful to Newton-Wellesley for the opportunity to run - truly the opportunity of a lifetime. Also thankful to my family and friends, and all those energetic and heartfelt supporters who screamed my name from Hopkinton to the Finish - I couldn't have done it without you! My official time - 4:38:15. A full 31 minutes faster than my first Marathon time in Chicago! I'll take it.

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