Sunday, April 17, 2011

On the eve of the Boston Marathon

I guess reality won’t really hit me until I board the bus with the other elite runners early Monday morning and head to the starting line of the Boston Marathon.

It will be a pretty quiet ride, we runners will be pretty focused. Once we get to Hopkinton, where the race starts, organizers will shuttle us into a local church where we can stay warm and cozy until race time.

My last race in Boston was the 2008 Olympic Trials, when I finished third to qualify for the team. This almost feels like my first marathon, it’s been so long since Beijing.

I’ve never done the Boston Marathon and it’s one I’ve wanted to do before I retire.

Back in 2008 I was having hip and knee pain issues and my focus was just to finish third, to survive and make the team. This year, I’m healthy. I feel a lot more focused on the race, on being competitive rather than just surviving. It’s good to know you’ll be in pain, but that it will just be the pain of racing, the pain of really pushing yourself, not injury pain.

We arrived in Boston early this week and, like the Olympic Trials, spent the first few days in Watham, just outside the city. It’s the old stomping grounds of my coach, Bob Sevene. There are some beautiful running trails and nice dirt roads perfect for those last training runs. I’m pretty sure I saw some of the Kenyans out there ­dark-skinned, very fit runners who look so effortless, but are so fast.

Unlike the Cross Country World Championships where it was just Sev and me, the whole family is with me on this trip. Quin, at nearly 2-years old, is quite the traveler now, so much so that he has his own frequent flyer number and gets credit card offers in the mail. He walked through airport security on his own, declaring “Shoes off!”

before going through the scanner.

Thursday we braved Boston traffic and came into downtown to check into the elite athlete’s hotel for Friday’s press conference. We’ll be staying here through the race.

Quin and my husband Jon are spending some time with his parents, who live in the region. We’re going to spend some time together today. Jon is a calming presence for me before I race. But this time around he’s on Quin duty and the two of them will probably need to go back to his parents on Sunday. Quin sometimes has trouble adjusting to the time change and his sleeping can be unpredictable. And obviously I’ll need a good night’s sleep Sunday.

Sunday I anticipate having an early dinner at the athletes area they’ve set up here, then it’ll be back to the hotel room to watch some television before I drift off to sleep. At 6:15 a.m. Monday I’ll board the bus to the start.

This is one of the best, deepest women’s fields, with lots of runners who can finish in the 2 hour, 22 minute range (the world record is 2:15.25 by Paula Radcliffe in 2003, my best is 2:29.5 in 2005).

Everything — my training, my health, my experience — tells me I’m going to have a solid, competitive race, although you never know what might happen. I’m hoping this gives me even more momentum, confidence and motivation for the big one, the 2012 Olympic Trials in January.

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