TD, no - no loudhailers, except the tannoy at the start. Lots of military and FBI, although not obviously armed to the teeth as I though they might have been (although who knows what the ones I didn't see were doing). At the start apparently there's usually a fly-past from military fighter jets, but this year we got formation air ambulances from the National Guard who, sadly, were all too busy last year.
I was really beginning to struggle by about mile 17. I'm still trying to work out why, but I think it was a combination of things - not enough hill training, not enough tapering, and underestimating the stress of travelling so far to a race. But I should have found it easier than I did. There are a lot of hills between miles 17 and 23. I didn't even realise I'd been up the famous 'Heartbreak Hill' until I got to the top and someone shouted 'you've beaten Heartbreak Hill!'. But there's still a long way to go after that.
The crowd got bigger and bigger as we got nearer the finish. But even that couldn't keep me going. Coming out of a short tunnel around mile 25 (reminded me if Paris)I had to stop and walk when I started to feel a bit peculiar. I managed to get going again and got a huge roar from the crowd, bless them.
Coming down the final straight along Boylston Street, I confess I had a lump in my throat. Just thinking of all the runners who've done the same, and especially this year. All the weekend, and all the way round, there have been 'Boston Strong' signs everywhere. I've never been in a race before where people have shouted 'thank you for running' - and we heard it all the way. The finish straight was where I realised I was taking part in a really historic event.
The finish time of 4:16 was, I admit, rather disappointing. Especially as I had finished faster in the Isle of Man, where I walk/ran from the start, which is an interesting fact in itself. I need to process what went wrong and learn from it.
Best moment? The first few miles, running through the woods, thinking 'this is it, I'm really here'. Worst moment? Somewhere around mile 19, when I took a swig from my Perpetuem bottle and got my tongue stuck in the sports cap. Aargh! Most surreal moment? Being overtaken by a woman singing hymns, loudly.
And finally, a word about the virtual support. I was so aware, all the way round, that you lot were willing me on. Every 5k marker I knew you'd be watching. You've all been so kind, and so supportive, I genuinely couldn't have got here without you. And especially Scott, who has more or less given up sleep for the past three days just to keep me chatting, steady my nerves, make me laugh and always saying the right thing at the right time. I'm a very lucky girl.
Having not run Boston before, my experience this year may be different from other years, as after the bombings this was a very special race for many people. At the pre race party I spoke to a woman who had been injured at the finish line, and hadn't run a race since. She felt she had to do it or she wouldn't race again, but she wasn't looking forward to the finishing stretch and was afraid she might freeze. She was hoping the crowd would get her across the line - I'm sure they did.
The start is surprisingly low key for such a big race. We were all bussed out to Hopkinton, on a fleet which seemed to consist of every school bus in Massachusetts. Hopkinton itself is just a small town in the middle of nowhere, and the race is, I think, the only thing that ever happens there. The 'runners' village' was a tented area with food, drink and inevitably not enough portaloos. Because there were only runners and organisers there, the atmosphere was rather calmer than it had been at the expo and the pasta party. I had worried it might all be a bit overwhelming, but it was fine. We had a couple of hours to wait, then we were called up to the start according to our pen numbers. The organisation was really remarkable, getting so many people to the start (there were 6,000 extra this year).
The start is along the main street - imagine the set of the Witches of Eastwick. As it was a rolling start, I almost missed the timing mats - then we were off. I hadn't expected the route to be so pretty, especially in the early stages. The countryside is lovely, and it's real New England - lots of painted wooden houses. I tried to hold the pace back, although the downhill at the start made it hard. One difference about Boston is that they are pretty diligent about which pen you start in - and because you have to submit proof of your time, it means the people in your pen are running at your pace, not wildly optimistic as they can be at other races. So there wasn't much dodging and weaving.
It became apparent early on that the hills were going to be an issue. Although overall downhill, especially in the first half, there's a lot of uphill too. I was getting a little concerned that I was starting to feel it in my legs about 7 miles. It was also very sunny too, with minimal shade. With an 11 o'clock start, that meant we had the heat of the day. It was forecast to be about 18 degrees, but felt warmer.
We ran through lots of villages, where the support got bigger and bigger. There were a lot of signs held up - can't remember them all, but part from my favourite 'go random stranger' I noticed 'fart - you'll run faster' (bit of a high risk strategy that) and 'kiss me, I'm 6 foot tall' (girl who clearly wasn't).
I was holding the pace I did at Barcelona, but I knew I was working harder. I had Perpetuem with me in two small bottles, and drinking water. No digestive issues at all with the Perpetuem, but I may need to redo my calculations, I'm not sure I took on enough carbs. Towards the end I was necking Gatorade, which I never normally go near.
At one point I ran past Team Hoyt, running their last race. They're a father and son team - the son has cerebral palsy and his father pushes him in a wheelchair. They've done all kinds of running and tri races - look them up, they are remarkable. There was another guy in a wheel chair who seemed to be doing it backwards - not sure what that was about.
There was some great gear out there - every kind and colour of calf guards, and lots of women in kind of frilly running skorts. Which sounds awful, but actually looked really good. I think it's the combination of girly outfit plus kickass leg muscles that works .