Running Girls takes on the Boston Marathon – A recap, by Nicole Fels

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This April, our gorgeous member Nicole Fels got her chance to live out the dream of a lifetime and run the Boston Marathon. Nicole trained so hard for this race and it was only fitting that she share this journey with all our lovely mums as inspiration that dreams do come true, even if you are a mum. Training hard and going for what you want is possible for everyone who takes one foot and puts it in front of another. Here is just part of her story to Boston……
My last training run through the streets of Boston was such a memorable run.  It was freezing, beautiful and exhilarating.  It was funny being in a strange city but I never once felt unsafe. There is just something so special about Boston.
At the race expo, I got my long awaited race number!  It was great but so crowded so it was pretty hard to see everything, I of course managed to pick up a few bargains 🙂
Okay so now it is the night before the race.  We did go pretty hard on the sightseeing over the last few days so it was early to bed and time to get my legs up.  I laid out all my gear and read all the messages on Facebook, there were so many it was just overwhelming.  I really was strangely calm though and slept really well.
The next morning I was up early and Wayne and Karen walked me to Boston Common to catch one of the yellow school buses out to the Athlete’s Village.  It was a bit emotional saying goodbye but I was really excited.  I got in the line up and met two girls behind me who were Aussies too!  Then I sat next to a guy on the bus who for the life of me I can’t remember his name but he was great.  He was from Boston though currently in New York, so told me lots about Boston.  It was his first time running Boston, he decided after last year that he was going to do a marathon.  So had been running for less than a year!  I hope he had a great race as he was a charity runner as soon as we got to the athletes village he was off to meet up with his charity and never to be seen again!
So I walked into the village and instantly felt like a little kid from Australia! It was so overwhelming and I was just looking around taking it all in.  I got into a line for the toilets and listened to everyone chatting around me.  It was such a weird feeling being at a race start completely on my own.  Even though I always line up by myself and run by myself I usually have at least one person I know at the start with me.  The line for the toilet was painfully slow and I would have to say it was the most disgusting porta-loo experience I have had.  It was just gross and I thanked my lucky stars that my friend Karen had given me her tissues as I hopped on the bus in case I cried…. they came in very handy when I noticed there was no toilet paper.I then found a spot to sit down on the grass in the sun and within about 5 minutes I was called up to the start line.  Time just went so quickly.  This was when it got really exciting all the runners in my wave were let onto the road and we had to walk down to the starting area which felt like a really really long walk.  Once we were at the start line the atmosphere was great, everyone was stripping off their jumpers and warm clothes and the sun was shining it was just beautiful.  Then just before the start they played “Boston Strong” a song which I had never heard before.  It really was so moving.   Then it was time to start.  Wow I had a smile plastered on my face for that first 5k, I had to hold back the speed and try and stay close to 5 min per kilometre pace that I had trained at.  I felt like the 5k went past in a blink of an eyelid and at this stage I was thinking this is going to be a great race!
 Lined up ready to go!
I high fived so many people in that first 5k!  I could not believe how lined the roads were for basically the whole race it was incredible.  And people called out constantly “go Australia” and “Boston thanks you for coming Australia” and “Boston Strong”.  It was like nothing I had ever experienced before.  The crowd were just so encouraging and really made me feel like they were so happy that someone from Australia had come over the run this race.  The people of Boston certainly know how to put on a marathon and how to get behind the runners.  The atmosphere was overwhelming.Every single time I heard someone yell out go Australia, I smile and waved or gave a thumbs up, even when I was feeling absolutely terrible. I wanted them to know I had heard and how much their cheering meant for me.  I high fived so much whenever I could.  I will admit at one stage when I was starting to feel really bad I moved into the middle of the road as I just needed a bit of time to try and get my mental toughness going and I couldn’t engage with the crowd too much!I passed through the 10k, 15k, 20k and half way point right on schedule and felt great.  I really was thinking wow I could PB here (my first and only marathon before this was 3.37).Going past the Wellesley College girls was amazing, they had the funniest signs and they were so loud and enthusiastic.  Loved it, it was one of the highlights of the race.    I remember at one point running through one of the suburbs and they had “Born in the USA” blaring, that was a real spirit lifter for me.  It just seemed to sum up everything I was loving about America and my day.  Plus all the Americans around me seemed to really get into it which was great to see.  They are indeed a patriotic country as they should be, what a wonderful place 🙂

Another town had “Happy” playing which was also great, you couldn’t help but smile.  Honestly the whole way people just called out you are looking great, thank you runners, Boston thanks you, Boston Strong, Good job, it was just so amazing how much the community got behind the race.   There were so many well oiled water stops and Gatorade stops but even in between these there were people who had set up water tables in their front yards and kids handing out cut up oranges (let me tell you later in the race these were like a gift from the gods).  There was even someone handing out dark chocolate!  One thing I also saw in this race was wet tissues (like refresher towels) that were handed out.  I am not sure if this is in every race in the USA but man they were great.  They were really cold and the day was really warm so it was nice to put on your neck for a minute.

Another major highlight was seeing Maria (from Facebook her page is Running Flaps) she called out Nicole and I knew it was her straight away, I was on the other side of the road but I had to run over and say hello.  We had a big sweaty hug (sorry Maria) and I am not sure if I even said anything coherent I was just starting to struggle at this point!  I do remember Maria saying keep running and I did and I smiled my head off for the next few kilometres.Another amazing highlight was hearing this person run up behind me and it was Lisa (Running Strong with Lisa) we had this fantastic hug while we both kept running.  I remember Lisa saying I was so worried I wouldn’t see you.  We ran a few metres together and I told Lisa to keep going as I was struggling.  Apparently in our earlier splits we were running just about alongside each other!  But it took a long time to actually spot each other in the race.  So glad we did it made it very special.
So those are the good parts now  here is where it goes bad, look at these splits below and you probably can see where.
I can’t actually remember the point but I know the last 10k were absolute hell.  Like nothing I have ever experienced in a race before.  I have reflected on this and tried so hard to work out what went wrong but I can’t pinpoint anything.  I had run my 32k runs on hilly courses quite comfortably at 5 min k pace so I don’t think I went out too fast but maybe I did.  I felt like I got my gels and sports drinks down better than I ever had before and probably had a lot more than I ever have managed before but a lot of it came back up.  In the last 10k I threw up numerous times, I couldn’t even tell you how many, it was just watery vomit (sorry for the details).  I would have to stop and walk and wait for the vomit urge to go and as soon as it did I would start again but it was just constant waves of nausea.  I also had cramping in my legs which I have never experienced in a race before.  It was agonising.  I know the last 5k in particular I walked so much and all I was thinking about was making the finish line.I actually at a few points starting feeling like I was swaying and had to grab onto the side rail.  The whole time I was feeling bad or being sick people were so kind and saying you can do it, keep going.  I remember seeing that the medics were every mile and I was so scared I would get pulled off the course.  I kept thinking I have to get that medal no matter what.  I did see a few other people that looked in a bad way and that were being treated and that scared me.  All I could think was imagine flying all the way to Boston and not finishing, I also thought my family would be so scared if I ended up in the medical tent.  Plus I did wonder how much my travel insurance would cover if I needed a trip to hospital.  Yes I was having crazy thoughts.I kept looking at my watch and counting down the metres.  I would run three streetlights and then walk one as much as I could.  The distance was just ticking over so slowly.  It wasn’t until I got to 3k to go that I thought yes I can make it.  I also made sure as I came up to the medics that I would start running and put on this stupid smile, like yes look at me I am fine.  I really thought that by looking at me they may just pull me off and know how much I was struggling.   Even when I was so sick I did keep acknowledging the people yelling out go Aussie and Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi 🙂
Oh yeah Heartbreak Hill sucked badly but I got up it, I actually thought there were a few hills overall in the race, everyone talks about the downhill but there are a lot of rolling hills over the whole course.  Definitely the hilliest marathon I have ever run (lol okay I have only run two).
Once I turned that corner onto Boylston street I was thinking yes I have done it, I actually made it to the finish line!  The noise down that street was deafening. I had tears well up but I thought I am going to enjoy this finish line no matter what, I smiled the biggest smile I had and had my hands up in the air to celebrate.  I crossed it and thought thank god I made it.
 Happy at Halfway!
 Oh god help me!
Trying not to throw up!
 The Citgo sign yes I can’t be too far!
 Just stay upright 🙂
This smile says it all, how I was smiling and so happy here I will never know.So I walked a few metres and got my medal and was smiling so much and could not wait to find my family but then a few more metres and I was off to side, I had to crouch down I felt so dizzy and then I started throwing up and couldn’t stop.  One of the volunteers came over and was asking me questions and helping me.  He was trying to get me into the wheelchair but I could not make myself stand up.  Then a female medic came along and she said let’s get you into the wheelchair and I said “no I am fine” in between vomits lol….. She then said well let’s try and stand you up.  I remember thinking thank goodness they are wearing gloves I felt like a sweaty vomity mess!  She was so lovely she got me up and we started walking, she just felt so strong she was holding me up and held onto me so tightly and her voice was so calmly.  She said let’s get the blood moving and you will start to feel better and she was right.  We walked about 10 metres with her holding me and then I managed to stand upright and she said “there you go you’re good now” and I thanked her and off I went to get my silver keep warm blanket!After that I did not hang around, I got a text from Karen telling me where they were and I walked to meet them, it was quite a long walk as they couldn’t get closer and there was only the long way out of the race finish area due to security.  My legs were still feeling crampy and I had to stop a few times.Finally I found my family.  I hugged them all which was a lovely moment and then I sat down with them, but couldn’t eat anything yet.  We headed back to the hotel straightaway.  The plan was to have a bath and a little lie down and head to Fenway Park for the after party but I was too sick.  I got in the bath and then laid down and slept for a while.  I just felt terrible.  At about 8.30pm that night I finally got up and realised I had to eat.  I hadn’t had anything substantial to eat apart from gels since 9.00am that morning.  I know not the right way to do recovery but it was the best I could do.  We walked down to the food court in the Prudential centre and I had pizza!  I actually managed to eat quite a bit and after that I really started to feel better.  It was back to the hotel and bed but what a horrible nights sleep I had!  I was up taking nurofen and drinking water during the night.

This was a video I made the night of the marathon as I was just too tired to type!
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=504010213054305&l=8828384641766669824

So to sum it all up.  Usually I would be so disappointed in my time, I ran 4.15, which is 40 minutes slower than my first marathon.  The last 5k took me 45 mins.  I just had nothing.  But getting to this finish line was the hardest fought finish line in my life.  It took absolutely everything I had to cross it.  So I am so proud of myself for finishing and getting my Boston medal.  There is so much to be said for NEVER giving up!  Giving up was not an option for me.

I put everything I had into this marathon and whilst the time wasn’t what I wanted or what I am capable of, I gave it my best and that is ALL that matters.  At this stage I am thinking I will never do another marathon.  I was so injury prone in the lead up to this one I wonder if I am cut out for endurance running, I think short speedier stuff is more my thing.  My body just did not cope well with the demands on it.  I don’t think there was one run in the last four months where I didn’t have pain.  I have run for years and I would say I have rarely had an injury, actually before this marathon I have only ever had one serious injury.  So moving forward it is hard to think of committing myself to months of training and long runs (which I don’t really enjoy the longer stuff) and then putting in all that work and not to get the result you hoped for.    Though this morning I found myself thinking lucky I didn’t run another BQ at Boston or I would have felt pulled to go back next year.  So the plan moving forward is to chase some shorter distance goals for the rest of the year and then decide what next!

The Boston Marathon though lived up to everything I imagined actually it exceeded it.  It truly was the holiday of a lifetime and I really do feel like it was a dream come true.  I know how lucky I am to have this experience and I will treasure the memories for the rest of my life.

So do you have a dream?  If so do not put it off work towards it and go for it.   After reading this recap and seeing how tough my race day was and to still hear me say how incredible it was I hope it shows you that overcoming obstacles and working towards a dream is worth every little hiccup along the way.

I JUST LIVED MY DREAM….. not everyone can say that!  Make sure you can.

Nic xxx

 

You can follow more of Nicole’s journey over on Facebook at

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Running-GIRL/332310426890952?fref=ts

One response to “Running Girls takes on the Boston Marathon – A recap, by Nicole Fels

  1. Great post! I’m really glad that you had such a great time while visiting the States. It’s nice to hear an Aussie sharing in the experience and returning with praising words. The media in Oz loves to publicize anything tragic developing out of the US and I feel that many have a skewed impression of what daily life is like there. I loved Brisbane by the way. Small city feel in a big package. Good luck with your training and your next race!

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