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Have you ever had your mind so set on something that you could picture every single detail? Who would be there. What you would be wearing. What you would eat. What the weather would be like. Maybe this is your wedding day. A graduation. First day of a dream job. For me, this was the Boston Marathon.

Boston Marathon Need-2-Knows

For those of you who are not running geeks, the first Boston Marathon was in 1897, making it the oldest annual marathon in the world. It is always held on the third Monday of April, Patriot’s Day. The marathon always begins in Hopkinton and finishes in Copley Square in Boston.

For most marathons you just sign up, pay, pick up your bib number and you are good to go. But Boston is different, it’s “prestigious.” You have to qualify. This means that you must run a Boston approved marathon within a certain time to qualify. The qualifying times change depending on age and gender.

There are several divisions. There are wheelchair racers, professional racers–also known as the “elite”–and amateur racers. There are 500,000 people holding hilarious signs cheering the runners on, making it New England’s biggest viewed sporting event.

In short, it’s a pretty big deal.

My Big Dream

I had the marathon and my trip to Boston planned to the “T” MONTHS before I was going.

My dream was to get a great night sleep, wear my black running tights, my lucky shirt, my mismatched racing socks, my black hat, and my broken in Asics. My mom was going to be dropping me off at the park where the buses pick up runners and drive them to Athlete’s Village. (Athlete’s Village is located about a mile from the start. It’s where runners grab some food and run to the restroom prior to walking to the start) I was going to meet someone my age, instantly become best friends as we eat our bananas and peanut butter, and run the race together in the best of conditions. I was going to see my mom right at the finish line as I demolish my PR, personal record, and be smiling while doing so. I was going to hold my medal as my mom hugged me and cry. This was my dream.

Reality

The weather was DREADFUL. I truly believe I have experienced the saying “it’s raining cats and dogs.” My mom and I had to run to Target the night before the race to get some warmer clothes for me to race in. The stores were so picked over that we settled on a sweatshirt from the little girl’s section and socks to cover my hands. It was the best we could do.

We made it back to the hotel after we ate and I could not fall asleep. I was so excited that I could not relax.

RACE DAY

We get up the next morning, I put on my makeshift outfit and we run through the parking lot attempting to keep dry. The umbrellas were not able to shield us from the “cat and dog” sized rain drops attacking us from ALL angles.

My mom drops me off at the park and I run towards the busses hoping my throw-away poncho gives me some shelter. I make it and jump onto the bus. There are about a thousand school buses transporting runners so we just follow the one ahead of us. I guess my driver missed a turn or something after we lost the bus ahead and we were stuck. We couldn’t move any more forward without going onto the course, and we weren’t allowed to drive on the course because the wheelchair racers already began their race.

I am starting to panic. The driver is trying to figure out where he is supposed to go. Veteran Boston Marathoners are yelling out directions, but we can’t cross over the course. The bus can’t move. We have to walk.

We are 2 miles from the village. It is POURING rain. Not just raining, POURING. I sort of begin a jog so that I could eat a little something and get to the porta-potty before walking another mile to the start.

Shoes are soaked. Teeth are chattering. Finally, I make it to Athlete’s Village. I grab a bagel and a banana and start walking back, another mile or so, to get to the start.

I start. My feet are sloshing around. My sock covered hands are going numb. Water is pelting my face. I am not having a good time. I am not starting the race like I planned.

My muscles are not warming up. I continue on. I talk to a few runners as we chug along. I drink water and Gatorade, eat some Gu, and trudge on.

I am so cold at mile 20 I begin to think that I cannot finish. My body is hurting everywhere. “This is not how I planned it!” is what I keep shouting in my mind. I am running way behind my planned pace and giving up becomes a better and better idea with each step I take.

I finally pass the 26-mile mark. My spirits are mighty low. There are hundreds of thousands people yelling and somehow I hear my mom cheering me on, “GO RY GO RY!” I run right over to her, hug her, and tell her that I don’t think I can finish. She points down the road and tells me “The finish is right there; you can do it!”

I turn and keep my tear filling eyes on the finish line. That last point 2 miles was the longest stretch of road ever. I felt like I was suddenly put on a treadmill in the middle of the road. I was running, but wasn’t actually moving forward.

I made it. The Boston Marathon Medal was put over my neck and I was taken right into a “warming” building because of my hypothermic symptoms. I was fed warm broth and rubbed out. An hour plus later I finally got into contact with my mom. I finished. Not how I planned it. But I finished.

Lesson Learned

When things don’t go as planned I don’t want to cramp up. I don’t want to slow down. I don’t want negative thoughts circulating through my mind. I want to stay positive. Create a new plan under the new conditions. Finish strong.

I was so caught up in the fact that the race wasn’t going “as planned” that I could not adapt to the situation I was in.

Adapting

  1. Take a few deep breaths. Taking the time to focus on exhaling and inhaling can help ground you. When things are not going as planned, we can get caught up in the smallest of details instead of focusing on the end goal.
  2. Create a new plan. You may just need to make a few modifications to the original, or throw it out completely. Once that new plan is created forget about the original. It does no good focusing on “what could have been.”
  3. Keep your thoughts positive. Having “this sucks” on repeat is going to do no good. When I am running I love to say “I am strong. I am fast.” Since it has helped while I am running, I actually have used it while taking a test, prepping for an interview, and even while folding laundry late at night. I suggest you come up with some sort of mantra that is easy to remember, lifts your spirit, and can help fill your brain with positivity rather then negativity.

Dream big. Adapt bigger.

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