These 4 Marathon Stories Will Inspire You
Boston resident Meaghan Condon, 27, prepared for the 2015 Boston Marathon during the snowiest season in the city's history, when more than 110 inches of snow fell.
"We started training a week or two before Christmas, and by our third Saturday team run, the snow had started. (Condon ran with Tedy's Team, an organization founded by stroke survivor and former New England Patriot Tedy Bruschi that raises money for the American Stroke Association. Condon's father died of a stroke in 2009.) We did our first 10-miler that day—I didn't see any clear pavement the whole time.
That's how it went for the rest of the training. I would cross my fingers every Friday night that Saturday's long run would be canceled due to weather, but it never was. It even snowed during our 21-miler. Snow removal was a huge problem in the city—there was no room on the sidewalks, so we had to run in the streets. You end up running more slowly than you normally would because you're worried about slipping, and it's harder on you physically. Our team trainers said that in the snow, 10 miles feels like 14 to your body. It's probably a good thing this was my first marathon because I didn't have better conditions to compare it to.
Race day was cold and rainy, and I was freezing. But the experience was still everything people told me it would be—there isn't one minute while you're running that people aren't cheering for you. I hit a runner's high at around mile 15, which powered me through to mile 25. During this year's training, there's barely been any snow on the ground."
— As told to Emma Haak
The One Whose Race Plan Fell Apart One Mile In
Jennifer Brown, 47, a novelist and author of Modern Girls, thought she had prepared as well as she possibly could for her first marathon, the 2004 New York City Marathon. She quickly figured out that she had no idea what to expect.
"I followed a training program really closely, but on race day, I made every mistake you could make. I went to the bathroom too early, so by the time the starting gun went off, I had to go again. That meant stopping at the first Porta-Potty and waiting in a long line. I didn't wear my GPS watch that I'd trained with—I thought I'd compulsively look at it the whole time and that without it, I'd feel free and enjoy the run. What actually happened was that I went out too fast because I couldn't pace myself with the huge crowd around me. I'd planned for an 11-minute-mile pace and when I got to the first mile marker and saw the official time clock, I saw I'd been running at a 10-minute pace. Trying to slow down and get back on track really threw me off.
By the time I was leaving Manhattan and going into the Bronx, I didn't think I'd finish, until I spotted a friend in the crowd I didn't even know would be there. He jumped in and ran with me for a few miles. I saw more friends and family as I got closer to Central Park and they jumped in, too. When I finished and saw that I'd done it in five hours, all I could think was, 'I can do so much better.' I knew I had to run it again. Two years later I did, in 4:30."
— As told to EH
The One Who Got Caught Between the Bombs
Twelve-time Boston Marathoner Vicki Miller, 63, was nearly at the finish line on Boylston Street on April 15, 2013, when two bombs detonated at 2:49 p.m., just one block apart.
"I had turned 60 that year and I wanted to put my personal mark on Boston, so I ran hard. I was so singular in my focus—I had friends volunteering at mile markers along the route and I just waved; didn't stop to say a quick hi like I normally would. Right before the 26-mile marker, I moved over to the right side of the road to see a tribute to the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting. It was the only thing I wanted to make sure I saw along the course.
Then BOOM. I could see flames and smoke and the force of the blast shooting out across the road to the left up ahead of me. I knew it was a bomb. I hit the deck just before the second one went off behind me.
At that time of day, there's a shadow that covers half of Boylston—I looked toward the finish line and saw the medical tents just past it, and sunlight was shining on them. So I thought, I'll run to the light. I was afraid there'd be more bombs along the sides of the road so I ran down the center, past the site of the first bomb. I'm an ICU nurse, but I didn't have it in me to look. I was terrified, cold and in pain from the race, and I told myself it wasn't my job that day. Thank God there were so many other people helping.
I crossed the finish line and a little farther down the street, volunteers were lined up holding hundreds of finishers' medals. A girl put one around my neck. I told her I didn't want it, that I wasn't trying to finish the race—just to get out of there. Then I looked behind me and saw that there was nobody else coming.
Eventually I found my husband, who'd also been running and was just ahead of me on the course, and the bus I'd organized for the 50 other marathoners from my local running group. I sat there and accounted for everybody who'd gotten on the bus in the morning. We didn't leave until 8:30 p.m. that night.
I wasn't going to run Boston again. I was too scared. But the September registration date came around. I hadn't meant to do it, but when I crossed the finish line that day, just trying to get to safety, I'd qualified for 2014. I didn't want to use that qualification though. It didn't feel right. My husband signed me up anyway because he thought I'd regret not running.
In November, I read in the newspaper that an organization had planted tens of thousands of daffodil bulbs along the route. I don't know why, but that started to turn me around. I still hadn't made up my mind as race day got closer, but then something big dawned on me. Boston is like the Super Bowl of this sport, and the crazy thing is, I get to participate.
So I ran. This time I stopped at every mile marker where I saw friends volunteering and gave them big hugs. I missed qualifying for 2015 by a minute and a half, but I didn't care. I crossed the finish line and I let myself celebrate."
— As told to EH
The One Who Ran into an Ex While Carbo-Loading the Night Before
Seeing a significant someone from her past threw writer Lisa Haney, 38, for a loop the night before the Boston marathon.
"I just hope I finish," I told everyone before my first marathon in October 2000. But my secret goal was to qualify for Boston—and I did, clocking a 3:34:21. The first eight miles were downhill and the course finished in my hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania. I had turned 23 the day before and my friends and family were all there to celebrate and cheer. Including my first real boyfriend—the witty 31-year-old runner I was stupid in love with—who popped onto the road to run alongside me and hand me orange slices.
That was my Personal Best. Here's a Personal Worst. My first real boyfriend had become my first ex-boyfriend and yet we found ourselves sitting across from each other at a pasta dinner with mutual runner friends the night before the 2001 Boston Marathon. I drank a huge glass of red wine. Then another. Until someone asked, “Wait, you're running tomorrow?” I invited my ex back to my hotel room to watch a movie—then to crash, after he got locked out of the room where he was staying with a friend. I was up all night next to the man I still loved, wired from prerace jitters; the agony of waiting for bodies to touch; the crushing disappointment when they didn't.
The next morning, I was exhausted and dehydrated as I stood at the start of the Boston freaking Marathon—a lucky speck in the mass of humanity. I got goose bumps and cried as I listened to the national anthem. In a rookie move, I went out at under a 7-minute-mile pace when my target was 8:20ish. By the Half, I wanted to drop out. I'd never quit a race before though, and I wasn't going to now. I started walking at each water stop—10 seconds, 20, a minute—then ran to the next. You can run one mile, I repeated to myself like a mantra. Everything hurt. I grabbed globs of Vaseline at aid stations and rubbed them on my chafed bits. I got up Heartbreak Hill at mile 20. I must have. I don't remember. It was all a miserable blur.
What's still vivid is this: I crossed the finish line sobbing and a stranger held me up. Then I hobbled back to the hotel—a primordial blob of snot, sweat and tears wearing a space blanket. I saw my ex in the lobby and begged him to stay. Then I watched, slayed, as he walked away to catch a train instead. It would be five more years until I stopped chasing after him. Now, I just want to give that girl a hug. You just ran the Boston Marathon in under four hours. You're so much stronger than you think."
— Lisa Haney
Photos: Courtesy of Meaghan Condon, Jenny Brown, Vicki Miller and Lisa Haney via MarathonFoto