I was honored to be running in the 119th Boston Marathon, and lucky to have the support of so many family and friends along the way.

I was running it for so many reasons: for myself, it marked 10 years since my first Boston back in 2005; for my daughter, I want her to know that if you put your mind to something, and commit to a goal, you can achieve ANYTHING you put your heart into; and for my organization, Shine: A Light On Fertility, and for all those affected by fertility challenges.

 My Boston Marathon Outfit     me and G

Finally race morning was here, I woke up and started to get on my race jersey and all my gear. I was prepared that it maybe rainy/windy, but was hopefully optimistic that somehow Mother Nature would throw me a solid and it would be 60, partly sunny, with no wind J. I am in my la la land of getting mentally prepared, and my husband warns me, “I’m watching the news, prepare, it’s gonna be bad out there today [rainy, headwinds], but if anyone can do it, it’s you, and it’s gonna give you an amazing story to tell.” Whew – I took a huge sigh, and thought you are tough, you can do this.

I kiss my husband, and my daughter, and head to Boston Common where you pick up the bus to take you to the start in Hopkinton.

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The chatter on the bus made me feel better, everyone was talking how they were carrying around a little extra weight, and hadn’t trained that hard this winter, and they wanted to enjoy this race and appreciate the hard work it took to get here. [I was in the same boat, I had a nagging injury come back, and was glad to just feel 90% for the start, I had trained smart, not hard for this race.]

The starting line of the Boston Marathon     Katie O'Connor

Standing in my start corral before the Wave 2 gun released us from Hopkinton, weather was all everyone could talk about. I am obsessed with weather, and become increasingly crazy about it as a big race approaches. I had been trying to remain positive, but it seemed inevitable that we would get hit with some rain and wind at some point along the course. We were all optimistic; at least it wasn’t raining at the start, right? And once we get warmed up, it can’t be that bad, right? I mean I trained through a Chicago winter, ran in temps so cold my Camelbak line froze, and my gels became a solid. I could do this!!!

The gun went off, and I felt a rush of energy go through my body!! This was it, my Boston Marathon was starting!

The first few miles are downhill, so you just have to be careful not to let yourself get wrapped up in the excitement and go out too fast, you have to just let your legs coast, the hard work is still far ahead.

Light sprinkles started around Mile 3, I thought to myself, sprinkles aren’t bad, ok all is still going good! There are some rolling hills through Ashland that kinda took me by surprise, I am used to flat FLAT Chicago, so even a slight incline makes your legs take notice!

Entering Framingham, Mile 5 came fast, I couldn’t believe I was already taking my first gel! [it’s sad that during a marathon you actually look forward to taking a gel, it’s the little things]

By Mile 6, we had a steady rain, I looked down and noticed I was bleeding. I thought I had thoroughly applied body glide, and apparently I had missed the only uncovered section of my legs, my knees, and was chaffing pretty badly. I didn’t even feel it! I finally found some antiseptic lotion, slapped some on, and went on my way.

By Mile 8 in Natick, you could start to feel a headwind picking up, along with the rain, it was starting to be a one-two punch.

I was now at Mile 10, finally hit double-digit miles, and also EVERYTHING on me was wet. I felt like I was carrying around an extra 5 pounds. I started out avoiding all puddles [gosh, I didn’t want wet feet and shoes], by now it didn’t matter I ran right through them. And even more worrisome, I noticed my body really didn’t feel “warm”, I was ok, but it wasn’t the loose feeling I was used to a third into the race.

I was wet and cold, and felt my legs tightening up, and just kept thinking I have to get to the half in Wellesley where the cheering is really loud. I need that energy. The Wellesley College girls were still out in full force despite the weather, I tried to crack smiles as I read their posters, but even I could tell my smile must have looked fake.

There is nothing like hitting Mile 13.1 – the halfway point – knowing that the next half was gonna be an all out struggle. My husbands words keep repeating in my mind, “if anyone can do it, it’s you, and it’s gonna give you an amazing story to tell.”

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At this point volunteers were handing out sticks of vaseline [thank God because my chaffing wasn’t getting any better], dry paper towels, and yelling anything motivational they could think of…..”you are tough, you can do this, think of all the hard work to get here, think of the beer/wine at the end, smile they are taking photos of you.” I have to say the volunteers and spectators that lined the streets were AMAZING, it was shitty out, there was no sugar coating it, and they were as energetic, loud, motivating as ever, their spirit helped me going.

Also I knew I was slowly approaching the point where I would see my family, near Mile 17. I trudged through the next few miles, my legs felt so heavy, each step took effort, I knew seeing my family and getting a hug was what I needed to get to the finish.

At Mile 16, you enter Newton, the famous Newton Hills, including the big daddy Heartbreak Hill, here is an elevation chart, so you can get some sense of Boston vs. Chicago. The hills hit me like a brick. I won’t lie, I really didn’t “train” for the hills, I just thought, I’ll push through when I hit them. Maybe not the best strategy.

Hills in the Chicago Marathon     Hills in the Boston Marathon

Come Mile 17 ¾ I was in a panic, where was my family? I had given them all Chicago flags so I could easily spot them, and I had been scanning the crowd now for almost 2 miles and didn’t see them. I decided to pull off and check my phone, thankfully my husband texted me, “I hope you are checking your phone, we are just past the Mile 20 marker, love”. Thank God I checked my phone, I was in a panic that I wouldn’t see them. Mile 20 came and I heard my husband yelling “Katie, Katie”, and I pulled over, I was holding back tears, a hug and smiles from familiar faces was just what I needed, my spirit was low.

After I passed them, I had a little burst of energy, I had hit the 20-mile mark, only 6.2 more to go!! That seemed doable! Then I remembered I had Heartbreak Hill still to get through. I just looked down, and said one foot in front of the other. The “hill” at this point feels like a mountain.

By Mile 22 , I had a little over 4 miles to go, soaking wet, gusty wind in my face, hands were frozen, legs like bricks, and thought to myself, “this must be what it feels like when you are training for the military and they are trying to ‘break’ you”. Every step felt like I was barely making forward progress. I thought seriously how was I going to finish this? I’ve never felt so broken down in a marathon EVER. Every swear word there was going through my mind.

Other runners are pulling off to the side left and right with cramps and chills, volunteers are handing out the metal blankets for runners to try and conserve body heat, it’s insane!

But then something snaps, maybe it’s a cheer from the crowd or a smile from a volunteer handing out water [cuz at that point I was stopping at EVERY water stop – you have to stay hydrated you know ;)], and you have to dig deep, to the part in your brain that won’t let you give up.

I was now finally at Mile 25.2, the famous Citco sign, located in Kenmore Square, marks one mile to go on the course [I keep thinking OMG one more mile, OMG one more mile].

The 25 Mile mark     I was now finally at Mile 25.2, the famous Citco sign, located in Kenmore Square, marks one mile to go on the course [I keep thinking OMG one more mile, OMG one more mile

When I got toward the last two legendary turns, “right on Hereford, left on Boylston”, I started tearing up, a wave of emotions hits when you see the finish line. I was thinking “please let this be over” and at the same time “I don’t want this moment to be over” – it’s truly crazy.  I have to give props to the people of Boston, it was rainy, windy, CRAPPY out [and given the history of a few years ago], the spectators were AMAZING, they were so loud the last few miles I had my music on FULL BLAST, like kill your ears loud, and I couldn’t tell you what song was on because the crowd was so loud.  That is amazing and an amazing testament to the people of Boston, I thank you for keeping me going.

At this point I feel like I am sprinting, but it probably looked a little different.

The finish is getting closer and closer, I start pumping my fist in the air and smiling, where this energy is coming from I seriously don’t know!

Me crossing the finish line

I cross the finish and it’s pure joy – tears burst from my eyes, I bend over and catch my breath, and a volunteer comes over to check if I am ok. I ask him, “would you take a picture of me?”, and he has to take my phone from my pocket and unlock it for me, as my hands are literally not working!

post finish     medal

I smile the biggest smile in the world and put my hands in the air like I won the race. And you know what I did, I won MY race. It was brutal and amazing!

Next up reuniting with my family AND champagne and pizza!

me and the fam