Learning to Embrace the Unknown: Snowpocalypse, Hypothermic Conditions, and the Boston Marathon
Although I don't always like to admit it, I find comfort in knowing what's to come, knowing what to expect, and hanging onto as much control as I possibly can. As I’m sure many of us do, I struggle with the uncertainties and surprises that life throws my way.
Working in the mental health field, I try to encourage my clients to be flexible, roll with the punches, practice gratitude every day, and to take things as they come. I am not always great at living by my own advice.
For those of you that don't know me, I have grown to love running. It is my stress relief. My outlet. My happy place. There's something special about lacing up my shoes, noticing my heart beat, feeling my breath, and letting my mind wander where it may.
Growing up, I didn't have one ounce of competitiveness in my blood. I started running in college. With each race, my confidence grew, eventually unveiling a competitive edge that I didn't know I had. I've found personal satisfaction in pushing my physical and mental state to places I didn't know existed. Since my first marathon in 2007, I’ve made improvements and have been lucky enough to achieve a lifelong goal of qualifying for Boston.
This year's Boston taught me a thing or two about how to be flexible and focusing my energy on what I can control.
For starters, we barely got out of Minnesota to even get to Boston. And I mean barely. Because, why wouldn't we have a snowpocalypse on mid-April? The weather predicted blizzard-like conditions the night before takeoff. My prayers to the airport Gods worked. We flew out on time and even landed in Boston a few minutes early while over 18” of snow fell back home in Minnesota. Many runners weren't as lucky, several of my Minnesota running friends had delays and cancellations. One friend even drove over 20 straight hours to get to Boston, because when you train hard for the Super Bowl of marathons, you are willing to do whatever it takes to get there.
I quickly realized I wasn't out of the weather woods yet. Obsessively looking at the Boston weather app, things weren’t looking good. "Worst Boston weather ever in marathon history" was one of the many uplifting headlines, a nice addition to my usual race anxieties. Predictions of 25-40 MHP headwind, downpouring rain, and 30 degrees at the start.
Seriously?? Is this real life?? I was trying to keep my composure, but inside I was FREAKING. OUT. I could feel my running goals slip away and I was devastated.
The night before the race was a mad scramble to purchase anything that would help the predicted wet and cold conditions. Ponchos, garbage bags, hand warmers, dish gloves, you name it. Walgreens was hopping.
I woke up on race day with a pit in my stomach and a deflated attitude. As I sprinted to the start line, already soaking wet, I feared the risk of hypothermic conditions and already felt mentally fatigued-not a way you want to start a marathon. I kept repeating to myself: Enjoy this. You've worked hard for this. Today is your day. Embrace the suck.
10:30am comes, and we're off, all 26,948 of us. Did we HAVE to run that day, in these less than ideal elements? No. Did we GET to run those streets of Boston, the world's oldest annual marathon? Heck yeah! And we were in it together.
The miles flew by quicker than I ever imagined. To my surprise, it felt effortless, like I was on autopilot. Even with the 30 MHP headwind. Even with the pouring rain that never let up. Sure, I was soaking. Sure, I was cold. But I did what I could to stay mentally focused and take in all of the love and support on that course. There have been very few moments in my life where my body and mind sync up so perfectly, leading me to a meditative state; this was one of those moments.
As I crossed the line, I was overwhelmed with emotion. 126 days of training, time, grit, sweat, sacrifice, subzero temps, and some tears, it all came to a beautiful finale. I carried my jello legs, numb fingers, and happy heart to the pack of volunteers that were handing out finishing medals to the racers. As one of the volunteers placed the medal around my neck, I happily embraced her. There I was, crying in the arms of a complete stranger, yet it somehow felt like home. It's what I needed after 3 1/2 hours of cold, wet joy.
I somehow managed to find my hotel over a mile away after a few stops asking Boston police for directions. The only thing that kept me focused and moving was the thought of a hot bath and melting into warm bed covers. To my surprise, I was met by a round of applause in the hotel lobby. A full staff greeted me with a warm towel, hot cider, and more hugs. The tears streamed down my face. I felt so loved. This is why Boston is so amazing. They embrace their runners and treat them like family.
I'm sure many question why I run and maybe even some that would call it a selfish act to take away time from family, social events, etc. I too struggle with this. Waves of guilt hit me every now and then, but deep down I know that self-care is critical. When I take out a few moments each day for myself, I’m giving myself permission to be my best self. I come home with a clear head. I am mentally present for my family. I am able to let go of the work stressors.
Whatever it may be, everybody needs that something to fill their cup and recharge their battery.
My advice? Surround yourself with a community that supports and encourages self-care. Lean into those that will wrap loving arms around you when you need it most and will be your biggest cheerleader when you lose sight of your goals. Make time for whatever sparks your inner fire. Invest in yourself.
Embrace tomorrow's unknowns, because sometimes the unexpected can turn out to be our greatest joys, best stories, and most memorable moments.
Michelle wraps up her third Boston Marathon in 3:29 in 35 degree weather and 30 mph headwinds.
hold it together,
already wet and cold
as she headed to
the starting line.
All along the route, Michelle was inspired by symbols of peace, strength, and solidarity.
unable to attend the race, made a sign at home and s
ent a picture to Michelle
Lynette is famous
for her cow-bell ringing at the races. She proudly rang her
bell from home!
Not exactly tank-top weather.
Michelle often runs with her sister-in-law, Jess Feda. Because they couldn’t run in these tanks, they had to snag a photo before the race.