Boston Marathon Memorials Part V: Carly Shea

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As we prepare for the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon tragedy, Level Renner is re-releasing the memorials and reflections of the running community written one year ago in the wake of the 117th running (these letters from readers were originally published in our May/June 2013 issue). Our intention is to pay proper respect and tribute to the events of last year’s race. We want nothing more than to handle the tragedy with appropriateness and tact. Because we see ourselves as an open platform for runners, this series is an expression of our audience’s thoughts from a year ago.  Thus, in the following pages, you will find an array of responses.  Some are angry, some are numb, most are just plain sad.  But some offer hope. Most show the strength and resolve of our community. The goal of this series is to remember and pay proper respect to the horrific events of April 15, 2013.  We will release one post per day in this series in the days leading up to the marathon.

Below is the fifth installment of a twelve part series. This reflection was written by Carly Graytock Shea.

Boston 2013 was my first marathon since having my son, Conrad, last July. I was really excited to have Boston be my first one back post-baby. I’ve run Boston twice before and I’ve trained on the course countless times. I logged quite a few miles on the course while pregnant with Conrad last winter. I run for the B.A.A. and I’ve taken part in the marathon every year since 2002 in some fashion – be it as a spectator, competitor, or massage therapist.

My goals going into this race were first and foremost to finish. I had not finished a marathon in over six years. The last marathon I attempted was Philadelphia in November 2011, when I was seven weeks pregnant (I had only found out I was pregnant two weeks before). I ended up dropping out at 17 miles. It meant a lot to be able to try a marathon fairly soon after Conrad, but it meant even more for that first marathon to be Boston. My training throughout the winter went very well. I found myself in better shape than I expected. Most of my workouts were with Sarah Bard, who ended up running a PR of 2:45:26. While I didn’t have a strict time goal for myself going into the race, I thought I was in sub 2:50 shape and would be really psyched to run anything in the 2:40’s.

My race did not go as well as I had hoped. I ran the first 21-22 miles with my teammate, Lou Raffetto, and we were right on 2:46-2:47 pace through about 19 or 20 miles. It was fun to run with Lou and just enjoy running along the Boston course. I had some serious quad cramping issues that got really bad around 19 and proceeded to get worse through 25. Every step I took on anything remotely downhill was absolute misery. My quads were just not functioning. Everything else felt great. I did not feel low on fuel or lightheaded. All my other muscles felt totally fine. For some reason (and I think it partially stems from not being quite back to full strength post-pregnancy and also partially from not running a marathon in a long time) my quads did not want to work. I worked through some pretty bad discomfort and some negative thoughts, but I gutted it out and got through it. Miraculously, just before the overpass at 25, maybe because the course finally leveled out a bit and we had a fairly flat stretch for a half mile or so, my quads loosened up and I was able to resume a somewhat normal stride. I was unable to get back to the 6:20’s I had been running earlier, but I at least was able to run a 7:01 last mile after a few miles over 8:00 pace. Once that happened, I was fairly confident I was going to finish (up until that point I had no idea if I’d physically be able to because it felt like my quads might cause my legs to give out from under me at any moment). My only concern was that stupid little downhill and uphill under Mass Ave (I think that is the cruelest part of the course). Thankfully, I made it through that without any setbacks in quad cramping. I was so happy that things came around (to an extent) that last mile because it really did allow me to enjoy the last 1.2 miles and take it all in. I have not crossed the finish line of a marathon since I ran Houston in January 2007. I’ve had a lot of setbacks and issues with my health and injuries, so it was a big moment for me to just get across the finish line. I had a big smile on my face when I finished. I had just run my slowest ever marathon, but I didn’t care. I was just so elated to finally have finished one after so many frustrating attempts the last few years.

photo by EJN

It was even more special since it was Boston since we live here and we are part of the B.A.A. I hung around for a little while after finishing. The B.A.A. has a tent about a block and a half past the finish line, right in front of the Fairmont Copley Plaza. The running club members congregate there afterwards to pick up their gear bags, get massages, and just hash out their race experiences. I was inside the tent for maybe 30 minutes after I finished. I got a massage for more achy quads and checked in with friends about their races. Terry checked in with my mom, who was at home watching Conrad. I figured I should head home right after my massage. Terry said he’d walk me to the car (he was going to have to stick around for coaching duties). We met a friend, who was in town from NYC to watch the race, at our car to say goodbye and retrieve from her some of the gloves and arm warmers that B.A.A. members had thrown at her around the 13 mile mark. The three of us lingered at the car a bit, talking about my race and how others did. I finally got into the car and drove home. It was about 2:40 pm. Since there was barely any traffic, I made it home to North Cambridge in maybe 10-15 minutes.

I got home and my mom had just put Conrad down for a nap. She told me to take my time doing what I needed to do and that she’d stick around for a little while longer. I decided to take a hot Epsom salt bath to help my quads and pour a beer to celebrate my finishing. As I was waiting for the tub to fill I did a quick Facebook check on my phone. I saw that Lindsay Willard had posted about a gun scare at the Pru. I immediately texted Terry to see if he was ok and to find out what was going on. He told me he was ok, but not sure what happened. At that moment I didn’t think too much about it. I got in the tub and my phone started getting bombarded with texts asking if Terry and I were ok. I let everyone know that we were fine – I was at home and Terry was still at the race, but ok. At that time I was still not totally aware of what was going on. Then I got a phone call from my cousin in D.C., who normally doesn’t call me unless it’s something major. She asked me about the explosions…I started to realize how bad things were. I also started to get freaked out because so many people were asking about Terry’s safety since most people knew he was likely still at the finish. There was another text exchange with Terry. He assured me he was ok but also let me know that his phone battery was about to die. Crap. That did not make me feel much better. A few minutes later he was able to call me on a volunteer’s phone. He once again assured me he was ok, but asked me to call his parents in Pennsylvania to let them know we were alright.

photo by EJN

From there things went by in a blur. I went out to watch the TV with my mom. I was simultaneously replying to many, many texts, emails, and phone calls from friends and family. There was a lot of checking in amongst the B.A.A. runners and we were trying to make sure all of the coaches were ok as well. While this was going on I started to worry more about Terry. I didn’t know how long he was going to have to stay over there. I just wanted him to get home. I then worried about how safe the T might be and wanted to convey this to him but had no way of getting in touch with him since his phone was dead. I decided to try and text Michael Pieroni (head B.A.A. coach) because I figured Terry was likely with him. As I was composing my text to Pieroni, Terry walked in the door. I felt so relieved. He was able to get out of Copley before things went on total lockdown. He was also able to get on the T at Back Bay, but had to get off at State to run over to Charles/MGH to hop the red line since Downtown Crossing and Park Street were closed.

We spent the rest of that night replying to emails, texts, and phone calls. We also spent a lot of time in front of the TV once Conrad went to bed. It was and still is hard to process this all.

While initially I had some disappointment with my race (mostly with how miles 19-25 unfolded), now it seems so insignificant after all that has happened. I am so thankful that my family and friends are all safe and I am so sad for the victims. My emotions have been all over the place the past few days. Running, the B.A.A., and the Boston Marathon have been a huge part of my life for a long time. That these things were the target of the bombings on Monday sickens me. Running has always been an outlet from the dark, heavy, scary things in life. Now it has this awful event associated with it. But I know that once my quads have recovered and I am able to start running again, I will be glad to have running to help me work through my emotions and help me process and heal from all that happened on Monday.

—Carly Graytock Shea


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