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Boston Marathon: Giving up wasn't an option for Trib journalist

Frank Carnevale
| Monday, April 30, 2018, 9:00 p.m.
Warming up at the hotel with the race medal after finishing the 122nd Boston Marathon on April 16, 2018.
Frank Carnevale | Tribune-Review
Warming up at the hotel with the race medal after finishing the 122nd Boston Marathon on April 16, 2018.

Rain, wind and cold, and a battered knee. What a day.

The 122nd Boston Marathon will be remembered for being run in some of the worst weather in its history — continuous downpours, biting winds and cold temperatures — but also it will be remembered for the dedicated runners who fought through those conditions and finished.

I ran, and I finished. But barely.

We began the day in Hopkinton, Mass., wrapped in ponchos, hats, gloves and multiple layers. Many of those items stayed on throughout the race.

Running 26.2 miles is an obvious challenge, and bad weather conditions make it harder. But I also ran with an injured knee.

Last spring, I ran the Pittsburgh Marathon and shattered my previous personal best with a 3:15 finish time. The time qualified me for Boston and I started hoping to duplicate my strong run in the iconic race.

But I got injured. For months before the race, I hobbled through training runs and workouts. I did more cross-training than actual running, hoping to save my knee for the marathon. On the runs I did do, it would take days to recover and walk normally again.

After several setbacks and disappointments, the injury was properly diagnosed — torn medial meniscus in my left knee. A young resident doctor broke the news to me with recommendation to skip the marathon.

That was never an option.

The senior doctor I was seeing understood the importance of the race and knew I was going to run. His advice was to take it easy in training and reel in my expectation.

So I reset my goal and moved forward with a plan to go to the race and give it my all.

I woke early on race day, anxious and hesitant . My wife and kids wished me luck, and I headed out. Nothing about the day was going to be easy: the weather continued to be bad, and my knee was already feeling cranky. Even the shuttle bus got lost on the way to the start.

But mid-morning, my wave in the race finally started — it was still raining. There were wall-to-wall runners. The marathon route winds through small towns on small roads on the way to downtown Boston. You're never alone during the race. And runners take this race very seriously; there were no silly costumes or jugglers. Just hardcore runners. I would have enjoyed their company more if I had felt better.

Thousands of people and volunteers also braved the elements and came out to cheer and rally runners, which was motivating and helped lighten the mood.

At the halfway point, I was on course to make my original goal of finishing under 4 hours. But the second half proved more difficult than the first.

My miles steadily got slower and around mile 19, I started taking walk breaks. My knee swelled, my calves were tight from my awkward stride, and it was still raining and cold. Did I mention the rain?

When I pulled over to the side to walk, I watched as healthier or stronger runners kept going. It felt like the whole field was passing me. It was hard to push through it.

Quitting was never an option.

I continued to walk and run; my mile splits got slower and slower. I also knew that each time I crossed a timing strip on the course a text alert would buzz in my wife's phone. Thinking of finishing and seeing her and my kids kept me going.

Then, at mile 25, they were there cheering for me. They came out with my mother and sister to cheer me on for the last push.

I stopped to say hello and nearly broke down in tears. And then I went on. The sun didn't suddenly come out, the rain didn't stop, and my knee hurt even more, but I continued my old-man shuffle to the end.

I didn't have the energy to do the airplane wings that some runners do on the last few hundred meters of Boylston Street, but I did focus on the finish line and pushed through. I clicked my watch as I finished: 4:36.

Not the finish I was hoping for, but still a finish. I was happy to have run it, and after days of swearing off marathons, I may return when healthier.

Desiree Linden, the first American to win the women's race in 33 years, said of the marathon that you have to “keep showing up.” That's a good option.

Frank Carnevale is a Tribune-Review digital producer. Reach him at fcarnevale@tribweb.com or via Twitter @frnkstar.

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