Rain, Wind, Cold-Welcome to BOSTON

Bah. I can't put this whole experience into words. it was literally one of the best experiences in my life. And I'm not just talking about the race-the whole weekend was PHENOMENAL!

I had 14 family members and friends there at the race. People from Miami and Arkansas. It was literally the best of both worlds. So many people I love and that love me. I felt SOOOO loved. I'm totally going to brag people-I have the BEST FRIENDS and FAMILY EVER! Like EVER. It was the sweetest part of the whole trip to have everyone there. I can't imagine the trip without them. 

But let's talk about the race. It was 36 degrees when I woke up. I got up, put on my race clothes, and went down to breakfast. I saw my family and all the other runners at the hotel. Then we went up for the best dance party. First time to have a dance party before such a big race, but can't lie...dancing in the room with Rusty, Beth, and Paul lifted my spirits and put my heart at ease. Haha us crazy kids. Everyone in the family came a gave me a hug before we hit the road with my Dad, Rusty, Paul and Beth to drop me off at the starting line. So this was the only stressful part of the morning...apparently we didn't calculate how to get to the athlete's village. It took a little longer than expected and then we ended up at a shuttle stop because we couldn't drive directly to the village. Luckily we were plenty early for my wave. I was dropped off at the starting line and headed down to the village (it was like 1/2 a mile haha). OH MY GOODNESS! It was a MUD PIT! The village had a couple of tents and they were all above mud. I noticed a ton of people with plastic bags on their feet-BRILLANT. For all of you runners that's a great idea if it's pouring before the race or just wet. My feet were numb for the first 5 miles (literally I didn't start getting feeling in them until mile 5). Many people had other shoes, but you had to ditch everything at the starting line-I didn't bring an old pair of shoes to give up. At about 9:50 the called wave two to the starting line. We walked the half mile to the line and waited about 10 minutes. This was the hardest part of the race for me. It's raining, you're not moving, and it's SO cold. A lot of people were shivering at this point and I was shaking along with them. I was looking around really wondering why are we all doing this. Guys, the starting line was miserable. I think everyone had put away the idea of getting a PR and just wanted to finish. They said this was possibly the worst Boston Marathon conditions ever. Ah. I seriously was thinking, do I have to? Then I saw everyone around me and thought if they can do it, so can I.

But before I knew it we them send us on our way! AH! First Boston Marathon! I was so ready to move. But WHOLLY COW! The start was crazy. I was dodging people like crazy. Then in the first 2 miles I had to stop twice to tie each of my shoes. Ha. I was so wrapped up in the coldness I forgot to double knot my shoes. But I got going again and friends, I felt good. I was freezing and couldn't feel my feet, but my legs were like let's do this. 

I made up for the times I stopped and by mile 8.5 I saw some family and friends. AKA Jo's Hype Team. I heard Karis scream first and turned my head to see them. I waved and was so happy to see them. I kept going and my legs kept feeling good. I used my supplements more because I didn't want to cramp up. The crowds were INSANE. I literally could not believe how many people were out and let alone in that crazy weather. It was the most inspiring thing I've seen in a race. Plus you would run alongside and see some of those in their races chairs or tied to a guide. It was AWESOME!! Boston knows how to run a race friends! I have never been surrounded by so much encouragement. It kept me going. At mile 17 I saw the fam again and I looked down at my watch and thought, I can do this, I can break 3. My attitude stayed strong. My body was feeling strong. I kept going and then hit heartbreak hill...not what I expected. It was like 2-3 small hills combined. My pace slowed a little, but then came the downhill. YES! Dropped back to a 6:34 mile. At this point I had about 5 miles left and I was not going to let this thing beat me. 

I was so determined and my body still felt strong. I stayed hydrated and kept fueled. I had hot hands in my gloves the whole way. Friends everyone was drenched and you would hit these waves of torrential downpour and crazy ass winds. You would hit them and just be like WHOO! I couldn't believe my legs were still pumping. The miles just kept getting less and less and I was holding around a 6:45 pace the last several miles...then mile 25 came and I was like-I WILL NOT STOP! I WILL F***ING HOLD THIS PACE! I started looking around me and the bibs were all now red-I caught up with Wave 1. I looked at my watch and I knew, I knew I was going to break 3-but by how much? I didn't care, I just wanted to finish. I hit mile 25.7 and the torrential downpour began again. The last half mile of the race I was DRENCHED and it was pouring, but the ROAR of people was unlike any other I have ever heard. You could literally hear it from a mile down the road! My family said the saw me and screamed, but man all I could hear was WOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! It was the most amazing finish ever. I didn't even care about the rain. I crossed that finish line with tears in my eyes! I knew I had just done it. The first thing that crossed my mind was THANK YOU JESUS! And tears started welling up in my eyes. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. The volunteers were wrapping us in blankets and giving us food. Ah! I couldn't believe it. 

I worked my way to the end to see my family. Walked to the top of the steps and called my husband. I asked for my official time (since I stopped 2x to tie my shoe) and he told me 2:58:48!!! AHHHHH SUB 3!!!! For REAL! I first saw Lucy, Jon, and Leah and we all just screamed!!! They gave the biggest hugs, then we walked down the steps and I saw the rest of the family! Screams and hugs all around! It was one of the most memorable moments of my life. And friends, not just because of a time or a race, but I just got to see my loved ones after such a exhausting pursuit. It was amazing! They traveled through rain and wind and cold and people and craziness to support me in this dream. It is so humbling and encouraging. 

But here's the real story of this friends. Two and half years ago, I was sitting in a hospital bed crying because I was so miserable and depressed that I hated life. I had overdosed and thought things were never going to get better. I felt hopeless and lifeless. The only thing keeping me going was my husband. I had quit running, honestly, I quit doing most things I loved and barely functioned. I thought the rest of my life was going to be like this-incapable, awful, fearful, hard, and meaningless. After years of counselling, TONS of LOVE and SUPPORT, a team of encouragers, nights in prayer, self healing/care, redirection, and challenges I am here today. Guys, it was not just discipline or hard work (yes there was a lot of that), but I had an ARMY of people come alongside of me and help change my future. Crossing that line was not just this miraculous time, but this story of redemption of God's work in my life and the people he surrounded me with. I would not be where I am today without them. My husband stood by my side through EVERYTHING. Our families showered us with love. So many friends reached out and supported and prayed for us. And ultimately God showed up. He proved me wrong. This victory is all HIS. I should not be where I am today. Honestly, if it were not of God's grace and people in my life I would either be homeless on the street or dead. That sounds harsh, but it's true. I have seen God's redemption and mercy shine so brightly in my life and he has used so many of you out there to do so. 

So like they say for raising children can also be said for chasing my dream "it takes a village". This sweet run was such a reminder that I did not accomplish this on my own, I accomplished it with every person out there cheering for me, my friends, my family, the runners, but most importantly my Savior. 

Run Fast. Dream Big. Don't Look Back. 

Jo