Posted in Blog.
The Unicorn Race
M A N T R A S
“Trust your training.”
“It takes bravery to be patient in a marathon.” – Brendan Martin (fellow FLPT & a OTQ for 2020)
S T R A T E G Y
After MANY blow ups, I was finally able to take the advice that is so easy for me to give to others (working as a physical therapist, coach, and teammate), but so hard to apply to myself:
Keep it controlled.
Don’t be greedy.
First 10 with your brain.
Second 10 with your training.
Last 6 with ❤️🔥
This year marked my third consecutive Boston. With the week of the marathon approaching, the weather forecast was getting grim: not as bad as last year, but definitely looking like another cold, wet, rainy year – and I was in shape to race. My goal of sub 3 hours seemed like a reality just outside of my grasp.
R A C E D A Y
After getting caught in TORRENTIAL downpours in downtown Boston as we went to load the buses, the skies miraculously cleared as we all arrived in Hopkinton. Weather was a perfectly breezy, overcast 62, the best I had seen on race day for the past 3 years. I met up with fellow Dashing Whippet teammates and chatted about goals. I stated how my plan was to go out conservatively no matter what, after prior years of blow ups had taught me a lesson. I knew 6:45-6:55 was scary-but-practical based on training and workouts, but anything faster than that could lead to surpassing my lactic threshold and hitting that wall.
I kept repeating to myself the course strategy that I’d received from patient Leslie Lam and coworker Brendan Martin. “Get to Mile 16 feeling good. Don’t fight the hills, float them. Mile 21 faster than mile 1. Hammer the last 10k.”
Miles 1-10 were surprisingly easy, and it took a LOT of self control to keep my foot on the breaks. I felt GOOD, and goal pace felt effortless with the net down hill of the Boston course. People around me were passing me. My brain started to drift to the possibility of a 2:50-2:55 marathon. But I knew by speeding up, I would risk losing my goal of sub 3. So I stuck to my mantras. “Don’t be greedy. Keep it controlled.”
I soaked in the day.
I high-fived the spectators.
My brain was saying – Emmi don’t F*** it up here. After counting up to mile 10, I focused on counting down for the next 6.
6 to go until 16.
That’s my halfway mark.
I cruised through the (actual) half around 1:29:30 – still on track for my goal, but I didn’t have much of a buffer, and I hadn’t even hit the Newton hills yet.
I was nervous.
After picking it up, handing out more high fives (but no kisses) to the Wellesley girls around mile 14, I was SHOCKED when I got to mile 16 still feeling strong. As I approached the hills, they felt surprisingly smooth. When I started climbing around mile 17, I was encouraged by the fact that my pace wasn’t slipping. Two miles to go till I reached Brooklyn Track Club and my coworker Carly, who I knew was waiting with my last bottle of fluids. We cruised up Heartbreak Hill and I was still holding my goal pace. I was catching up, and passing, the runners that had surged past me earlier. I tried to not let myself get too excited, but for the first time, I thought to myself –
“Emmi – you got this.”
Mile 21 was FAST – maybe around 6:20 pace, and I was nervously optimistic that my goal was in reach. The last few miles were a blur of speeding up, dumping water on my head to keep myself cool as I noticed the sun was coming out and the temperature was rising, and smiling and waving to friends and teammates along the way to keep my spirits up. Right onto Hereford, left onto Boylston. I could make out 2:56 on the clock in the distance. I knew I was going to make it.
As soon as I crossed the finish line I started to cry. This goal of mine – since high school, really, of running the Boston Marathon, of breaking 3 hours in the marathon – to have both together was unreal.
It certainly wasn’t easy, but I DID IT.
I felt so much love for this amazing community and the people that had made the journey truly incredible. Emmi Aguillard had enough in her to NOT blow up, but fight through to the end. I had hoped, but I had many doubts along the way that this was something I was capable of achieving.
G R A T I T U D E
It’s seldom in life where the unicorn races happen – harder even still is for the stars to align for a marathon – and at Boston of all places, with the unpredictable weather and strategically challenging course. Racing marathons has taught me a lot about myself, both physically and mentally, that simply cannot be replicated in other distances. Perseverance. Self-control. Working together.
Most importantly, I am still riding high on how amazing the running community is and how lucky I am to have so much love in my life.
Boston, you continue to remind me how much good is in the world.
I have to give a special shout out to my coworkers and #FinishLineFam for the incredible support along the way, both my college teammates from Tulane and my Dashing Whippet teammates from NYC that have brought me true joy and incredible friendships through running and training, and my whole NOLA//NYC running fam — the love keeps growing. On cloud 9 from this perfect day. 💙💛