at the races I ran my first Boston Marathon in 2003. I will be back...

I ran my first Boston Marathon in 2003. I will be back April 15th to run my 21st. 


Monday will be my 20th consecutive Boston Marathon because I decided not to go in 2004. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now I regret it. I went back in 2005 because my mother qualified for her first Boston at age 65. 

I have been going ever since.

I qualified for my first Boston Marathon at the National Capital Marathon in 2002. Back then if you crossed the finish line under the qualifying time you knew were in. You could even wait until February to see how the training was going before you entered. A lot has changed since then.

When I ran my first Boston, I was so excited. My husband and kids came to cheer and the whole trip was amazing. Being in Boston was like going to a runner’s convention. There were runners everywhere, there were signs in the subway, signs on the street cars, the crowds were everywhere, they were loud, and they were amazing. I totally blew up on the second half of the course, and my husband had to pull over on the interstate after the race so I could throw-up, but it was all worth it because I got to cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon.

I’ve learned a lot since then.

Over the last twenty years the race has changed—and so have I. Some years have been better than others, and some years will stay with me forever.

Whenever anyone finds out I have run a few Boston Marathons they eventually ask if I was there in 2013 when the bombs went off. I was there with a bunch of friends, but we were never in any danger. We were in a hotel about 800m from the finish line. We heard the blasts, but we had no idea what they were. 

In the aftermath of the bombing, total strangers helped the thousands of runners stranded on the course with nothing except the clothes they were running in. Four or five hours after the blast we went out to look for food. It was surreal. There were hundreds of emergency vehicles, and no one on the streets except armed police, military, and media trucks. No one had cleaned up after the race and there was garbage blowing through the empty streets. As we were leaving a women stopped me on the street and said: “Please come back next year.”

I am sure every runner with a streak had a “year,” 2015 was mine. It was my 11th consecutive, and eight days before the race I was hit by a car riding my bike. I broke my elbow and seven days before the race I had surgery to fix it. I don’t recommend run/walking a marathon with a cast, but I finished under the time limit. My friends helped wrap my arm and cast to prevent vibration. Not surprisingly, I was not alone in the back of the start corral with an injury that I would not normally run with. (Boston is special, but I  could have done without the rain that year). 

Many of the other stories I tell about Boston involve the weather. In 2007 we received pre-race information about hypothermia and how to tell if you had it. It 2012 the temperature hit 31C. In 2018, it was cold, windy and it literately poured down all day, 2,527 runners were treated by medical staff most for the cold.

Through all of it the volunteers were on course and spectators were there out cheering us on. 

The course has not changed over the years, but some things have. Getting a BQ no longer ensures you get a bib, the Freedom Run (which was free) is now at BAA 5K (which is not). The pre-race pasta dinner is gone, and the expo is not what it was.

The hotel prices have gone through the roof.

A few things have not changed and those are the things that keep me going back: Boston embraces the race, not just on race day but all weekend long. If you wear a Boston jacket on the subway people will ask you where you are from and wish you a great race. If you stagger back to your hotel room in your shiny metal cape people congratulate you and wave from car windows. One year we walked into a restaurant post-race and received a standing ovation.  

Even after 20 years, crossing that finish line still makes me shed a tear or two.

Note: I’ve also captured the 20 years of experience in a blog, which is becoming increasingly popular with the Boston runners year over year, updated this year as 2024 Boston Marathon Tips.


  1. That’s amazing!!! Your article brought back spot of memories for me . I’m on my 17th… I did my first Boston back in 1992 lol! I hope to bump into you and your sister this year!

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