Race Day Tips for First-Time Boston Marathoners

Training week: 19 of 18
Money raised: $7,999 of $8,000
Today’s run: Hobbling between the couch and the fridge
Cumulative training miles: 480.2

Yesterday, I ran my first-ever marathon and my first-ever BOSTON Marathon.  I did it!! It was a day I’ll never forget, and I’m SO glad that I chose to take it slow and soak up every minute of this 5-hour experience. I poured my blood, sweat, and tears into the training and fundraising, which earned me a spot in this incredible race. I’m so grateful for this experience, for my supporters and donors, and for the opportunity to raise money for the Trinity Boston Foundation!

Since this may be my only Boston Marathon (the running was awesome, but the fundraising was a grind!), now I’m turning my attention to helping other runners accomplish this same feat. I’ve got some great tips and logistics so you can be as prepared as possible for the greatest race day of your life!

Final Weeks of Training

  • Practice running a 16+ miler in your expected race day outfit, with all your gear. This may be tough in Boston because the weather in mid-April can be drastically different than on training runs. But you want to check for chafing when running in shorts, wearing a belt or fanny pack, or wearing an armband.
  • Finalize your nutrition routine and get ready to stick to it, so you won’t be tempted by last-minute experiments. Nothing new on race day.
  • Practice running the course, especially the Newton hills, as much as possible. I never ran all the way to Boylston, though — I wanted to save that for Marathon Monday!

Race Weekend 

  • In the few days before the race, aim to “pee lemonade.” This helps you assess the right hydration level. Clear pee means you’re over-drinking. Apple juice means not enough.
  • Make a plan with your friends and family about exactly where they will be cheering for you on the course. If you pick a mile or kilometer marker, ask them to stand right after the banner, pick a side of the road, and bring a sign with your name. The crowds are massive and runners are streaming by, so it’s not hard for fans to miss you. It is much easier for a runner to spot their friends than vice versa. Avoid popular spots like the turn by the firehouse or the last 2 miles. If your friends just say “I’ll be at Coolidge Corner!” there is no way you will see each other.
  • Write your name clearly across your shirt so spectators will cheer for you. It’s amazing to have strangers calling your name! You can write it across a strip of tape or buy stick-on letters.
  • Cut your toenails. Or you will lose them.
  • Plan how you will be getting home. 

Packing your Race Day Bag

  • Bring throw-away clothes to wear at the starting area, since you could be waiting there in the morning cold for over an hour. If you wear cinched-ankle sweatpants, cut the bottoms so you can take them off over your shoes at the last minute.
  • Pack warm, dry clothes and a pair of flip flops for after the race. There’s a changing tent by the gear-check, but you might only have the energy to throw something on over your sweaty clothes.
  • Bring a tennis ball for your post-race bag. It’s the poor man’s foam roller. (Or find the massage tent at the finish!)
  • Think of your skin! Bring sunscreen, and let it soak in before applying BodyGlide to prevent chafing.
  • Bring your own food and water for the starting line. You have a long morning of bus riding and waiting around. Yes, there is food at the starting area, but it is a HUGE complex and you don’t want to waste your legs walking around trying to find a banana.
  • Buy an external battery case for your phone. You want that charge to last to Boylston Street.
  • Make sure your official marathon jacket is in your post-race bag so you can throw that puppy on right away! Or, wait to take a shower. Marathoners are stanky.

Race Morning

  • Nothing new on race day! This is not the time to try out Gatorade’s latest products or bust out new clothes or gear.
  • Make friends at the waiting area. It’s almost impossible to meet up with someone specific, but it’s easy to share your excitement with new runners and swap advice.
  • Rehearse your plan for eating and drinking. I planned to drink at every other water stop, but it was warm so I hit 2 out of 3. I ate Shot Blocks every 5 miles, and an extra around mile 22.

On the Course

  • I cannot emphasize this enough: START SLOW. Like, run those first 3 miles slower than you have ever run before. The net downhill through Hopkinton and early Ashland is a mind trick that will come back to bite you in Newton. Don’t be one of those silly runners wasting energy weaving and jostling through the throng.
  •  If it’s hot out and spectators are giving out ice, stuff some in your sportsbra. Ahhhhh. Just don’t accidentally dump Gatorade on your head. And if you run through a hose or sprinkler, don’t get your shoes soaking wet.
  • Smile a LOT! Make sure those gums are as sore as your quads. ENJOY the day. The hard work is in the training — treat the race like a party!
  • When you see your friends, stop for a hug and say hello. They’ve been waiting hours to see you, and a quick chat will give you a huge boost. Take pictures!
  • Watch out for the surprise hill between mile 16 and 17, which is before the turn by the firehouse and the famous Newton hills.
  • They say the Boston Marathon has two halves: the first 20 miles and the last 6. Luckily, those final miles are packed with a cheering squad like you could never imagine!

Finish Line

  • SMILE! Strike a pose for the official photographers, and remember to take a selfie. Try to remember every second of that last sprint down Boylston!

Above all else, HAVE FUN. You worked so hard to earn the right to run this course. There’s a reason why it’s so competitive to get into: it’s truly the greatest marathon event in the world. Enjoy every minute of it!

This is how you’ll feel at the finish!!

Race Day Tracking Info

Training week: 18 of 18
Money raised: $7,039 of $8,000
Today’s run: 3 easy miles, 35 degrees
Cumulative training miles: 451

With just a few days before race day, lots of people have asked about how they can track me on Monday to see my progress along the course. Here’s what you need to know!

Starting on Monday, you can visit the Boston Athletic Association website, and the homepage will feature an athlete tracker. You can enter Julie E. Carroll or my bib number: 26974. The tracker will update every 5k. Or, you can download the BAA’s mobile app, which may be easier than the desktop site. You can also sign up for text alerts to receive an alert (which is handy if you’re on your phone on the course) when I cross the 10k, half, 30k, 35k, 40k, and finish line.

Here’s my best guess about when I’ll be passing certain landmarks, if all goes well:

11:20-11:30 — Crossing starting line in Hopkinton
12:25-12:35 — Framingham T stop
1:45-2:00 — Wellesley scream tunnel
2:15-2:35 — Turn at the firehouse onto Comm Ave in Newton
2:50-3:15 — Heartbreak Hill
3:10-3:35 — Cleveland Circle
3:30-3:55 — Coolidge Corner
3:40-4:05 — Citgo sign
3:50-4:30 — Finish line

My overall pace will probably be 10:30-11:00 minutes per mile, and each 5k will probably take me between 30-35 minutes.

Here’s a map of the course, and a handy MBTA map of popular viewing spots and their distance from the T.

I’ll try to run on the left/north side of the road, and I’ll post a picture with my race outfit on my Facebook page Monday morning so I’m easy to spot. You can also my fundraising progress as I near that finish line, too!

If you’re out on the course, please take pictures and tag me on Facebook! Let me know in the comments where you’ll be so I can look for you, and yell for me so I can find you!

Dress Rehearsal

Training week: 16 of 18
Money raised: $5,004 of $8,000
Today’s run: Rest day (listen, I ran 21 yesterday)
Cumulative training miles: 390

I’m officially ready to run the Boston marathon! Yesterday I finished my 21-mile run, which is my longest “long run” of training season. Let me say that again: I ran twenty-one miles yesterday!!

All the conventional wisdom tells me that I’m now fit to complete a marathon on April 17. I guess all the scientists got together and decided that you’re supposed to do a final long run 3 weeks before the race, and it doesn’t even have to be as long as the marathon itself. Then you gradually decrease mileage until race day, at which point your body can miraculously bust out 26 miles. (Yeah, I don’t get it either, but I have to trust that I’m doing something right.)

Beyond the distance victory, yesterday was a pretty big day in and of itself. Because so many Boston trainees schedule their last long run on the same day, it’s a semi-organized event along the race course. Between 4,000-6,000 runners take to the course, and dozens of local running clubs and charities set up water and fuel stops along the way. Some of the towns even provide a police detail at the intersections. My running group bussed us out to Framingham to start at mile 6 of the course, and the whole experience is a bit like a dress rehearsal for race day.

Honestly, the run was a lot of fun! The weather was pretty solid for running — 40 degrees and cloudy, with just an occasional drizzle. After my 18-er in the slush and wind two weeks ago, I’m good with a little rain. The spectators along the course gave me a huge boost, and I even made a couple of friends:

Spotted on the Newton hills.
I’ll take any excuse to stop by mile 18.

Distance runs can be a real roller coaster, though. On my long runs, the first 3-4 miles are the toughest, as I’m just warming up. After about 60 minutes of running, everything starts to feel great, and I pick up speed without even meaning to. That’s when the lip syncing and air drum playing starts, too. Once the miles hit double digits, I honestly lose track. What’s the difference between mile 14 and mile 15 anyway? The second-to-last and third-to-last miles are incredibly trying, though, because I feel like I’m ready to be done, and I am most definitely NOT done. Then in the last stretch, my legs just go on autopilot, and often my last mile is my fastest split. (My average pace yesterday was 10:33, but the final split was 8:37). It always surprises me to look down and realize I’ve been running for almost 4 hours.

The bad news is that I messed up the nutrition this time around, which slowed me down after the run was over. I think I ate too many pretzels on the course, so I wasn’t hungry enough for them to refuel when I finished. This didn’t really impact my run performance, but it affected my enjoyment of all of the chicken parm I was planning to eat Saturday evening. I stopped at Dominic’s Italian deli in Waltham for my typical post-run dinner-for-two-for-one, but I just wasn’t feeling it once I got home. But perhaps my biggest mistake of the day was going home with just a single mini cannoli, instead of two large ones. Who made that decision?

All the running aside, I still have a LOT of fundraising work to do before race day. So far, I’ve raised over $5,000!! Over 90 donors have generously contributed to the Trinity Boston Foundation. I’m so thrilled by their support, and I’m encouraged to keep going. My goal is to raise another $3,000 by race day (and the charity has me on the hook for that money no matter what, so I definitely need your help!). Here’s what I have in the works:

I’m planning a 30th birthday party fundraiser at the Greatest Bar in Boston on Saturday, April 1, from 7-10pm. Everyone is invited! I’m excited to celebrate a milestone birthday with friends, colleagues, and former students, all while supporting a great charity. Tickets are $30 in advance ($35 at the door) and include one drink ticket and light apps.

I’m also launching a charity auction, where you can bid on items below cost, and all the proceeds go to Trinity Boston Foundation. I solicited over a hundred local businesses and received donations and gift cards from places like Soulcycle, Tasty Burger, Flour, MealPal, Flatbread Pizza Company, the Cookie Monstah food truck, and more. There’s over $1,000 worth of donations up for grabs at a fraction of their cost. You can even bid on career counseling services from yours truly! Check out the goods.

I’ve been asking my network to get involved in more and more ways, like asking my family members to solicit their friends, or having my supporters share Facebook posts with my donation link. My fundraising goal is seeming like a pipe dream at the moment, but these days I’m focusing much more on practicing gratitude for the many generous and surprising donations I’ve earned so far. I feel fortunate and I feel loved to have so many people raising their hands to support a cause I care about. That’s what keeps me going these days!


30 Days and 100 Miles to go

Training week: 14 of 18
Money raised: $4,798 of $8,000
Today’s run: 12 miles, sunny and 25 degrees
Cumulative training miles: 350

I’m less than a month out from the Boston Marathon, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Next week is my toughest training week of the entire season. I’m scheduled to complete 41 miles in the next 7 days, including 2 strength-training workouts, a hill run (twelve 90-second repeats), a 10-miler on Wednesday, and, the crowning jewel of training season: a 21-mile long run on Saturday. It’s going to be a busy week.

Luckily, I’m in a groove now, and even this grueling schedule seems feasible. I’ve come to look forward to my midweek “sorta-long runs,” which I usually complete after work with my colleagues Amy or Chris, and they push me to a much faster pace than I’m comfortable with on my own. And the Saturday long runs with the Furey 26.2 team are a lot of fun, especially now that I’ve made some friends and see familiar faces during cool-down. Coach John makes the training schedule sound really simple, and he’s given me great advice about when to push harder and when to pull back. I honestly can’t imagine doing these weekend runs without running alongside (or behind) the Furey team and the hundreds of other Boston trainees who are out practicing on the marathon course.

It’s not that I haven’t had tough runs. My 18-miler, last Saturday, was one of the hardest runs of the season. I was totally prepared for it, but the conditions were awful. We’d gotten a couple of inches of snow in the early morning hours, and the temperature was hovering around 15 degrees. More than half the run was on snowy, icy slush, which made every step treacherous. Plus, winds were gusting up to 25 mph, and they were blowing right in our faces for the first 8 miles, and again for the last 3. It was my slowest run to date, by almost a minute per mile. When I finally finished, I felt like I’d been running for days.

Still, I’m excited for the “dress rehearsal” this coming Saturday: running 80% of the Boston Marathon course, starting at the 6-mile-mark in Framingham, and ending on Boylston Street near the finish line. Almost 5,000 runners take on this trial run, so it’s highly organized, with lanes blocked off and a police detail at the intersections. It will help me get my head in the game for Marathon Monday.

On top of the running, I’m entering into the most intensive phase of my fundraising. I’ve made direct asks to just about every human I know, and I still have about $3,200 to go. So I’m planning a 30th birthday party fundraiser for April 1, held at The Greatest Bar in Boston, where I hope to hang out with every friend I’ve ever made! Plus, I’ve got a silent auction in the works, and so far I’ve received over $800 in donated goods and gift cards to local Boston businesses. I’m planning to run that auction in the first week of April, once I’ve begun the glorious tapering period of marathon training, where I significantly decrease the weekly mileage goals in preparation for race day.

Speaking of fundraising, I’m weeks behind on thank-you notes, so I’d better get crackin’. See you on the other side of 21 miles!


Runner’s High

Training week: 12 of 18
Money raised: $3,868 of $8,000
Today’s run: Might or might not happen (I only need 3 miles)
Cumulative training miles: 263

Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d say: I ran 16 miles yesterday, and it felt awesome.

During the past few long runs, I think I’ve experienced the endorphin-fueled runner’s high that I’ve heard so much about. For me, it kicks in after about an hour of running, and it keeps my spirits high and my pace strong until I have just a couple miles left. I bop along to the music in my headphones (actually, I lip sync and play the air drums — for my own entertainment and for passers-by), I keep my head high, and I generally feel wonderful. (“I should do this every day! Marathon training is easy and fun! Hills are my friend!”) Yesterday, this rush carried me through miles 8-14 of a quick 16-miler.

Runner’s high is fantastic! Look at me, making friends yesterday at mile 11! Smiles all around!

The mascot for Heartbreak Hill Running Company is… a gorilla?

So part of me is beginning to reconsider whether this will in fact be my first-and-only marathon, as I had planned. Listen, I’m not saying I’m definitely doing this again. Holy hell, it has been all-consuming. When I’m not at work, I’m running, or recovering, or carefully planning meals for running. It is a huge time commitment. But all I’m saying is that I’m not definitely not doing this again.

Then again, I can’t imagine that I’ll ever have another chance to run Boston. My only options to get into a future race are fundraising again (which is definitely a one-and-done experience for me — talk about time-consuming), or to qualify by running a different marathon at sub-3:35:00. That’s about an 8-minute mile pace, and it would mean I’d have to shave over an hour off my current running goal. So, April 17, 2017 is going to be a legitimate once-in-a-lifetime experience for me.

And the problem with running Boston as your first marathon — in addition to it being one of the world’s toughest courses — is that there’s nowhere to go from here except down. Boston consistently lands in the top spot on any marathoner’s bucket list. It reminds me a bit of hiking the Swiss Alps and then finding the New Hampshire 3,000-footers somewhat uninspiring. Or tasting fresh pasta in Italy and swearing off the Americanized boxed stuff until I had forgotten the difference. Boston is hands-down one of the most exciting road races in the world, with 30,000 runners, epic cheering crowds from Hopkinton to Boylston, and a historic, inspiring course. Plus, this is my home. I can’t imagine feeling this same excitement for running Chicago or New York or London.

So who knows what’s next for my running career. I never thought I’d be where I am today, so there are a lot of possibilities. But for now, all I can focus on is making it to Marathon Monday. I still have over 200 training miles to cover, before I even show up on race day. Six more weeks of chasing that runner’s high. Then, we’ll talk.

When “Wooooooo!” turns “Whomp, whomp…”

Training week: 8 of 18
Money raised: $3,448 of $8,000
Today’s run: 14.5 miles, 28 degrees and sunny
Cumulative training miles: 192

Okay, this is getting hard.

I was really excited for my 14-mile run today. I felt great doing 12 last week, I ran a fast 7-miler on Wednesday, and I’ve been keeping up with my hill runs and strength training like my coach tells me to. Plus, I figured out a perfect nutrition plan for the 24 hours leading to the run. I stick to this diet religiously:

Friday: yogurt and coffee for breakfast; PB&J, plain chicken breasts, string cheese, and apple juice for lunch; pasta with butter and parmesan cheese for dinner; and pretzels for snacking throughout the day. Notably, no Twizzlers, Skittles, Doritos, booze, or other normal dietary staples are allowed. (For a WHOLE DAY. Yeah, marathon training is hard.)

Saturday: plain toast and a banana an hour before running; pretzels, Gatorade, and Clif Shot Bloks along the route; lots more pretzels and Gatorade immediately after the run; protein bar or shake on the drive home. Two hours post-run, all hell breaks loose as I make up for the lack of french fries and Thin Mints in my life. (Hey, Runkeeper tells me I burned 1,800 calories today. And this girl can eat.)

I did everything right this week. I ran hard, I rested, I ate right, and I made a dope new playlist. (I hear that kids these stays still use the word “dope,” so I’m trying it out.)  So yesterday, I was all, “Wooooo, let’s run 14 miles!!”

But today’s run was hard. I had errands to run this morning, so I didn’t get to go out with my normal group. And it turns out that Heartbreak Hill is pretty lonely on Saturday afternoons. Somehow I seemed to be running into the wind both ways. So for every step after mile 10, all I could think about was stopping and taking a nap. It just wasn’t my day. Whomp, whomp.

I think that what I lacked today was what my coach calls “mental toughness.”  When you’re training right, properly fueled, uninjured, and running in great conditions, and you still feel crappy, it’s likely that the problem is all in your head. I didn’t bring the right confidence on my run today. I couldn’t start until 12:30, so my eating plan was all screwed up, and I was really nervous about running by myself. Plus, I had never run longer than 13.1 miles. I let all these trivial changes get to me. I finished the run, but I wasn’t proud of it. And then my husband reminded me that I only had 12 extra miles to tack on by race day. Ugh.

But today’s run taught me a good lesson. I need to go into my long runs with the right mindset, or I’ll set myself up for failure. I should practice positive thinking and visualize myself succeeding on Marathon Monday. I still need to find the right mantra, though I’m experimenting with a few. (I’ve tried, “Hills are my friend.” Or, from Sia, “Don’t give up, I won’t give up, don’t give up, no no no.” And, “11 miles? I eat 11 miles for breakfast.”) I can’t let my nerves get in the way.

Here’s how I’m getting better: I’m looking forward to Week 9! I’m going to run 5 days this week, learn to love strength training, and have a great long run next Saturday! I’m going to focus on all the good luck I’ve had so far, like the amazingly mild January weather we experienced, and the fact that I’m still totally 100% injury-free. Woooooooo!

And best of all… I get to dig into a brand-new box of Thin Mints tonight. Girl Scouts, thank you for aligning your sales season with my training. Those cookies might be just the thing that gets me to the finish line.

Here’s to the next long run!



Super Bowl Squares

Training week: 7 of 18
Money raised: $3,173 of $8,000
Today’s run: 3 miles, 30 degrees and sunny
Cumulative training miles: 167

It’s been about a month and a half since I started training for the Boston marathon and fundraising for the Trinity Boston Foundation. Right now, the running is going great — I’ve stayed on track with my training plan, and my 12-mile run yesterday felt fantastic. But whenever it seems like I’ve got this in the bag, I remind myself how far I have to go to raise that $8k. So it’s time to get creative.

In honor of the Patriots playing in the Super Bowl (again!), I’m running a Super Bowl Squares 50/50 fundraiser. Regardless of who you’re rooting for, or if you know anything/care about football, who doesn’t love putting a little money on the game?

Here’s how it works:
  • Squares cost $10 each, and you can buy as many as you’d like.
  • 50% of proceeds go to the charity I’m running for, and 50% go into the pot to be won.
  • UPDATE: A single winner will be chosen at the end of the game, and they will receive the full winnings (I’m hoping for a pot of $100+). If not all of the squares are filled, I will evenly distribute the remaining squares so everyone has an equal chance of winning.
  • Winners are determined by looking at the last digit in each team’s final score. So if the score is Pats 24 – Falcons 17, the winner is the person who picked the square with a 4 in the Patriots column and the 7 in the Falcons row. (Confused? Click below. It makes more sense when you see the grid.)
How to play:
  1. Click here to pick squares.  Password: runjulierun. Pick your square(s) carefully!
  2. Payment is due directly to Julie. Options are Venmo (@Julie-Carroll-1), cash, check, or Google Wallet transfer (julie.e.carroll@gmail.com).
  3. Cross your fingers and hope to win.

I’ve purchased two squares, so you can see how it works. If I win, I’ll donate my winnings to Trinity Boston Foundation.

After you buy your squares, please share this post with your friends to help me raise awareness for the Trinity Boston Foundation and to help me reach my fundraising goal!
Still not convinced you should play Super Bowl Squares? Here are some gifs of previous winners, upon realizing their good fortune:
The Fresh Prince of Bel Air won $100 during Super Bowl XXV.
Actual winners, circa 1998.
This could be you on Super Bowl Sunday!

Why Not Me?

Training week: 6 of 18
Money raised: $2,573 of $8,000
Today’s run: 11 miles, 40 degrees
Cumulative training miles: 135

A lot of people dream about running the Boston marathon one day. It’s an epic physical feat, and Boston is one of the most prestigious and competitive courses in the world. I actually never had that dream. I was quite satisfied with casually running a half marathon twice a year, never chasing a specific time, and never looking beyond that distance. I’ve been a serious runner for over 10 years, but I didn’t yearn for that accomplishment like so many others do. That is, until one day in December, when I woke up and applied for a Boston bib.

I blame my students. Let me explain.

I have been a career counselor for over 4 years, starting at the Posse Foundation, which supports diverse students from urban public schools to excel at top-tier universities. These student leaders are challenging the status quo on elite college campuses, and, as they graduate and enter the workforce, they are working to make our boardrooms and our political leadership groups reflect the country’s full diversity. It’s hard to describe how amazing these young people are. Let’s just say that when you meet an 18-year-old Posse scholar and hear what she’s up to, you’ll wonder what the heck you’re doing with your life.

Now, I work at General Assembly, which helps professionals from all backgrounds and education levels find careers they love. As our adult students complete GA’s intensive courses, they build hyper-relevant skills like coding or UX design and can quickly transition into high-paying jobs. It’s a relatively fast career move (compared to earning a new 4-year degree), but honey, it ain’t easy. Our students quit their jobs, put their lives on hold, and place incredible trust in this brand-new model of education. Completing a GA program takes a lot of guts and grit, and it can be life-changing.

I feel lucky to have found these amazing organizations, and through them I have helped empower hundreds of wonderful humans to drive success in their careers. It’s rewarding and humbling.

Recently, though, I realized that I had been spending too much time on the sidelines. I had spent 4 years standing next to people who were pushing themselves beyond what they thought was possible, who were constantly teaching themselves new things and developing new skills, who were reaping the benefits of their hard work despite significant challenges and setbacks. I was proud of all of these students for what they had accomplished. Their stories have pushed me to reach for more in my own life.

Take Saddan, for example. Saddan is a Posse scholar at Denison University, and he is about to be the first in his family to graduate from college. Saddan told me that, when he was flying out to start his freshman year, one of his high school teachers picked him up at 3 a.m. to drive him into Boston to make his early-morning flight to Ohio. I thought that this teacher deserved a medal for going way beyond the call of duty. But as I got to know Saddan, I realized that anyone who has worked him would consider it an honor to be the guy helping him catch his flight to college at 3 in the morning. I think Saddan held the Posse record for the number of summer internship applications he submitted each year. He probably also held the record for the number of rejections he got back. It didn’t matter. He was going to build his resume, work hard, and earn a career where he could grow and contribute. I will never forget his unflagging courage and tenacity. You can’t forget Saddan. (By the way, Saddan has already lined up a competitive job for next year — way ahead of most soon-to-be-college-grads. That employer doesn’t even know yet how lucky they are.)

At General Assembly, I met Carling, who, like me, already had a lovely, happy, manageable life and job! She fell into a role in the recruiting industry, and it was going fine — nothing to complain about! But there were no fireworks. No passion, no sparks flying. Then she discovered user experience design. Almost against her better judgement, she quit her job and signed up for GA’s 10-week UX bootcamp that isn’t kidding about being “intensive.” Many times she questioned the mess she had gotten herself into. But as Carling told me, if you’re not going to love what you do, why do it? And if you need to take some considerable risks to get there, why not? Why not me? Why not now?

Then there’s Jon, who spent many years working at dead-end jobs, until, in his 30s, he was forced off his feet by a life-threatening illness. When his health returned, he committed once and for all to building himself a career that he could look forward to day after day. He fell in love with coding and enrolled at General Assembly, knowing that nothing was going to stop him from finding new meaning and happiness in his professional life.

I could go on, and on, and on about my students. Imagine 600 more stories like these:

  • There’s Kayla, a Posse scholar who graduated from Hamilton and then won a prestigious fellowship to travel to Brazil, South Africa, Ghana, England, and Jamaica studying the stigma surrounding mental health care systems for youth.
  • And Davina, who, as a college sophomore, could have been leading the career workshops I was organizing at Posse, and who taught me more than a few things about career ambition.
  • Julia (a Boston finisher!), my colleague at GA who admitted so many students into the web development program that she decided to enroll in it herself and start her own career adventure.
  • Lisa, who had reached a ceiling as a communications freelancer and was committed to leveling up in her career at GA, now that her children were older. “It’s finally time for me,” Lisa told me.

I feel the same way, Lisa! I’ve got the same questions as you, Carling! “Why not me? Why not now?” And so, taking the lead from my students — those darned, ambitious, hard-working students — I found myself on the Boston Athletic Association’s website, wondering if it was even possible to enter the race so late in the year. There was only one way in: running for a charity. And it just so happens that a single bib remained at the Trinity Boston Foundation, an education organization that empowers young people by helping them achieve seemingly impossible goals. That bib had my name on it. This was my chance to get off the sidelines.

So if you’ve been wondering what really drove me to turn my life upside down, now you get it. If you were curious why I’ve pestered you so many times about donating to the Trinity Boston Foundation, now you know who to blame. Oh, you haven’t donated yet? Why not you? Why not now?

I owe it all to these guys!

Some of my first web developer students at General Assembly.
Knowing so many Posse scholars gives me hope for the future. This is a just a few of them!
That time when Denison Posse 11 took over my Snapchat.

Everything is Awesome*

Training week: 6 of 18
Money raised: $2,498 of $8,000
Today’s run: Cross-training (hiking)
Cumulative training miles: 112

I caught up with an old friend a few days ago, and he asked me how the marathon training was going. I told him I was working on a blog post titled “Everything is Awesome,” because that’s honestly how I had been feeling about the experience so far. Recently, I had been feeling very lucky that Trinity Boston Foundation chose to give me their final bib for the 2017 marathon team, and I’d been having an amazing time training and fundraising for this great cause. Everything was going great — until my long run yesterday. That’s why there’s an asterisk by the title of this post.

Before we get to that, here’s what’s going awesome these days:

  1. My friends, family, and colleagues have been incredibly supportive of and enthusiastic about my marathon running. People who I haven’t connected with in a long time have been quick to lend an encouraging word. They’re impressed. That’s surprising to me, because in Boston, marathon runners are a dime a dozen. I didn’t think I was all that special. But the outpouring of support has given me a huge burst of energy and increased my drive and motivation. These days, I really feel like I can do this.
  2. I’ve reached the first 2 fundraising milestones that were set by Trinity Boston Foundation. I was encouraged to raise $1,000 by Dec. 31, and $2,000 by Jan. 15. I was pretty worried about the second one (as you can tell from my previous post), but my direct asks have been successful so far. A few things I’ve learned about fundraising: emails are far more lucrative than snail mail (who knew! I thought the old-fashioned touch was worth the time!), and people give more money when you ask them on the weekend. Also: Facebook is a fundraising MACHINE. Speaking of which:
  3. Facebook is a TON of fun and wildly addictive. I had taken a hiatus from Facebook for roughly 5 years. I didn’t exactly swear it off, but I didn’t find much use for it after my college days were behind me. I was used to the version of Facebook that started with “the” and was exclusive to college students. I reluctantly returned to the world of social media at the insistence of my fundraising coach, Cori, who swore I would need it to spread the word about TBF and have any hope of reaching a lofty giving goal. As is usually the case, Cori was right. Plus, now I have videos of golden retrievers in my life.
  4. With the right gear, winter running ain’t no thang. I’ve run in 6-degree weather before dawn; I’ve run on snow and ice with spikes on my shoes. I’m a layering pro and the cold doesn’t phase me anymore. However, there is a lot of snot in winter running. More on this in a future post.
  5. No sign of injuries. Like, NO sign. No twinge in the knees, no awkward ankle rolls. Knock on wood.
  6. I think I’ve lost some weight? I don’t really track my weight, but I suddenly fit into a pair of jeans that I purchased in 2009. WHOA. What happened to my beloved thunder thighs? #gonebutnotforgotten
  7. I found a great team. Last week on my long run, I ran into a guy setting up a water station on the Comm Ave carriage road in Newton. I stopped to chat and it turns out he coaches a marathon training team that includes over 100 charity runners, and he invited me to join them. This was exactly what I had been craving — a community of runners. If I learned anything from working at the Posse Foundation, it’s that TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK.
  8. I’ve started to inspire others to focus on their fitness. On the one hand, I’m constantly worrying about becoming that guy who can’t have a normal conversation without talking about marathon training. However, it seems like this topic has jolted some of my friends into action. One of my colleagues has taken up cold-weather running instead of heading indoors. A former student set a plan for her own fitness training after hearing what I was up to. This shouldn’t surprise me, since I’ve got role models of my own who inspired me to start training. But it feels pretty great.

So why is everything not awesome? Well, I’ve got some work to do regarding long run recovery. I ran 10 miles yesterday with the Furey 26.2 team, and I took it slow, drank plenty of water, and generally felt great to the last mile. But 30 minutes after the run ended, I completely crashed. I felt drained and listless, and was generally useless and curmudgeon-y all afternoon. (My husband can attest.) This isn’t the first time this has happened after an 8+ mile run. In fact, it’s pretty much my normal. Even after 6 half-marathons, I still haven’t quite figured out the perfect formula for nutrition and hydration before, during, and after a long run. I’ve experimented with a lot of foods and energy gels, and my current theory is that I’m missing a crucial window for refueling with carbs and water immediately after the run. I’ve got a plan for next Saturday, but this is going to take a lot of trial and error. Luckily, I’ve got at least 10 long runs left, so there’s still plenty of time to find the Goldilocks nutritional formula before Marathon Monday.

One last thing before I go. In case it’s been playing in your head this whole time, here is the music video for “Everything is Awesome” from the LEGO movie. I think I’ve found a new theme song.

Fundraising is hard.

Training week: 4 of 18
Money raised: $1,609 of $8,000
Today’s run: 9 miles, 20 degrees
Cumulative training miles: 86

When I signed up to run Boston with a charity bib, people asked me which I thought would be harder: running a marathon or raising $8,000. I honestly wasn’t sure. So far, the physical challenge of cold-weather training hasn’t fazed me. (I can already hear Future Julie laughing at my naiveté.) But fundraising at this scale is no joke.

In order to reach the next fundraising benchmark set by the Trinity Boston Foundation — $2k by January 15 — I’ll need to raise $400 in the next 8 days. Even if I reach that, I have only a month to raise another $1,500. It works out to raising $64 per day, every single day between now and April 17 (which is exactly 100 days away, btw!).

I’ve asked a LOT of people to donate. I alternate between being overwhelmed by people’s generosity, and being disheartened by how far I still have to go. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve made a huge mistake signing up for this.

Sometimes I feel like Gob Bluth.

But I think I have strength in numbers. For today’s 9-mile run, I layered up and picked a route that I thought would be cleared after yesterday’s light snowfall. The sidewalks in Sudbury were pretty dicey, so I decided to hit Comm Ave in Newton and run along the marathon route near Heartbreak Hill. As it turns out, EVERYONE TRAINING FOR BOSTON is also running Comm Ave on Saturday mornings. It was great! I must have passed 200 other runners, all braving the cold and totally crushing it. I even ran into a team of various charity runners who said I was welcome to join them for future runs. Teaming up with fellow first-timers is going to be crucial as the mileage surpasses my familiar half-marathon distance. Knowing that there are thousands of other marathon runners out there, all racing toward an ambitious goal — and many of them fundraising at the same time — gives me hope that somehow, some way, I’ll figure it out myself.

Please consider donating to the Trinity Boston Foundation, to support educational programming that helps Boston youth achieve seemingly impossible goals. This fantastic organization provides out-of-school enrichment programming that leads to higher high school graduation and college-going rates in some of the most resource-strapped schools in Boston. TBF provides mental health counseling to individuals and families who cannot otherwise afford the intensive care they need. And, most meaningfully to me, Trinity Boston Foundation runs Sole Train, a half-marathon training program that teaches Boston high school students that they can reach for incredible goals that they never thought possible. Each of these programs resonates personally with me, so your donation means a lot.

Here are a few more ways to support me after you’ve donated, or if you aren’t able to give right now:

  1. Spread the word! Like and share my posts on Facebook, and encourage your networks to support my race. I’ve already received several generous donations from complete strangers this way. Asking your friends to donate is the biggest thing you can do to help!
  2. Share your fundraising ideas with me. What has inspired you to donate to charities in the past? Have your friends led successful fundraising campaigns? I’m ready to try anything!
  3. Let me know you believe in me! I need all the support I can get. High fives, Facebook comments, and cheery texts/emails really do help!

On another note, I would like to point out that the honor of being the FIRST to comment on my blog is still up for grabs. My husband and my mom tell me my posts are great. That’s how I know have at least 2 readers (well, 3, when you count how often I read it myself). Say hi!