Lindsay Herb woke up to thunder around 6 a.m. April 15.
“I was like, ‘Oh no,’” she recalled thinking as she opened the blinds to see rain pouring from the sky.
It was 6 a.m., and the Glacier Edge Elementary School teacher was five hours from crossing the starting line for what had been a dream for the past six years: the Boston Marathon.
By the time she got there — a poncho, muddy old running shoes and an hour and 15 minute bus ride later — she couldn’t believe the crowd of people surrounding her as the sun turned it into a beautiful Monday.
She was one of more than 32,000 to run the race this year, her sixth marathon since taking up distance running in her mid-20s as a way to stay in shape. At that time, it was 5K races that were on her mind, at least for a little while.
“It was definitely, ‘Let’s stay in shape, let’s do some 5Ks,’” she recalled. “Then it turned into, ‘Let’s try 10K, let’s try a half-marathon.’ Then it just seemed like the right progression to try a full.”
That try came a year after giving birth to her second child when she ran the 2013 Fox Cities Marathon, the first of five she planned to run in her lifetime.
One month later she ran her second.
“That was a mistake,” she recalled. “I had the idea that more time on your feet and more miles is great for you.”
But instead it left her injured, forcing her to change her workout techniques to add strength training and adjusting her long runs to mimic how she planned to race.
By May 2018, she had learned her lesson, finishing the Green Bay Marathon more than six minutes under the qualifying time for Boston, assuring her place in the historic race.
“The Boston was so exciting and it gave me chills,” she said, “but Green Bay was so emotional because I accomplished it, I did it.”
Before she left for Boston, the GE school community celebrated that accomplishment, giving her a chance to run through the hallways with her sons and husband to students and coworkers chanting her name.
“It was actually one of the most amazing things I’ve ever had happen,” she said. “To have 600-plus people chanting your name and holding up signs that wish you ‘Good luck’ and ‘So proud of you,’ it’s just something that doesn’t happen.
“It was something I won’t forget, that’s for sure.”
Those same students celebrated her return, and her first- and second- grade students loved seeing her medal. But they also brought her back down to Earth a bit, she said with a laugh.
“Did you win the marathon, Ms. Herb?” she said they asked.
When she told them she finished in “13,000-something” place, they replied, “What? That’s not good.”
“You’re right, OK,” she said. “Any big head that I had was just deflated right away. It’s perfect.”
Enjoying ‘every moment’
Last May was the second time Herb had run under the qualifying time for Boston.
The first time, though, too many others ran even faster times than she did, leaving her short of her goal and forcing her to go beyond the five marathons she originally set out for. It was well worth it, she thought, as she ran through Boston and some surrounding cities, taking in the thousands of fans and the beautiful race course.
“This was the first marathon that I didn’t race,” she said. “I really just enjoyed every moment, smiled the whole way.”
The crowd along the course included a group of 12 who travelled to Boston to support her – though her two sons were not among them. So she was surprised when their faces, in the form of a pair of giant signs, showed up along the route to cheer her on.
“It was absolutely incredible to see them on the course,” she said. “I came upon them and had no idea they were gonna be out there. The boys felt really good they got to be a part of it.”
Before any of that, she already knew the day was going to be “something special” as she crowded into her starting group and shuffled the three-quarters of a mile toward the start line, checking her watch repeatedly as the excitement continued to build.
“You knew it was gonna be just this magical day,” she said. “This one just felt different.”
Boston was busy when Herb arrived, with much beyond the marathon going on around town.
That Saturday, the Boston Bruins hosted an NHL playoff game. On Sunday, it was the Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs. And the Red Sox were in town all weekend, hosting games at Fenway Park Friday through Monday — one of which Herb went to.
Yet as soon as Herb got off the plane Saturday morning, “it was clear you were there for the marathon,” she said. With “Run Bos” signs at the airport and activities for the runners near the finish line, there was plenty to keep her busy.
“We really took in the city,” she said.
That included meeting past winners of the Boston Marathon and getting to imagine what the race was going to be like with crowds lining the streets.
By the time the race was over, she still had two days left to explore the city, and took the opportunity to walk along the Freedom Trail – “a great way to stretch out,” she said – and see other city landmarks.
“It’s such a neat mix of old and new,” she said.
She suggested that anyone who runs consider trying to get to the Boston Marathon and experiencing it firsthand – both the city and the race.
“If anybody is thinking about it, or part way there, or missed it by a little bit, it’s so worth it,” she said.