Waiting At The Start – Best Friends

By mile 5 I knew I was in trouble…….

I asked myself What do you do when you know something is wrong during a marathon, that there is a good possibility your body might fail you?

While waiting in Athlete’s Village for the race start the wind was blowing and I was shivering. I remarked to a fellow blogger that I hoped I wouldn’t get cold during the race. She was worried about it being hot. I said OH I ALWAYS am colder than everyone else.

As I gathered my belongings and said goodbye to my mom before heading off to check my bag, she one last time tried to convince me that I would not need my beanie or gloves and that I really DID NOT need music. I defended my choices and she knew better than to argue. She knows that for most things in my life I have to learn the hard way, that she can give me advice, but ultimately I must fall before I learn.

When the gun went off for the 1st wave, I was comfortably warm. Why at that point in time I didn’t just take my hat, arm warmers, throw away shirt, and gloves off, I’ll never know. In the first miles, I slowly took them off. I tossed the gloves, tucked my hat into my shorts, threw away my t-shirt, and pulled off one arm warmer and tucked it. I hadn’t planned on taking my hat off so my hair was a mess and was flopping all around bothering me. NOTE TO SELF: always make sure your hair is tightly secured even when you think you will not need it to be.

By mile 5 I had already drank over half of my water bottle. I was hot, but surprisingly wasn’t sweating all that much. Hmmmm….oh no…oh no……

It clicked. The wicked headache I had all weekend was not from lack of caffeine, it was from not enough water. Yes I had been hydrating the whole weekend but not as much as I should have been. I drank more than I normally do, but I would venture to say that I’m pretty much always in a mild state of dehydration. Between running and nursing, I loose allot of fluids and I struggle to drink 8 – 8oz glasses of water a day. Morning is the worst time for me because my son still night nurses and I do not drink water all night. Couple that with the fact that traveling by plane also dehydrates you and I was unknowingly dehydrated before the race even began.

Dorothy how could you do this? You think about everything. You plan every race down to a t. How could you over look your water intake?

I was mad but decided that I was going to make my mind run my body.

Ever since running the B & A Marathon I no longer run with a pace band. I run on feel. I don’t calculate and recalculate my pace at all during a marathon. I reminded myself to run on feel even though I didn’t feel good.

I told myself that I didn’t do a post on my Boston goal, because really my only goals were to run strong and have more fun than the previous time I ran it. In 2009 I wasn’t in a good frame of mind while running, I was mad from very early on. I wanted a PR and once I had figured out it was next to impossible to do so I just sort of lost it. I didn’t care that I was at Boston. I didn’t care that I was running fast, it wasn’t fast enough. That race taught me allot of what I don’t ever want to feel like during a race again. I reminded myself that I wasn’t there for a PR today, even though I would have loved one, I was there to have fun. I needed to make sure my mind was in a good place if I was going to survive this marathon.

At the expo friends asked me how I was feeling. I remarked that I knew it defied logic but that I felt that I was ready for another fast marathon, how fast I didn’t know, and I didn’t really care. I had the unique position of having already run a 3:26, 3 weeks prior at National Marathon. Boston was not my peak marathon, National Marathon was the race I had put into my training plan as my peak race. This took the pressure off. I reminded myself of this during mile 5 when I knew my body was not running on a ‘full tank’

I eventually ran into a friend. I wanted to say to her – I’m dying. I couldn’t voice it out loud though or I knew my mind would believe it and I would be in even worse shape than I already was. Somewhere around mile 10 I finished my water bottle. I said to her – I can’t believe I just drank that whole thing that fast. In my heart I wanted to cry. To give you an idea of my typical water intake during a race – I finished my water bottle around mile 17 at National Marathon.

Somewhere around the 1/2 marathon mark I felt my skin. It was dry. Drier than dry. I freaked in my head. I knew things were going from bad to worse. I had stopped sweating and I knew this was VERY dangerous.

At this point I was still running what I would consider a strong pace. Maybe if I got water at every water station I could fend off the worsening dehydration? I would get water and dump the extra on my head to help cool my body temperature.

I knew the Saucony crew was going to be between mile 19 and 20. I could walk off there. They could help me get to the finish and to my baby. What? Really Dorothy you are this bad. You are thinking of quitting? It was as if I had an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other shoulder. One was telling me that I was in a dangerous state, that it wasn’t quitting, it was saving my body from total shut down. The other was telling me I was being a baby and to suck it up – marathons never feel good – you are fine.

I told my friend that I was looking for Saucony and was going to give them my extra gear.

My eyes searched and searched for my friend Emily. I knew she would understand the state I was in. My eyes were not working properly – I could see people but not really see them. I wanted to throw my ipod. I was so frustrated I had it with me. It was annoying my ears, it was making it even harder for me to focus on my mind. NOTE TO SELF: Don’t listen to music at Boston ever, you don’t need it.

As I passed the Saucony people, and my friend Emily, I heard them cheering for me, but couldn’t even muster the energy to turn back and look at them. How did I miss seeing them? I had been searching. I felt inside that God had not allowed me to see them ahead of me because I would have stopped running. Once past them I felt that I had to keep going.

On the last of the Newton Hills I saw my friend powering up the hill. I felt like an egg being fried and knew that I could not go with her. I couldn’t even say good luck to her. I couldn’t do anything but attempt to put one foot in front of the other.

Shortly after this I saw medics and police surrounding a downed runner. As I ran past I looked at this man. He was covered in blood. That is the point that I went from very bad to worse. I started dry heaving. I heard the water in my stomach sloshing around and knew that my body was no longer absorbing the water I was drinking. With every step I was getting more and more dehydrated.

Getting to that finish line was going to be MIND OVER MATTER. I had to make my mind run my body because it was failing worse than it ever had before. I was scared.

My goal is to run for life and no race, not even Boston is worth hurting myself. It’s why I will never run a race injured. I plan on running Boston when I’m 60 and I won’t be able to do that if I don’t take care of myself for the next 31 years.

I wanted to stop. I saw a medic tent and had to talk myself out of walking over to it. Why you may ask did I not stop? I just told you that no race NOT EVEN BOSTON is worth hurting myself for.

I kept running for my baby. I finished Boston because I knew he was waiting for me at the end. I had no idea how much milk my grandmother and mom’s significant other had brought with them. After all we had calculated that at most it would take me 4 hours to finish. So I would meet them at the finish before or a little bit after 2 pm.

My abs started cramping. They were tightening around my ribs which was making it hard to take deep breaths. It wasn’t a side stitch that you could breathe through. Nothing seemed to help. I massaged my stomach as people on the sidelines kept cheering. You can do it girl, you can do it.

At mile 24 I wasn’t sure if I could even make it to the finish. How would I get to my baby if I collapsed now? My pace was slowing – but I kept on pushing. I NEVER ONCE WALKED. I kept on going. I knew if I walked – I wouldn’t start running. I did not walk the last time I ran Boston I would not do it now.

When I made the turn onto Hereford, I was overcome with emotion. There is NOTHING in this world Dorothy that you can not do. You will get to your baby. You will finish this Boston happy. You will sprint to the finish. You will pass others on your way. You have completed the hardest race of your life. I looked down for the first time in a long time at my watch and saw that it said 3:29. HOLY S**T. I had felt so terrible that I had mostly stopped looking at my watch. I had no idea I was going to finish with what I would consider an impressive time.

I started to tear up – but felt no tears.

I finished and almost fell to the ground – 3:30. A volunteer helped me up and brought me to another volunteer. It was then that I saw my best friend Amy who had been waiting for me at the finish! I was so happy to see her but was whining about how dehydrated I was. Once I saw her I thought – okay maybe you exaggerated this. You are fine Dorothy. I told I would meet her at the baggage buses. The volunteer who was still with me helped me walk. I told him I was fine and he said oh no you aren’t. You are going to the medic tent. I said oh I’ll be fine – he said NO – you do not look good – you need to go to the medic tent.

When I got there I told them I was a nursing mom and that I felt severely dehydrated. I assured them I wasn’t exaggerating because this was my 15th marathon and I know what feeling bad is and what feeling TERRIBLE is. It was the worst I have ever felt not counting labor.

They lied me down and I was instantly surrounded by people. They said they needed to draw my blood to test my sodium levels. While trying to get the needle in my veins, they kept collapsing[I have a giant bruise on my hand now]. It hurt. Finally they got some blood and sent it off to be tested.

I was sunburnt and hot, yet I started uncontrollably shaking. They kept piling blankets on me. The dull headache I had felt during the race continued to get worse – it felt as if I had been hit in the head.

My blood work came back and they said my sodium levels were very low and that they needed to get an IV of fluid into me instantly. While there I had 3 IV bags of fluid. Not once did I have to pee – that’s how dehydrated I was.

When I was on the 2nd bag of fluid it finally occurred to me that I hadn’t gotten a medal. I started to cry and felt tears. It was the best feeling – I would be okay. I just needed some fluid. A volunteer came to check on me and asked me what was wrong. I started crying that I didn’t get a medal. She uncovered me, unpinned my Bib number and went and got me medal.

While bag 3 was slowly dripping in, I felt good enough to sit up. At that point I ate two salty bags of chips and started to drink water.

I was in the medic tent for about the same about of time it took me to run the marathon. It was honestly one of the scariest moments of my life. I did not have my bag, so I did not have my phone. No one knew where I was. I was wearing my Road ID but since I typically do not run a race on a Monday, with my mom, and have my grandmother watching – every phone number on it was useless[my husband was at work and I only had his cell number on my bracelet]. I know my grandfathers number by heart, so a kind volunteer let me use her cell phone and I called him and told him I was in the medic tent and to please get a hold of my grandmother.

When my family finally found out where I was they came to see me. They would not let Colton in the tent though because there was too much blood, and they didn’t feel it was safe for him to be in there. My heart ached. Thankfully he had been an angel the whole time I was gone. They had packed extra milk for him just in case, so he was full and didn’t really have a clue that I had been gone for hours longer than I should have been.

I was sent home with the orders to drink broth that had alot of sodium in it and to make sure I keep hydrating as much as possible.

I sit here days later with a smile on my face. I still have a dull headache, and my abs are the ONLY part on my body that is sore, but I feel strong. I feel excited for life. I feel excited for the next time I try to take on the Boston Marathon.

I’m not even second guessing myself like I typically do after a race. Could I have gone harder? Could I have pushed more? 3 IV bags of fluid tell me that I did push my hardest, that sometimes your mind can not push past physical limitations. My blood was sludge.

My name as usual needs an asterisk after my finish time – Dorothy Beal **with allot of help from my grandmother and my moms significant other who cared for my sweet Baby C for what amounted to almost 10 hours, Eric Beal who watched our babies every Saturday morning for months so I could go on long runs, my mom for giving me the courage and the tools to start running, the volunteers at the medic tent who pay their own way from the different places they come from around the country to help runners like me, and last but not least God was watching over me as I ran….I could go on and on……

It takes what I would consider a small village to get me to the starting line of each race. I am so thankful I have so many WONDERFUL people in my life who care about me. People who understand that I literally CAN NOT LIVE WITHOUT RUNNING. Running is my air, my water, my food – it’s essential to my life.

So you may ask if I am happy or upset with my time.

Happy beyond a shadow of a doubt. If can push out a 3:30 on what amounted to physically the hardest marathon of my life then the SKY is the LIMIT in my eyes of what I can do on a good day.

When I ran Boston in 2009 over a year after the birth of my second baby I ran a 3:39. A 3:30 is awesome in my book, but especially since I just had a baby 5 months ago! In the 5 months since Colton has been born I have run a treadmill mile PR, an 8K PR, ran a 3:26 marathon on a course that in all honesty I think might have been harder course wise for me than Boston, won a 5K on my birthday weekend, and then ran the Boston Marathon for my 15th marathon 9 minutes faster than my previous time. How could I be unhappy?

My mom, in case you were curious, at the age of 48 re qualified for Boston with a time of 3:57:00. I’m so proud of her on so many levels and look forward to hopefully running the Boston Marathon together again!

Here are my mile splits if you are a running geek like me and into those sorts of things:

Mile 1: 7:52
Mile 2: 7:33
Mile 3: 7:34
Mile 4: 7:20
Mile 5: 7:33
Mile 6: 7:19
Mile 7: 7:20
Mile 8: 7:28
Mile 9: 7:27
Mile 10: 7:33
Mile 11: 7:37
Mile 12: 7:31
Mile 13: 7:34
Mile 14: 7:31
Mile 15: 7:34
Mile 16: 7:23
Mile 17: 7:55 (The begining of the hills)
Mile 18: 7:57
Mile 19: 7:47
Mile 20: 8:09
Mile 21: 9:00
Mile 22: 8:24
Mile 23: 9:08
Mile 24: 9:32
Mile 25: 9:55
Mile 26: 9:51
Mile 26.2: 3:00 (7:28 average for .4 miles)


  1. Oh my goodness! What a race! I am glad that you are okay and know how much it means to have a solid support group! I hope you continue to recover well and can't wait to hear about your next running adventure. Kudos to your Mama as well! xo

  2. I've had the dehydration you describe – where your body just stops absorbing anything and your stomach turns into a disaster. I'm very impressed at your ability to push through that for 20 miles at not too much off your goal pace. It's amazing what the mind can do!

    I'm really psyched for your mom too, and love that you guys continually run this race together!

  3. Samantha @ Mama Notes says:

    wow girl!! What a race, I am so glad you are safe and healthy and CONGRATULATIONS on the amazing finish!! And that is fast!!! Especially for feeling sick!

    What a scary situation to be in the medic tent for so long.. I am so glad you got your medal though. :)

  4. I'm glad you got the IV and realized what was wrong and that you finished without more serious issues.

    Congrats on your time and super congrats to your kick-ass mom!

  5. Wow! What an incredible story! I am so glad that you are ok! I am so amazed that you were able to push through your pain and the dehydration the way you did…and you finished with such an amazing time on top of it all! Congrats!

  6. WOW! I don't even know what to say. Thank you for sharing. I think this is really important to get out there about the hydration.

    How did the sodium get low too? Wow.

    Glad you made it out and baby is doing good too.

  7. Congrats on your finish despite obstacles and being 5 months post-pregnancy. I had a similiar experience in the 2005 Chicago marathon which landed me in the medic tent with a DNF after 23 miles. Heartbreaking. I have since then had a successful marathon at Twin Cities and am going back to Chicago this year to finish unfinished business. I have two kids (3.5 year old & a 6 month old). Glad you pulled something good out of this. Your running story is remarkable.

  8. what a race. glad you are OK!!!

  9. carlybananas says:

    I'm so glad you're ok Dorothy! I got a little teared up reading about how badly you felt. Congrats on finishing when your body had other plans!!

  10. Quite a story! Amazing that you still finished in 3:30. Holy cow!

    Your story is also a good reminder that I need to start hydrating NOW for my marathon on the 30th. It's starting to get into the 90s where I live, so I probably need DOUBLE a normal amount of water. Crazy!

    Congrats on staying strong and finishing the race. Hope you are recovering nicely.

  11. David H. says:

    What an unbelievable story! I'm glad you're able to tell it in such detail. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Shellyrm ~ just a country runner says:

    Great recap! Amazing what a person can push through…with a little(a lot) of help. Amazing race. You are so strong!

  13. pajamachef says:

    oh man. my marathon is in 3 wks and i've fallen off the hydration bandwagon. thanks for the encouragement to get back on! glad you're okay.

  14. That is crazy, I'm glad you got help at the finish line. Way to keep strong and finish! And congrats on the crazy fast time!!!

  15. Stephanie says:

    Amazing. I love most of all that you didn't quit because you worried about Colton getting his milk. An amazing runner and an amazing mother. What a testament towards hydration!!!!

  16. Amazing Race!! Great job and Great determination. I'm so glad you made it through the race safely. Your description of being dehydrated is spot on. I'm very glad that you got help after the race.
    As a nurse & runner I can't stress the importance of proper hydration enough! It's tough to do…especially in your condition. People have died from dehyration in races so thank you for bringing this to everyone's attention!!

  17. Running With Charlene says:

    I had tears in my eyes as you narrated your finish. A month ago, I injured myself on a half marathon, and I hobbled 5+ miles to the finish to get to my sons. A mother's love will drive us to the finish line, everytime.

    I am so thankful you made it okay and were able to share this moment with us.

    Congratulations on your Finish!

  18. Stephanie Anne says:


    so glad you are ok! My friend Ashley got so dehydrated at Disney Princess she hit the pavement and needed 3 bags of fluids, its scary!!

    Im glad you're ok, and so impressed that you managed to push through to the end!!

  19. I'm so glad you are ok. How scary! It's amazing how trying to be there for your kids can push you in ways you'd never push on your own.

    Congrats on an impressive time, despite the dehydration.

  20. Truly amazing! Your strength and faith in yourself is inspiring! Congratulations!!

  21. Adrienne says:

    Dorothy, oh heavens! I am proud of you for pushing through. It was very hot for us runners, and I personally was super worried about dehydration and the nursing factor and stopped at EVERY water station along the course. I am so glad you are better!

  22. Wow, I am in awe. I am so glad you are feeling better. Hope you are able to rest this week. My question: when were you able to nurse baby C again after the medic tent?? How has your supply been this week?
    Can't wait to have a playdate with the boys soon. You are really inspiring me to get back out there. 12 miles this week. :) Take care and congrats – again, I am amazed at your strength and gumption!

  23. SupermomE12 says:

    You are incredible! I am so sorry it was such a difficult and scary experience and that you didn't get to enjoy the race, however I am so proud of what you accomplished (and your Mom too!) Hugs!

  24. Julie D. says:

    oh wow. that is amazing…so glad you are okay. What an incredible testament to the power of a mom's spirit and the mind!! Congrats on a truly amazing race!! You are an inspiration.

  25. Julie D. says:

    PS> Congrats to your mom!!! That is just awesome!

  26. Steel Springs says:

    Congratulations! It must have taken so much strength for you to finish the race.

  27. Congratulations Dorothy! Amazing story, amazing race!

  28. You are incredible! Thank you for sharing your amazing story. I marvel at your strength and your resolve during what was a very difficult race. Wow! I just found your blog last week and I'm even more inspired and intrigued after this post. You are truly remarkable!

  29. Wow. What a race, surely one you will not forget. Sadly it was too warm like I was afraid of! You will ran an AMAZING race and such a strong time, imagine what you can do when you are feeling good. Seriously, 3 weeks post National and severely dehydrated and you still pulled off a 3:30 – you are amazing and my hero <3 congrats on another boston and it was SO NICE to get to hug you before such an epic race :)

  30. The Happy Runner says:

    Incredible! I love putting up PRs and then having people find out I just had a baby. It's a great feeling. Of course, my PRs are not 3:30 marathons, but still.

    Congratulations. You ran an awesome race! Sorry about the dehydration. Great job all in all.


  1. […] want to read about what happens to me when I am not hydrated during a marathon check out my race recap from Boston Marathon 2011. After that race I took hydrating seriously. It’s not enough to think about it just during […]

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