Fallbrook residents Lisa Hasvold and Vickie Knox trained together for the 2017 Boston Marathon and on April 17 they both completed the legendary race for the second time in their long-distance running careers.
Good friends, Hasvold and Knox had vastly different experiences while covering the grueling marathon distance of 26.2 miles. The course takes runners through eight Massachusetts cities and towns, and of the 27,221 that left the starting line in Hopkinton for the 2017 race, 26,411 finished the event in Boston.
Hasvold, 55, first ran the Boston Marathon in 2011 and finished in 4:32.28. This year, after enduring a repeatedly-interrupted run that ended with a major highlight, she crossed the finish line in 4:59.27.
Knox, 48, made her Boston Marathon debut last year and clocked a time of 4:06.36. Enjoying a mostly-smooth journey in the 2017 running, Knox bettered her time by crossing the finish line in 4:03.36.
Both ladies described participating in the Boston Marathon as “incredible” and “amazing.” Hasvold’s latest Boston Marathon, however, could best be described as “very eventful.”
“It was probably the most unique marathon I’ve ever run,” said Hasvold. “My running time was horrible – it was 45 minutes past what I wanted – but it was one of the most amazing experiences because of what happened to me along the way.”
What happened along the way was incredible.
“I was about 10 miles into it and I was doing fine and then a man in front of me just fell,” said Hasvold. “His leg started cramping up and I was right there. I didn’t just want to step over him, so I helped him. He was trying to get up and he couldn’t. He went to put his hand down and his fingers were broken and sticking 90 degrees out and he’s yelling, ‘tape my hand, tape my hand.’”
A nearby spectator handed Hasvold a roll of blue painter’s tape.
“I’m like, ‘I’m not taping his fingers,'” said Hasvold. “I was putting ice on him because it was very warm and I didn’t want him to go into shock or anything, so I was keeping him cool and somebody else taped his fingers. So I’m there for 10 minutes and realizing, ‘well, my marathon time is going to be shot.'”
Hasvold resumed her run and two miles later found herself behind two male runners from Asia. One man was blind and the other was serving as his race guide. Both held a rope that kept them together.
“They have this little rope, they’re right in front of me and their shuffling,” said Hasvold. “Then I see the guide’s leg go up like a rubber band – he cramps up and he cannot move and he’s screaming in pain. I said, ‘Do you need help?’
“He didn’t speak much English but he yells, ‘help, help,’ and then he hands me the rope and says, ‘you take, you take,'” continued Hasvold. “And the other guy is like, ‘yeah, yeah.’ So I got this rope and I am guiding a blind guy through the marathon. And he’s shuffling – we’re not talking running – and I thought, ‘oh, this going to be my 12-hour marathon.'”
After a quarter of a mile, Hasvold spots a medical tent and guides her new running partner, Masa, to it. Masa requests salt – runners will take salt to alleviate cramping – but all the medical tent has are bouillon cubes.
“The next thing I know the medical lady puts a bouillon cube in a cup, pours hot water in it, mixes it up and says, ‘this is hot,’ and gives it to Masa,” said Hasvold. “And he starts sipping it and he’s like, ‘oh, this is good.’ I thought to myself, the Boston Marathon is going on and I’m standing with a guy that I’m now responsible for and he’s drinking broth. You can’t make this up.”
The man was with a group from World Vision International and after about 10 minutes some runners with World Vision came up to the medical tent, thanked Hasvold for assisting the man, and said they’d take him the rest of the way.
“So then I start running again and a couple miles later a gal goes down in front of me and I’m like, ‘are you kidding me?'” said Hasvold. “Her leg is cramping so bad and she’s rolling. She starts crying and needs medical help so I ran up to the medical tent and I get somebody.”
After having assisted three people, Hasvold now begins experiencing her own trouble.
“With all this stuff happening, I’m completely off my pace, I’m completely off my rhythm, and off my nutrition,” said Hasvold. “Everything during the race is taking its toll on me. What happens for me when I run a long run, if I stop and start like that, I get really nauseous, so I am very aware of not doing that.”
Hasvold was 17 miles in when the nausea hit hard.
“I was coming toward the Newton hills, a very challenging part of the course, and I was completely overcome by nausea at that point,” said Hasvold. “I was just in survival mode to get up the Newton hills. I was like, ‘I’m going to finish this no matter what.’ And I knew my time was out the window.”
In addition to the nausea, Hasvold had a calf cramp up and had to visit a medical tent to have it “kneaded out.” Upon leaving the medical tent, Hasvold literally ran into a historic figure.
“I jump back on the course and I bump into a woman and I’m like, ‘oh gosh, I’m sorry,'” said Hasvold. “She said, ‘Oh, it’s OK.’ I look over my shoulder and I am running shoulder-to-shoulder with Kathrine Switzer, the first female to run the Boston Marathon.”
Switzer’s marathon in 1967 became historic because she was the first woman to complete the all-male race as an official entrant (she registered as K.V. Switzer to hide her gender). An official, upon learning of Switzer’s sex, attempted to force her off the race route, but Switzer’s boyfriend knocked the official off the course and Switzer continued to the finish.
Hasvold was beyond excited to see Switzer.
“I said, ‘You’re Kathrine Switzer,’ and she said, ‘How are you?’” said Hasvold of the chance meeting. “She asked me if I was enjoying the marathon and said she hoped I was having fun. I told her it’s been interesting but it’s been great. Then I said, ‘Thank you so much for what you did. Because of you I’m out here running the Boston Marathon.’ And she said, ‘Well, you just enjoy it and have a great experience.’”
Hasvold eventually ran ahead of the 70-year-old Switzer, got out her phone and took a picture of the legend, and then grinded out the remainder of the marathon.
“That was around heartbreak hill,” said Hasvold of the photo op. “I was truly in survival mode, and because I was so overcome by nausea, I walked-ran the rest of the way. I finished in 4:59 (4:59.27). My goal was between 4:00 and 4:15, but I realized the experiences I had along the way were truly amazing.
“It wasn’t the race I had laid out for me, but it was the one God had set out before me,” continued Hasvold. “And to truly end up running shoulder to shoulder with Boston Marathon history…I’m blown away.”
Hasvold’s trip to the Boston Marathon started out with a brush with fame as among the people on her flight departing San Diego was Zeb Keflezighhi, the 2014 Boston Marathon winner and the only person to win Boston, the New York City Marathon and an Olympic medal.
“He’s on the plane and I get to talk to him and get a picture,” said Hasvold. “That was amazing.”
Knox, while competing in the 2016 Boston Marathon, said she didn’t plan to run the race in 2017 even though she had already qualified for the 2017 edition.
“It’s so hard,” said Knox of the famous race. “When I was running it last year I had no intention of doing it again – until I crossed the finish line. Then I was like, ‘I’m coming back.’ And I’ve qualified for 2018, so we’ll see.”
Although she was happy she bettered her 2016 time, Knox said she didn’t go to Boston hell-bent on doing so.
“I go to Boston to enjoy the experience, because it’s so phenomenal,” said Knox. “It is just such an amazing experience. What makes it amazing is just the human spirit. It’s so strong in this race. I saw people running that you could tell were battling cancer or had battled it. You see amputees. You see people running that were in the (2013 Boston Marathon) bombing and missing limbs. You see blind runners running with guides. You see everything out there.”
Knox said she felt good for the majority of the marathon but did have to push through some discomfort en route to recording her PR (personal record).
“I had to struggle, just like everyone else did,” said Knox. “It was really a rough race with dehydration and things like that. I had a couple of things but nothing major. It was nearly 80 degrees when we started and super dry. I went to every single water station and was taking two to three cups of water and drinking it and dumping it on myself.”
Knox said she twisted an ankle and had to deal with a cramp in a calf during the race.
“I twisted my ankle a little bit about mile 15,” said Knox. “I stepped wrong on something, but it wasn’t bad. Then at mile 24 something kind of just gave in my calf and I almost fell. I kind of stopped for a second, shook it off and just kind of tried to limp-jog a little bit on it. I just kind of pushed on but it slowed my pace a little bit.”
Knox said negotiating traffic is a constant task in the Boston Marathon.
“You’re running and it’s hot and it (the pack) never spreads out,” said Knox. “You are running with thousands of people around you, so there’s a lot of tripping and a lot of falling. It just happens and it’s just insane.”
Knox said the support the runners get from the hundreds of thousands of spectators that line the course is inspiring. This year, Knox and Hasvold both wore bright yellow T-shirts that read “From Fallbrook to Boston.”
“You put your name on your arm with a Sharpie and last year everyone was yelling, ‘Go Vickie, go Vickie,” said Knox. “But this year everybody was yelling, ‘Go Fallbrook, go Fallbrook,’ because of our shirts. And that was so fun because I grew up here and it was kind of a new experience for me of being able to think, ‘yes, I’m representing Fallbrook.’”
Since she has already qualified for the 2018 Boston Marathon, Knox, if healthy and possessing the desire, could represent the Friendly Village once again next April 16.