Recap: 119th Boston Marathon

So life has been pretty busy since I ran Boston, but I hopped back on to write a new post & realized that even though I wrote up my entire recap for Boston a few days after, I never actually published it! Self fail. So here’s that post, unchanged, a month late. Oops?


 I AM A BOSTON MARATHONER!!!

Woo, got that off my chest. Final finish time was 3:45:54 for a pretty solid marathon. Now this recap is going to be all over the place, mostly because the day itself was crazy and partly because I’m not sure quite how to express it.

Fair warning: really long post ahead!

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Even the airport got some Boston Marathon flavor.

Every day I was in Boston was near perfect racing conditions, except for race day (of course). I got in Thursday morning & met up with my mom, who was kind enough to fly up and support me. The days leading up to Marathon Monday were spent sightseeing, meeting up with friends, and checking out what the Boston Marathon festivities had to offer.

Exploring the expo was an adventure and I picked up a pretty decent haul of gear. We actually went back the next day after some of the group flew in, so there was an adventure of walking around & getting tips from Steve, Elton and Tom.

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These flowers are in the Boston Public Library, but they were actually in businesses all around the city.

It was my first time to Boston, so it was an adventure to do tours & see so much of the city and the country’s history in it. My favorite place was probably the Boston Public Library. Would love to take a book and just sit there to read. Also checked out the Aquarium over on the Boston Harbor and that was fun too. Even if the sharks didn’t want to be petted.

The Boston Marathon was like no other race I’ve experienced. It’s not just the race itself, but the atmosphere of the town. I went out with Elton & Tom Sunday morning for an easy shake-out run. We did 3 miles out to the 25 mile marker and back from the hotel. No other marathon I ran did random strangers stop me (us) to say “good luck tomorrow.” One discussed race day weather with us. It was surreal to have the town be as invested in the race as the runners traveling in for it.

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Seen going from packet pick-up to the expo floor.

The Race

Marathon Monday dawned with some pretty sucky weather. The temperatures were ideal (low to mid-40s), but not with the winds (15-35mph) and rain. Earlier waves of the race only got bits and pieces of the rain. Those of us that were slower got most of the race rained on, unfortunately.

I had modified my gear a bit, but had not anticipated the amount or length of the rain. Initial reports said we’d get an early band that would pass through, then it’d be a bit before the ‘real’ rain hit. That wasn’t quite the case.

Let me jump back real quick & say it was amazing to hang out before the start at the White House. Much appreciation for Liz putting up with silly runners while we waited. We got to see the start of the Elite waves before heading out to the start ourselves (in small groups, depending on what wave we each had).

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The start line the day before, in perfect weather.

I was wave 3, corral 2 which put me pretty close to the actual start line. The atmosphere at the start was awesome, but the cold was already biting & a drizzle had started. I kept several of my throwaways on and so lucky I did, but I felt pretty solid at the start. Nervous, yet ready to tackle the course.

Seems like the Boston Marathon is made up of a lot more first timers than repeat runners. Or at least, the cheering before the start of my wave said so. As it was explained to me, corrals/waves place you with similar qualifying times. So the people around me realistically had run 3:30-3:35 qualifiers.

And it showed! The cold made the start feel a little slower than I guess it actually was. Rolled through the first mile in a sea of people at about 8:30. Technically the first portion of the race is downhill, but it’s a rolling downhill so you could literally see a sea of people ahead of you running (it was pretty cool!).

About 2 miles in the drizzle of rain eased up and my clothes had a chance to recover. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long and the rain came back to stay until nearly the end of the race. But man, even in the cold and miserable weather the number of people out supporting the race was amazing!

Spectators set up their own stuff along the course as we ran through each of the cities to get from Hopkinton to Boston. Random strangers offered water, orange slices, Twizzlers, Swedish Fish, Fig Newtons, beer, pretty much almost anything you can imagine. There was a guy who looked just like Santa Claus somewhere around mile 8 or 9.

The miles just seemed to roll by as I enjoyed seeing the towns we ran through & all the people cheering, supporting, sticking their hands out for high-fives. Everything I saw made me smile. And yes, the stretch in front of Wellesley College really is a scream tunnel. It was entertaining to watch a guy stop every 5 feet to kiss girls (until I passed him). 🙂

While my finish time may not show it, I was actually on pace for my 3:30 goal through about mile 16. I came through the half in 1:46:37. But the weather was working against me and so before I hit the Newton hills, I re-evaluated.

Long before the half, all of my clothes were soaked through from the rain. By the time I hit mile 15, I could no longer feel my legs or arms from cold. I’d tried taking off my gloves, but the cold was so biting that even wet gloves were better than none.

So I couldn’t properly judge the condition of my legs & body to keep up the pace. Physically, I’m confident in my ability to run a 3:30 marathon on a good day and I may just chase it again later this year. But for this race, I pulled back and reset my goals mid-race to finish and come in under the time of my first marathon (3:51).

The Newton hills were hard. I think more so because I was so cold I couldn’t properly lean into them the way I wanted. In a bit of a group, I rolled over the first 2 pretty easy. The third was a little harder and Heartbreak Hill was definitely a heartbreaker. But I didn’t allow myself to stop or walk & just kept chugging along.

There was definitely an awesome crowd leading up to the hills and all through them as the residents know they’re the killers in this race. I have mad respect for the guy I passed on Heartbreak running in just a Speedo. Then you crest Heartbreak Hill and it’s downhill into Boston College. There were a lot of students out there, and yes Kris, I didn’t take anything from them.

By now I only had 5 miles to go but they felt like the longest miles of my life. At this point, my hands were so cold that I didn’t have the dexterity to get into my race belt & pull out e-caps or chomps (yes, I was that cold!). Thank you to all those spectators, even in the cold, offering orange slices and pretzel sticks! They’re the ones who got me through those last miles because that’s the only way I could get the fuel I needed.

I started contemplating stopping at one of the med tents, but was afraid if I stopped I wouldn’t get started again. Miles 22-24 my body was starting to tighten up. The pack of runners had spread out, I was getting hit by the wind more, and the temps were dropping a bit the closer we got to the water. Luckily, I didn’t stop as I heard from some other runners that some people were held from finishing because their core body temps were too low.

Thanks to the run the day before with Tom & Elton, I had a view of what to expect swinging into Boston proper. The crowds were bigger than I expected with the weather! I rolled through the 25 mile marker on the bridge over the Massachusetts Turnpike and then we curved to be on Commonwealth Ave. A bit down the road we passed the Citgo sign and ran over the “1 mile to go” banner painted on the road.

It gave me energy to see all these people lining both sides of the road, out and cheering in the cold. I wasn’t going to re-qualify, but I was going to get through the finish on my own power and with my head held high.

The runners curve away from spectators to take us through ‘the tunnel’ (a dip and rise to bring the road under a 2 lane cross road). I actually didn’t feel that hill, in the way some said I might. Then again, my body was so cold I wasn’t feeling much by then. But once the road comes back up, you’re nearly there.

Since I was on the far right, I got to hug the curb as we took the right turn onto Hereford and threw my hand out to get some high fives from the spectators. There’s another bit of an incline up to Boylston and I swung the last (left) turn. From there, it’s 600 meters and I could see the finish. It looked so far, but I’d already made it to here so I wasn’t going to stop.

The only thing that made running down that finish more perfect was picking out my mom & friend Dave (hi Dave!) hanging over the fence not too far from the finish. Gave me just that little boost to try & stretch my legs out to get across the line just a little faster.

20150420_175721And I did. It wasn’t a PR and it wasn’t another Boston Qualifier. Yet this race was still my greatest accomplishment yet. I ran Boston. I finished Boston. My time was not bad at all and considering the conditions, I am pleased with what I ran.

The Aftermath

No shame, I cried after I crossed the finish line. And I shed a few more tears when they put that medal around my neck. This was the culmination of nearly 2 years of preparation (unintentional though some of it may have been).

I was so cold that they actually sent a volunteer with me back to the hotel to make sure I made it (after I declined the medical tent 3 times). Checking in with everyone post race, then heading out for a group dinner just closed up the trip in an awesome way: spending time with friends and family as we enjoyed the accomplishment of another race finished.

I definitely believe I’ll go back again to try and conquer that course, but for now I’m more than happy to simply say I am a Boston Marathoner.

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