Scroll all the way down to the end of the post for the tl;dr version.
This would be my fifth Boston Marathon. My first was in 2012 – the most recent “hot year”. I skipped 2013 – the year of the bombing – but have run it every year since.
My goal race for this spring is the Eugene Marathon on May 7th. I started training for the race back in December and created my own training plan each week. The Boston Marathon would be this week’s long run. The week before the race, I ran a long run on Sunday, a tempo run on Wednesday, and then easy for the rest of the week.
- Marathon PR: 3:22:56 (7:45 pace), 2013 New York City Marathon
- Course PR: Boston Marathon is 3:25:58 (7:52 pace), 2015 Boston Marathon
- Most Recent Marathon: 3:33:34 (8:10 pace), 2016 New York City Marathon
Achievable: Sub-3:35:00 (8:13 pace). If this were my goal marathon, I think this would be in my range.
Goal: Sub-3:50:00 (8:47 pace). This isn’t a goal race – it’s this week’s long run. This is a little faster than my current long run pace.
Strategy: Run by feel for most of the race and try to save some energy for the downhill after the Newton hills.
The course is a point-to-point starting in Hopkinton, Massachusetts and ending in Boston. The first few miles are mostly downhill and then the course evens out until reaching the town of Newton where there are four moderate hills over the course of four miles. Then, the course is mostly downhill into downtown.
There are water stops on both sides of the street at every mile starting at Mile 2. The crowds are a little thin at certain points early in the race but robust in Ashland, Framingham, Wellesley, Newton, Boston College, and the entire downtown Boston area.
I arranged 58 songs comprising 3 hours and 48 minutes of music.
I flew into Boston late in the afternoon and took a cab to my hotel – The Fairmont. The gentleman at the front desk informed me I had two pre-paid rooms under my reservation. That’s over $5,000 of hotel charges! I was surprisingly chill about it – thinking I’d reverse the charge somehow – but I think helped score me a nice room. I shared an elevator with race director, Dave McGillivray on the way to my room! I had just listened to an interview with him on a podcast, so it was pretty neat.
I had an early dinner, and then spent the rest of the evening resting. I’d been sneezing all week and finally decided to take a Zyrtec before bed.
Thanks to the allergy medication, I got over 8 hours of sleep on Saturday night! But, I woke up very drowsy. I ventured out for coffee and then went for a jog along the Charles River Esplanade, which is my traditional pre-Boston shake-out run.
I showered and walking through the hotel lobby on my way to the expo, I saw Peter Ciaccia, the race director for the New York City Marathon on my way out. Other runners seek out elites, I’m drawn to race directors.
I got to the convention center at around 11am. I timed it well because there wasn’t a line to get in and I got my bib in a few minutes.
Walking the expo floor, I purchased an official sweatshirt and some shoe charms. I had lunch with a friend and then went to my hotel room to write my training supplement post. Later, I had dinner with running friends in Brookline. I was back in my hotel by 8pm and shared an elevator with two elites. (Later, I realized one was the race winner, Geoffrey Kirui.) In my room, I created my playlist for tomorrow and watch “Spirit of the Marathon“. In the documentary, Dick Beardsley says, “When you cross that finish line – no matter how slow, no matter how fast. It will change your life forever.”
I woke up at 5am. I went outside for coffee and knew it was going to be a warm day. I ate a bagel and a Kind Breakfast bar as I got dressed for the race. I left my hotel and walked to Boston Common. The bus boarding was a little different but still very efficient. During the ride to Hopkinton, I talked to my seat-mate – a woman from California. I also ate a banana and drank some water.
At the Athlete’s Village, I got in line for a port-a-potty even though I didn’t have to go. I got in line twice at the port-a-potties next to the start to make sure.
I found my corral and after a few minutes, we were herded to the start. I walked so slowly that the next corral caught up to me. I took a few pictures and then decided to was time to run!
The Boston Marathon tweeted out that it was 71 degrees in Hopkinton when the men’s race started. The observed weather in Boston was similar.
Miles 1 to 4 (Hopkinton and Ashland)
The course starts downhill and then rises uphill a little after a half mile. The crowds are relatively sparse – mostly people who live in the neighborhood. The road was crowded with runners but not overly so. I was being passed by a lot of people but that made sense because my corral was for 8:00 pace marathoners. Plus, a lot of runners start out too fast at Boston.
It was very hot and stayed that way for most of the race. From the first water stop, I took Gatorade and put water on my head. I repeated this practice at almost all of the stops
My first split was faster than planned but that also made sense due to the downhill start. The second mile flattened out but my pace was still “fast”. Now, I was concerned. I thought about my last long run. “Were you running this hard on Four Mile Run?” I tried to channel that effort.
In Ashland, there were larger pockets of spectators. Since I was taking these easy, I took the time to soak in the scenery – the people, the landscape, the businesses… It all seemed new to me even though this was my fifth Boston Marathon!
I ran a pretty consistent pace over the next two miles. There’s another small hill during Mile 3 but it didn’t slow me down. I noticed a silver-haired woman with an age group bib on her back stop to walk it. I thought she might be in for a long day if she’s walking already. I also noticed a woman in a purple singlet who was running my pace. We were a few steps away from one another through Wellesley. Keeping an eye on her was a passive way for me to monitor my pace.
Splits: 8:36, 8:29, 8:28, 8:24.
Miles 4 to 11 (Ashland, Framingham and Natick)
I got into a little bit of a slump heading into Framingham. I think the heat got to me a little. I put on a clinic at the Mile 5 water stop. I downed my first Crank Sport e-Gel minutes before going into it and then grabbed two cups of water at the station.
Framingham is where the crowds really start to thicken. People were screaming and stretching their arms far into the road for a high-five for about a mile. By the train station, there were banners celebrating the “Mile 6 Experience” but the crowds were more subdued there. I was still running next to the woman in purple, but noticed she was running with someone now.
I was in such good spirits that I was high-fiving just about any little kid who had their hand out. I must have slapped 50 tiny palms during this stretch. At one point, I thought about possibly catching a cold from one of them and then thought, “You’re the carrier! You’re passing germs from Hopkinton all the way into Boston!” Besides, with three weeks until Eugene, I could afford to get sick. I was enjoying interacting with the crowd.
My stomach felt full, so I ran through the next water station. Despite this bad patch, I still felt pretty comfortable with my pace. I even thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool to run each split under 8:47.”
I was so busy enjoying the race that just past the 7 mile mark, I noticed I hadn’t hit a lap! “Oops! I missed the split!” Rather than hit it late, I decided to just wait. It didn’t matter.
By Mile 9, we were running by a lake. In past years, this is where I started feeling a little fatigue but today, I felt pretty okay. There was a short but steep hill here and I noticed a lot of runners were walking it. I slowed down and logged my first split over goal pace.
In Natick, the crowds were out in full force cheering for the runners. At Mile 10, I took my second gel before the water stop and downed it with water. Shortly thereafter, I finally felt the tail wind that was in the forecast! And, I thought there was a little more cloud cover. It was still hot, though.
I think this is also where I saw a guy holding a sign with the 3rd quarter score of the Super Bowl on social media. I’m not exactly sure, though. At the time, I thought he was rubbing it in. But, a few minutes later, I realized it was supposed to be a “never give up” sign.
Splits: 8:44, 8:26, 17:22 (2 miles), 8:23, 8:50, 8:23
Miles 11 to 16 (Wellesley)
In Wellesley, I turned off my music and listened for the sound of “Scream Tunnel”. I could hear it and as expected, it gave me chills despite the 70 degree weather. I started pushing the pace a little. I passed Purple Singlet and her newest friend.
Running by the college, I read almost all of the signs and the excitement on the women’s faces. I started to tear up! I was finally overwhelmed by all of the support that I was experiencing. How had I missed this all these years?! What else have I been missing about running? About life? … “Hold up.” I told myself, “You can’t have a mid-life crisis right now. You’re running a marathon!” Jolted back to reality, I narrowly adverted plowing into two other runners.
Downtown Wellesley is one of my favorite places on the course. The crowds are thick and loud! My Garmin read about 1:51:40 at the half. I did the math and thought that would be a 3:45:00 finish. I started thinking about how to space my last two gels. I didn’t want to take the last one too early and run out of fuel for the last few miles. I wanted to feel fresh coming out of Newton. “Wouldn’t it be great to run those last 6 miles strong for a change?”, I thought.
Coming out of that area, I hit another rough patch. I high-fived some people for motivation. In one instance, the first guy gave a hearty slap but the next guy, in a Patriots jersey, slammed my hand. I thought, “And, this is why people hate Patriots fans.” I took my third gel a few minutes after the Mile 15 mark.
Splits: 8:25, 8:28, 8:19, 8:52, 8:11. Half marathon: 1:51:48 (8:33 pace)
Miles 16 to 21 (Newton)
I saw the banners on the side of the road indicating we were in Newton. I hadn’t had time to review the course beforehand and couldn’t remember where the Newton hills start and how many of them there were. I seemed to recall there were four.
A half mile later, I came upon the point where I thought I was going to collapse in 2012. I surveyed the surroundings instead of dwelling on that moment. “Interesting, It’s an exit for I-95.” I charged up the hill. There were a fair number of walkers and I had to look ahead for the best line through them.
The course took a right onto Commonwealth Avenue at Mile 17.5 at the Newton fire station. I knew the hills were starting in earnest. Trying to keep my effort honest, I tried to pretend I was on the Custis Trail back home.
Going into the serious hills in Newton, my overall pace was 8:30. I challenged myself to maintain the same overall pace through them. I was still feeling pretty good. My feet hurt a little and my back was stinging from my sports bra chaffing, but that was it. After a couple of the hills, there were so many walkers that I had to weave or make myself small to get through the masses. After hitting Mile 20, I waited a little bit and then took my last gel.
Some of the best signs on the course were in Newton. My favorite one said, ALTERNATIVE FACT: SMALL HILL AHEAD. Shuffling up Heartbreak Hill didn’t feel terrible, which gave me confidence that I hadn’t been running too hard. In the final stretch I realized the song, “This Too Shall Pass,” was playing. It was the perfect song for the occasion. This pain is temporary. Coming out of Newton, I saw my overall pace hadn’t changed!
Splits: 8:36, 8:48, 8:36, 8:37, 8:52.
Miles 21 to 26.2 (Brookline and Boston)
My hips felt a little stiff coming out of Newton but nothing close to pain. Normally, Boston College is my absolute favorite part of the course. I checked out a little this time not wanting to let the crowd entice me into speeding up yet.
At Mile 22, I saw the woman with the 60 age group bib on her back, “How did she get ahead of me run-walking?” I thought about playing Marathon Investigator and looking back and getting her bib, but decided to just make a mental note. (I checked after the race and she didn’t place.) I was running a little slower and Purple Singlet passed me, running on her own. I was running on the left-hand side of the road and there wasn’t a water stop (or maybe I missed it). I really wished I had some fluids at that point.
The road narrowed a bit as the course turned right onto Chestnut Hill Avenue. I runner cut me off and I almost tripped in the trolley tracks in the road! The course took a left onto Beacon Street. I hit another bad patch but told myself I just had to hold on for a few more miles.
I passed Mile 23 and thought I missed my friends at Coolidge Corner. Then, a half mile down the road, I saw them! I high-fived them all. One of them gave me a water bottle, which was great. I drank some and doused my head.
For the final few miles, there was a fair amount of cloud cover and a lot of wind. I saw the Citgo sign in the distance – almost one mile to go! As it grew larger, I felt bolder. I took a final swig of water and tossed the water bottle on the bridge near Fenway Park.
Mid-way through Mile 25, I scanned the crowd for a friend from my running club. She said she’d be in this area but I hadn’t asked which side of the road. Incredibly, I saw her! I yelled and gave a Number 1 finger gesture in the air. Next, I looked for a friend from college. They kept spectators further from the course at this point on Commonwealth Avenue but I still saw her, too! She took a good picture:
I was still running on the left side of the road but the next thing I knew, I was taking a right on Hereford. I thought, “That was fast!” I did some fist pumps and the crowd cheered louder.
Making the turn onto Boylston, the finish line didn’t seem as far as it did in years past. I found myself surging. The next thing I know, I was sprinting to the finish line! I’ve never felt so strong this late in a marathon!
Splits: 8:35, 8:39, 8:06, 8:26, 8:03, 1:38 (7:02 pace!).
I felt fine after the race. Even though my hotel was close to the finish, due to security I had to walked a few extra blocks.
I rested a bit and then met a college friend for champagne in South Boston and a beer on Boylston Street. Leaving the bar, I saw Dave McGillivray finish the race. I swear I wasn’t stalking him!
My time was 3:42:59 (8:31 pace) [Log Details]! I was the 10,577th finisher out of 26,411 (top 40%), 3,135th woman (top 27%), and 281th in my age group (top 16%).
The male winner was Geoffrey Kirui with (2:09:37) and female was Edna Kiplagat (2:21:52). Of the American elites, I was happy to see fellow San Diegan Desiree Linden (2:25:06) finished 4th after going for the win and Jared Ward finished 10th (2:15:28) since I’ve been using a statement he made during a podcast about getting fit as a mantra this training cycle.
This year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Half Marathon rattled my confidence a lot. The Cherry Blossom 10M restored it. This race sent it through the roof! I ran a little faster than I intended but it didn’t feel hard. I feel like a runner reborn. I’m beyond excited for the Eugene Marathon next month.
My goal race, the Eugene Marathon, was 3 weeks away so I treated this as a long run. It was a hot day – about 70 degrees at the start. I kept the pace very easy at the start of the race. Running with no pressure, I felt like I was running the Boston Marathon for the first time. I took in the scenery and interacted with the crowds more than usual through Wellesley. I ran the hills in Newton well and picked up the pace in Brookline. I felt like a runner reborn. Bring on Eugene!