“It’s the Superbowl”, my friend, Brendan, succinctly describing the marathon. Normally, the Superbowl would be enough to describe the Boston Marathon, but
this year a Boston Marathon race report could more accurately describe it as gutting out 26.2 miles in cold, windy rain.
I love running. I have for a long time. I love running more just for the pure enjoyment of running itself, without needing the pleasure of racing or company. It’s my flow. However, I’d have a hard time turning down an opportunity to participate in the biggest event, for the sport that I love.
The story of qualifying for Boston dates back almost two years: Glass City Marathon in April, 2016. I ran a 3:03.44. At the time, most people thought that BQ (Boston Qualified) -1:16 would be enough. It would not. Boston’s marathon would require a 2:09 buffer to qualify and register in September that year. Close, but no cigar. I prevailed that November in Philadelphia with a BQ -5:26: I could have booked my flight at that point (the 2018 Boston Marathon, however, did have the largest cutoff to date, 3:23).
I feel like this Boston Marathon race report will be different that others, because I did not go to Boston that day to race the marathon, but to have a weekend of fun with my family and friends and enjoy the moment while getting in an expensive, fun run.
The preparations for this race could be said to have begun in September, not with the its registration and acceptance email, but sustaining a calf strain.
The calf strain sidelined me from real training for nearly the rest of 2017, and I could only gingerly add miles at the beginning of 2018. Because of the nagging injury, it’s academic how I would have approached Boston. Sidelined a few times during the winter with illness, I turned my first Boston Marathon into a fun run. For a race like Boston, I would almost rather do that and enjoy myself than limit what I would do to prepare for a goal, raced marathon. My racing strategy consisted of me finishing strongly; I didn’t care about time nearly as much as having a good, quality long run. I have races coming up and with a run like a marathon, can really springboard me forward.
I would bring an “entourage” with me to Boston. My mom, dad, sister, and BiL would make the trip with me! I can’t express how much that meant to me having my family make the expensive trip to see me run in the cold, windy rain for nearly four hours. At least I was moving in that shit.
The Boston Marathon takes place on Patriot’s Day, a Monday, which is highly unusual for a marathon. As such, we would touch down on Friday then takeoff Tuesday. Basically, we turned it into a mini-vacation because that’s what you do with destination races.
First stop in Boston: Cheers. As in Cheers, the TV show that I may have seen once in my life. This is notable because of there being a gift shop(!) and the damn theme song playing in the lobby, which still lurks in my mind while typing this Boston Marathon race report. I had the Philly cheese steak (I actually didn’t have one while in Philadelphia ).
[Pretend I took a Cheers pic outside, in front of the sign]
Once every seven years there’s a dentist conference in Boston, which pushes the marathon expo a million miles away. This was that year. But the good news is we got to see lots of Boston during the walk to the expo! I don’t have much to add to that other than I got my Boston Marathon
Members Only Celebration Jacket.
After the trek to the expo, picking up my necessities (which included Gu), the quintet stormed to dinner. Because we arrived to our destination early, we had time to hit up another bar. Time for two porters (apparently, porters and stouts are “seasonal” in Boston, so it was about as rare to find them as an elite who finished Monday’s race). Finally, dinner was tasty; I had lobster pasta (can’t think of the actual name).
Saturday’s first stop was a rendezvous with friends I know from Runner’s World’s forum, back when they had one. Only one of us ran the 5K, which is something we all should have done seeing as that’s how we could have raced in Boston in good weather (Saturday’s morning weather was beautiful and the PA guy even said they should move the marathon up).
[Not pictured: Tim knocking his beer over my new phone and me; related, we learned that the Samsung S9 is IPA-proof.]
For my third year, I’ve run as an ambassador for Altra Running (technically this year I’m on the Red Team, but I digress). I got the opportunity to meet more people I “met” online! We had a three-and-a-half mile shakeout run for a few of us who were in town for the race. It was a cool opportunity to meet some people, including the founders.
Sunday, the day before the race. At this point I kind of had to remind myself that I’m running a race. I had enjoyed the experience of Boston and meeting people, now I had to concentrate a little bit more on the actual race. Sunday was low key; I met up with Tim, then Michelle joined us for a bit. Dinner was at an Italian restaurant, and I only had two drinks the whole day.
2018 Boston Marathon Experience
Finally, I’ll start the actual Boston Marathon Race Report. After dinner, I retired to my room. Unfortunately, after dinner was the first time all day that I had been awake. Nevertheless, I fell asleep relatively easy. I also received a phone call from a joyful friend who sent me her well wishes. I eventually would fall back to sleep.
Up at 0430. The rain had begun. And interestingly, I never had “race performance anxiety”. I just went into it with an “ultra mindset” that I would do what it would take to finish. I have more nerves over how the weather would affect me. I never really thought about wearing more clothes than what I had because anything else. I figured that I’m going to get wet, so might as well wear less clothing so it doesn’t weigh me down and wouldn’t cool me down as much because it wouldn’t cover my skin.
The whole time walking to the buses (for those who don’t know, Boston Marathon is a point-to-point marathon; so, we start 26 miles from the finish line) I sang, “The wheels on the bus go round-and-round, round-and-round, round-and-round…,” because that’s my sense of humor. My mom walked with me to Boston Commons, where the school buses await the runners. That was the first time my mother has ever walked me to a school bus, at the age of 31.
Tim, we happened to stay at the same hotel, was in line at the same time, so we ended up staying together until we went our own ways at the corrals in Hopkins. Most of the time we talked about racing strategy and bitching about the weather (obvi). We had the pleasure of an ominous bus ride through the weather, then huddled around like penguins in a tent at athlete’s village hearing the wisps of the winds as we wait to enter it. I had coffee a couple of times in the tent, if only to warm my core. Related: I had to visit the port-a-john thrice before and twice during the race. When you gotta go, you gotta go.
0915. Wave one files into their corrals. The corrals two-by-two are unleashes to the opening gate. We had to walk to “downtown” Hopkins, which seemed like forever away. Through the cold, windy rain. Eventually, I made my wait to the starting line. Stripping along the way, I now only wore my race outfit. I was COLD. As only a few of us wore a singlet that day; I wondered who was outsmarting the other.
The race began, down a sizable decline. Every marathon I start has a certain, surreal feel to it, especially this one because of the magnitude that is the Boston Marathon, but also for the weather. Interestingly, I really was never cold during the race. The wind and rain were not fun, but I never felt like was I getting hypothermic, which plagued many runners. This would be one of, if not the, worst races to run at Boston. Outside of the male winner, it may have been the worst combination of elements for everyone.
I planned on making it an easy run, which meant that I should be the semi truck with the e-lights on telling everyone to pass me (I was seeded with people running a 3:00 marathon, after all). I didn’t pass anyone for a long, long time.
The first few miles I only wanted to feel out how I would run the rest. I started off going faster than I wanted, but the miles went downhill enough that they were easy effort (most of run was at Z2 effort and heart rate). A few miles in I kind of started boarding the struggle bus. I only consumed banans, water, and coffee up to that point (I had been up for six hours at that point), and needed to eat something. I had plenty of gels, but didn’t want one at, like, mile 4. Just before mile 6 I consumed my first gel. It was amazing. I immediately felt better and my race kind of took off. Okay, not really, but I wasn’t worried about crashing and burning at mile 15 anymore.
The beginning of the race featured sparse crowds. On that fateful day, the weather didn’t help, but the beginning of the Boston Marathon is kind of a rural area until you get around Wellesley (or not, my mind was in kind of a blur: I was running a marathon). You’d see people huddled around the centers of towns’ centers, and bars, but not much around the other areas. I don’t blame them. I heard a roar of a crowd. It took me a moment to realize that Wellesley must be coming up. The screams from the women of Wellesley could be heard from a half mile away. I think everyone actually picked up the pace at that point, not slowing down. My favorite sign from the crowd: Kiss me, I’m wet.
At this point a new wave must’ve arrived because all of a sudden I was running with people again. For a while I kind of ran aloneish because I was the slow person in a fast corral. Now, I’m the slow person in a different corral. At least I had people around me! (Basically, it was the faster women and middle-aged men.)
That was around mile 12. Still had four miles until the Heartbreak Hills (there were girls, although I guess they’re really women, who wore “Heartbreaker” singlets; I suppose that’s a local thing to call themselves that).
I could feel more energy from the crowds (unfortunately, now, the past three marathons I’ve run have had shitty weather, really cutting down on the spectators). The Boston Marathon is really special in that “Boston shuts down for three days for runners”. It’s really true. You couldn’t turn around Boston without seeing one of those Adidas Members Only jackets.
The infamous Heartbreak Hills. There are four, from miles 16 through 21. The elevation is not so much the problem (I didn’t think they were that bad and I live in the flatlands, albeit I do run hills), but the placement of the quartet, overall course profile (the course had lots of rolling elevation), and many people don’t run it right; it’s about the execution! I masochistically looked forward to the hills. Only one way to find out…
I actually started increasing effort and speed, because only a crazy fool actually looks forward to start “racing” Boston at Heartbreak. I would pass people going up and down hills and then they would pass me on the straights (I started to feel like I might be sandbagging the race a little, but I had no idea what my endurance would be, plus I didn’t want a long recovery time).
I saw Brendan, right where he said he’s be, at the top of the last Heartbreak. I literally stopped to speak with him for 20 seconds. Then I stormed off figuring I might as well as the marathon is “almost” over.
By this point, it’s just kind of a blur. At Heartbreak, the course is downhill, so I reckoned that would help me to strongly finish. More and more people were fading at this point, and I began to pick them off, one by one. I felt good and I would use the energy I have to finish the race going as “fast” as I can.
The last 5K of the Boston Marathon I definitely turned on the “jets”, if you could call them that. By this point I was passing everyone, dodging in and out of traffic. Painted on the street with one remaining mile read, “One Mile Until The Finish” as you run through the streets of Boston.
Twice it really felt surreal during the race: at the beginning and end. The end was, like, “I’m actually going to finish the Boston Marathon!” (and that I could soon find warm and dry…). Turning onto Boylston (the road on which the race ends) felt unimaginable: the crowd roaring, the flags from the runners, and me trying to run as hard as I could for a few moments longer.
I crossed the finish line, which meant I didn’t have to run anymore. With thousands of runners making their way through the finishing chute, volunteers quickly ushered us through. Water. Gatorade. Medal. Warm, space blanket. Bag of goodies. By this point my chafing was fully realized. I haven’t noticed it during the race, but boy, I certainly do now! I walked like a cowboy as I became colder on each step.
The plan was for my family to meet me back at the hotel, since that’s where we’d go anyhow and didn’t want to wait in the rain to find each other. My mom found me on my slow walk to the Boston Park Plaza. Once inside I took the best hot shower I’ve had in a while. My next priority was to find a bar. The first floor had one. Tim messaged me that he’s downstairs, so off I went to “hydration” and the sharing of recent stories. I invited my family to make their way after finished up some food.
Sleep that night was fantastic, although, on par for a day after a race, my mind never really turned on. I booked a later flight for Tuesday so we could walk around a bit before departing back home. My legs felt pretty good once I got moving.
I arrived in Columbus around midnight. I couldn’t wait to go to sleep.
Boston Marathon Thoughts
Wrapping up my Boston Marathon race report I get the hype of the marathon. The Boston Marathon is HUGE(!), but you have to be there to completely understand the atmosphere. It’s worth the price of admission.
Well, the weather was the biggest storyline of the race, followed closely by an American women, Desi, winning for the first time in 33 years, and the male winner who has a full-time job, Yuki, who at the time of the race didn’t even have a sponsor.
The weather definitely slowed me, and everyone else, down but I thought I was mostly prepared for it. I wish I did something to alleviate chafing, but I didn’t feel suuuuper cold (although I lost enough dexterity getting gels and water was annoying). You’ll probably never see as many people run Boston with long sleeves on as you did on that day. It’s one of the ages, for the wrong reasons.
The course is milder than what I expected. Not that it’s easy, but it’s more than navigable with proper training and execution. Heartbreak Hills definitely can be a wrench in the gears but you have to plan for that. Unlike the weather, you actually can train for specific elevation profiles for races…
Since I didn’t requalify I’d have to get in better shape and run a marathon before registration opens in September, but I don’t feel the need to go back to Boston right away. There are many more spring marathons I would like to race, plus Boston costs mucho dinero.
I have two races coming up: the Cap City Half Marathon next Saturday (12 days after Boston) then the Cleveland Marathon on May 20th in Cleveland. I would like to race both of them, but The Land Marathon may be difficult because it is The Land in late May. Maybe another fun run, which would make three marathons in a row as such…
I can’t say how much it was that my family joined me for this trip and for the people following me on the app. I didn’t really expect that and the support has been tremendous. It means a lot when people think so highly of you. It was a great little vacation shared with many.
This will go down as one of the best trips I’ll ever take. The memories of not only that horrible race weather but of the people I met and my family will forever be with me. I learned a while ago that we should spend our money on experiences, not stuff. I have to agree: our memories we will have forever.
I brought my Nikon, but never got it out. That belongs somewhere here.