Boston Marathon….the iconic race itself. I ran 5 marathons before I decided that I wanted to try to qualify for the iconic race. Technically on the fifth race, I qualified, aka “BQ” but my time was just under the cut-off and it wasn’t good enough to register (more on that later). I registered for my 6th marathon with the entire goal of qualifying for Boston. I aimed for the USA Fit Marathon in Sugarland, Texas and went out faster than I should’ve and built myself a cushion for when it got warmer out and I started to crash. I surprised myself by winning first female and set a comfortable BQ.
You see, for those of you who do not follow everything running, there is a time that you have to meet to even be able to register for this race and even if you meet the cutoff, there is no guarantee that you will be able to get in the race. Why, you ask? The demand to do this longest running marathon is so high that just meeting the cut off is not good enough. This year you had to run more than 5 minutes under the qualifying time to get there. I was just under 5 minutes below my 3 hours 35 minutes needed qualification time for a female 34 and under and so I had a comfortable time to get me in.
After receiving the official email saying I got in and paying the cheap registration fee, I was pumped! I did my last triathlon (Tri Andy’s Tri) in October and then after that, it was time to take some time easy and then ramp back up the running mileage while not forgetting about my swimming and biking, but really making sure to get in the necessary time on my two feet. My lead up was great. I nailed workouts at above my goal pace of 7 minutes 30 seconds per mile and felt very comfortable doing it. I set a goal of doing 3 hours and 20 minutes (which I told like everyone that was my goal, made me accountable) in Boston which was a 7 minutes 35 seconds per mile pace which allowed a little buffer in case weather or crowds were an issues. And the hills…
Arrived to Boston on Saturday (the race is on Monday) and well, I had a couple delayed flights due to mechanical issues, twice, and did not arrive until way later than I wanted. BUT the good thing about it is that my Sherpa, Susan Benton, arrived near that same time as me, so we were able to navigate the bus and subway together. Note to those not familiar with Boston, the bus and subway system are excellent. And the people there are so friendly and totally willing to help get you pointed in the right direction. And it is $2.10 - $2.65 each time you board versus a $40 cab ride each way to/from airport.
Sunday morning was a quick shake out run and then a huge breakfast. And then the race expo. Oh man, 30,000 runners with all of their race support – that makes for a lot of people at the expo. OMG, that place was crazy packed. I wanted the token race jacket and just getting that was a challenge. I think if I do this again, I would arrive on Friday and pray that Saturday would not be as packed. And arrive earlier in the day. Or just skip the expo part all together as there is an Adidas store right by the finish line, way less packed with the same good stuff. Got my race packet and was ready to get out of there. Just took it easy and got everything ready for the next day and was to bed early like a good racer.
Race morning, I was up, bright eyed and bushy tailed, raring to go at 6am. Slowly got ready with a couple cups of coffee, a banana, a mixture of unsweetened and sweetened applesauce – breakfast of champions. There were 4 ways for the marathon and with a 3:30 and some change qualifying time (my personal best at the marathon distance), I was placed in the third wave. The race is a point to point race, so I rode the subway to where the busses were and then joined the sea of people getting on the busses. They have select times for each wave to get on the bus and my time window was from 7:45am to 8am and I walked up at 7:22am and they let me on the bus. The ride to Hopkinton is around an hour, so I brought a Coke, Herbalife 24 Prepare, Herbalife 24 Rebuild Endurance, my gels, an unsweetened applesauce and a packet of almond butter. My second breakfast. I ended up sitting next to a girl from Ohio who also won the race that she qualified at and chatted and snacked on my items.
The busses us off at the school and there are people EVERYWHERE! People pulling off to the busses to do there “business” and the massive crowd of people going to one of the two tents to hang out. The first wave went off at 10am and mine started staging at 10:20am and went off at 10:50am. Recommendations here: definitely bring a plastic bag to keep you warm and to sit on, maybe some cardboard. I saw a couple guys with a couple of blow up rafts that you would use in the pool…so clever!! I went straight to the bathrooms line, sat around for a while and then back to the bathroom line. Which the second time took 45+ minutes!!! I was in line when the area opened for my wave. So when I was done, I walk/jogged to my corral which the starting line was about half a mile from the waiting tents area and got there just as the gun was going off. Just in time!
The guns goes off and it is like surreal just being there. Everyone is screaming and cheering and SO EXCITED! Puts other race starts to shame! And the first mile was so slow. There was some weaving through people, but I told myself that I would just take it cool the first few miles and slowly settle into my goal pace. And all I heard from people leading up to the race is that you need to take the first 10k of the race easy because if you don’t, you will be heart broke on the notorious “heartbreak” hill. Which I didn’t want to happen. So I finally tried to settle into the pace. Which is a joke. The hills in Boston are no joke. No one told me the truth about these hills. Everyone downplayed them too much. Settling into a pace was a battle. But you know what, I knew what the turnover felt like for my 7:30 pace and only allowed myself to look at my watch when it hit the mile splits to see how I was doing compared to my goal pace. And I was pretty close for all of the miles. Until towards the end….
The Boston marathon has spectators the ENTIRE way! By far the best support from any community yet. (New York is close but not the same.) Seriously made it easy to keep pushing the pace with hearing cheers the ENTIRE way!! There was a downhill portion around mile 16 and I could feel my quads seizing up. My quads had never hurt so much before in my life. Not even after one of my 3 ironmans I have done. But I refused to slow up off of the pace. I kept telling myself that it was a privilege to even be there and it would disrespectful to everyone that isn’t there to give it less than my best shot. And who knows, maybe I will never get the chance to race it again. And I told everyone my goal, so there’s that too…. So I dug really deep and then deeper and deeper still and kept as close to the pace as possible. There were some good hills out there and I told myself I was not walking no matter what (there was a lot of people walking the hillls!!) and I kept the turnover high. A bit of advice, practice your aid stations with your left hands. 90 percent of the people were going to the aid stations on the right and no one was on the left. Had my pick of Gatorade and water. Being as it was around 60 degrees, I took a huge swig of Gatorade and then tossed a cup of water on my front and head at each aid station. Which was almost at every mile. And my awesome Sherpa was there just past mile 13 to hand me a Coke, my rocket fuel of choice. And I took a Powerbar Gel each 40 minutes, with caffeine. Unfortunately towards the end of the race, I just saw the aid stations on the right hand side of the road and the course was more congested, so in combination of the pain in the quads and the congestion and the need to get the fuel in, my pace slowed. But I kept doing the math and knew I had the sub 3:20.
The last mile is always the longest. But rounding the corner, knowing where I was due to watching the race many years, onto Boylston Street and seeing the finish line, I gunned it with what I had left, even though I wanted to cry with the pain in my quads, and I passed so many people to get to that finish line. Crossed it with a tear or two in my eyes and raised my arms high in celebration of accomplishing a major goal. A new PR and Boston finisher and another BQ. J And then almost fell over. LOL. My quads caused some serious waddling. And slowly waddled with the masses to get the medal, heat sheet, food and then met some of my Wattie Ink team members at Fire + Ice, just a couple blocks off the finish line. I highly recommend anyone that does the race to stop there post-race. BUT don’t plan on your Sherpa on a bike meeting you. Unfortunately, Susan, who had my post-race gear as I didn’t check my bag, was not able to find anywhere to park the bike and didn’t get there until after I left. Which I hung out there over an hour after I finished. Everything was blocked off. My awesome teammate bought me a beer and gave me money for the subway. Thank you. So I could get back to my hotel in Cambridge. Which I highly recommend staying over there as I was told the wait times for the restaurants in Boston were just crazy. We walked into a four star restaurants the day before and after the race with no wait in Cambridge. And the subway/busses are very convenient and cheap!!
So, would I do Boston again? Sure. But not next year, I don’t think. Maybe in 10 more years. J And next time, I will be sure to do more hill work. Because right now, my quads hurt, I can barely walk. And it was so worth it.