This year’s race looked to be perfect weather for anyone traveling up from Florida. Even before the 10 day forecast could reach April 15th, it was apparent that the temps would not be too warm or too cold. Only precipitation could mess up what looked to be a wonderful day to run. I flew Sunday on a 6:15am flight to Boston, landing at 9 am. For the first time in many flights, I had two extra seats next to me. I took a fleece jacket that I planned on leaving at the start for charity and made a ball of a pillow and I stretched out to cover all three seats on my row. I don’t know if I slept any, but it beat sitting up and watching TV. I do like JetBlue’s satellite radio feature however, I spent about 30 minutes listening to that.
Arriving at Logan airport was easy, I found licensed merchandise Boston Marathon jackets on sale at 20% off in a gift shop. I couldn’t figure out why, the Expo was open (and the next stop for me) and I know they were being sold for $100 there. I bought one and called my brother to see if he wanted me to buy one for him. He declined, wanting to wait ’til he could run it to get any BAA merchandise. I took a cab to Harvard Business School, a really nice campus setting on the river. Charlotte knew I was nearby and came out to meet me and guide me up to her cousin’s apartment. He was out of state at Coachella music fest in LA for the weekend. We had a 1BR apartment with a generous couch for the stay! We took a train into the city and went to the Hynes Center for packet pickup and to see the vendor show. The Boston Expo is very well done, each supplier brings their very best personnel and gear. Great samples, things to try, it’s a great show! Charlotte and I got the numbers and packets, then bought some BAA merchandise. We met Diane Walsh and her family, they were staying nearby and had already gone to the expo. Diane and her mom cmpleted the 5k earlier Sunday morning, it was her mother’s first race ever. They were lively, fun and I looked forward to seeing them again after the race or at the House of Blues athlete party. Charlotte and I ate and drank samples, took a picture with Meb
(who was surprised when I came with my Skecher shoe off to be in the picture) and had a good few hours staying on our feet the day before the race. Yes, the shoes I wore were new, too. And I had a teeny shot of Kahlua in a root beer sample. All the signs of a successful runner flowing out of me at once!
We met Charlotte’s college roomate, Melanie, at Starbucks around the corner from the convention center. We spoke for awhile, they reconnected while I broke away and brought my phone to lululemon Newbury Street. The girls there were happy to charge it for me. I left my phone there for about an hour and went back to be with the girls again. The sky looked overcast but no rain was expected Sunday or race day. We went as a group to the lululemon store, then down by the finish line area where we took a few pictures and spoke about tomorrow’s race. I felt ready, I had no lingering problems with the right ankle that I twisted hopping over a fence in Utah. We continued down the street and found Melanie’s Liberty Mutual Building and acrross the street the John Hancock building I remembered had athlete massages and chicken soup after the race. Charlotte and I agreed to meet here after tomorrow’s run.
Next up we went by the athlete’s dinner, we had tickets for different times but it was on the way to the train we needed to take home so why not. We watched a presentation and speech by Tom Grilk (BAA President) welcoming athletes to the dinner. Then Greg Meyer, 1983 Male winner and Tom Grilk started the serving line of pasta and salad for the athletes. How very cool and impressive to be so well taken care of. The BAA does this race so well! Home on the train, gear prep, and to sleep for an early rise.
The morning was easy – we took a train right to Boston Commons, popped out of the ground and were positioned perfectly to get on a bus to Hopkinton. A mostly silent ride, Charlotte and I shared a seat on a school bus, with 65-70 others. It was cold in the bus, temps outside were in the low 40s. Arriving 50 minutes later was a surprise, 26 miles of road travel sure took longer than we thought. Much of our time in the racer prep area was spent in a porta potty line. After that, we found a pup tent setup at home plate on the middle school softball field, that made for a good photo. We began the 3/4 mi walk to the start line with thousands of other runners. Time went so quickly waiting in the athlete village. We didn’t get to the start corrals with any extra time, a quick picture of the two of us as taken by a volunteer and we split into the corrals we were assigned.
I started the race with a thought from Perry, “Don’t out-pace your corral mates before the first half.” And it makes so much sense. The folks that share your corral are there because of their similar qualifying times. I wanted to stay in complete control in the first 7 miles. I saw my Garmin flutter inaccurate pace readings as the road leaves Hopkinton through a wooded area. Before Mile #1, my watch was chiming in that I had already run a mile. So every chirp of my watch for the rest of the race would also be flawed I determined. Good to know now I said to myself. I wanted to keep a pace that would get me to the halfway point in a good time, but not use too much energy to accomplish that. I ran fully attentive, not talking with others but no iPod or distractions. I was concentrating on “feeling” my pace. I wanted things to feel correct to my legs and lungs, using checks to the Garmin to keep me within an acceptable range of speed. I drank water only, using each stop to grab fluids late in the lineup of tables. With aid stations most every mile, it was many drink exercises with no stopping – everything was done as if I was racing for the money. Prior to starting, Jessica sent me a text to the effect of,” You are a pro athlete paid torun this race, achieve what you’ve trained for today.” This was a good reminder to stay focused, which I did very well. I only spoke a few times, once to a man in the later miles who asked how I was doing, and a few times to people organizing themselves to be in good position to drink from the aid stations. I heard plenty of music, saw so many children out on the course offering “high fives,” water, cut oranges and pineapples, etc. I knew from my Miami “experiment” that only my gels and salt pills were going in before the finish line. The fruit did something nasty to my stomach in Miami and I wash risking anything on poor or unfamiliar nutrition. It’s rare that I tell people what time I’m shooting for in a race. For Boston, plenty of people knew I was running to beat 3:18. The closest people to me know even more than the PR I value a negative split effort. Today I was concentrating on both. To control myself on the early hills that bring a false pace, and to press through whatever I needed to in order to run the back 13 faster than the first half. Including the hills!
Each mile proved my Garmin to be inaccurate by an increasingly larger margin. I knew the physical mile markers for the Boston Marathon had to be accurate. I stayed with running the tangents as much as possible. This is tough in the early miles because the roads are narrow. Once I reached the 9,10 and 11 mile markers, the roads opened wider and we also found ourselves exposed to the sun. I had a good visor and glasses on, so I wasn’t affected. No significant wind was present before the 30km mark. I made sure to be “in the clear” for the photo stations along the route. They always setup a blue logo stripe in the street and a cherry picker overhead with photographers. Let’s see how that turned out. At just past mile 11, the outer part of my legs felt strained, IT bands I guess. Never in any run or workout have I felt this before. I took an Alleve pill that I had in my pouch, figuring the stress of the early downhills had beaten up my upper legs. It may have helped, I felt the same nagging on my legs later on but ran through it. At Wellesley College, the girls were out in force, great weather and funny signs included! “Kiss me I’m single,” “Don’t run by, perfect is right here,” what fun to see them reel in guys for kisses, take pictures, high five and scream again. I knew Patty Loubris and her group was waiting for me at Mile #19, so I wanted to be as fresh as I could to charge up the hills. Here’s a girl that unprovoked, over a month ago, started sending me text messgaes reminding me how many days left ’til my PR. At first I didn’t know what she was referring to with my A1a Marathon and Riverbend 5k already past me, both as successful times. I had to beleive this was possible, even in Boston, if only because she did! So many runs in practice I wondered how I could get to the hills of Boston and press up them with authority. This was the day! When I saw the signs for Newton, I knew there were 4 noticeable hills ahead. Plenty of people congregated on the sidewalks and the cheering was really good here. I saw so many chalk drawings and messages for Shalane Flanigan and references to Marblehead, her hometown. Three leaved clovers, hearts, many good wishes for the local favorite – it was neat to see these messages. The Lululemon girls were in several spots along the course. I always saw them from far back with their signs. I made my way to their side of the road and highlighted my shirt and shorts to get some loud screams. It worked every time! Coming out of their area, I found myself at a below 7 min pace, so it got me going to hear them hoot and holler. I kept thinking to run at what felt good, my pace would be true at the end if I could stay consistent up, down and on the flat areas of the course. The hills were fun this year because my holding off in the early miles worked. I went up each hill keeping or increasing my pace each time. For Heartbeak, I had enough energy to go the whole way and keep below the 7:20 – 7:30 pace that seemed to be on the watch most times I looked down. At the top, Boston College. This was the most enthusiastic crowd of the day – loud and completely engaged with the crowd for at least the next 3/4 to a mile. I ran near the right barricades, chanting, “Go Eagles” every time I wanted to hear an eruption of screams. Guys and girls, plenty with red cups lined this section of the course and were such wonderful motivation for me. The course has a nice downward slope here, lead into the big church at the bottom. It was a big help to see and hear all of these fans as I worked to equalize my breathing from the hill climbs.
The final 5 miles were concentration and work. A headwind from the east was very noticeable now. I wanted to draft behind runners taller than I. At A1A marathon, this strategy failed because there weren’t any people near me on the windy portion of the course. Here in Newton, Brookline and Boston, there were many runners. But none doing the pace I wanted to keep. First I followed a tall guy, until my Garmin and legs told me too fast. He was at 6:45 pace. Shortly after this, I stayed with a tall girl, ponytail equipped for added distraction! No good either, she was running barely below 8 minute miles. I figured and remember thinking to myself – ” No shortcuts today, you have to earn all of this one.” I ran out by myself towards the left side of the street as I hoped the miles would tick off quicker at this stage of the race. I felt some puckering in my calves and my left quad was sore, the right side felt ok. I knew that even stopping to stretch out the legs could bring a domino effect of stopping to get liquid, stopping for something else, basically, I’d start making “deals” with myself – not happening. I had been true to the idea of running non stop all day. I had less than 40 minutes to go if I held pace. I decided to keep running and risk breaking rather than play safe and tend to what bothered me. Tough going in miles 23-25 because there are some rolling hills that asked for more concentration. Whoever said you’re downhill into the city after Heartbreak Hill wasn’t from flat Florida! Anything with more incline than a driveway in the last 4 miles is a hill. In Brookline I took more water, a gel and my last Succeed electrolyte pill. The gel could give me some boost, and the salt could hold off the cramping I figured. The Citgo sign, in view for the last 20 minutes, passed on my left. Fenway Park, with its fans overflowing on the street, passed on the right. I knew I was close now. A dip under Massachusetts Ave, then a small rise to meet the street grade again and it’s time for one of the most famous turns in marathoning. Lumped in with leaving the Queensboro bridge and turning onto 1st Avenue in NYC, the quick right on Hereford Street then a left onto Boylston Street, this 90 degree turn is running lore. Paul Reback asks us to envision this as we practice intervals at track. First on to Hereford Street, you see a slight rise in the road ahead, but what dominates the view is the Hynes Convention Center. I was just there yesterday, and when I was, hoped and thought about what my condition would be like in the run at this stage of the race. The cheering is incredible, but it’s going to get louder I remember thinking. True, true and true! The left turn onto Boylston Street reveals even more people crowded against barricades, cheering for the constant stream of runners passing by. I see some in the outer lanes struggling but looking forward, head up, ready to finish. People yell out, “Good job 10139” as I pass. Often called the “People’s Olympics” for the tough qualifying standards and immense crowd participation, running in Boston is amazing. I’m living all of that right here. I began picking up my pace in the 26th mile. A glance at the watch shows I have enough time to PR in less than 1/4 mile. What does it feel like knowing this while you’re doing it? It’s an amazing sensation!!! My legs are light, my stride quickens to what probably amounted to a sub 7 min/mile pace. It’s a straightaway, gradually fading downhill, and I’m roaring towards the finish line in Boston. It looks far away when I peek forward, but it’s not a worry. The spectators are reaching out to touch the runners, so I slap hands with a few, then work my way around slower runners to the middle of the street. It’s a perfect sunny day and I am lit up with excitement. This is better than just a negative split, I have hung on to PR for the day, I know it’s going to happen and I feel incredible. Closer to the finish, a volunteer points to the two sides of the finish line and the tunnel/scaffolding bridge. I choose the north side, all the while looking at the spectators with beer cups, the “26.2 Brew” plastic ones. I think about getting the real glass ones after I finish. More happiness! People wave flags and hold up signs for their family members and friends as I pass the last traffic light and come to the line. . Two timing mats surround the painted “Boston Marathon Finish” stripe in the street. I hear my name and “Palm Beach Gardens, Florida” over the loudspeaker as I step on the timing mat and stop my watch. It’s done, I’m smiling and I’m in an unbelieveable state of mind. I look for Ann Wessling or Stephanie, either should be here right at the finish I thought? Or maybe Ian Kulin and Gary Walk, they started in the corral ahead of me? Nope, no familiar faces yet. I move under the scaffolding bridge and soak it all in. Music is blasting, names are being called out, people are partying in the bleachers and along the road. Volunteers offer help but I was fine. I spend as much time as I can still under the bridge watching others finish. The BAA and AT&T athleet tracker worked very well, my friends reported that they could see my pace thru each 5k increment of the race, with a link to also include a watching little person jogging down the street on Google Maps if you wanted! My official time was 3:17:47. The Garmin had me at 26.52 miles, which explains why each mile marker came after the watch signaled I was at a mile mark. It was a curvy, hilly, sunny, successful and most memorable run to Boston!