26.2 – My fifth running of the tremendous race in Boston, this time it was held in October. The April version was delayed until Columbus Day as a result of all the covid virus mitigation efforts. I’ll remember this as the “baby” Boston Marathon.

The preparation for this one happened throughout our summer. And this year, we had a hot one! So many of the runs were in very humid conditions, no breeze, it was a challenge to get them in and at the right intensity. I started the training in early July, and did October come fast? Yes! I had one period of about 4 days where I felt my lower glute & hamstring on the left side were injured, so I laid off the training for almost a full week. It kind of fit in with the week of lull I’d normally have in a Boston marathon training cycle. I’d do the February A1A race, have a week off, then resume the spring marathon training. So that break wasn’t an issue, but it did allow whatever was perking up time to heal.

We had a really fun group traveling up for this one. Jen Castro, Nina Montez, Lilia Drew, Gary Walk (who I never saw) Nicole Foster, Kim Dahlmeier, Sandra & Pete Holahan, Regina Goolsby, Rick Mongeau and a few others from our area. I flew with Kim on Friday, arranged to get our Covid vaccine verification done very soon after landing, then visiting the expo for packet pickup, which was fun and easy. The expo was very small this year, shaved down from the large event that usually takes almost a day to pour through. This year, baby Boston delivered a handful of vendor booths from the major sponsors. Maurten, Gatorade, Sam Adams, MarathonFoto, Abbott World Majors, and Poland Springs. We saw everything and took some photos in the booths, many of the vendors would offer free Boston backdrop photos in exchange for your email to market towards.

What began as having a drink next to the expo turned into a great night with Kim, Ben and Nicole. They had just arrived also and were nearby to the convention center. The meal at Del Frisco’s was great, as were the laughs and conversation!

The first two nights were spent at the Embassy Suites near the airport. It is an easy to get in and out of area with a T subway station located right across a large grassy baseball & soccer field. I purchased a $40 Charlie ticket on Friday, that lasted the whole weekend. It was one quick change of trains and I was right where I needed to be. The finish line area and Copley Square was the covid vaccination checkpoint site – plus the “Fan Fest.” Fan Fest was live music, interviews with pros and supplier & vendors. Kim and I went to Tracksmith upon getting the vax bracelets, they were giving out tote bags with Tracksmith socks, stickers and goodies. They really do it well for this race!

Saturday I did a short run with Kim on the Charles River – the weather was cooler than home but I felt the heavy & humid air. With a small expo to browse, we went into town and saw the finish line area, Marathon Sports, back to Tracksmith and another look at the expo. Kim’s family was arriving in the afternoon, so we did things runners would appreciate until then. Once she went back to meet them at their hotel, I met Sandra and Pete, had a dinner, and returned to the Embassy Suites.

Heroes of Instagram annual photo

Sunday morning I met Jen, Kaitlyn and Kim near the finish line for a run on the final miles of the course. We met all of the “Heroes of Instagram” runners (as I call them) and Garmin reps first, took a large group photo, and then did our own run. While waiting, I saw Jordan Hasay run by – quick and without anyone else saying anything. I told our group, we watched her glide down Boylston Street heading towards the Convention Center. We didn’t wait for the Instagram group to start, we did our own route down Boylston Street into the residential neighborhood near Fenway Park, then on to Commonwealth Ave to return on the course. Moments after starting, Jordan Hasay came right back down the street at us! I say a quick “Hi” and ”good luck” to her. Our small group liked the run and peek at the course. When we finished, Jen wanted to run more miles and Kim went back to her family. I went to Pavement Coffee across the street from Tracksmith with Kaitlyn. We waited there and at Tracksmith for Jen to finish. We found Sandra and Pete in there as well. Jen & I got a nice photo with Mary Cain, who was welcoming runners at the door. That is always a neat place to hang around in the buildup to the race. They had special “Major Marathons” and Boston themed apparel this year. And also a new Tracksmith brewed beer!

Mary Cain and Jen

Sunday was a good day, I didn’t use too much energy, I ate a good meal, things were setting up well for the next day. We had fun as usual, taking pictures before the race and absorbing in the activity and people on Boylston Street.

Sunday afternoon had me move my things to Pete & Sandra’s hotel, the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge. I used the T line rail when I could to stay off my feet, plus I did a daily rental of the citywide Blue Bikes for a day. That helped me zip around without putting so many miles on my feet. Jen went to the airport to get Kaitlyn to her early flight home, then we met at the Boston Red Sox game. It was the first home game of the playoffs, which made for an exciting atmosphere and a long game to watch. We left after 7 1/2 innings since we had the race in the morning. The game went on for 13+ innings!

Staying at the Hyatt was nice, the upgraded suite has a large living room where I slept. There was a good view of the Charles River, Citgo sign, and Fenway Park. Just past that, the whole Boston skyline was easily visible. Getting to the hotel was easy – the Boston University central T line station was about one mile away. Blue Bike corrals were closer, and always the Uber option. I setup my race day things, chatted with Sandra, & went to bed. I didn’t fall right asleep, but it wasn’t from nerves or pre race jitters. I had everything I’d need for the race, plus clothes for afterwards all ready.

The morning was easy – Hyatt provides a shuttle bus to the Boston Common area. Sandra & I took the same coach to the BAA school bus loading zone. I convinced Sandra to come on my bus, even though her official time for her ride was later. I think this worked out well, as she had someone she knew to chat with on the near hour long ride. We were in the very last seat on the bus, next to a guy racing his first Boston Marathon. Many of the other runners left their windows open so the back seats were a cold place to sit. I put on my barrel liner plastic covering, which definitely helped keep me warm. The arrival had us leave the bus in front of the Hopkinton Middle School and walk the 3/4 mile to the start area. Many locals were out on the road, with Mass State Police and Homeland Security guards. At the intersection where the start corrals usually are were many porta pottys and the male only stand up urinals. Those are so effective at keeping the lines short – I’ve seen them in Europe, good to learn they are making their way here, too.

Sandra didn’t want to start her race with me, I began at 9:30 am. It was peculiar to start such a large race with almost no other runners jogging to the start line and hitting their watch. It seemed almost as if it were a practice run! I heard announcers repeat the rolling start by bib number instructions and saw runners with other colored bibs waiting by the side. I felt good starting, I carried a 17 oz portion of Maurten with me to use on the first few miles. I know not to run too fast down the initial hills. The sky was overcast, the temperature felt good but I noticed it was a humid day, just like what we’d normally get at home.

The first mile was done in 7:07, then I gradually lowered my pace for the next few into the 6:50s. I felt good, didn’t need to change anything, this setup was working. I went past the first two or three water stops since I had my own drink. I knew I’d have plenty of chances to get water along the route. The volunteer aid station tables are so long at this race, you can’t honestly say you didn’t have time to grab a drink at any of them. I rant through the 5k and 10k mat checkpoints, knowing I was maybe 45 – 60 seconds behind the goal pace. That was good for me, I knew the course and would be able to speed up later.

In the towns of Framingham and Natick, the crowds were out as usual. Live bands, cheering from both sides, it was a great feeling to have full participation from the locals. If this was to be a “baby Boston”  experience, I was glad the crowd part was going to be normal! I didn’t have any issues drinking the Maurten fluid or the few cups of water I took to change up the flavor. I was running well, no problems being among less people than usual on this undulating course. I remembered the last time I ran here in 2019 that mile 10 had me feeling like maybe I used up too much energy to get there? I knew my legs felt like I was working, but not like the previous year. 

Near mile 11 or 12 my stomach began to feel queasy and jostled. I had only eaten one gel so far with the drink I brought lasting me 7 miles. It was an odd feeling that came on fast. I tried taking water which didn’t do anything for or against what I was feeling. That throat weirdness I know leads to vomiting began to arise – how or why I couldn’t figure out. The last time this happened was at brutally humid A1A Marathon in February. After continuing at pace for another half mile, I knew I had to move off the road to throw up and hopefully get rid of whatever wasn’t settled in my gut. I did that, didn’t lose many seconds, and went for the first cup of water I saw being offered by a spectator. This would hopefully wash my mouth out and begin allowing me to start refueling again. I got rid of everything I had inside of me, so that
meant I was facing 14+ more miles on empty.

I tried another gel but couldn’t get that or more water to stay down. It was like my body felt the increased heartrate of running at pace and interpreted that as another vomit coming up. I did a dry heave once again and kept going. I knew the Mile 12.5 Scream Tunnel was ahead,  followed by whoever followed the ideas I gave on how to meet your family and friends at halfway in Wellesley. The girls at Wellesley College were separated from the runners this year to avoid kissing amid Covid concerns, but some reached over the new set of barricades and touched hands with the runners. That was good to see and put me in a distracted and better mood for a mile. I saw Kim’s family right where they needed to be – In front of the real estate office on the left side of the road, just before the Half Marathon timing mat in Wellesley. I waved and said “Hi” and kept going. That was the last time I felt good in the race. zI pulled over again before Mile 14 to dry heave and spit repetitively. This wasn’t going to work for me today.

My plan changed from how this would be “the best race ever” to “how do I get home from 12 miles away?” I had my phone and a credit card in my running pouch, and the course has commuter rail trains and the T line subways always next to you, such a tease! I didn’t really become tempted to stop, but I spent a few minutes considering that for $2.50 and about a ten minute ride I could be back in the city – then well positioned to cheer for everyone else. I ran when I could, looking to jog or walk when I thought my heart was pounding and ready for another dry heave. I mixed in the runs, not trying to keep the goal pace but wanting to move well and cross each mile off one by one.

I stopped for water a few times, took one or two small Gatorade cups, and kept going down the road. I did try to pickup and run whenever I saw race photographers around – but then reverted to going slow again once I passed them. I can say I saw more of the course and its surroundings than in any of my previous races here. I wasn’t very annoyed or dismayed, maybe I was still surprised that on a day that had been earmarked for such a great race, things were already over and done with. I never had imagined I’d be walking and jogging up ANY of the Newton Hills. I did both. I interacted with the well-wishes of fans and spectators who encouraged me to go on, not stop, keep running, etc. They saw the “Palm Beach Roadrunners” logo on my head & chest, so without knowing my name that became my moniker. It really seemed plenty longer to get to each mile marker. My watch slipped in to “low battery” mode maybe past the 21st mile. The run/jog/walk up Heartbreak Hill was uneventful. The sun started coming out on the hill of mile 19. I heard the crowd encouraging me not to walk, but knew it wasn’t going to change much. I rambled on, cresting the first “false flat” spot near the top of the hill then finally the real top near the Boston College campus. There weren’t any chalk markings on the street as in previous years, nor were there any signs or inflatables signifying “The Heartbreak is Over.” I came down that next hill and on to the gradual downhill slope where the T rail line is directly next to you on the left side. I noticed how the volunteers shifted the course from left to right to allow the train riders to cross the street as the race continued on the same road. I smelled cooking, bar-be-ques, and heard plenty of music. It’s along straightaway through Brookline, now I noticed others walking and making forward progress at less than their ideal running pace. It’s shady on some of this road, I tried to stay on that side of the street. I wasn’t warm, but by course of habit I stayed out of the sun when I could.

In the familiar section of Brookline where I had stayed a few years before, I tried to make a deal with myself to make it up the overpass hill before Kenmore Square. I may have made it most of the way, but I walked through the water stop at the top of the hill. Running down again I saw Sandra going by in the middle of the course. She was working hard but still going string. I thought calling out to her as I was going so slow may encourage her to stop – so I didn’t say anything. As she passed, I figured maybe I could run with her, catch up, and get in the finish line pictures with her. That idea was quashed quickly, as I couldn’t match her pace and I watched her run away in to the big crowd of spectators in Kenmore Square. I made more efforts to run to this sign, that traffic light, etc. I went down under Massachusetts Avenue and made those final two Hereford & Boylston Street turns on to the finish line straightaway. I wasn’t going to try a last-dash sprint to finish, I just wanted to run to that line and finally be done. I noticed all of the familiar places along the road we had walked past so many times in the last few days. I finished and was very relieved I could slow and walk as much as I wanted now.

I found Patty Hanley and hew friends volunteering with the finisher’s medals. So neat to know someone that does this every year! Her usual spot was off this time, since the first set of volunteers had face masks instead of the usual water then medals. The weather had warmed but there was a breeze, I could see that getting the shiny mylar blanket would be a good idea. I left the finisher’s corral, got my bag of checked clothes and went to the Stuart & Berkeley Ave intersection. No Back Bay Center massages this time, that building was sealed up. I was at the beginning of the Family Meet Area, so I took off my shoes, spread out my things and started checking on the others that would be finishing soon. I didn’t have Ben Foster or Mark Dahlmeier’s phone numbers, so I relied on the app to figure out what others were doing. I saw them finish – first that Sandra had a new PR of 3:22 – a time that would give her a top ten age group finish for the day! Jen Castro was speeding up – running a 1:44 first half capped by a 1:40 finishing half! She credited that to her daughter texting her mid race. Jen could see the texts on her watch, Kaitlyn apparently told her mom to, “Pick up the pace!” Kim was expected in just under 3:30, her origianl goal time. She finished in 3:28:30 while also achieving a negative split for the day’s effort! Nicole defied her injury and didn’t walk the whole way to finish in just over 4 hours.

I met Jen first, then Kim, Sandra & Pete, Nicole and Ben, followed by Ian Kulin. It was a nice afternoon and we took a few photos and some got a few things at the Adidas BAA tent right next to us. Our locals had a great day! I wanted to get away from the race crowd of people, but as was the case many places were closed for good or just not open yet for the day. Familair Giacomo’s opened at 5 pm, It was still not even 3:00 yet. I took Jen, Sandra and Pete to the Corner Tavern off Massachusetts Avenue. They hadn’t ever been there before, it’s a small basement bar with no runners, just locals watching sports on the TVs and drinking. Our entry, complete with finisher medals and race jackets, led to a standing ovation, cheers and high fives from these happy folks! We had a few drinks, some shared an appetizer, and we left nearly two hours later to the same happy cheers and congratulatory patrons. We went to a bar way across town believing we could see Gary Walk, Lilia and Rick Mongeau, they had already left by the time we arrived. Kim and her family were staying across the street so I notified them and they cam to meet us before going to a big dinner at – the same Del Frisco’s steakhouse as we visited our first night in town.

We stayed there as I kept in contact with Katie McGillivary. She was updating me on Dave’s progress as he looked to complete his 49th consecutive Boston Marathon, We took our time getting up and out of the restaurant, slowly wobbling towards the finish line area again. We saw a few late finishers, then Dave came in with a few escort runners and Ron Kramer driving a lead vehicle for him. HIs family and many others met him, took some photos and congratulated him. Jen and i got in the photo below after he finished. I think our group was pleasantly surprised with how neat that “extra” race day experience was!

One thought on “2021 Boston Marathon

  1. It was very different having The Marathon in October.
    Here in New England, I’m not sure it it’s easier to train in the winter or the summer heat.
    I didn’t run this year, but my running club did the bib pickup Sunday afternoon. Always a good time!
    April is right around the corner!

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