The Patriot’s Day weekend away was a tremendous experience. I’ll sprinkle some of that info here along with my thoughts on the race, my race buildup and post-run things.
The Boston Marathon, in its entirety, is a “cozy” event. Most of what a runner experiences (besides the eight town 26.2 mile run) all happens within a 5 block area in downtown Boston. This is not true for other large city events. We stayed at an airport hotel for the first night, then at the Park Plaza Hotel for the rest of the weekend. We had 15 or so Palm Beach Roadrunners in the race, plus family members and friends. It was a very good year for local attendance!
We visited the packet pickup and Expo on Friday afternoon. I thought it was crowded for Day #1. On the way down Boylston Street, the local news station looked to interview a few of us. These interviews were included in a lead up news piece for the Monday race. This is a link to that video…
The first event we took in was the B.A.A. 5k on Saturday morning. This was us moving the luggage from the Hilton Logan Airport to the Park Plaza Hotel at 7am, all to get to the 5k course in time to see all of the races start. We had Kaitlyn Nicholson, Margo Baltera and Elisa Yinh in the race to cheer for. I enjoyed positioning myself at Arlington & Boylston St for the spectating.It allows you to see the start of the races and the runners coming by again as they near the finish at approximately Mile 2.8.
Immediately after that we went to Fan Fest, a BAA organized area near the marathon finish line that featured live music and runner specific seminars. The panel I most wanted to see was at 10 am, the International Pro group. Featuring Edna Kiplagat, Lelisa Desisa and Peres Jepchirchir, it was a very nicely moderated discussion with these terrific athletes. Before this main group came on stage, the emcee brought Catherine Ndereba up to interview her and ask questions. Her 4 Boston victories and many other accomplishments are what many would call “unbelievable.”
Good discussion and some humor made this a great session to witness. The African mindset towards running and training is both unique and impressive.
We picked up our runner bibs and goodie bags on Friday right after we arrived, so more time at the expo was a bonus, just to walk around and see vendors, etc. We took time to switch into running clothes and do a jog along the Charles River, the weather was good and the pace was very relaxed.
We revisited the Fan Fest to see more of the speakers, then went across Copley Square to the Fairmont Copley Hotel. While at the bar, we met Jack Fultz, the 1976 Boston Marathon champ in the famous “Run for the Hoses” hot weather year. He is the coach of the Dana Farber team and had been for over 30 years. I noticed him sitting across from us, sitting with a bag full of goodies and a large media credentials badge. I spoke with him about the race, my goal time, and his Dana Farber involvement, what a nice experience. He gave me his new Boston Media jacket, that will be a nice keepsake to show up with at local events back in Florida, right?
We ate dinner with Cami and Jeff at Anchovies – good laughs and good food. I’ve had some good nights here at this bar & restaurant, no exception this year…
I had a great night’s sleep Saturday. I woke up at 5:30 am Sunday all rested & ready to go outside. It was cooler weather but I knew that in the sun and on a short run I’d warm up. Yesterday Chic-Fil-A was a good reliable breakfast. But not today. They are closed Sundays, especially Easter!
Sunday was a meetup at the Finish Line for photos and a shakeout run. I like to take our first timers for a jog that finishes with the final 1.25 miles of the course. Everyone enjoys that and says it’s a help on race day – the familiarity of where they’ll be going, etc.
Some of Sunday was spent at the hotel, off my feet, getting things ready for the race. How to pin the bib on your singlet straight, doling out nutrition products properly, making sure I have the right socks to pair with my shoes, all important elements. We ate at a small restaurant on Boylston St, which made for an easy T subway ride back to the hotel. I drank Pedialyte starting before dinner and after the meal, leaving it by the nightstand so I could use it if i woke up. That works well for me.
Race morning I was up & went to the lobby area where the hotel provided coffee & oatmeal. That was quick, I wanted to have something in my system with a start time of 10am. I gathered my things and met Daniel for the bus ride. Our hotel bus took us to Hopkinton where we switched to a B.A.A. bus for the last 1 mile ride to the Athlete village.
I haven’t been to the Athlete Village since 2013. I’ve had friends take me to the start area, I’ve worked on the Start line crew, so this was good to be among the thousands of athletes getting ready for the race. Upon arrival, an announcer was perched in a scaffolding directing the runners by wave to the correct schoolyard. He had great one-liners and was a welcome sound if you were nervous about the run. Daniel & I visited a porta potty first, then settled down on cardboard boxed we had brought to avoid the cold & wet grass field. We watched the other red wave runners, saw their low numbers and spoke with a few of them. One guy sitting next to us with a 3 digit number trained in Northern Alberta all winter. Because of Covid, the gyms were closed, so he did his runs outdoors in -30 to -45 degree weather.
(I guess I can’t complain about our humidity anymore.)
When it was my time to leave for the start, I kept all of my throw-away clothes on. Arriving at the village, the temperature was in the high 30s. It was nice in the sun, wrapped in warm towels & such. I walked with my wave & corral group to the start area, took a minute to shed the warm gear, including my gloves & hand warmers. I was now clothing committed to run as if the temps were in the 60s.
I saw the two Air Force planes fly over for the beginning of the Elite Men’s race. I lined up in my corral 7 for the first wave. I only had to stand around for less than 10 minutes until we were underway. A real big crowd of spectators, for a really excited group of runners. This was Boston back to normal!
(in present tense)
I’m jogging towards the Start line at 10am. From corral seven it takes me 5 minutes to cross the start line and start my Coros watch. It’s exciting as always to roll over the line with a large crowd cheering and the familiar blue and yellow banners everywhere. I see helicopters overhead, I’m certain they are covering MY progress for the live NBC Sports feed, right? I get into the downhill section and quiet area before Ashland and things are fine. I’m not cold, I am not among a crowd that will be in my way, and the sun is coming through the trees as I run east. My first mile is run in 7:02. That’s good, I didn’t buy into the “go too fast thing.” I can make up a few seconds easily.
I like entering and passing through each of the towns because the fan noise picks up significantly. I am running between 6:45 – 6:50 per mile pace. I really am pleasantly surprised that my breathing isn’t so labored as it would be in FL. I don’t have to weave through too many runners, I am moderately paying attention to running the tangents. There isn’t a cloud out in the sky, but I don’t feel like I’m too exposed to the sun. I go through Framingham well, still at my goal paces. I took a Maurten gel 30 minutes before the start, then a caffeinated one at mile 8. I am sipping The Right Stuff from a bottle I carry on my belt. This race is right on plan so far.
I keep the proper sub 3 hour marathon pace only until mile 10. Natick. The next two miles I am dipping in pace and I don’t know why. It hasn’t become warmer, hilly, or more crowded. I’m not having any pain, and I don’t feel anything odd in my stomach. It is as if my legs are further down the course already.
I enter Wellesley, usually this is exciting because I’ll run past the college girls screaming and then run into town, where I hope to see someone I know on the left side of the road. I eat another Maurten gel, no problems with that or the water following it. The Scream Tunnel is good, but my thoughts are, “I think it has less people screaming than I remember.” I go past that, smiling as some of the signs are funny and I like the enthusiasm. I watch a few guys go to the side for a kiss – someone has something to TikTok about later today!
I go into town, realizing I am not on sub 3 hour pace but the race is still only half way. I don’t see Kim’s family or Daniel’s wife & parents, I thought maybe they’d be there by now. I started 50 minutes before Kim, so they didn’t have to rush to get there for my wave. It’s very sunny out now and I feel good, but each glance at my watch shows I am slowing down each mile. My legs do feel heavy, this feeling is not favoring one side, both legs are tired. I don’t know how because I’ve done the training and haven’t skipped long runs. I did A1A marathon 8 weeks ago in much warmer weather.
I am drifting off pace and losing enthusiasm fast. I know this is MUCH better weather than anything we had at home for training. My legs are really entering a slog phase, I am losing 10-15 seconds per mile. I realize I am not going to gallop faster on these legs for the remaining 11 or twelve miles. I am running in the “quiet” part of Wellesley, when you are next to the train track for the commuter rail service. That’s mile 14 to 15. Mile 15-16 feels better, it has a nice downhill so that makes my pace look better. I feel my legs more & more, I am discouraged knowing I will not be able to get back on the 6:50 pace. I’ve had a failure somewhere physically, and now my mood is crashing, too. I might as well walk through the water stops and get a drink, stretch my legs, etc. I’m not in the terrible distressed situation I was in October, but I’m not really excited about showing up for a substandard time – again. I won’t bust my ass to finish with a 3:15. I’m going to just run and eat when I want, walk through the aid stations, whatever.
I’m not in a great place.
I do more running towards Newton and stay with others for short bits of road, then I slow or stop to stretch. I don’t know when stopping, which is a small form of quitting, became acceptable, I’m just ready to be done, and I’m approaching the hills at Mile 17-21. I jog up the first one, no stops. The next one I take my time and stop to drink pickle juice as offered by a spectator, complete with a chaser of water. It is a nice day, I notice and feel the headwind now. I am WAY more aware and capable of running than when I was here 6 months ago. There are more fans, and the hills are decorated with chalk markings in the street. I remember in past Boston Marathons reading “Go Shalane” and similar cheers, this year I can’t really make out what any of the messages say.
The large “Heartbreak is Over” inflatable sign is up again on Boston College grounds. Now I get to go downhill. Still my legs feel like I am finishing the race, not rambling to the 21 mile mark. I like seeing the BC kids with their red solo cups, all partying and cheering for us runners. I didn’t take a gel from the Mile 22 Maurten station, I ate one of mine and tried to stay on the correct side of the road for the tangents. It was windy now and I noticed the white bibs passing me. I knew that was coming, I’ve been that person before. I think to myself that if I finish in under 3:35, I will be that again, the second wave person catching the faltering red bibs late in the race. In Boston 2024.
In the last 3 miles of the race, I run some, walk when I wanted to, and slapped hands with some fans on the right side of the road. In Brookline, I like to watch how the race officials use the cones and the string to get passengers from the Green Line T off the train and across the road. I’m getting closer to Boston city limits and I know I’m getting closer to being really done (versus how I feel). When I get to the St Mary’s T station, I am near where I stayed in 2017 as a spectator. I’ll see the Dunkin Donuts on the right, and more importantly, the little hill that rises above the train tracks at 40km. Once I get over that, it’s Mile 25, then the Citgo sign, and two turns from home.
I run through that very boisterous section and towards the Mass Pike “Boston Strong” overpass. Then I finally see the first person I know in the race – Pete Holahan on the side of Commonwealth Ave near the Eliot Hotel. He’s yelling my name and I can really hear it. I go down under Mass. Ave and up again, I know Daniel’s family was supposed to be on Hereford Street, I want to be running, not walking for that. It’s ok, I am very close and minutes from finishing. I turn onto Boylston Street and run to the finish. I hear all the crowd cheers and know I won’t cramp – it’s just a 400m jog in to the finish line. This year, I don’t hear my name being called, kind of appropriate, it isn’t a great performance. It’s very sunny out and I know what to do once under the photographer’s bridge.
Finishing time - 3:33:08
I go left and like in October, I don’t see Patty Hanley at the CVS – things are moved back a bit and now medals are distributed on BOTH sides of each chute. Patty is on the left side of the leftmost chute. I have her place my new unicorn medal around my neck and she takes a photo to send to me. I am ok to walk around, I pose for one of the B.A.A. backdrop photos. I get one of the mylar sheets to wrap around me, now that I’m in the shade among the buildings, it’s getting colder & the wind is blowing. I’ll just walk straight down Boylston St to Arlington and go to my hotel. I can check on the status of everyone else plus put on warmer clothes to come back out to meet everyone.
I wandered around the Family Meetup area but couldn’t find my friends. Pete & Sandra had already left, Kim was finished but her family hadn’t seen her yet, Daniel also finished but probably meeting his wife and parents. Maureen finished and returned to the hotel.
We had a 6 pm dinner reservation at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse. Because it was still prohibitive to get around the course area since there were runners still going, Maureen and I couldn’t meet Pete, Sandra, Mike and Rick at the Corner Tavern as planned. Instead, we took our finisher medals to the Under Armour store right above Del Frisco’s for engraving. The line wasn’t long, we gave them the medals, wandered around the Prudential Center Mall for 30 minutes, and came back to pick them up.
Dinner was good – spent with Maureen, Kim, Kim’s mom & stepdad, Kat Gorman and her daughter Emma. Maureen and I left right before the group ordered dessert. I wanted to see Dave McGillivary’s 50th finish. His wife had kept me up to date on the progress of his marathon run, and time was getting close to him finishing.
We saw that happen at just before 8 pm at the Finish line. Kim joined us after Dave’s finish, after a few attempts to enter bars that were closing or WAY too loud with lousy music, we went to Dillon’s. A drink or two there and it was time to take the subway back to the Park Plaza Hotel.
On Tuesday morning, it was time to pack and get my bags out of the room. Maureen, Kim and I went to the Tracksmith store to get our posters stamped. After that, we slow walked Newbury Street and Boylston Street, stopping and looking at whatever we wanted. Our plan was to visit the North End, eat Regina’s Pizza, pastries and cannolis, and dabble in the touristy things in Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall. We met Pete, Sandra, Jackie and Mike for that. Some of them had an earlier flight, already declared as “delayed.” My flight was at 7:40 pm, there were no delays and an easy way back home.
Overall, my long weekend trip was wonderful. I would have thought coming back home with a faster finishing time would have made it complete, but I didn’t and the weekend was still great. I’ll re-calibrate and adjust training to improve. I won’t abandon everything, because I had a good training season with no injuries. It needs to be tuned as does my mental side after a few lackluster performances in races where I should have run better. I’m still optimistic I can score better, run faster and continue to grow.
Brain dump: 100% completed…..