The Boston Marathon takes place right around tax time on Patriots Day I believe they call it. Hard to believe that in my first three marathons I had taken 42 minutes time off my initial race time and now was running in the famous Boston Marathon.
One thing that I had not done was travel a longer distance to a marathon. I invited one of my running athletes with me and his parents were supportive of him coming and helping me on the route. He was a good runner, so I thought the experience might inspire him as well. It was tough finding a room and we stayed far from the starting area in a very poor place for an expensive price. I don’t believe we even had locks on the room and the beds were horrible. We laughed a lot about just how terrible it was.
At the same time the marathon was going on the dot.com crash was occurring and being a novice in the stock market, I was getting slaughtered and I wasn’t even able to monitor it. Oh well…easy come easy go. The race starts at Hopkinton and finishes at Copley Square in the heart of Boston. I knew little about the course, but had heard a lot about Heartbreak Hill, so I did a lot of hill training. In all honesty, it doesn’t compare to the hills I ran in my hometown of Orting. It does occur in the second half of the race and at that time any hill is tough. Even a bump!
Boston can be cold or hot at this time of year, so I had to be prepared for both. It was tricky trying to tell Ryan, the young runner, where to be on the course and how we would connect later because I wasn’t sure. He had to navigate on the subway if I recall correctly. For such a large event, I was unimpressed by how it was organized. We had to take school busses from downtown very early in the morning and the race didn’t start for a few hours. One had to wait to get on a cramped school bus and then travel around 45 minutes to the starting area. So by the time you arrived at the starting area you had been out for about two hours. It was very cold! The ground was very hard due to the low temperatures. Once at the site, there was nowhere to sit, so you had to sit on hard, cold ground. Thousands (around 15,000) runners were sitting around waiting and freezing. It seemed like a very long wait. I had gloves and a hat, but I was cold. Terrible way to prepare for a marathon. I had traveled across the country, been taking care of a teenager and then freezing in the elements. I was exhausted before the race began. I was very apprehensive.
One of the cool things about modern racing is you have a timing chip on your shoe. Via this chip, people could log on the computer and watch your progress throughout the race. That was pressure! I knew family, friends and my athletes would be watching and I was exhausted before the start. For the race, you are put in pens based on your qualifying time with the fastest starting first. Makes sense. People were urinating in bottles while waiting for the start. It seemed like an interminable wait.
When we started, it was starting to warm up and the gun went off. It took about a minute to even reach the starting line. During the first several miles, I had little energy in my body, but I was trying to meet the times I had determined for each mile. I was doing fine, but it was taking too much energy. If you feel like it is hard work after only five miles, you are probably in trouble. At around that time I was getting warm, so I took off one of my shirts and got rid of it. The thousands of pieces of clothing discarded go to a charity. I was too hot. Almost as soon as I had tossed my clothes, the weather got dark, cold and windy. It was a tremendous wind and about 40 degrees. I became cold quickly. I just told myself I had to get to mile 16 where Ryan was going to meet me with a mocha, cold. I was worried he would get lost without me. If I had to quit, I had to quit. I was really struggling. However, I just kept thinking to take it one mile at a time. I did reach the midway mark at a 3 hour pace, so my goal of three hours was possible, but I was dying already.
One thing I started for this race is something I called tiered goals. My first goal was always to make it to the starting line healthy. Many athletes overtrain and get hurt and don’t make it to the starting line. My second goal was to finish. My third goal to go under four hours, my next goal was to set a personal best, which would be under the 3:07:22 I ran in Portland. My ultimate goal was to go under three hours. This was something I did for all races. I did it because if you have only the one goal and you realize during the race that you won’t reach your goal it is somewhat devastating. In this way you can always experience some success.
The crowds are huge for the Marathon. They say around 500,000 come out and I can say that the cheering does give you energy like no other race I have been in. When going up one hill I was a little bit unnerved as it sounded like a plane was taking off. In fact it was all the female students from Wellesley college cheering. It was pretty inspiring to see all of these women cheering….I picked up my pace for a moment, but that was a mistake because it costs energy. Soon I was so cold I felt my face freezing. I remember touching my forehead to see if I could feel it. Barely. Ryan did meet me at mile 16 with the mocha in a plastic bottle, but I could not open it because my hands were so cold. I said run with me. He ran in his jeans for a while. He asked what he could do and I just said, talk to me. He stayed with me briefly and then Heartbreak Hill was coming. I said out loud, “”F Heartbreak Hill”” and charged up it. I don’t remember a lot the rest of the way, but it was pure survival. I always push my hardest those last few hundred meters because it may be the difference in a place or breaking my personal record and so on. I have to give it all. I was frozen. I was given my medal and wrapped in the survival blankets that they always provide. I was mainly concerned with locating Ryan.
I had finished in3:05:11. It was my personal best. Pretty remarkable considering all of the variables against me. I learned that you can overcome tremendous difficulties via mental strength and weather conditions are no excuse to run slower. I was proud that I had overcome so many things. As we walked around Boston the next day it was nearly impossible for me to go down stairs because my muscles hurt so bad. This made Ryan laugh a lot because I would moan in pain. Boston was pretty cool. It was seeming too easy. I had dropped my time in every race. Now I wanted to break three hours. It seemed very reachable. Little did I know how hard it would be. Stay tuned for the rough road ahead.