In the weeks (and months) leading up to Boston this year, I kept telling myself that whatever time goal I decided to push for on race day would be at least partially weather dependent. Having run a crazy hot Boston in 2012 and two warmer than ideal ones in 2013 and 2104, I knew how much weather could be a factor. But no matter what, I wanted to run steady and finish strong, unlike 2014 where I really struggled in the final miles.
So fast-forward to the night before the marathon when I was having a Zen-like moment and settled on the race mantra “patience, then strength.” Patience in the early miles where it’s way too easy to go out too fast, and strength in the late miles to finish in a way I would feel proud of.
I felt more relaxed heading into this Boston than any other. My training had been solid with lots of miles, though a little haphazard. I probably didn’t do as much tempo or marathon-specific pace work as I should have, but mixing in some long trail miles with Brody during training helped keep me focused and happy even when my motivation was sagging during the winter.
And perhaps what made me most relaxed was sharing more of this year’s Boston with friends, especially on race day. The Saturday before the race I went to the DailyMile/StrengthRunning meet up, then headed out to another get together at (former DailyMiler) Sarah and Jim’s house. Sunday morning I met Kristin, Amy and their friend Carrie for a shakeout run, followed by some coffee and Starbucks goodies. How wonderful to calm those pre-race jitters with friends!
Pam and I stayed at the Godfrey – a brand new hotel that opened only about 6 weeks prior to the race. The location was great as I was only a block from the bus pickup on race morning. I got a great night’s sleep two nights prior to race day, and a pretty decent one the night before. Race morning I met Kristin, Amy and Glenn at Boston Common, and I had a nice ride out to Hopkinton that went much more quickly than in prior years because of the excellent company.
It was warm out in Hopkinton – probably near 70 degrees with bright sun – so we all did our best to relax and stay cool until it was time to head to the start. That walk to the starting line is so surreal – I always get a little emotional seeing the crowds and thinking about the journey ahead. Glenn had to leave us a little earlier as he was in a different corral, but I was grateful to have Amy and Kristin’s company right up to the start.
And then finally, after all those months of training, we were on our way. The first mile is always a little slow with the crowds, but I still kept an eye on my pace to stick with my plan and make sure I didn’t go out too fast. The early miles rolled by quickly as they always do… my former running coach Jason was planning to be in Ashland so I kept an eye out for him, but unfortunately must have missed him in the crowd.
The first 10 miles definitely felt very warm. There’s so little shade anywhere on the course and the sun was beating down. I started hydrating early and dumped water on my head at least every couple of miles in an effort to stay cool. I also wore the same cooling arm sleeves I had at my August marathon where I qualified for Boston. Maybe they’re hocus-pocus but I swear they help! Once the wind picked up I especially noticed the difference as the water evaporated off them.
I stayed on track with my fueling, taking gels every 4-5 miles. I had also brought candied ginger with me as an alternative fuel. Ginger always helps when my stomach goes south (which is usually my biggest struggle when racing in warmer weather), and the sugar coating provides plenty of carbs. I ate all of that with about 10k to go, even though my stomach gave me almost no issues throughout the entire race.
As much as I kept an eye on my Garmin during the first two-thirds of the race, I made a conscious decision to stop looking once I headed into the Newton Hills. I decided to run by effort, and didn’t want to be disheartened looking at a slower pace over the hills. I felt like I was still running strong, and just want to keep pushing steadily to the finish. I also had a great boost seeing both Karen and Ann at mile 17 – it’s amazing how even a quick view of a friendly, familiar face can add some pep in your step.
Looking back at my splits after the fact I was really consistent throughout the vast majority of miles, though as expected I slowed a little on the hillier ones. But I continued to pass a lot of people who were really struggling all the way through the last 5+ miles. And as is always true with me for any marathon, but especially for Boston, I continued to get emotional and well up with tears as I pushed through to the finish.
As I neared the finish I saw Pam, Karen, Brian and Sarah cheering from their spot at Max Brenner’s, where they had been all day. So I crossed the finish line feeling strong and pleased with how I pushed through the final 10k, but then I looked at my Garmin and saw 3:32:38. I think – well, I know – that I had this hope deep down inside that I had pushed enough to get closer to 3:30, or even under.
Ugh. I hate second-guessing myself but I couldn’t help it – should I have watched my splits? Did I leave too much out there? Why couldn’t I just be pleased with running a solid race in warmer than ideal weather? As good as I felt during the actual race, any questions or self-doubt came afterwards and left me struggling a bit. I was questioning my strategy but then also being hard on myself for not just being pleased with how I ran! Double whammy.
Just a few short hours after the marathon Pam and I boarded a plane to California to enjoy a trip she won for all her hard work at Comcast. I was grateful to have some time to think and it gave me a little perspective.
So after a little over a week of contemplation, here’s what I arrived at:
- I ran a really strong race. I did exactly what I set out to by staying patient early on and finishing strong.
- No – I didn’t run a PR. Maybe I could have. And it’s ok to be disappointed, but it’s not ok to let that cloud such a great experience and I won’t. Numbers should definitely not dictate what you derive from an experience like Boston.
- Especially after being there in 2013, Boston will always be so much bigger to me than just another marathon. I’m lucky and honored to be able to run there and run well. Family, friends, fans, volunteers and the entire city make running Boston an unforgettable experience.
Onward. I’ll be back.