125th Boston Marathon.
Less than 2 weeks ago I had to have a stent implanted in the left anterior descending artery - the second such implant in less than 3 years for a recurrent signficant blockage. At the time, I was quite disappointed and frustrated that it would probably mean that it would not be recommended that I consider running this event so soon after the procedure. The first time around they recommended no running for 7 days and then only permitted 3 miles per day for 6 weeks. But much to my surprise, both of my cardiologists said that with as much running as they were aware that I have been doing - they said that as long as I was feeling up to it, they saw no undue risk in my participation in the Boston Marathon.
Honestly I was a little bit nervous about how I would be feeling and frankly whenever I told people that I was running so soon after the procedure, they were understandibly either surprised that my doctors were onboard with it, amazed that I would be able to recover so quickly, or questioned whether it would be too risky. But I did see my cardiologist on Friday who confirmed the "green light" to participate and wished me good luck.
Each day of running post procedure has been an incremental improvement. However, I could feel that I was not fully there yet to how I would normally feel, fitnesswise a few days before race. In fact on Saturday morning - in an "easy" run of about 4 miles - I was running about 8:45 pace - but my HR was proably a good 15 bpm faster than I would normal see on that type of an effort a few days before the event. It was way better than it was 5 days earlier, but I expected to have a difficult time running any type of pace below 8 mins per mile on race day without my HR being near threshold. And I really did not want to push myself into anaerobic HR - which for me is around 161-163 bpm, so soon after the procedure - at least not for any signficant period of time in the race (e.g. like maybe in the last few hundred yards or on the hills of Newton).
In any event, things turned out a bit better for much of the race than I had expected.
Due to COVID - the race directors set up some new protocols. Everyone was required to have proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test in order to pick up a race number. A wrist band was affixed and was required to be worn the whole weekend until after the race as confirmation of the above. Aside from the elite competitions, the remainder of the participants would not have a traditional corrall/wave line up at the start. Everyone was assigned a bus pick-up time from Boston Common - and then when your bus arrived at Hopkinton - you were shuttled about a mile to the starting area, and told that you could begin when you were ready - in a rolling start fashion after the elite competitors' races had all commenced.
I arrived about 15 mins early for my bus pick up time, and ended up loading onto a bus with folks who were in the bus pick up wave ahead of my schedule - each of them having red bib numbers and mine was white. The bib numbers and colors were to correspond to the qualifying times - with the faster qualifiers being given early pick up times. So, when I got to the starting area - the men's elite race was just about to start, and then the volunteers asked that the red bib numbers be allowed to roll into their starts, before the white bibs. I probably had about 10 mins standing to the side before we were permitted to begin.
In a way, I kind of liked that approach. No lengthy time congregating at the middle school track infield, no standing in corrals until the race gun goes off, no long speeches or instructions. I did however miss chatting in the corrals to runners around me, and listening to the national anthem and generally getting excited for the race to start.
Once I was underway, I ran completely by feel for the first few miles - as my garmin watch was not synced well with the mile markers for autolapping at every mile - (in some places it was as much as .40 miles behind) all I used the watch for was to check on my HR. Unfortunately because I kind of started with the faster qualifiers, I really did not have the opportunity to latch onto a group of runners to settle into a pace. I felt like I was being passed by runners or being left in the dust by those in front of me. So that meant I just had to run my own race.
I knew that I was running sub 8 min pace early and I did my best to keep the HR at or sliightly above 150. But I was so excited to be there and was really enjoying how well I was feeling - that I allowed myself to just run at a perceived comfortable effort - and if on occassion it felt a little uncomfortable, I would check the watch and generally it would show my HR creeping up close to 157 or 158 and I would back-off for a few minutes.
There was some drizzle before the start and low cloud cover for the early part of the race, but it was humid and in the low to mid 60's with forecasts to bring in some sun and clouds and low 70's. As a result I knew I would likely pay for my early exhuberance when I had to start climbing the hills after mile 16 and the temperatures would begin to rise.
As I had expected, but had optimistically hoped would not happen, my efforts up the hills, though measured and conservative, caused my HR to push all the way up to 163 and by the time I crested Heartbreak at Boston College, the sun was out and I was a bit cooked. At that point I had 5 or so miles left, and decided to back-off partly because I really was starting to feel the wheels coming off (and it was less of a choice) and partly because I was concerned about putting too much pressure on my cardio system. So when I got to perhaps mile 23, I even walked a little bit to allow the HR to drop down and then I did so again at least 2 more times before the finish.
With less than a mile to go, I heard my daughter Riley call out my name as we went under the tunnel/overpass just before the turn onto Hereford Street and looked up to see my wife and waved to her as well. I soaked in the last half mile down Boylston at a pedestrian effort - but happy to see the finish finally in sight.
With the exception of feeling a little rough over the last few miles and slowing a bit, and given the circumstances of the recent medical procedure - was quite pleased with the result. Interestingly, I just missed a qualifying time by 31 seconds.