The 125th Boston Marathon!
Weather: 65 at the start with clouds, 73 at the finish with sun, light headwind the whole way but the wind was not bad. 5-10mph. It was definitely humid, but compared to Florida, it could definitely be worse.
The Course: Everyone knows Boston. Downhill start, rolling hills from 15-21, best crowd possible (half capacity due to Covid), and the field was limited to only 20,000 participants (normally 33,000+).
Training: Mileage was great. I did not do as much marathon-specific speed stuff as I would normally, but I was running with a group all going to Boston, so it was worth it to help them hit their goals. For top-end speed, I had a couple of good workouts, but nothing like my last marathon. My weight was the biggest issue overall- 20 pounds over my racing weight at the start line, which is a big yikes. My diet was very poor for the duration of the cycle, so I suppose I had the weight issue coming!
Pre-race: Almost didn't get to Boston at all! Flight got delayed from 9:00am Saturday until 3:00am Sunday and was eventually cancelled. Thankfully, Jenni is a genius and we flew in to Providence and rented a car instead and made it around noon. Nightmare. As for the start of the race, logistics were much different this year. Normally you go on the awful school bus ride for an hour and then sit around for 3 hours in a tent with food, drinks, toilets, and plenty of time/space to warm up and get your head straight. This year you did the same awful ride, but the moment you got to the start you were ordered into a one mile march to the start. We hopped off the bus at 8:35 and the race was set to go off at 9:00, so really just had enough time to jog, go to the restroom, throw off my mask and walk up the hill to the start line. It did not have the feel or excitement of Boston at all in the beginning. I can't believe those words just came out of my head.
The Race: The gun went off and I was only 15 seconds behind the front with John and Darek at my side about ten rows from the start. The pros were already gone, so we got quite close even without the normal corrals. Jeremy and Steve were somewhere back behind us and I didn't see them at all since I got on the bus. Darek and John were also gone almost immediately when we crossed the line as I navigated around an unusual sight for a Boston marathon start line- slow runners. They really should have just done the corrals. The first half mile- which should be the fastest of the race- was easily my slowest at a 6:35/mile pace. Anyway, it wasn't an issue after the first mile, fortunately.
Miles 1-11: Downhill for a couple of miles and then uneventful. The lack of crowd from normal was very noticeable and sad. This is always the leanest part of the race, but there were quite a few stretches of no spectators at all. Oh well. Cruising and breathing easy. Splits- 5:45, 5:45, 5:46, 5:37, 5:47, 5:39, 5:37, 5:40, 5:41, 5:44, 5:42.
Miles 12-14: Wellesley girls are so insanely loud. It really is amazing coming up on them and hearing them so far off. No one doing any kissing this year, but this section was still awesome and impossible to hold back a smile. I really started enjoying myself when I started seeing groups of people. That's what makes this race special. The crowd is just unbelievable. Splits- 5:43, 5:36, 5:37.
Miles 15-18: I came through the halfway at 1:14:43, so I obviously at some point decided I was going to go for a 2:29 marathon time. I've never done Boston at the speed, so it was weird being effectively single file with gaps between runners. Usually it's shoulder to shoulder. I don't really know what I was thinking picking that goal. I haven't raced something at 5:43/mile pace in forever, we had trained all summer to go a 2:38-2:39, and we literally zero of my marathon workouts were faster than 6:00 pace, but it truly did feel easy. My heart rate was holding steady, so I figured just keep an eye on the heart rate and feel and make decisions that way. I was starting to feel a twinge in my hamstrings, but I had felt the same way during my other marathons so I didn't think much of it. How on earth can my hamstrings hurt doing downhill running? Turns out they can! A mile later, I knew it was going to be an issue. The cramping was dull and manageable, until I started to pick up the pace. I was latched on to two "OK Runners" who were wearing team singlets and a guy from Colorado for basically the first 13 miles, but I hit the water stop and just couldn't stop the hammies from misfiring when I sped up. The hills start really rolling here, but they're not as bad as people think. Splits- 5:45, 5:45, 5:45, 6:04.
Miles 19-21: I sadly lost contact with the group I was running with and my gosh, my hamstrings were fire. I was taking nutrition and had two salts, but it just wasn't enough. My heart rate was good, so I tried speeding up after hearbreak but I immediately almost locked up, so I calmed it back down. My hamstrings just couldn't handle the high kick-back anymore. Splits- 5:59, 6:05, 6:24 (heartbreak hill).
Miles 22-26.2: My heart rate was slowing way down now, so I decided to try and speed it back up after the Newton hills. Nope. I just would lock up each time I tried. This was disappointing only in he sense that I know I had much more in me. This was definitely frustrating in hindsight, but the crowd is just so unbelievable here that you don't really care. I truly can't help but smile from Boston College onwards to the finish. It really is an unprecedented experience. Now definitely missing a 2:29 goal, I relaxed and just enjoyed the last two miles, soaking it all in. I was whooping up the crowd, smiling, and people watching which was fun. You literally raise your arms and they start cheering harder, it's wicked. Even if I was just raising my arms to stretch them out, they'd still get louder!
I did muster a nice little finish at the end, although I could feel each leg locking on each step the moment I chose this. Then again, I'm on pure adrenaline at that point so who cares, :) right? Splits- 6:03, 6:06, 5:58, 6:26, 6:22, 1:11 (5:22/mi pace). 2nd half marathon split- 1:19:00.
Final time 2:33:43, (5:51/mile pace)
After-Thoughts: Well, I didn't hit 2:29, but I suppose Boston is never a good choice to nail that kind of time... unless you're in some awesome form and not running in the flattest state for training. If I were to run it again, I would add a TON more treadmill training for hills, I would also do some downhills. Although my quads, calves, and glutes feel fine, there's obviously something I overlooked in the chain causing the hamstrings to falter so poorly. It's entirely possible I've just been over-developing the quads and compounding the issue with gym stuff- squats and calf raises. The weight has got to come off as well- that definitely did not do me any favors. Even at a second per pound, I'm looking at a pr left on the table. Lastly, speed. I can tell what I did last time worked way better. Interval sessions > tempo sessions all day. Then again, I'm happy I tried training a different way. Can't get better if you don't change things up every once in a while! I did love the double long-run on the weekends however. That ended up being pretty fun.
The best part: Finished the day watching the Red Sox put the Rays out of their misery in game 4 of the ALDS at Fenway Park which was amazing as well.