My marathon Monday started at 5am. I was lucky enough to get an uninterrupted sleep which I was surprised about. I had coffee and oatmeal with banana, got dressed for what would end up being the worst weather in 30 years for this event, and took an Uber downtown. It was already raining hard and windy, so much so that when I began to open the door of the car, it blew wide open. By 6am, I was in the tent drinking hot water to make sure I stayed warm. As part of the John Hancock Boston Marathon Invitational Program, we were treated to a tent and refreshments before and after the race, coach buses to the start, where we moved into a school to hang out until the race began. An hour later we were directed to the buses and got another taste of what the weather had in store. After 20 minutes inside the bus, once the police and bomb dogs had done their check we were cleared to go, and headed towards Hopkinton with police escorts on motorcycles.
I spent the ride into Hopkinton staring out the window, getting into the headspace to run. My enthusiastic seat partner from Pennsylvania kept trying to engage in small-talk, which I kept polite but minimal. Sometimes running is selfish, and I am okay with that, especially so in the final days and hours before an event. I have no problem doing exactly what I need to do to set myself up for success and not be concerned with anything else. Upon arriving, we were shown into a school gym equipped with bleachers and mats to sit on. There was also coffee, water, Gatorade, Cliff bars, Cliff bloks, and Finagel Bagels. Most importantly there was heat, shelter from the rain and actual washrooms. We all felt very lucky to be inside for these final hours before the start.
We arrived to the school just around 8:30am, and the blue bib start time wasn’t until 10:50am. Fortunately, I had Women’s Running magazine to read, and a second breakfast to eat: a plain bagel at 8:50 am and a banana at 9:50am. I also drank a small coffee and 1.5 bottles of water. I read the magazine cover to cover except for the parts about coming back to running after child-birth which there was a focus on, but not of interest to me!
Aside from that, I mostly watched the antics of other runners in the gym, some highlights were watching a man eat a loaf of bread directly from the bag, several people duct-taping their shoes, everyone wearing garbage bags, myself included, and someone putting rubber gloves on-top of his gloves. I have to hand it to the running community, people get pretty creative with their outfits when the weather is poor. In this case, I am sure it contributed to them having a safer race than those who did not adapt their gear. Nearly 1,300 runners received medical treatment on the course, and nearly 1,000 more did at the finish. When even the elites are wearing jackets, you know it’s a poor weather day!
Before long, they were calling for the blue bibs to move into the corrals. I made one final washroom stop and moved towards the door, staying inside as long as I could. My outfit was: Saucony Kinvara 9’s, Stance socks, Adidas Supernova Storm Jacket, Lululemon: Fast & Free crops, Run on bra, Meant to Move Tee, and Ciele Gocap Century Hopkinton hat. I also wore a disposable jacket from the Van 1st Half, a garbage bag and gloves from the BMO half.
We began our rainy walk to the start, the area surrounding the school and athlete’s village looked like a runner’s war-zone, clothing, shoes, garbage bags, and water bottles everywhere. This continued all down the sides of the road up and into the corrals. Once I reached corral 2, there was 8 minutes to start. I took my first gel and a drink of water and waited. After a few words from Bill Rogers, the gun went off, and the rain began to pour. What a sick joke I thought as I hit start on my Garmin, and smiled my way over the first timing mat.
My priority starting this race was to stay in control and not start too fast in order to save my legs for later. My other priority was to stay warm, I was in no rush to shed my garbage bag, disposable jacket and gloves. I imagine the beginning of any major race to be exciting, but I am not sure any of them can compete with this. People are cheering for you on the sides of the street in Hopkinton before you even start, this of course continues as your start, there are people on both sides of the road and they are genuinely excited for you. It makes you feel super special!
Another thing of note is that, you start on narrow country roads, so you are confined to stay with the “peloton”. This was okay for me since I wanted to start conservatively. I knew that with the wind and hills, I could not let my mental state be dictated by splits and I was prepared for this. I figured that things would mostly even out with the downhills and flats, and that if I stayed on pace for those parts I would be in good shape. My first 5km were: 5:03, 5:04, 4:56, 4:59, 4:41 (downhill). My 5km split time was 24:49, average pace 4:58/km. The back of my legs felt stiff and cramped from the cold, something I had not previously experienced, I was concerned it would turn into full on legs cramps, again something I have never experienced. I decided to focus on getting to Boston, and everything went away. I did not feel cold, I did not lose focus, I had to get to Boston one way or another.
The next 5km were: 4:47, 5:03, 4:50, 4:50, 4:48. My 10km split was 49:14. My average pace for the first 10km was 4:55/km. For reference, the pace I was meant to hold was 4:50. Around km 8 there was a very cute golden retriever sitting on the right side of the road watching the race and holding 2 flags in his mouth. You can see more footage of Spencer the dog here.
10km took us to Framingham and boasted people on both sides on the street cheering. The whole atmosphere was party, and I swear I could smell beer and food for most of the first 10km ranging from pizza to Indian food. I was timing my gels for every 30 minutes, which worked perfectly with the water stations.
Km’s 11-15 were: 4:55, 4:58, 5:00, 4:57, 4:59, this brought us to Natick. My 15km split was 1:14:07, an overall average pace of 4:56. Another thing I noticed was that my Garmin wasn’t matching up with the km markers anymore, very annoying! For me, the thing about Boston was that I always felt like I was looking forward to something, or more so running toward something. Every section of the race has a focus. The first 10km I was cautious because I didn’t want to destroy my legs on the downhill, and I had heard several times that this is a strategy course where you need to save your strength for the end. The following 10km brings you to Wellesley College, also the half-way point. I knew it was coming soon and how amazing it was supposed to be, so once the initial 10km passed that was my next checkpoint.
Km’s 16-20 were: 4:59, 4:57, 5:03, 4:54, 4:50. My 20km split was 1:39, 4:57 overall average pace/km. Since the Wellesley scream tunnel is something most any runner knows about Boston, I was curious to see how loud it really would be, especially given the weather. It definitely lived up to its’ expectations, so many girls, so many signs, such loud screaming. I decided to put out my hand and high-five as many of them as I could. One overzealous cheerer even fell over the barrier and another girl was trying to pull her back over by her legs! The scream tunnel gave me a massive energy boost, thank you Wellesley girls! My 21km split was 1:44:22, an overall average pace of 4:58.
The scream tunnel was such a rush that I didn’t fully register this meant we were already half-way done! I started to feel my legs around this point, but tried my best to push those thoughts aside. Km’s 22-25 were: 4:55, 5:00, 5:02, 5:04, my 25km split time was: 2:03:58, average pace: 4:58. After Wellesley, I knew the next major landmark would be the notorious Newton Hills, what I had been bracing myself for the entire race.
Km’s 26-30 were: 4:42, 5:23, 5:02, 5:20, 5:03, you can clearly see this was the Newton Hill portion of the race, by the large fluctuation in pace! My approach was to focus my view on the top of the hill rather than my watch and just get there as best I could while keeping the effort continuous and not increasing it. As with almost all of the course, both sides of the street were lined with spectators, there were tents, people were drinking, having BBQ’s. I even spotted a bouncy castle on the right-hand side of one of the Newton hills. Even though the hydration and fuel stations were plentiful, people were handing out water, oranges, bananas you name it. So much hospitality from the spectators on one of the gnarliest Boston Marathon’s in history.
Km’s 31-35 were: 4:49, 5:12, 5:11, 5:40, 4:46, this included the famous Heartbreak hill, and no it’s not THAT bad, but it is long and it is deep into the race so any incline would feel tough. The feeling of completing Heartbreak Hill is wonderful however. You know that the worst is over and there are only 7 more km to go! I had been told this final portion was flat and fast so I was looking forward to that. There were a few more short inclines though, and by that point any incline felt like a mountain.
Km’s 36-40 were: 5:15, 5:07, 5:09, 4:52, 5:08. Finally, it was the moment I had been waiting for. Only 2km to go. I was still wearing my disposable jacket, and wanted to at least get a good finish line picture, so I discarded it on a barrier, and took off into the downpour. At this point you know where you need to go and are just holding your breath for that right on Hereford, left on Boylston. The streets were lined with people, the roads coated in slippery garbage bags, making footing uncertain, I was determined not to fall going up Hereford! Turning onto Boylston might be one of the best feelings I have ever experienced, there are so many people! The finish line is massive and spectacular, and I knew my family was waiting on the stands on the right-hand side. Km 41 and 42 were: 5:19 and 5:11. I kept my eyes locked on that finish line while my ears were filled with a roar from the crowd, I heard my name and waved. And just like that, I became a Boston Marathoner in 3:32:09.