I ran my 7th marathon yesterday. I went into the race confident, with a big goal, to run 3:16, which would be a 6-minute PB. There are always secondary goals, but I don’t think too much about those until the circumstances during a race necessitate it.
As we waited to board the bus, the rain poured, it thundered. We were ready for it with extra layers, ponchos and hand warmers. When the race began, the rain had stopped, and it was overcast. The temperature was a little warmer than ideal, which quickly became evident as I started running, and sweating sooner than usual. I chose to stick to my plan instead of adjusting for temperature. The plan was to work with the course, have the paces correspond to the elevation, and not take the early downhills too aggressively to avoid beating up the quads.
I knew it was warm, so I made sure to front-load hydration. I was nailing my paces and feeling unstoppable, until around 27km. When suddenly the sun and heat came. My race plan deteriorated at the pace I intended to run…quickly. I felt weak and flat, my pace plummeted dramatically. I kept checking-in to assess whether I could pick it back up. I soon realized I could not. Given the option between arriving at the finish line slower than planned and being taken to the medical tent, the decision was easy. I went into survival mode, stopped looking at pace, focused on making it to the end healthy and tried to find the fun in it.
There were many times I wanted to stop altogether, to walk up the hills, but even feeling as bad as I did, I did not allow myself to do either. The city of Boston showed up, and put on a world class show. The only thing to do was to reciprocate. At some point I came to terms with the fact that this would be a slow marathon, I calculated a 3:45-4:00 finish and was fine with it. I just wanted to get to that finish line happy and healthy. Later I realized I had lost my ability to do math, which ordinarily I can do quite well, even in a race.
When both my A and B time goals were off the table, I decided to enjoy the journey to Boston as much as possible by trying to encourage others around me. The last few kilometres of the race were about connecting with other runners. I noticed noticed someone who was on their way to their six star, someone else who was running a marathon on their birthday, and someone I know. I encouraged them.
I saw a few people I know cheering during the last 2km, they yelled my name, it felt so good to wave and smile at them through the pain. At that point I was just focused on looking for Hereford. I knew my friends were waiting at the finish and I couldn’t wait to see them. The straightaway on Boylston felt never ending. I knew they were there waiting and that I was so close to completing my second Boston. Once I reached the stands, I looked into the crowd, spotting them quickly. They were standing as close to the road as the could, waiting for me. I blew them a kiss, raised my hands and crossed that damn line, never feeling happier to be done running and to have been surrounded by so much support.
One of the keys to being a successful long-distance runner is creating a routine that controls as many variables as possible. I can confidently say, I controlled everything I could. The training was there, I have never been more fit in my life. I ran 6-days a week, I did 3 days of balance/strength work on top of that, and core work 4-5 times per week. My fuel game was calculated, practiced and effective. What I ate leading up to the race were things I know I respond well to. I took it easy in Boston before race day and didn’t expend energy exploring the city.
The weather is an example of a variable that cannot be controlled. Something you can control is how you handle yourself when things don’t go the way you want them to. It’s all about perspective, and I believe there is always good within a situation that isn’t ideal. Am I disappointed that I did not have the race I trained for? Of course. But if I consider the big picture, and that on a day where I have never felt worse, but still managed to pull off a 3:30, I can recognize that as the big achievement it is.
I am proud of the race I ran yesterday. I am proud of the training cycle I had through a terrible winter. I am proud of the commitment I maintained in spite of the obstacles I experienced. I am proud of training alone, though supported and encouraged by many near and far. I am proud of everyone who ran yesterday, it was tough, but we are stronger for having done it. I am proud to call the people who made the trip to Boston to spectate, cheer and take care of me friends.