The Boston Marathon is more than a race. The entire weekend is a celebration of running with other athletes from around the world. I thought about making this into two separate posts but you really can’t have the race without everything else so here it is in one long recap. (Feel free to skip down to the race portion!)
I’ve run this marathon three times now and have had three completely different experiences. In 2013 I was there during the bombings and to be honest it took me a few years until I was ready to return. When I went back in 2017 it was unseasonably warm and temps rose to the 70’s making for a very hot marathon. I hoped to race my fastest Boston in 2018.
After the Little Rock Marathon in early March I was feeling confident and ready to run a strong PR in Boston. But that confidence didn’t last long. My recovery took a few weeks longer than anticipated and my body needed rest more than anything else. So I rested and fortunately after a few weeks break from training I felt much better. I was able to run in the Strava Speed Project Relay and I never had any issues with my knee. When I returned I was ready to get back into training mode but there just wasn’t much time. I had two weeks of consistent running before it was time to taper. I knew I had a strong base from Little Rock but I wasn’t mentally or physically ready to push myself for another sub 3. I’m sure a younger version of myself would have ignored those signs and would have gone to Boston to race. But I knew I wasn’t ready and the reality was that this spring Boston was not my A race. It was Little Rock and I have no regrets about that. One of the main reasons I was going back to Boston was to experience it with my sister so I decided to start with her. I could always pick up the pace if I was feeling good or help her reach her goal of sub 3:08.
In the past I’ve gone to Boston with a group of friends. This year was the first time I went with family. I traveled with my dad and my oldest daughter. My dad was excited to see two of his daughters run “the Boston” as he called it and this was Abi’s first time to go. A few years ago I had the idea that I would like to take each of my kids there at some point but I wanted them to be old enough to appreciate it. With my dad going it worked well to bring my oldest so that she could stay with him during the marathon.
We flew out of Little Rock early Friday morning and spent the night in Connecticut at my sister Tricky’s house. We had a great dinner at Pepe’s and then walked around the Mohegan Sun.
We left her house early Saturday morning to make the hour and forty-five minute drive to Boston. Abi and I were registered for the BAA 5k that started at 8:00 that morning. This was my first time to participate in the 5k race there and it was definitely a unique experience. I’ve never run in a 5k this large- over 10,000 runners so as you can imagine it was packed! It’s a decent course and if you started towards the front I can see how it could be a fast race but if you started anywhere else you can forget about a fast time. We lined up in the 6:00-6:59 min per mile pace section and it was wall to wall runners. The first half mile was around a 9:30 pace and consisted mostly of weaving in and out of packs of walkers and other runners who should have started in a different wave. Then we spent another half mile running alongside the road on the sidewalk (as did many other runners) so we could bypass the mobs of walkers, etc. We stayed on the sidewalk until a race volunteer told all of us we needed to get back on the road. So then it was back to starting and stopping, weaving, and sprinting. Not the best 5k race plan. We finished in a little over 24 minutes and about a minute and a half off Abi’s goal time. If you are looking to PR I’d recommend starting much closer to the front. I think this race is more about the Boston experience. It did have really nice Boston 5k race shirts and finisher medals. Abi wore hers all day with pride.
After the 5k we checked into our hotel and then headed towards the expo. The Boston Marathon Expo is an event in itself. Be prepared to spend hours there.
There are so many booths with so much to see, sample, and purchase. If you bring family members or other non-marathon running friends with you be sure to warm them that you may be there a while. I’ve always gone with other runners until this year and by the end my daughter had definitely reached her race expo limit!
After the expo we went to Quincy Market to eat and shop.
That night we stopped by the finish line and the big Adidas store on Boylston St.
Sunday morning we went to Mike’s Pastry for breakfast and then to the 11:00 service at the Old North Church which is the oldest church in Boston. (It’s also a historical landmark.)
After church we ate and headed to a quick meet-up in Cambridge. It was great to meet some Instagram running friends!!
Later that afternoon I met up with many of my Strava teammates at the finish line. Who knew so many of us would do Boston?
Then I met up with all the Arkansas runners doing Boston. A few couldn’t make it up the group pic but we had a pretty good turnout considering it was freezing outside!
Sunday night we ate near our hotel so we could settle in early. We got everything laid out but the weather was looking worse by the hour. (We were scheduled to start around 10 AM.)
Our race outfits changed from crops to singlets with arm sleeves and eventually we settled on long sleeves. Still, nothing could have prepared us for just how cold and wet we would be.
We woke up around 6 so we could leave our hotel just after 6:30.
We got a taxi to drop us off as close to gear check as possible.
When we got out of the cab the wind was blowing so strong that the door swung all the way open. The rain was pouring down. I couldn’t believe we were getting ready to run a marathon in this weather. Then we checked in our bags and headed to Boston Commons so we could take the bus to Hopkinton.
Athletes Village was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. It was a mess with mud everywhere.
We quickly found a spot near a Gatorade table and Tricky laid down a big garbage bag for us to sit on. We were also wearing garbage bags and using one as a blanket. This is where we ate and rested for about an hour until they called Wave 1.
We waited to use the restroom until right before the race started. We also kept our throwaway clothes on until the last possible second. Then they called for our corral and it was time to go! We were so cold and wet and the race hadn’t even started yet.
We planned to start off in the 7:20’s and then hold steady in the 7:00-7:15 range until the last 5k and pick it up. The constant headwind and steady rain was unbelievable. It never let up. With each passing mile I just kept thinking about how soon I could get out of the rain and get warm. Every piece of clothing I was wearing was soaked and freezing. I’ve run in a lot of races but this was hands down the worst racing weather I’ve ever encountered for any distance. It wasn’t so much the constant rain or how cold it was. It was the 30 mile per hour gusts of wind that kept coming. There were several times I held my hat down just so it wouldn’t blow off.
We hit the 5k, 10k, 15k, and 20k all on pace.
We went through the half at 1:34:28. We were doing well until we hit the Newton hills. I noticed Tricky started to fall back and our pace was dropping. I hoped she would be able to bounce back after Heartbreak hill but it only got worse. She was not acting like herself at all. By mile 22 things were not looking good and I knew the next few miles were going to be rough.
She was shaking and I knew she was dizzy because she was not running straight. Then she started stopping and closing her eyes. She would say things that didn’t make any sense. It was so cold and rainy and I know I wasn’t thinking clearly myself. In hindsight we should have probably stopped off in the med tent but I doubt they would have let her finish. I was so determined for her to cross that finish line so I kept pushing her to continue. One step at a time. We walked, we jogged, and we kept going. There were times I held her arm or her hand directing her so she didn’t stumble to the side. Sometimes she managed to jog on her own. Then moments later she would stop suddenly and just stare straight ahead. I was constantly talking to her, trying to keep her alert and focused.
The last mile seemed to drag on forever but finally we turned onto a Boylston and we could see the finish line. We made it! 3:26:09.
She seemed to be ok right when we finished until we reached the long line to pick up our gear and I knew we’d never make it. She wasn’t able to stand on her own at all and we needed help. I signaled to a volunteer that we needed a wheel chair. When they came back with one they immediately took her to the med tent. I told her I’d come find her as soon as I got my bag. It was the first time we’d been separated all morning and I was so worried about her.
Gear pick-up was wall to wall runners who were all shaking and freezing. I’m not sure how it got so congested but it’s never been like that before. It took over 30 minutes to get my bag and I debated even changing or not because I wanted to find Tricky but I knew I needed to get out of my cold wet clothes because it would be a while before we’d get back to our hotel. There was a women’s changing tent at the end of gear check and that little outing took another 30 minutes. (I’m pretty sure it took me 5 minutes just to take off my socks because I was shaking so bad!) The changing tent was crowded and we were all strangers but at that point no one was worried about modesty- we all just wanted to put on dry clothes!
Once I had changed I felt much better but I kept my cap and foil finisher wrap on since it was still pouring down rain outside. I called my dad and he said that he and Abi had gone back to the hotel. I didn’t blame them. We all wanted to get out of this weather as soon as we could! Tricky was still in the med tent being treated for hypothermia. Once she was discharged we started the hour long journey back to the hotel. It was only a half mile from the finish line to the Sheraton but so many roads were blocked and we were moving at a snails pace.
My dad and daughter met us in the lobby and it was so good to see them!
We never left the hotel again that night. By the time we were able to eat a meal it was almost dinner time and we were starving! Tricky had talked about burgers at some point during the last 5k so we all ordered burgers at the restaurant in the lobby. It was great! After consuming bananas, gels, gatorade, and water just about anything sounds good to eat!
After a meal and a hot shower my sister seemed much more back to normal. The entire race experience seemed very surreal and I couldn’t believe we ran that long in those conditions along with so many other runners. I’ve always believed that runners are determined and resilient but Monday’s marathon brought it to a new level. The Boston Marathon never disappoints. It challenges me every time and I never leave Boston the same person I was when I arrived. I’m so thankful I was able to experience Boston with my sister, my dad, and my daughter. Until next time Boston…