This past Monday, I ran the 121st Boston Marathon. This was my 26th marathon, 5 out of 6 of the World Majors, and state #17 on my 50-state goal.
It’s taken me a bit longer than usual to write this recap. I think it’s because it’s really hard for me to separate my personal performance from the race as a whole.
I worked hard to get to Boston. It took a lot of sweat and tears to qualify!
Then, I trained hard over 19 weeks for this race.
So I’m disappointed in myself for not racing it properly. I know that I don’t run well in the heat- it’s obvious over my last 25 marathons that I melt any time it’s over 65.
Yet it doesn’t help when I see that many runners still set PR’s at Boston on Monday. It should have been possible. I should have been able to overcome.
So I’ll be honest that I am disappointed in myself. Unfortunately that disappointment colors my memories of the race, as much as I try not to let it.
And I’m trying not to let it, I swear.
I always said that Boston was a ‘victory lap’. I know that I shouldn’t be disappointed. I want to get over it and focus on all the amazing things about this experience.
Plus, I will have more Bostons in my future, ones where I will not disappoint myself.
I know that I said that Boston would be “one and done.” No longer true. After watching the Boston documentary last Wednesday, all I want to do is get back to Hopkinton in 2019…
But I digress.
This is my recap of the 121st Boston Marathon on April 17, 2017.
I recapped our arrival in Boston, the expo, and pre-race activities in this post. So I’ll dive right into Marathon Monday.
Mondays are for marathons, right?
On Monday, April 17, my alarm went off at 5:30 am. Not that I was even asleep before it went off; the night before the marathon is always a fitful sleep, one where I keep waking up and looking at the clock and worrying that I will miss the alarm. After 25 (now 26) marathons and I still get the night-before- anxiety.
I got up and put on the race ‘kit’ I had laid out the night before.
There was no need for the blue/gold striped Boston Strong compression socks or the blue/gold Louva arm sleeves; much too warm for that. Just a pair of light Oiselle Mac Rogas, a royal blue Chi tank from Athleta, Balega socks, Brooks Ravennas, a SPI belt with 4 GU’s, two BIC bands (one yellow, one sparkly blue), a Sweaty Betty sports bra, and my Garmin 235.
I ate half a bagel with PB and a little extra salt due to the impending heat. I drank some water and Gatorade and put the second half of my bagel and a little individual sized peanut butter in the small bag that we all received at the expo to bring to the start line. For the Boston Marathon, there is no gear check at the start line. You check your gear at the finish line only before you board the bus and anything you bring to the start has to be worn or tossed.
Dustin and I had both picked up some $2 pants from Goodwill to wear to the start line to toss, though we really didn’t need them since it was so warm. I didn’t bring my phone with me, though a few of our running friends had theirs (hence the picture).
Though I had pre-purchased tickets on a coach bus through Bauman’s Running Company in Flint Michigan (thanks to a recommendation by Lee the Running Architect) we actually didn’t end up using them. A heated coach bus would have been really nice in inclement weather, but since it was sunny and hot, we decided to just ride the regular old school buses to the start to be with our friends. Dustin was in Wave 1 (which started at 10 am) we caught a bus at 6:30 am. The gear check and the bus pick-up were literally right outside our hotel, which was another reason we went with that option. Convenient.
We arrived at Athlete’s Village in Hopkinton just before 8 am. I still had nearly THREE hours before I started running. Why oh why can’t this marathon start at a normal time!
Around 9 am, Wave 1 was called to the start…Bye Dustin! Then at 9:45, it was Wave 2. And finally at 10:05, wave 3 made its way to the start.
Even after my wave was called, there were still several more steps to go before the race began for me.
First you queue up behind a rope before they escort you about a 1/2 mile to the starting line ‘staging’ area. There were tons more porta-potties in that area. I hung around there for another 30 minutes or so before we were called to the actual starting line. So much queuing and waiting!
I was Wave 3, corral 3, so I followed the volunteers’ signs to the right spot. It was really easy to figure out where to go, though I did come across a girl wearing a red bib (Wave 1) who had missed her wave…Yikes! She was stuck back with us slow pokes in Wave 3.
The starting line was full of excitement…and security. Drones, helicopters, snipers, bomb-sniffing dogs, police, etc. (!!).
Promptly at 10:50, the Wave 3 starting gun went off and I started running.
The first few miles are downhill; it would be easy to go out fast, except it was quite crowded. I didn’t want to waste any effort weaving about the crowds, so I held back.
At this point in the race, I thought I might still be able to run a strong-for-me race. I should have known better, but I still had hope. I didn’t want to throw in the towel before I even started. With a PR of 3:35 or a pace of 8:15 min/mile, I had trained to run around 8:05-8:10 min/mile.
Mile 1: 8:21
Mile 2: 8:06
Mile 3: 8:18
The course continued to drop in elevation. I tried not to go too fast, but also didn’t want to brake so hard that I tore up my quads.
The sun was blaring down on me. So hot. Already.
Mile 4: 8:07
Mile 5: 8:21
Mile 6: 8:18
Around the 10k mark, we hit Framingham. I took my first GU. The course had flattened out but I was really starting to feel the effects of the heat and sun. I was working way too hard for those splits.
My goal marathon pace should NOT feel this hard- it never did during training.
Time to be realistic Jessie. A PR was not happening.
Time to dial it back…
Mile 7: 8:42
Mile 8: 8:36
Mile 9: 8:38
I thought I had decided to pull back early enough that I would be able to have a positive race experience, similar to how I ran the London Marathon.
And for a while, it felt that way- I high-fived every kid I saw. I smiled when people called my name. I was having fun!
I took all the right steps to keep the heat under control. I took oranges from everyone handing them out. I started pouring water on myself to cool my core body temperature.
Yet I still felt so hot. I was working too hard for how much my pace was slowing.
Mile 10: 8:32
Mile 11: 8:49
Mile 12: 8:23
This part of the course includes a bunch of rolling hills as it goes past Lake Cochutuate and then into downtown Natick. The spectators were so fantastic- so many great signs to keep you distracted. I think I took my first Mr. Freeze ice pop from a spectator somewhere around here. And then another GU. My belly was pretty full of sugar water at this point!
Mile 13: 8:45
Mile 14: 8:38
The Wellesley scream tunnel– I heard it long before I saw it. Even though I was feeling crappy these screaming girls and their hilarious signs kept me smiling. I watched dozens of kisses be given and received.
“Kiss me if you’re still ‘with HER.'” I should have…
I remember thinking how cool this was- I was in BOSTON running the Boston Marathon, experiencing the Wellesley scream tunnel, a tradition for so many before me.
It was awesome.
Mile 15: 9:25
Yeah, that high from Wellesley didn’t last 🙂 I slowed way down here. I was walking through the water stops already and it was hard to wrap my head around the fact that I still had 11 more miles.
Mile 16: 8:35
We headed into Newton Lower Falls. I knew the hills were coming up. I took another GU.
Man, was I hot. I was walking through the water stops, so thankful to finally hit mile 16. I told myself only SINGLE DIGITS LEFT. I took another GU.
Suck it up Jessie. You can do this.
Mile 17: 9:23
Around 17.5, we came up to the Newton Fire Station. For the first time in the entire race, the course took a sharp right turn onto Commonwealth Avenue and approached the first of the notorious Newton Hills.
Mile 18: 9:38
Am I dying…?
Mile 19: 9:18
Didn’t I do ANY hill training?
7 more miles. Just an easy Calhoun/Harriet. Don’t give up now.
Mile 20: 9:42
There were aid stations every mile, which was a lot; I actually felt like I might be drinking too much fluid. I was pouring water on myself to cool down, but also drinking a lot and I started to get a side stitch.
I decided not to drink any more for a few stops, just pour it on myself. I went through every sprinkler and fire hydrant to cool down.
Mile 21: 9:49
Somewhere in here was the most infamous hill. Heartbreak Hill. And it was a doozy.
People say it’s really not that steep, it’s just the placement of it around mile 20. It felt pretty darn bad to me!
I definitely walked here, but it was hard to walk for too long when the crowds kept cheering me on by name. They kept me running as much as possible. They were amazing.
I could feel a nasty blister on my right toe, but I didn’t want to bend over to adjust my sock as I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stand back up again!
Miles 22: 9:04
Newton hills were OVER. Before entering Cleveland Circle at mile 22, the course turned right onto Chestnut Hill, then left onto Beacon Street. I think I took my 4th GU here.
Mile 23: 9:58
I could see the CITGO sign…so far away.
I knew at this point that I could at least salvage a sub-4 hour marathon. I decided no more walking. No more water/Gatorade either. It wouldn’t help at this point. I was too close to the finish line.
I kept repeating, “Don’t think. Just keep running. Don’t think. Just keep running.”
Mile 24: 9:07
The crowds were amazing. Deafening cheers. Chills!
Mile 25: 9:24
Right onto Hereford, left on Boylston. The most famous left turn in running!
I knew I had about 5 minutes to spare to make it under four hours.
My Garmin was showing something like a 20 minute mile pace-what?? I knew that was wrong . Something went wrong with the satellites, as I only ended up with 25.6 miles total (I’m pretty sure this is a certified 26.2..) I must have lost satellite somewhere in there.
The total elapsed time on my watch seemed correct though so I knew that if I at least kept up this jog, I would still come in under 4 hours.
And then finally…the finish line. YAY!!! Nothing beats crossing a marathon finish line.
Official time: 3:54:14
(Garmin said 25.6 miles with the last 0.62 taking me 12 minutes. Yeah, that’s wrong. Can’t always trust your Garmin!)
I still achieved my “secret” goal to run all the World Majors under 4 hours (I have to redo Chicago soon and of course I’ll need to do at least the same time at NYC this November!)
The finish line was incredibly organized. I made my way through the chute, grabbed some more water/Gatorade, my medal, and ran into my friend Lindsey. She had a horrible cold going into the race and it didn’t make for a fun race for her either.
We hobbled on to get our gear bags. I saw Dustin on the sidelines- he had already gone back to the hotel and showered by the time I finished- ha! I motioned to him to ask if it was a thumbs up or thumbs down situation for him. Did he achieve his sub-3 hour goal?
Thumbs down…His experience was very similar to mine. Melted in the heat. Darn. I had hoped at least one of us would have had a strong race.
The blister on my toe combined with pain from the sesamoiditis on the same foot (the injury that I was experiencing much earlier in my training) were both really painful when I finished. I could not WAIT to take off my right shoe and was so thankful that I had put my Birkenstocks in my gear check bag…
Oh, the relief in taking off that one shoe!
I was surprised that that the sesamoiditis reared its ugly head as I thought that issue was in the past! 26.2 miles will do that though. It’s feeling a lot better now; even by the next day it didn’t really hurt.
Speaking of that, one of the highlights of the day actually came when we entered our hotel. The staff were all wearing “Boston Strong” t-shirts over their ‘fancy’ work apparel. When we entered the hotel, they all stood up in a row and gave us a standing ovation, cheering and congratulating us.
Corny, but it brought tears to my eyes 🙂 It was such a sweet gesture. Way to go Four Seasons Boston. Worth every penny.
That’s when Dustin made up his tagline for the Boston Marathon…. “Boston: A Great Marathon if You Like to Feel Important.”
It’s true that the fans and the town make you feel like a star. Every restaurant we went to had specials for marathoners. We met up with our run club friends at a pub after the race called “Lord Hobo” and they were offering free entrees to finishers. We made our way to Row 34 for dinner and we were given a glass of champagne when we sat down.
That’s just a few of the endless special offers a marathon finisher is given by the welcoming and generous people of Boston.
– Hopkinton. It all starts here. The energy in Athlete’s Village was like no other and everything at the start line was very organized.
-The rows of little kids jumping on trampolines to music and cheering in some random small town along the course
-Wellesley- of course.
-The furniture store around mile 7 that didn’t let any spectators block the windows so runners could see their reflections as they passed. There was a huge sign that said something like “Runners, check yourselves out!” Loved it.
-The amount of support from the spectators- SO MANY sponges, oranges, ice cubes, more water. Incredible.
– Mr. Freeze pops. I had two 🙂
– “Right on Hereford, left on Bolyston.” Obviously.
-That feeling of being part of something really special. You do feel important. You do feel special. You are!
This feeling was all around you- it was all the elite athletes there at the same time, the prestige of this holy grail of marathons that we all worked so hard to get to, the incredibly nice people, the charming town(s), the history of this race; I was not immune to it. Now I get it. I get why this marathon is so special.
And I get it even MORE after I watched the new Boston documentary on Wednesday night (GO SEE IT!)
I want to run Boston again. I want to go back and race it “properly.” I’ll know what to expect and ideally I’ll be better prepared.
I won’t be able to run in in 2018, as I don’t have a marathon planned where I could re-qualify. I do have Grandma’s Marathon this June, but I am running that with my sister with a goal of 4:15-4:20. My next marathon that I race hard won’t be until the New York City Marathon in November, which will be long past the deadline for Boston registration. Additionally we are running the Antarctica Marathon next spring, so doing Boston wouldn’t fit into the schedule anyways, even if I could re-qualify somewhere.
But I WILL be back.
One last thing- thank you to the great people at Pampered Pooch Playground, who took great care of Matilda while we were traveling.
I’m changing Dustin’s tagline “Boston: A Great Marathon if You Want to Feel Important” to “Boston: A Great Marathon. Period. Maybe the Best Marathon.”