On Monday, April 18, I completed my 39th marathon, the 126th Boston Marathon. I qualified to get there with my time at the Indianapolis Marathon. This was my second time running Boston; I first ran it in 2017. Read that recap HERE.
I finished the marathon; I took the famous right on Hereford, left on Boylston. But it was my worst time since…..the Marathon-to-Marathon in Iowa in 2012. 2012…10 years ago.
I am excluding the Antarctica marathon from that statement, since that was a beast of its own nature, and I’m excluding the races where I paced my sister Erin (Twin Cities 2016, Grandma’s 2017, and Brookings South Dakota 2019.) But it has been a long time since I had such a rough marathon. And the truth is, I’m disappointed in myself. My training went fine- I wasn’t injured. I did all the runs. I have no excuse. I don’t know why I did so poorly (poorly for me and my own expectations- it’s all relative and this is my recap of my performance.)
I appreciate that running marathons is a privilege, particularly the Boston marathon. I also recognize that this was my 5th marathon in 10 months: Idaho (3:52), Fargo (3:42), Tulsa (4:04), and Baton Rouge (3:45), and now Boston (4:18.)
Yet my truth is that I am disappointed in myself. I did not have a positive experience. I didn’t achieve my goal of having a good time and “taking it all in.” Instead, I had a pretty miserable time.
So, if you don’t want to read a negative recap, skip this one. There are a million blog posts out there, particularly after this year’s marathon, about how absolutely magical and incredible it is to run the Boston marathon.
Unfortunately this is not that post.
It is difficult to separate my personal experience at the race from the actual marathon. Honestly, some of the hassles I mention are just part of doing a huge marathon, the challenges are similar to the other 5 World Majors. Overall it is as organized as it can be for 30k runners. The crowds are amazing, there is plenty of support, and it is an experience that I am grateful to have experienced (again.) Unfortunately I walked away from this race a second time without the warm fuzzies I had really hoped for with no one to blame but myself.
You can read about my time in Boston leading up to race day HERE, including my experience at the expo. I’ll start this post with my pre-race dinner and go from there.
Night before the race: My friend Sarah’s parents live in Boston (her mom is the incredibly smart & successful provost at Boston University!) She invited us to have homemade pasta with her and her family on Sunday night. Their beautiful home was a short trip on the T from our hotel in Copley Plaza. The pasta was perfectly delicious and easy to digest. We also ate early enough (5:30) that I was in bed plenty early, staying plenty hydrated, etc. I did the right things the day before the race.
*Note that Sarah had an incredible race- congrats Sarah!
What I wore:
I wore a Lululemon sculpt tank, my favorite Tracksmith Lane Five shorts (lots of space for gels in all the pockets!), a Oiselle Flyout Bra with a pocket for my phone in the back, a pair of men’s Saucony Endorphin Pros , and a pair of Oiselle sunnies. I don’t usually run a marathon with my phone, but put it in the sports bra on airplane mode so I could connect with Dustin at the end.
I put my name on my shirt with plastic tape, but it fell off immediately- failed fit.
I fueled with Maurten gels, which were the same kind they gave out at the race.
Morning of the race: My alarm went off at 6:15 am. I ate a plain bagel with peanut butter, a banana, a cup of coffee, and a glass of Nuun.
I packed an extra gel, another 1/2 bagel with peanut butter + banana, and a Honey stinger waffle to eat at the start, as my wave, Wave 3, wouldn’t start until 10:50 am. Fueling for such a late start is a challenging part of Boston.
Runners had to check any gear for post-race at the buses; only a small plastic bag (provided at the expo) could come with you on the bus to the start. Any clothes you wanted to wear to stay warm would have to be left at the start and donated.
Here is what I packed into my “Start Area” bag (plus water and a bottle of Gen-U-Can mix):
The Boston organization was very good about making it obvious where to drop your donated clothes at Athlete’s Village. They also had volunteers sorting the trash between recyclable, compostable, etc. Very organized.
Getting to the start line: Getting to the start line in Hopkinton from the finish line area is a process. Dustin walked with me to the park where you caught the buses from our hotel to keep me company; the buses for my wave started boarding at 8:15. We were at the park by 7:45 am, but we waited just to cross the intersection to get into the lines for 30 minutes. I finally said goodbye to Dustin, went through security, and got into the line to get onto a school bus.
I felt lucky to have a seat in the way back of a bus to myself. I like to preserve my energy pre-marathon as an introvert.
My bus arrived at Athlete’s Village around 9:15. After exiting the bus, it was another line to enter into the village.
I had to pee so badly at that point, so I was totally focused on getting into a line for a porta potty. By the time I was at Athlete’s Village, the elites and Wave 1 had already started their races. Wave 2 was about to start. I made my way through the village to the Hopkinton sign. I never even had time to read the magazine I had brought to the start; it was only 15 minutes or so before they called Wave 3 to move to the start.
The actual start line is a 1.1 mile walk from Athlete’s Village. There were a ton of runners who ran this 1.1 mile walk but I was in no hurry since I knew my corral wouldn’t start for a bit. There is another whole section of porta-potties at the start, so I stopped there again before walking to the start line.
As my wave approached the starting line, we were split into corrals. I was corral 4 of 6 in wave 3.
Eventually, we shuffled to the start line and as we crossed it, I pressed the start button on my Garmin and it was frozen- it just didn’t start. So then I was fussing with it, trying to power down and restart. I probably missed 1/2 mile before I finally got it to work.
After the race, my Garmin data didn’t show any map or show location data like “Boston Running” when it loaded. I knew that I had changed it to manual lap at the start so that I wouldn’t get mile splits. But I must have somehow also changed it to treadmill mode, which was not my plan, I did still want the mile splits afterwards, just not during! But since it was in treadmill mode, it seems to have sort of estimated my pace and averaged them…my splits aren’t right.
By mile 1, my name had fallen off my shirt completely. I will never use plastic tape again. It doesn’t stay on when wet or windy. I think I would have had a lot more fun at Boston with my name on my shirt, but losing it so early was hard for me and messed with my head. The crowds were amazing at Boston, but it would have helped to hear someone cheer for me by name, that’s something that works for me personally. (Next time, I will use iron-on letters or sew them on!)
Throughout the whole race, I had no idea what pace I was running. There were no pace groups and I didn’t talk to anyone around me, so it was truly a blind effort.
Mile 1: 11:22- I don’t think this is right. In fact, I know it’s not right, as there is no way I was going this slowly to start, especially on the downhill. I think it had to do with not having my Garmin on right away and then when I finally got it to work, it was on treadmill mode. Also, these splits don’t align with what the Boston tracker app said; they had me at 8:50 and then 9’s for the first 10k. I generally love my Garmin Fenix, but it definitely caused some extra stress this day.
Even though the splits are not right, I’ll share them for purposes of this recap.
Mile 2: 9:39, Mile 3: 9:34. Mile 4: 9:45, Mile 5: 9:24, Mile 6: 9:24, Mile 7: 9:34, Mile 8: 9:29, Mile 9: 9:20, Mile 10: 9:25, Mile 11: 9:28, Mile 12: 9:17
Mile 13: 9:27. Wellesley College. “The Wellesley Scream Tunnel.” This was a fun part of the route, though I remembered it to be much louder and crazier in 2017 than it was this year. There were still a TON of people with signs cheering here though. Maybe less kissing than in previous years, probably due to Covid!
My favorite sign was one that said, “Wait! I’ve been trying to contact you about your extended car warranty.” Ha! There were lots and lots of other great signs. The spectators were amazing.
Mile 14: 9:34, Mile 15: 9:28, Mile 16: 9:45, Mile 17: 9:55
At mile 17, I pulled my phone out of my Flyout sports bra, turned it off of airplane mode, texted Dustin and said, “I’m walking already, but I’m okay,” turned it back off, and put it away.
I wanted him to know that it was going to be a rough race but I was alive; he should go back to the hotel for awhile before coming back to the finish to cheer for me because if I was already walking at mile 17, it was going to be a long day. But by actually texting him and admitting how badly things were going, I felt even worse. Suddenly, I was admitting “out loud” (via text) that things were not going well. Now it was real and I was in a terrible mental place.
I didn’t walk all of the remaining 9 miles, but I walked a lot of it, particularly the Newton hills.
Mile 18: 10:39 My sister Cresta’s college friend lives in Newton and kindly came out to cheer with a sign for me. It was so nice of her to come out and it did give me a boost. Thank you!
Mile 19: 9:38, Mile 20: 9:50, Mile 21: 10:23, Mile 22: 9:37, Mile 23: 9:42, Mile 24: 9:31, Mile 25: 10:00, Mile 26: 10:04, Final 0.2: 9:17
Finish time: 4:18, average pace: 9:40, bottom 1/4 of all finishers…
But I finished. Thank goodness. I didn’t give up even though I really wanted to quit.
I swear, these bad races are so much harder than ones like Fargo, where I felt incredible the whole way.
I cannot complain about the weather, as it was only 55 degrees. It was probably the best Boston weather that’s occured in many years.
But it felt hot to me. My neck, shoulders, and even the back of legs are sunburned (and I did wear sunblock.) The sun was bright and this Minnesotan was not prepared for any sun. Yet it was definitely not the weather that led to my poor performance.
I took every orange and every popsicle that was offered to me. The crowds were amazing, they offered up so much stuff. (In retrospect, I can’t believe I took orange slices out of strangers’ bare hands when I am such a germ-a-phobe!)
I thought I was drinking enough at every aid station, but I felt so thirsty and was coated in salt by the end, so maybe I wasn’t. I was also very crampy, so clearly not enough electrolytes for me. My ankles and feet were particularly crampy and then I got very cold at the end (similar to Baton Rouge.) I think my men’s Endorphin pros were too big for me; I have huge blisters on my feet now. All these rookie mistakes for a girl who had done this 38 times prior- seriously!
Dustin was right there cheering on Boylston right before the finish line, and he actually found me pretty quickly at the end. I am so thankful for such a supportive husband, even when dealing with a crabby runner like me. He’s very patient and I love him.
And it was so great to turn on my phone again at the finish and have texts from friends and family who were worried about me. Thank you all for caring. I really appreciate it! (Thank you Julie! And thank you especially my sister Erin, she’s the best.)
When I crossed the finish line, I passed by Shalane Flanagan and Adrianne Haslet; Adrianne’s dog was allowed in the finish area and I snapped this photo of him greeting her. So cute.
Some runners took pictures with Shalane, but the volunteers quickly turned runners away to give them space. Shortly after seeing Shalane, I passed by Meb, who was also getting bombarded with people trying to take selfies, but the volunteers gave him his space quickly as well.
I don’t know. Overtraining, maybe… I made an appointment to get my iron, vitamin D, and thyroid levels checked. The week before the race, I was abnormally tired, but thought it was just the taper.
Actually, I also thought it might be Covid and took three at-home tests and a PCR before leaving for Boston and then took two rapid tests while we were there to be sure. (Yes. Clearly paranoid. All negative.)
Too much strength-training? I didn’t have a focused plan for strength and did it almost every day. That may not have served me well.
Or was it just too many marathons in too short of time? This is most likely the answer.
I have done 5 marathons in a year before, once. In 2016, I ran Phoenix, London, Grandma’s, Big Cottonwood Canyon, and Twin Cities. But one of those marathons was with my sister Erin at her pace. Plus, I was 6 years younger then. Apparently at 40, 5 marathons is too many.
Outside of my personal performance, there are some other negative aspects of this race:
- The hype. There’s a lot of pressure and social media attention surrounding this race, not around the elites, which there should be for the elites, but rather around the regular Joe’s & Jane’s, and it can be a lot.
- I spent too much time on social media leading up to this race and was very much in my head. I think I felt like I didn’t belong there.
- The weather; I know it was essentially perfect this year on race day (except for that nasty sunburn), but training through a Minnesota winter is still a “negative” of running Boston.
- The cost; it’s an expensive weekend and you probably will need to use at least two days of vacation (Mon/Tuesday.)
- The timing: a Monday race in itself is hard, but starting at 11 am is even harder.
I will end with the positives!
- The DPM (dogs per mile) was incredibly high; you may have read about Spencer, the official race dog. I saw him in Hopkinton within the first few miles of the race, but there was a long line to get a selfie with him, so I skipped that. But there were so many cute dogs along the route that gave me joy.
- The city pride- of the 6 world majors, Boston is unique in that the WHOLE city is excited about it and proud of the event. Some of that feeling probably does stem from the bombings of 2013 and the “Boston Strong” that came from that, but it’s pretty incredible just how supportive the entire city is of the marathon. In another city, you could go out to dinner after the race, and people may not have even realized there was a marathon that day. Not in Boston. Everyone congratulates you afterwards. Everyone is happy to have you there. It’s pretty cool.
- I really enjoy visiting the city of Boston; great food, great architecture and history, great people- it’s just a really beautiful city where I could see myself living. My husband went to high school (Tabor Academy) and college (Tufts University) in Boston. He has an affinity for that city that is contagious to me.
- The elites- I’m a super-fan and enjoyed seeing running celebrities in real life.
- The history. 126 years is incredible. And this was a special year, as it was the 50th year that women were allowed to participate. That is very cool. I am happy to have those inspiring women ahead of me, giving me this opportunity (which is on me for not executing upon the opportunity they worked to give women!)
- The crowds are incredible. My own fault for not having my name on my shirt…so many drunk college kids. Very entertaining!
In the post-marathon shower, I discovered some painful chafing under my right armpit; it’s also my right side took most of the brunt of the sunburn, so maybe the two are related.
I didn’t feel amazing when we got back to the Fairmont, either physically or mentally (I’ll admit I had a pity party and cried at the finish when I saw Dustin.)
But I pulled myself together and we walked to Saltie Girl for a lobster roll (which was very good.)
Then we stopped by Lamplighter Brewery for a celebratory pint (great brewery!) but one beer was actually all I could stomach. But the beer was free! The bartender was so nice and congratulatory to all runners. The city of Boston is so nice.
I needed to go back to the hotel to lie down. But when we got back to the hotel though, we realized that the hotel bar was where everyone (including some of my runner celebrities!) was celebrating, so we decided to stop by there for a little bit for some people watching/celebrity stalking. We were right by Joan Benoit Samuelson again! I swear, if you are running Boston, stay at the Fairmont Copley Plaza. That hotel was definitely a big “positive” of the weekend!
Tuesday morning, we had breakfast at the nearby Friendly Toast, said goodbye to Cori the Fairmont dog.
Then off to the airport to fly back to Minneapolis, just in time for the mask mandate to be lifted 🙁 Perfect timing for a plane full of people who just taxed their bodies and immune systems to the max…
Closing remarks: Everyone has bad races. It’s just running. I am able to run and it’s a privilege. Four years ago when I was on crutches with a broken leg, I would have given anything to be running marathons again, so I need to quit being so down. I am lucky. I know this. But my disappointment in myself is still there, and I need some time to sit with it.
I’ll probably read this recap in a few months and feel so embarrassed of my negative attitude. Then maybe in a few more years, I’ll have the desire to run Boston again.
I know that I ask a lot out of this body, so for now, I’m giving it some much needed rest and recovery, mentally and physically for the next few months. No more marathons until the fall, and I don’t even know which one that will be.
Mentally, this recovery will also include a break from social media. For me this means Strava, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter. Just letting you all know so you don’t think I’m ignoring you! This was a pre-planned break, though I’m sure the timing with my bad Boston is suspect, ha! But I want to see if I can break the addiction to scrolling when I have downtime. TBD on how long I last! Please email or text me, I still want to stay connected!
That’s a wrap on marathon 39. Thanks for reading and following my journey, through the good and the bad, in marathoning and in life!