127th Boston Marathon Recap
Now I would like to share my experience at my debut Boston Marathon. This post is on the longer end. Hope that’s ok. This was definitely an experience I’ll never forget. If you were to tell me that I would be running the Boston Marathon at the beginning of the year, I never would’ve believed you. Even with its historic past, and high energy type atmosphere, I never had much interest in doing this race because of its challenging course and unpredictable weather. Typically, when I race a marathon, I’m trying to see how fast I can run, and I would avoid races that would include these challenging factors. Well, that all changed when I was accepted to compete in this year's race as a pro runner. It was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. It also really helped make the decision easier knowing I had 18 runners planning to compete. So here I was getting ready to run my first Boston Marathon. Who would’ve guessed!
Prior to the race, I definitely had my concerns on whether I would be able to handle this tough course. I’ve always been a rhythm type runner and thrive off flat courses. I can just lock into a pace and hold steady. It’s something that I think has allowed me to have success at this distance. So it had me feeling a bit nervous heading into this race knowing Boston was going to be taking me out of my comfort zone. And the training buildup was definitely an interesting one. If you know the type of runner I am then you would know I live off high mileage. Just like the training I did for Berlin last fall, I was ramping up my mileage, knowing I really needed to be as strong as ever for this new challenge. This was a little bit of a shorter buildup but I was able to get up to 160 miles per week. The main difference this time around was that I incorporated more hills into the training. I definitely had my share of good and bad days. I would have days where I couldn't even run a few mile repeats at marathon pace because of the fatigue but then be able to hammer out a 28 miler within 30 seconds per mile of marathon pace and it wouldn’t feel too bad. Luckily, I had experienced many of the same training patterns from my Berlin buildup, so I knew I was still in a good position to have a good race on Patriot’s Day.
My biggest concern with running Boston was whether my quads would be able to handle all the downhills. It’s well known that if you’re not prepared for these downhills, that it’s going to be a tough experience late into the actual race. In the past, I have attempted a similar type of course profile when I ran the California International Marathon. I actually ran it twice. And bonked both times at mile 19 with quad cramps. This definitely wasn’t helping my confidence since Boston has more downhill portions. As race day was approaching, I was staying calm, even though I still had these doubts in my mind. I was actually pretty excited to see what all this Boston hype was about. I just had to really keep the trust with my training and the taper.
Like I mentioned above, Boston can be challenging because of its hills and unpredictable weather. As usual I was stalking the forecast the week of the race. I’ll probably never stop doing this. It doesn’t matter how many times I’m told. In a way it creates some of the anticipation for me, even if I don’t like what I’m seeing. It’s always been part of the process for me. Like typical Boston weather, the forecast was all over the place. I didn’t decide on my final race plan until the day before the race. The final forecast was showing temps in the mid 50s and a slight 8-10 mph headwind. Not too bad but not perfect in my opinion. Something to remember is that I’m competing as a pro runner and the pro field is only about 50-60 runners big. The chances of me being more exposed to these conditions is higher since the course will be much more open for me. I decided that I would plan to shoot for around 5:15-5:20 pace the first half of the race and then try to run a negative split, even with the big hills later in the race. I thought that if I saved enough strength that I could still pull it off.
Now to the race. Let me first say being around all the other pro runners the morning of the race was an unreal experience. Just being in the pro runner tent and seeing Kipchoge walking back and forth within feet of me was really cool. But things really got real when standing on that starting line. I’ve done my share of marathons and I’ve never felt what I felt standing there.The energy! It was the biggest honor being able to line up with such high level runners. And the crowds! This is a moment I’ll truly never forget. Now the race begins! And what a start it was! I would consider myself to be a smarter runner for the most part so when we took off I stayed with my plan. The other runners had a different idea, though. They took off! I mean I knew it would be fast up front but by the mile marker I only saw one other runner behind me. My first 3 miles I went 5:21, 5:19, 5:17 and I was completely solo. As the race played out, I held steady at about 5:20 pace. I wanted to go faster, and I think I could’ve gone faster here, but I was wanting to play it safe. I was trying to avoid a CIM replay. I made it all the way to the Newton Hills and I wasn’t feeling too bad. I just had no idea what I was up against. When I got to the hills I realized that my quads were never an issue. I actually kept having moments where I would just forget about them. My pace did slow a good amount going through the hills, though. I split 5:47 going up Heartbreak hill, which was definitely tough, but once I got past this challenging part of the course, I was able to get into a good rhythm. I closed out my last 3 miles in 5:18, 5:13, 5:09. We can for sure credit some of this to the amazing crowds which helped me power through those final miles. Coming down Boylston St was pretty crazy honestly. You can’t even hear yourself speak. The atmosphere was like something I’ve never experienced and I’ve done my share of races.
I crossed the finish line in 2:21:47. I was 38th overall. I think I was 24th American. On paper, this isn’t a performance I would usually be feeling good about. I mean I was over 4 minutes off my PR. But there are many factors I have to consider. First, it’s the Boston Marathon and all the challenges it presents. And every year these factors can change, mostly with the weather. It wouldn’t say it was the best setup to run my fastest like what I’m used to with my other marathons. And this is one of the most competitive races in the world. A field size of over 30,000 runners from over 100 countries. To be able to say I finished 38th in a field like that does make me feel good about my effort. If I were to go back and redo this race again I would change one main thing. I would’ve been more aggressive the first half of the race. In a way, I felt like I was racing nervously the whole time, just waiting for my quads to shut down. I would’ve aimed for closer to 5:10-5:15 pace instead of the 5:20 pace. And I know I still slowed going through the hills but I think I would’ve slowed either way. I still had plenty of strength late in the race to close out the final miles strong. And my quads were never an issue. I think there was a chance I lost too much time the first half of the race. But again, this is what separates Boston from other marathons. You never know what you’re going to face from year to year. Maybe if I would’ve gone out at that faster pace, things would’ve gotten tough later in the race. It’s just so unpredictable. But one thing is for sure, I will definitely be going back in the future!
What I learned most about the Boston experience was that it’s definitely something you have to experience to understand. You can see all the pictures, hear all the stories, but until you’re actually there, you won’t understand what it’s truly like. Thank you for taking the time to read my post. I know it’s long but I just wanted to share the full experience. This is the raw side of things. This was my experience and it’s something I’ll cherish forever.