Exactly two weeks ago, a friend asked if I wanted to run the Boston Marathon. I almost didn’t take the bib, because I made such a big deal of the BQ attempt and then deciding (temporarily) I didn’t like (the hurt of) marathons, not to mention all the hard work that the charity runners do that I had not done. Then I realized it’s been my goal to run Boston all along, ever since I got into running. I would never be able to forgive myself if I didn’t take this opportunity. So I did. 11 days prior to Marathon Monday.
The Friday prior to the marathon, Christopher McDougall came to November Project. This was perfect, because his book Born to Run got me thinking about, and then hooked on running. To be able to spend time with him at November Project and then again after his talk at the Old South Church was the start to a perfect couple of days.
I spent the entire weekend with November Project friends around the expo and Copley Square, and on Sunday afternoon ran into Shalane Flanagan at the finish line.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Shalane is one of my biggest sources of inspiration. I’ve met her a couple of times now, and she’s amazing. She puts it all out on the line, and isn’t afraid of big scary goals. While my time goals are way different compared to hers, I was still taking on a second marathon in less than a month, after a very hard effort (and poor race day execution). I was in race shape, but my longest run prior to Boston and after Shamrock would be 90 minutes.
Fortunately, that 90 minute run gave me confidence going into Boston, as I dropped my fastest long run kicks ever, all sub 6 for the 3 minutes following a 7 minute tempo effort.
Back to Boston… A November Project friend of mine coordinated a bus of us that were all headed out around the same wave, and it was called the #FuckYeahExpress. Since we only made up a small number of the people on the bus, we kept the conversation on the way out to Hopkinton light, mostly related to lube, poop and other bodily functions. You know, regular runner stuff.
We bundled up into our trash bags to stay dry at the start of the race and off we went. Or, off we tried to go. It was very slow moving, as we had 30,000 people ahead of us on the course. After I dropped a 9:20 minute mile and then a mid 8 for my first two, I learned later that my friends were worried I got injured at the start of the race, with a 27:50 first 5k. Nope, that was just as fast as it was safe to go without doing too much weaving.
The first 10 or so miles were relatively uneventful, and the pace picked up. Somewhere in Natick, after polling a few other shirtless runners, I decided it’d be smarter to not wear a shirt, especially since I was already drenched and a little cold. I warmed up immediately after taking off my soggy shirt, and held on for the wild ride into Wellesley.
I could hear the screams from the Wellesley College girls before I could see them… Let’s just say that stretch of the course lived up to the hype. After a few brief stops, I carried on, knowing my parents would be up ahead excited to see me. I hugged them both, and knew that as soon as I started again, they’d be racing me to the finish line.
I carried on through Wellesley and into Newton, knowing I had some more downhills ahead, I eased up on the pace a bit more, trying to prepare my quads. Mile 15 ticked off, then 16, 17… then I realized November Project’s cheer station was coming up soon. I picked up the pace a bit with excitement.
As I came up on the Mile 18 cheer station, I went absolutely nuts. Like, jumping up and down in the middle of running a marathon nuts. I screamed at all my friends, and don’t remember seeing a single person.
I carried on, beginning Newton’s rolling hills. I started high fiving the crowd at this point as I cruised up the hills, passing quite a few people. Clearly riding the surge of NP’s energy, I found a new, extra kick of energy to cruise up the Newton hills. I caught myself thinking “this isn’t so bad” right before Heartbreak Hill, and I roared up the hill high fiving spectators all along the way, and really confusing the hell out of the runners around me. I was having a freaking party out there. Strava’s segment tells me I covered just over the 5k worth of Newton’s hills (the turn onto Comm all the way to BC) faster than my overall race average. Clearly I was riding the NP high and the buzz of the crowds at this point.
I got a little carried away on the downhill coming down after BC, and saw my fastest mile here come in at 7:15.
I carried on towards Brookline and as I made my turn onto Beacon Street, I started to have even more fun. I ran back and forth between the sides of the street jumping up and down and screaming my brains out. I saw a friend of mine right before Coolidge Corner who doesn’t like to hear about anything running related at all scream louder than anyone I had seen all day, and then drop into a dead sprint with his go pro, actually moving faster than I was, giving me even more motivation to run faster.
I saw a few more friends just past Coolidge Corner at mile 24 and they took this video. My friend tweeted the video with “this is my friend at mile 24 of a marathon. If that doesn’t get you fired up, you don’t have a pulse.” Love it.
I had some surges here with extended stretches sub 6:30, as a result of sprinting along with the crowd and jumping around and shouting. By this point, I knew I was far enough in that I wasn’t going to bonk, so it was time to have a little fun. I would sprint along, jump and shout for as long as I could before totally losing my breath, jog it out, and repeat. The crowds were loving it, and all the runners I kept passing probably thought I just jumped on the course to run to the finish with all this energy.
Then the Citgo sign. I got even rowdier. As I passed over the Mass Pike and came down into Kenmore Square, you get sort of dumped out into the middle of the intersection. I found myself there without many other runners, so I decided to go absolutely wild and jumped around as the crowd roared, so much so that I almost fell over as I lost my breath from being so excited.
It was finally catching up to me, and I saw a friend right after the 1 mile left mark and could barely acknowledge him I was so wiped. I labored along to Hereford and clearly screaming the entire way down Beacon Street was catching up to me. I climbed “Mt Hereford” as Kara Goucher calls it, and made that turn onto Boylston Street.
I’ve made this turn so many times before, so I had a feeling where I could start my kick. I saw two of my friends who shouted at me, and totally missed my parents standing next to them. I screamed and picked up the pace… WAY TOO EARLY. It took every last drop of strength to maintain what was a 6:20 pace for the last quarter mile. I crossed the finish line and immediately another runner came up to me and said he loved watching me “dance down Beacon St” as he called it, getting the crowd all riled up, which helped him too.
I finished with a 3:27:26, good for a 9 second PR from Shamrock, where I crashed and burned at mile 18. The PR was icing on the cake, on a day that I will remember as one of my greatest memories as long as I live.
I ran straight through the finish line to mile 26.3, where Drew of Boston Bodyworker took absolutely incredible care of us runners with a massage and hot towels. Major thank you to Drew for that, especially as I was freezing and without a shirt or warm clothes to change into.
Running Boston rekindled my desire to BQ and run Boston again.
Necessary but shameless plug for InsideTracker and my coach here – the nutritional guidance from InsideTracker and the seemingly hourly guidance from my coach helped my body recover as fast as possible, and then maintain/ramp up quickly for a second marathon in less than 30 days.