Everything about Boston lives up to the hype. The expo, the course, the spectators, the volunteers… it was an experience of a lifetime and being there you can see why people have it on their bucket list. The expo is HUGE! The spectators lined up as you walk the .7 miles from the starters village to the starting line were giving us sunscreen and writing our names on our arms so people could cheer for us. And I was thinking, these people paid for this out of their own pockets and are doing this for 30,000 people, and I was a late start so they had been doing it for hours already! During the first 3 miles or so, I truly felt like I had just won an Olympic gold medal and was taking a victory lap on the track! The crowds were cheering like we were awesome just for being there, and I was laughing because we had only just started! You wave at them, and thank them, but it’s never enough. They make this marathon like no other. It was amazing, and it makes you understand why Boston Marathoners will tell you… just enjoy this one, don’t race it, because it is a celebration of all of the miles and hard work it took just to get there.
I had heard that Salome’s husband said of all the marathons he has run it is the hardest course. I had watched many videos and read course reviews. I was very intimidated of what all the 16 miles of downhills would do to my quads before I hit the Newton Hills and then Heartbreak Hill, so I trained harder than I’ve ever trained before. I did hill work, including downhills, and ran the Austin Half at my target marathon pace and felt great (but it was a cooler day). And I included three 50 mile weeks, when I typically only have done 1 per each marathon training plan. But the 1st 16 miles of Boston, I believe should not be thought of as downhill. I was imagining a course like the 3M in Austin, but nope! I would say it’s rolling hills for 16 miles, there are many up hills as well as downs, and they take a toll on your calves. If you’ve run hilly races, these aren’t hills that we’ve never encountered before. It’s just cumulative. And true to what I had read, there is a strong wind in the middle section, which for us was a headwind this year.
Even though everything went great for me in training, this was without a doubt the hardest race I’ve ever run and the worst I’ve ever felt. I finished 20 minutes slower than I thought I could run Boston. At least I can find comfort in knowing that veteran Boston marathoner’s also were finishing significantly slower than their goal times, and all around me people were suffering from calf cramps.
I believe it was a combination of things that resulted in this for me. I had pre-race nerves and stomach issues the day before and had trouble fueling. The day of the race it was very warm in Hopkinton, and we were sweating and getting sun burnt before we even started, which for me was a late 11AM start. I tried to fuel appropriately that morning, and had my normal Scratch labs mix and Gu’s, but very early on, my stomach was not feeling well and although I tried to adjust my hydration and fueling I was getting nauseous. I have never dealt with calf cramps, which hit me after Heartbreak Hill, but I could feel them tightening much earlier. I was determined to run through the cramps, but when I got foot drop I had to walk for brief stints until I could make the foot pick up and this slowed my pace significantly over the last few miles. All around me people were suffering from calf cramps and stretching and rubbing them. By the time I finished I had stomach and back cramping as well.
What would I do differently if I had to do it again? I wouldn’t change one thing in training. I gave it everything I had and I felt as well prepared as I could be. But I would try to calm the heck down pre-race (Lol, easier said than done), so that I could have avoided stomach issues the day before the race. I would have taken either salt tabs or Endurolytes, which I will experiment with. I had never taken them and didn’t want to do that the first time on race day. But with the warmer temps, I really believe it may have made an impact in my cramping. But I also think that any time I line up for a race, if I am HOT before I even start running, then I should just tell myself to forget my goal pace, and run for the experience and joy of it.
I had run with Shalane the day before, and her advice was, “If you are running Boston and don’t feel good, then go give people hugs and high fives, and smile, because it really does help’. And that’s exactly what I did. I saw a lady with a “free hugs” shirt on, and I ran over to her and gave her a big sweaty hug! I could hear the Wellington Girls Scream Tunnel over 1/2 a mile before I got there. And when I did get there, I gave every one of those girls (and a few guys) high fives and air kisses and I think it lasted over 1/4 of a mile (my arm got tired! Ha). I thanked volunteers all along the way, and talked to the guides and blind runners and cheered for the double amputee runners that were so inspiring.
I knew that my MRC family was home following my progress and was so touched to see all of the FB posts and text messages when I got back to my hotel room. You guys are the best, and your support means so much to all of us! I felt it when I was out there! It was a challenging day, but I had got to experience it with some awesome and tough MRC girls that I have so much respect for, and I am so thankful for that! And I had the best conversations afterwards with people who ran it, and watched it, and I can now say I was a part of that. I can take pride in knowing I pushed myself as hard as I could and finished the Boston marathon.