For those of you who just want to read the Boston Marathon race recap, you might want to just scroll down. Additionally, there are some fabulous pictures of the elites at the bottom of this post.
I’ve been pretty busy writing the first chapter of my dissertation over the past several months; I feel guilty when I do any writing other than dissertation writing. Thus, while I had the very best of intentions for this little blog of mine, I failed to chronicle any of my marathon training leading up to Boston.
Below is a link to a PDF file of the training plan I followed. It’s a hybrid of the Intermediate and Advanced training plans in the Runner’s World Big Book of Marathon and Half-Marathon Training. For me, the biggest difference in training was going from running 5 days a week to 6 days a week as well as a major increase in peak mileage.
Training leading up to the marathon was fairly uneventful, which is just how I like it– no major injuries, no failed workouts, no bonking on the long runs. I did, however, experience a minor, but nagging, pain in my hamstring. I didn’t think much of it during training but it turned out to be a problem on race day.
Boston Leading Up to the Marathon:
My lovely parents decided to fly out all the way from Oregon to spectate the race and cheer me on. They’ve also never seen New England, so on Wednesday before the race we drove from our place just outside of DC to Plymouth, where we stayed in a little B&B for two nights. We visited Plimoth Plantation, saw the Mayflower II, visited an old cemetery, tasted at a winery and a distillery, and poked around the town.
From there we drove to Waltham, where we stayed through race day. We visited Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where we saw author’s ridge, Lexington Green, and the Old Manse (Emerson’s grandfather’s house where Emerson stayed for a time as well as Hawthorne, and where many Transcendentalists of the 19th century gathered); we walked all the way around Walden Pond, saw Paul Revere’s House, went to the Old North Church for Sunday service where they served communion out of silver that King George gave to the church, saw the Ducklings on Boston Common as well as St. Gaudens relief of the 54th Massachusetts, watched the Red Sox beat the Orioles (boo!), and of course went to the Marathon Expo.
I forgot how electric the atmosphere in Boston is before the marathon. There were runners proudly wearing their Boston Marathon gear from the current year as well as past years. As more and more runners flocked to the city, the T was overloaded with passengers carrying shoe bags, expo bags, tiger tails, and foam rollers. Runners chatted on the trains about whether or not this was their first Boston marathon, and I was surprised at how many runners continue to come back to this race again and again.
Of course, this year was special. The bombings of 2013 affected everyone in the running community whether they were at the marathon or not. The attack felt personal to me despite the fact that I wasn’t involved in that year’s race. The history of racing, especially the marathon, is one that chronicles what the human spirit is capable of; it showcases our ability to persevere through pain and mental fatigue; it’s a joyful celebration of athletic talent, a celebration of doing something that seems almost superhuman. Regardless of pace, anyone who has run a marathon has taken part in that triumph, celebration, and joy. At the 2013 marathon, some one tried to shatter the spirit of this race, so it’s no wonder that the B.A.A. had to increase the field to accommodate not only those runners who didn’t get to finish last year, but also the thousands of runners who wanted to respond to the attacks by heading to Boston in 2014. I think that for many runners racing in 2014 was an act of defiance, a way to prove that we aren’t intimidated by what happened, it was a response to terror, and a statement of resilience, and I feel so fortunate to have taken part in this year’s race.
I was lucky to have a buddy along to hang out with in Athlete’s Village. Liz is an old family friend who has become an avid and impressive runner. Girl runs a 3:13 marathon… that’s around a 7:21 average split! We car pooled to Hopkinton, where we dodged cops and narrowly missed the street closures thanks to our stealth driver, Liz’s dad, Rod. We arrived around 7:45-ish and had 2 hours to kill before they started to release our wave.
Also: SO.MANY.PEOPLE! I did NOT remember it being so crowded. Toilet paper was running out in the porta-potties despite an increased number of units. I got lucky and always found potties with TP though I did have a contingency plan of using my throwaway gloves if the need arose. Security, corral release, food, and porta-potties were all organized amazingly well. Boston had a tough race to pull off due to large numbers and increased security, but they pulled through with flying colors.
The Actual Race Recap:
Miles 1-10 were fabulous. The energy of the crowd was amazing. I chatted with other runners, high-fived every little kid I could reach, waved at people, and couldn’t stop smiling. The weather, however, was hot. I remember thinking in the first mile that I felt dry, so immediately I knew I’d have to hydrate more than I had in training.
The need for extra hydration led to some problems. One of my main goals for this marathon was to fuel better. I knew I needed to be taking in more calories than I had in the past, so I’d been using Bonk Breakers cut up into eight small pieces during my long runs. They pack 250 calories total, and I take two pieces at miles 6,8,12, and 14. From there, I take two GU chomps at miles 18, 20, and 22. However, all the extra water didn’t sit well with the Bonk Breaker and I felt full and heavy for a good part of the race as a result.
Around mile 18 or 19 I got a really bad side stitch that made breathing painful, and I felt myself going to a dark, slow place. Up through mile 17 or 18, I was holding around a 7:40 pace which had me all set for a PR and another BQ. But once again, I completely fell apart around mile 20. It wasn’t because of nutrition this time– despite the uncomfortable fulness, I definitely fueled well and should have had enough energy to finish strong. This time, the problem was pain. Running a marathon always hurts, and I’m pretty tough. But it’s hard for me to know what kind of pain is safe to push through and what kind of pain means I should pull back.
At mile 15 or so, my left hamstring was hurting a bit. Nothing terrible, just a little nagging pain like I’d felt during my training. Clearly, I had forgotten how unforgiving this course is because by mile 20, that pain in my hamstring had traveled to my hip flexor and then to my quad. Any downhill running (of which there is a lot after mile 20) was especially painful. Maybe I could have run through it. I always read about embracing the pain of a marathon, about relaxing into pain, and simply accepting it as part of the experience. However, I don’t remember hurting this bad in the past, and I was worried that I’d injure myself and not be able to finish the race.
And with those thoughts of injury in my head, I let the pace fall dramatically. When I saw a 9:25 minute mile split on my watch, I stopped checking it. I also stopped hoping for a PR. When I crossed the finish line, I felt pretty defeated, which is not what I wanted for this race. I had worked so hard at fueling properly in training so that I could experience a strong finish. Looking back, I have some guesses as to why I had so much trouble this time around. I continued doing upper body lifting, but I neglected my lower body. I didn’t focus on flexibility training at all. I didn’t foam role. I neglected these important aspects of training mostly because of time constraints. It’s been a busy semester. Lesson learned.
Finish time: 3:35:17; average split: 8:13.
Despite the fact that I didn’t reach my goals for this race, I felt so lucky to get to participate in this marathon. Seeing the spirit and enthusiasm of the crowds was inspiring. Getting to be a part of the city’s healing process was unforgettable.
The first time I ran the Boston, I said I’d never go back– the course was just too hard. This time around, I have mixed feelings. The course once again put me through a meat grinder, but I also gained a new appreciation for how special this race is. So who knows? Maybe one of these years I’ll be back. For now, however, I’m on the lookout for a fall marathon and some summer trail races.
Below are some pictures Mike took of the Elites. He said that Meb was so far ahead of the other runners that no one realized he was in the race. By the time Mike realized who he was it was too late to get a decent picture. Meb for the win!
Though he didn’t get a great picture of Meb, Mike did get several good ones of Shalane and Rita.