The Boston Marathon was a dream experience. Seriously. My love for running is renewed and I am so happy. I feel so effusive that if I kept typing, I’m sure the average (sane) person would think, “Is she for real?” Yes! There are some reality checks in this recap so I promise, it is a balanced perspective with several highs and a few lows. Also, I don’t know why I’m finding it now, but this article has the best mile-by-mile analysis of the course itself if you want a more “objective” overview.
Ok, but I’m going to stick to Marathon Monday. I slept until 6:45 and then I was awake! My training partner had noted the day before that, as Wave 3, we didn’t have to get on the buses until 8 a.m. Sweet, sweet sleeping in….yeah right! Too excited!
We stayed at the Marriott Courtyard downtown, which was about a 1/2 mile from the bus loading area. I went to the Hilton around the corner, picked up to Starbucks, picked up Jyotsna and then headed over to Charles St. Jyotsna had a gear check bag, which was about a 1/4 mile in the other direction on Boylston St. The gear check was very smooth, both drop-off and pick-up since at the finish, you just kept walking ‘till you reached your stuff. The Adidas plastic bags were fairly thick and had drawstrings, making them pretty secure.
We both had our little plastic baggies approved for the start line area/Athlete’s Village in Hopkinton, filled with snacks and water. There were freebies in Athletes Village (Clif, Gatorade, bananas, water, sunscreen) but we felt better having our own stuff, especially our breakfast of choice. There were donation boxes for castaway gear which filled up fast because, unfortunately, it was very warm. Very, very warm.
Oh, the weather. Forget heartbreak hill, the weather was the heartbreak. The average course temp was 74 degrees and I know! It makes me sound like such a whiny baby to say it was hot! But I once read that in long-distance running, a runner should dress for 20 degrees warmer because that is how it feels. I would definitely agree with that ballpark estimate.
I wasn’t too bummed out though because, honestly, I hadn’t trained very well for the marathon. My motivation was lagging this Winter and while I did get a 20-miler in, I was nowhere near the shape I had been in for my qualifying marathon. When the forecast gradually showed warmer and warmer temps, I realized that a speedy race would not be in the plans but because my training had been so spotty, a re-qualifying BQ time for the 2018 would have been unlikely even in the best conditions. I did, however, place higher than my bib number so that was a nice ego boost. Plus, I’m not a total brat. I was thankful that it was a gorgeous day and not raining! If only it could have been like the next day, when it was blue skies and 40s/50s!
The bus loading took about 20 minutes and the ride out took 50 minutes. The school buses were comfortable enough, although I am always a little nervous to be on highways in vehicles without seatbelt. Athletes Village was very spacious. There were a lot of portapotties but with significant lines. By the time we were through, it was time to walk to the corral. We started getting nervous on our way to the start line because both of us wanted a last-minute Portapotty and all of a sudden, it seemed like there might not be one until the actual course. Sigh. Nervous bladders! Never fear though- there were a lot of portapotties in the parking lot of CVS, which was well-signed and on the left, just before the corral entrances. The lines were very short (yay!) and we made it to our corral with about 3 minutes to spare. That may be too tight of a gap for some, but we were fine with it. Less time being nervous and getting more and more crowded as people squeeze in.
The first three miles were pretty tight. It’s not quite shoulder-touching-shoulder but almost. The pitter-patter of the groups feet was a steady beat. We started out and I’ll admit it, it was too fast for me. It shouldn’t have been but due to the heat and my training, it was. And I knew it but I was trying to stick with Jyotsna since she really wanted to run together. By mile 3, I knew it was going to be a slow day. I felt fine and I knew I could do the entire race but in terms of speed? Nope, nope, nope.
So, for the next 4 miles, I annoyingly told Jyotsna that she shouldn’t let me hold her back. She may have told me to stop talking at one point, ha ha. But eventually, she pulled ahead once we were through the first 5 miles, which insiders say should be paced with care since they are mostly downhill. HOWEVER. There are definitely rolling hills and it’s actually more “visually discouraging” than “increased effort” discouraging. What the heck does that mean, you ask? Well, I could see ahead of me that the column of runners was definitely heading uphill, which made me sad and wonder where was the rumored constant downhill? In terms of effort though, it didn’t really “feel” uphill when I would get to those segments.
There was definitely a steady tailwind, which was great. At a few points, it blew sideways which was actually ideal for feeling a tiny bit cooler. The sidewind also provided one of the characteristic sounds of the race- hundreds of crumpled paper cups scattering across the road.
The crowds were amazing. People were at roadside restaurants, cheering us on. People also had BBQs and sofas set up on their lawns. In the towns, multiple intersections would have a ton of people cheering. The biggest crowds seemed to be near the train stations, which makes sense. The spectators also had lots of course-side support. My favorite gifts of the day were handfuls of ice and Freezepops. Oh, man, best popsicles of my life!
The fire stations along the route also helped out with combatting the heat. Multiple fire hydrants had shower/sprinklehead attachments for a quick run through. There were also a few mist tents. I hit up every.single.one!
I had a bad mind game for miles 8-14 where I kept subtracting from 22 to calculate miles left. Wrong, dum dum! Subtract from 26.2! Miles 14-16 went by quickly because I was on the lookout for SMS, Jyotsna’s family and my friends who live in Wellesley. I saw them around mile 16, tried to high-five my friend’s extremely unimpressed kid, gave SMS a hug (lucky guy) and ran off with two water bottles. Which I realized was dumb so I turned around and ran back to hand one off to SMS, which he thought was pretty funny.
Newton, on the other hand, seemed to last forever. The hills were definitely doable but there were about four “Welcome to Newton” road signs over several miles and I was confused. The third of the four Newton hills was the steepest but I’m proud to say, I ran all of them and felt pretty good!
All of a sudden, I heard my name and it was Jyotsna. She wasn’t doing super-well so we ran together for the last five miles. We finished holding hands! I was so happy that we finished our marathon journey together. It started when I met her at running club, started to run, decided to train for a marathon, qualified at Napa (for me) and Mountains 2 Beach (for her) and then wound up at Boston together!
So, yes, right on Hereford, left on Boylston. Kara Goucher calls the Hereford stretch “Mt Hereford” since there’s a slight uphill that can feel tough at the end of a long race. The crowds were amazing and I was trying to take it all in while still finishing with respectable form and speed. We crossed the finish line (4:01) and got our medal. There was a set order of tables to pass on our way towards the exit which included Mylar blankets followed by snack bags with water. I promptly ate three Hawaiian rolls from the bag. We then walked straight to pick up Jyotsna’s bag and then turned right to walk towards the exit. The family meeting areas are grouped by letters but we just turned left at the A-D so we could head back to the hotel and shower. We were so sweaty and covered in little dried salt streaks.
We met up with our husbands at the hotel. SMS and I headed to the finish line to watch some of the straggler charity runners. Then I ate most of a pizza at Eatly. Jyotsna and Akshay joined us and we went to the North End for dinner. We ate at Giacomo’s, a pretty delicious place with amazing sounding butternut squash ravioli. I only had a little bit of SMS’ huge portion since I had basically already eaten. Then, it was time to head back and pass out. What an amazing day!
Some final thoughts in note-form
- The Wellesley College Scream Tunnel was cool but the Boston College crowd at the top of Heartbreak Hill was even more rowdy. I think it’s because they had longer to day drink!
- There were definitely people looking for kisses at Wellesley and lots of women with funny signs offering reasons that they should be kissed. It seems a little retro to me but, hopefully, harmless.
- I saw two amputees on the course. I know there were a few more based on pictures I saw but it was incredibly impressive. The chafing that occurs at the prosthesis/stump interface must be horrible. I know at least one was raising awareness for PTSD, which I think it great. It still bothers me how much of America is near-clueless to the commitment of its Armed Forces in protecting the nation and how the whole system works. Instead, they just reap the rewards of freedom and security without too much thought to the complexities involved.
- There were two runners wearing soft boots and using crutches. OMG.
- This race attracts a more serious runner type so there weren’t too many costumes but I saw one guy dressed as Elvis and one guy in a red speedo with an American flag cape. He was quite popular. We ran behind him for a bit around mile 23 so I just pretended the cheers were for me!
- I heard “Sweet Caroline” three times.
- I heard “Watch Me.” The best part was that I heard it as it was playing a very apropos part. Go to 1:08 if you want to share my experience.
- I saw one dead sparrow. Why was I looking for roadkill? I was inspired by a chapter in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami when he counts roadkill along his run along the original marathon route. As you can guess, it’s not the most scenic route. I do recommend the book though. It’s a treasure.
- There were so many kids with their hands out for high-fives. I had so much fun. I also high-fived several people in wheelchairs and a group of older people outside a nursing home.
- Intake: 3 freeze pops, 2 popsicles, every water stand (which is not normal for me in races), 2 Clif Goos from the 11 and 17 mile Clif Zones. I didn’t feel hungry but thought I needed some calories.
- I am happy that I remembered to wear sunscreen.
- Next time, I will try to remember to apply vasoline to my toes. Nothing major, but I think my feet would be a bit happier.
- Minor Gripes: People who take themselves too seriously (except for the elites competing for $150K- they can take themselves as seriously as they want!). Relatedly, people who high-five little kids too hard. Rude. Congratulations, you are stronger than a five year old and can make them say “Ow!”
- Major Highlights: #1 Ichiban was seeing SMS at Wellesley Hills! #2 was seeing my friend, her parents and Akshay. Other highlights include the freeze pop (Again, I know!), the BC crowd, making the famed “Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston,” and running through all the sprinklers!