On Monday I ran the Boston Marathon. It will be one of my favourite runs I have ever undertaken and one of the best experiences of my life.
You read about how big the marathon is to Boston and from the minute I landed in this very lovely city, it was completely evident how much they love this race.
I had been watching the forecast for Marathon Monday from home before I left. It went from being a reasonable forecast top of 14°C and clear before I left, to the night before the forecast being top of 10°C with rain. Less than ideal, but I figured we were all running in the same conditions, so I better just prepare!
Some quick internet research told me that:
- American runners swore by Aquaphor to prevent chaffing that so often comes from running long distance in the rain.
- I needed a garbage bag to wear to the starting line to keep as dry as possible.
- Two zip lock bags to put my phone in if I didn’t want it to die in the rain.
The event is so well organised. You are allocated a Wave and a Coral. This is determined by your qualifying time and then allocates your start time. Buses are organised from Boston Common to the starting line at Hopkinton.
It started to rain as soon as I hopped off the bus. They had rolls and rolls of the foil sheets for the runners to wrap around ourselves to try and keep warm.
They also had massive tents set up to help keep us dry. The garbage bag came in handy to sit on here. I was lucky enough to connect with two lovely young women. None of us had met before and all of us where running Boston for the first time. Coincidentally we were all in the same wave, so we sat together and chatted for the two hours before we had to make it to the starting line.
The rain stopped as we headed to the starting line (but not for long!). Everyone was incredibly friendly (actually everyone in Boston seemed that way to me) and in good spirits. The atmosphere was so good natured and the volunteers are utterly amazing. They have over 10,000 volunteers who were all super happy to be there and very encouraging to all the runners.
Security is also incredibly tight. The athletes village was surrounded by police and soldiers. The PA system let us know there would be Black Hawk helicopters flying over the course and not to be alarmed, it was all precautionary.
The weather forecasts were right and as we lined up to start the temperature was only 6°C and the rain that was forecast for the rest of the day, along with strong winds, all happened.
In my last two marathons, I have started off way too fast and ended up paying for it. Boston starts off downhill, is notorious for killing your quads and starting off too fast in this race apparently is the downfall of many, many runners.
My goal for this race was not for a specific time, but I wanted to run a well paced race and enjoy it. Not hate the last 15kms and feel in utter pain as I did at the Melbourne Marathon in October last year.
As the race is so busy, it naturally curbs your speed at the start which is great. I resisted the temptation to dodge and weave to find some clear space and just rolled with it. There are not many patches on the course where you have free space, there are just lots of runners the entire way.
There are crowds of people along the whole course – nothing like I have ever seen at a marathon before. And they aren’t just standing there. They cheer the whole time, have funny and encouraging signs, have food and drinks to offer runners and so many smiles.
I run with headphones but ran lots of the way with only one in and for the last 5kms, ran without them at all to soak up the atmosphere of the crowds.
Some highlights from on the course:
- A rock band playing in a garage and the associated party with it.
- Kids holding signs saying “touch here for power”.
- The Wellesley scream tunnel – it is as loud as they say and the sight of male runners making a bee line for the lovely female spectators on the side of the ride to do as their signs say and kiss them was a hilarious thing to see. One male runner in front of me was up to his 5th kiss as I over took him!
- The noise as you run down Boylston street and the fact that so many people are still hanging around to watch you cross the finish line when the elite have finished hours ago.
And I happy to say that I didn’t go out too fast this time, I ran pretty much to my plan and ran at a pretty even pace. The last few kms were a little slower though; the rain had stopped and the wind had really kicked in. I was feeling cold and my calves were really tight. Despite this though, I smiled my way to the finish line, so happy with what I achieved.
The post race management was exceptional too. I have never been so cold and wet in my life. As soon as you finished you walked a little further down Bolyston Street to receive a rain jacket which the volunteers actually put on for you. Being so cold, it was hard to do it yourself. At one point further down, the wind had blown part of it open on me and a volunteer came over and tucked it in for me. Many volunteers checked in on me to see if I was doing okay. My teeth wouldn’t stop chattering and I was walking very slowly!
After the jacket we were given water, our medals and then offered all sorts of recovery drinks and foods. I took a banana, but couldn’t open it with my cold hands and again a volunteer came to my rescue and did it for me.
There are a number of people I really want to thank for helping and supporting me to make it to Boston:
- Phil – my amazing husband who is solo parenting while I am away. He never once questioned me going and and believed I could do it.
- Our gorgeous 5 kids – who were excited for me to take on the challenge and are doing without me while I am away.
- Andrew and Lizzy – whose advice I sought before I started officially training for Boston. After my last two marathon results I knew I needed to make a change with my training and they both gave me excellent feedback.
- Aidan – my physio whose advice I sought on my training too (he is an endurance athlete as well). He also very kindly would answer so many of my marathon related questions, giving more advice and tips, which I greatly appreciated.
- Nick – my CrossFit coach who created a specific Boston marathon training program for me. All the advice I received was that I needed to reduce the amount of strength training I was doing. This I did, stopping regular CrossFit classes and sticking solely to my new program which incorporated reduced but specifically targeted strength sessions. The training program was completely different to what I had undertaken previously, but as I was making my way up the infamous Newton Hills of Boston on Monday, I realised just how well his program had prepared me for the race.
- My fabulous sisters Sam, Cass and Steph – from giving me acupuncture, to looking after the kids while I am away, I can’t thank you guys enough.
When you work towards something for a long time and then travel half way around the world to undertake it, you do start to wonder if it will really be worth it and for me running the Boston Marathon was worth it plus more. Again thanks so much to those who encouraged, helped and supported me to make it.