The 2015 Boston Marathon is in the books and while it typically takes me a few days to reflect on a race – especially a marathon – I knew exactly what Boston was about 8 miles into the race. Before going into what I got out of the race, let me give you some details about the event itself.
I flew out to New York on Thursday as my cousin was getting married on Saturday. Lindsay couldn’t travel b/c of the pending baby (we’re due in late June if you didn’t know – Woo Hoo!!!) but it was good to see my family and celebrate Paul & Lydia. As you probably know, Brian qualified as well so myself, him, and Brenda made the 5 hour drive to Boston – would have been 4 hours but had to go out of the way for a Chipotle fix!
Arrived in Boston to catch the end of the expo and see the countless booths, gadgets, and odd running accessories that are in the market today. Any time Lindsay mentions my “running nerd” coming out in me, I just remind her of what the people are like at the expo! We did our photo opp at the finish line and really felt the excitement in the city. The weather was great, well I guess cold but anything less than 75 is brisk for me these days, and the people were fantastic. You could tell how excited everyone gets for Patriots Day – and while I’m sure there is a percentage of people that enjoy getting the day off – as I learned the following day, the city couldn’t embrace the marathon more.
We stayed close to the starting line in Milford. By the time we ate dinner and got back to the hotel we had some time to figure out race day logistics, get nervous and have a few minutes of sleep before the Monday morning alarms. I was up around 5:30 and got my breakfast on – 1.5 bagels and a banana…and a lot of water. Brian was up shortly thereafter. He had waffles – followed later in the day by reese’s peanut butter cups. And by later in the day, I mean 5 minutes before we headed to the start. I almost vomited. But he ran better than me, so I guess he knows what he’s doing!
Got our race gear all situated and headed out to get a grasp for the weather that was being reported. Brenda dropped us off where the shuttles would then take us to the starting area. When she dropped us, we waited for the bus for 5 minutes or so and I thought my legs were going to fall off. Windy, raining and cold. The shuttles took over to the start line where it was much drier and calmer. Brian set us up with a contact who owns a business about 30 yards from the start so we hung out there for a while. Stretched, warmed up, bathroom 25 times, and then made our way to the start. I found a group of guys that wanted to run 2:25 so we put a nice pack together. The elite’s came out and the national anthem was sung. Very cool when Meb got announced as the thousands of people that were running started cheering. At 10:00 AM the gun sounded and we were off. I had used some Runners Connect Boston Marathon mile split predictions to give me a good sense of what my paces should be. Typically I would try to run a marathon very evenly paced – or even negative split, but the hills at Boston make either of these options damn near impossible.
The course was MUCH hillier than I was expecting. It is a net downhill, but seemed as if there were a lot of uphills mixed in as well. I was well aware to be conservative at the start and really focus on getting to mile 16 in the best shape possible. Easier said than done. I was rolling along, but not feeling great. The first few miles were anywhere from 5:20-5:35. Whenever we dipped to 5:25-5:28 pace (even on downhills) I would get a side ache…very uncommon for me. I was well hydrated, nutrition was good but for some reason the pace that I had been practicing felt very uncomfortable for me. If I backed off, even to 5:35 I felt much better. My legs felt just okay – which is never a good thing in a 26 mile race. The pace seemed harder than it should for just starting out. I was hoping that I was logged a few more miles my body would warm up and I would get adjusted and feel a bit more comfortable.
I was still on my goal time through 10 miles and even around the half way point I was right around the time I wanted to be – but I knew that I had worked for it. Typically I would like to come through the half way point 30-60 seconds faster than I would run the 2nd half – but would like to do so in a way that is building confidence. IE the first 4 miles are warm up, the next 4 miles are just cruising, and then miles 9-13 is an area you can really find your grove and let the times just come to you. On Monday, I had slowed down around mile 9 and was trying to find a comfortable pace that didn’t get progressively slower….NOT a good strategy in a marathon – especially on a course as relentless as Boston.
Based on weather predictions, the last 5 miles were going to be a 20 mph headwind with rain picking up as the race went on, combined with how I felt – I knew that it was not in the cards for me to PR. Once I came to this realization I thought about what my other goals would be. “Experts” in the running world always recommend to have an A,B,C goal. I’ve never been one to do this because my goal in every race is to PR. The times that I don’t PR and I fall apart in a race (one of the risks trying to accomplish the unknown in the marathon), I spend the remainder of the race in misery grinding, staring at the ground as I pound my arms and legs as hard as possible (even though it is slower than I run in practice). This results in disappointment, frustration, sometimes injury, and usually I don’t even remember running the race (I.E. NYC in 2011).
As I had all of these thoughts going through my head, I decided at mile 8 that I wanted to enjoy the experience as much as possible. This is one of the coolest marathons to be a part of. I had worked really hard for it, but if it wasn’t in the cards to run a PR, I thought that it would be better to enjoy the run than to grind a time out that I’m truly not proud of. The crowd, history, tradition, and the number of people that strive to run it on any given year is very powerful and I didn’t want to get to the end of it not remembering anything, shaking in the medical tent, and coming away depressed because of the amount of time and pain that not only I put into this.
Is there a little guilt as I made this decision? Yes. Not only did I sacrifice a lot, but so did my wife, friends, and family. I typically operate under the mantra of trying to do my best, and I thought I this particular instance, my “best” was getting the most positive experience I possibly could out of the race. I settled into a pace and while I got progressively slower, it honestly didn’t matter to me from a time stand point – just wanted to soak it all in.
There were many moments I’ll remember. Running through Wellesley College and the loudest tunnel of female screaming I have ever heard, going through Boston College in the thralls of the college students that had probably been partying since the previous night, the chants of “USC” going through the Newton Hills, and turning onto Boylston Street. I got the chance to really appreciate what this sport does for people. I saw runners with one leg, no legs, Team Hoyt, and of a very defeating moment of the guy in the Larry Bird jersey that passed me. Believe it or not, it took a LOT of self control to run the race I wanted to run. Every time a pack passed me or I got an encouraging “let’s go” from a runner – I wanted to go. Part of it was when I started to slow down, my legs said “no” but the other part was just trying to be in the moment and understand what this race truly is.
Coming off of this Boston race I’m a bit confused as to why I felt tired going in. Was it the head cold a few weeks back, was it the weather, was it something I did or didn’t do in training? I had some of the best workouts of my life in this build up – things I couldn’t have come close to accomplishing a few years ago – maybe that will take some more reflecting. I will look at this race an my training as a whole. I know that I was in sub 2:25 shape it just wasn’t my day to complete it. Moving forward, I have a great foundation to build upon and looking forward to that next race.
I do know that although the time was not what I wanted, this is truly a race that I will remember and was conscious enough to really savor the experience. If you asked me about Chicago or CIM (my other PR’s) I couldn’t tell you one thing about either race. I was either focused or so tired my brain wasn’t functioning and I am just lucky that I will be able to play Boston in my head for many years to come.
Lastly and most importantly, props to Brian who came within 5 seconds of a PR. On a day with good conditions at Boston or a normal day on a normal course, it would have smashed his PR…so goes the life of a marathoner.