Sunday, September 30, 2018

2018 Boston Marathon Recap

As we run, we become ~Amby Burfoot

6 a.m. Patriot's Day. Boston.

Christine volunteered to walk with me out to the Common where the BAA buses were staged to take marathon runners out to Hopkinton for the race start. We stepped outside our Copley Square hotel and were met for the first time with the reality of what this day would forever be associated with.
Cold. Wind. Rain.

Driving rain. Gusting wind. Brutal temperatures. Runners may often find themselves training in any one of these conditions. Occasionally, a runner may find themselves facing two of these elements. Rarely, does a runner ever encounter all three. Welcome to the 2018 Boston Marathon.

We slowly made our way down Stuart Street where a 45+ mph gust blew off Christine's hat. I stepped in a puddle and my feet quickly became soaked. Christine said she looked at me and saw a glimmer of fear.

Getting closer to the buses, we started coming across hundreds of other runners fighting the same elements. And we all sort of just looked at one another and smiled.

The 2018 Boston Marathon is an experience I am so proud, lucky and humbled to have been a part of. These are memories I'll be able to share for the rest of my life.

There's honestly so much to say about the day, the weekend, the experience. I was so thankful to be able to have my parents, sister, and wife there to share it all with.

My marathon cycle the previous fall was cut short due to a stress fracture. I was really frustrated and disheartened, but found that on the bright side I was diagnosed early enough to be able to heal up and have a good three months to get back in shape for Boston. Early on I knew the goal was just to run the 26.2, not race it.

After almost three months off from running, getting back into shape was painfully slow. It really wasn't until the last 4-5 weeks before Boston that I started feeling "normal" again. But things started coming together quickly there with a few good tempos and marathon pace long runs and somehow I found myself in close to 3:05 shape. So I faced a decision; continue my original plan of an easy effort marathon, or try to race it. I was due for a cut back week, so I decided to do a mini-taper and if the conditions were perfect, I'd go for it and race. If not, then I'd enjoy the day and push my goal marathon to Fargo in May. 

As it turned out, it obviously wasn't a close decision. The weather forecasts looked bleak the entire week leading up to Boston, and it came to fruition as I stepped outside that morning. So I chose to stick with running Boston as a relatively easy effort long run which definitely took the pressure off. And that's where I promised myself to take it all in and enjoy the experience.

I brought multiple options for gear to choose from before the race, and really wasn't sure which direction to go right up until race morning. In the end, I think the decision to go with a singlet saved me, though I was definitely in the minority as most runners layered up.

The bus ride up was mostly uneventful except for the fact that THE BUS GOT LOST. We reached Hopkinton in about 45 minutes, but for some reason our bus was not allowed to proceed past security to athlete drop off. Instead, the driver got all turned around trying to backtrack which added another 45 minutes to the drive and made for a lot of nervous runners. But in the end spending more time on the warm heated bus and out of the elements was a good thing. The downside was that I never actually made it into Athlete's Village, as it was time to warm up when we finally got to the drop off point.

After a brief warm-up it was time to enter the starting corrals, but not before the sky opened up and poured for 10 minutes. This was to be the trademark for the day; light rain with little wind, followed by gusts and downpours. There were friends that had some solid performances, but largely it was a struggle-fest for all those racing.

After a few minutes the gun went off, cheers erupted, and we crossed the iconic Boston Marathon start line. It was all pretty surreal. While many said the crowds were noticeably (and understandably) down from prior years, I was still impressed with all the spectators out there in the early miles. Many with a beer in hand.

There are a few things associated with the Boston course; early downhill miles being one. The downhills were much more tame than I had read about and envisioned. I have to caveat all of my impressions with the fact that since I didn't "race" the course my perceptions are probably different from those that did, but those downhills through Ashland were not bad. In fact, in retrospect while I always have preferred flat courses, I think Boston on a good weather day would be my preferred course for a fast time.

I settled into a pace between 7:10 - 7:25 for the first 10 miles, keeping the effort as easy as possible. I never really felt cold during the race, but the sleet pellets in those early didn't exactly give me that warm fuzzy feeling.

Shortly before the half, I had to pee. Bad. I've never stopped to use facilities during a race before.  While I didn't care about time, I was concerned about stopping abruptly in the elements and what it would do to my core temperature. But, I no longer had a choice. And so I stopped at the next port-a-potty. The first of four potty stops. Four!

I knew we were approaching Wellesley because a half mile out you heard what sounded like the low rumbling of a train passing. As I approached the famous scream tunnel I experienced the hundreds of college students screaming and cheering all of the runners for the first time. It gave me goosebumps. I moved to their side of the road and gave high fives to as many students as possible.


So, I wrote the above a few days after Boston. And now its the end of September. Since April I've run another marathon, spent three months traveling around the world, and recently found out that I squeaked into 2019 Boston by 28 seconds. It's all given me a completely new perspective. To be continued...