In 2011, I ran Boston like a tourist. I carried my camera and took a ton of photos, I high-fived a thousand people, and I tried let the entire experience soak through me. This time, I wanted to give the famous course my best shot. And I had a 2:55 PR from 2010 that needed lowering.
Training was as good as I've had for a road race. I trained faster than usual and saw a few short-distance PRs fall along the way. I set my sights on not just lowering my PR but also giving it a good whipping.
- A Goal -- sub-2:50
- B Goal -- lower my PR (2:55:23)
My qualifying time was 2:57, so I was placed in a corral that was very packed and a bit slower than my goal pace. This was good and bad: good because it was so packed that it was impossible to go out too fast on the big downhill out of Hopkinton; bad because it was so packed that it took four or five miles of bobbing and weaving through slightly slower runners before the crowd thinned enough to run my own race.
Temps were rising to 60 degrees (much warmer than anything I've been training in), and I was starting to douse myself with full cups of cold water. But I was still on target as I cautiously approached the hills.
Heartbreak Hill is the last and most infamous of the Newton Hills. It crests near mile 21, but after that, it's a fast downhill course for nearly three miles before two pancake flat miles to the finish line. I lost a few seconds per mile overall as I climbed the hill, but I was still on target at the top of Heartbreak -- just as I planned.
The elite men's write-up said that the race is won on the hills, "if not on the hills themselves, then by virtue of the damage they inflict." As I was descending the backside of Heartbreak Hill, I see now that I had fallen into the category of "I lost the race because of the damage the hills inflicted on me." I wasn't toast, but I was not-so-slowly going in that direction.
By mile 24, my pace had slowed almost a minute per mile and it was clear right then that 2:50 was out of reach. I was overheating by now, and the wobble in my legs had become a wobble in my head. I wanted to walk (for fear of passing out, and because I was now officially toast), but the roar of the unbelievable crowd kept me running. You really do feel like a rock star the entire 26.2 miles along the Boston Marathon course.
So I kept running, and now I was starting to get a little worried about my B goal. But my meltdown wasn't so bad that I couldn't soak in the unrivaled feeling of turning left onto Boylston Street with the finish line in site. It truly is one of the greatest scenes in all of sport.
I shuffled through the finish line, beaten yet victorious. It's quite the feeling to cross that finish line; it was my second Boston finish, and it felt no less amazing than my first time there.
And I'm the owner of a new PR: 2:54:33.
|I made the trip with three fellow Beer Chasers|
(l-r: me, Doug Jacobson, Dan Froelich, Graham VanderSchelden)
The "Boston Strong" spirit was amazing all weekend. I don't have a strong emotional connection to the city of Boston itself, but if felt good to be a very small part of helping that city heal.
I do have a very strong emotional connection to runners all around the world, so nearly all of the goosebumps I got throughout the race and race weekend were reserved for other runners I saw on the course. I believe in running, and it filled my heart with so much joy to see the smiles and struggles and tears and whoops-of-joy from runners of varying shapes and colors.
The Boston Marathon is special. It's a lofty goal for many runners, but it's a worthy goal. The idea of the Boston Marathon is almost as powerful as the race itself. I feel truly blessed to be lucky enough to have run it twice now. I hope I'll never take moments like these for granted.