The weather for the race was nearly perfect: low 40s at the start line, calm, and partly cloudy. It warmed up to low 50s over the next several hours, with a bit of a headwind after the turn onto Comm Ave. around mile 22, but nothing detrimental. My pre-race strategy was to go out around my goal pace (6:50) for the first 16 miles, banking a little time on downhill stretches when it was easy to do, save energy for the hills in Newton and try to get through them without giving up too much, then time trial home the last 5 miles with whatever I had left.
For those of you who haven’t run Boston: if you ever have the chance to, do it. The crowd support and community involvement is like nothing else I’ve ever seen (I haven’t run NY, but this would be hard to top). From the get-go in tiny Hopkinton, crowds are packed 3 deep along the narrow road, cheering, high 5-ing, holding signs, blaring music, grilling, drinking beer, having a great time. One downside I noticed, that I wasn’t expecting: in most other marathons, there aren’t too many people running less than 7:30, so the road is fairly open and it’s easy to pick a line, set your own pace, etc. In Boston I started in Wave 1, Corral 5, and was surrounded by people for almost the entire race. For the first several miles I had a hard time settling in, since I was constantly dodging and weaving through other runners. I managed to run 6:40s without too much extra effort though, and felt pretty comfortable.
From Mile 5 to 16 I stuck to mid-6:40s generally, winding through Cordaville, Natick, and Wellesley. The size and energy of the crowds really can’t be overstated; there aren’t any quiet stretches of road like most marathons have, there are spectators cheering along the entire route. The Tunnel of Love was also not overhyped – ½ mile of college girls screaming at dog-whistle pitch holding signs giving every reason under the sun you should kiss them: “Kiss me, I’m Irish,” “Kiss me, I’m from Texas,” “Kiss me and I’ll kiss her,” “Kiss me, I’ve never been kissed,” and other variations. Surprisingly (or maybe not), plenty of guys were happy to oblige.
I was having a little trouble digesting (I only had 3 gels during the race, one of which almost came back up), and tried to limit my water a bit to let my stomach settle. This didn’t end up working, and I got a side stitch around mile 16 as the hills were starting, just after taking my second gel. I managed to work it off without stopping, thankfully, and focused on plugging away up the hills. They’re not actually too bad: each is no more than a ¼ mile long, and not too steep (think somewhere between San Vicente and the stretch of Ocean that connects SV to West Channel), with a chance to recover between.
By the time I topped out at Heartbreak and passed the BC campus, around mile 21, I was starting to hurt but felt pretty good about the last 5 miles. I had a bunch of friends waiting for me at mile 24, and I managed to hold it together past them, running mid-6:30s. Shortly after, though, I started breaking down. I think the limited calories, the hills, and the distance took their toll, and by the time I got to mile 25 I was in survival mode. You have to go under Mass Ave right before dog-legging onto Boylston for the home stretch, and I swear the uphill out of that underpass was the most difficult of the entire race. My quads felt like I was getting electro-stim with each step, I was breathing like I’d just finished a track workout, and my pace dropped to almost 7:00. Boylston took forever; I barely noticed how many people were jammed in along the rails, how loud it was; everything seemed sort of far-off. Finally, I crossed the line and stopped my watch (2:57:13, a 6-minute PR), limped my way through the finishing chute, found my girlfriend, and (very luckily) grabbed a taxi back out to my friends at mile 24. 90 minutes or so later, the bombs went off.
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