I RAN BOSTON! | BOSTON MARATHON RACE RECAP
THE NIGHT BEFORE....
After psyching myself up for this race for say 8 months (I lie, a whole year), imagine my dismay to realise that the weatherman's predictions were true. It was going to rain and be very windy with 30-50mph gusts and freezing cold temperatures on Marathon Monday!
Anyhu, I had packed an old black cotton hoodie I was willing to throw away. It was meant to keep me warm in the Athlete's village before the start. I added a pair of cheap (thank you, Primark) leggings to the mix and my outfit was complete!
All that was left to do was apply my Sarah Marie Design Studios Boston-inspired nail transfers at 1AM in the morning! Yes, I am that person. In my defence, they looked pretty cool and I had slept well the preceding few nights.
JOURNEY TO HOPKINTON
On waking up, I threw on my outfits and added my game face - light make up and Unicorn cheek glitter. Every marathon feels like a Festival to me so why not look ready to party? Oh and never mind the rain!
I rushed downstairs to get the packed breakfast essentials the Hotel had left out for the runners: I opted for the Raisin bagel and peanut butter (YASSSSS) and left the granola and apple - too fibrous by half!
I did something that saved the morning then. I asked the concierge if they had any trash bags. She did - she gave me two see-through (for security) trash bags that I made holes in the top and sides for head and arm holes. On wearing it, it was almost floor-length on me - I am short! He he!
Stepping out of the hotel, I was immediately assaulted by the tempest outside! No word of lie, The wind and rain whipped at me. I quickly slipped my arms back inside the bag's protective poncho-like cover and held my food bag to my chest. As I walked the 800m to the bus loading area on Charles Street, my feet (which were the only parts not protected by the bag) were well and truly sodden. Oh and my Buff had to come down. It was so soaked with water from the driving rain, I felt like I was being water-boarded! Not the best of feelings.
I opted not to leave any gear for checking to avoid a 1-mile walk after the race. (A smart move prompted by a fellow-runner's suggestion the night beforehand.
Sliding through mud, we got onto the bus queues and I was directed by the Volunteers to a bus. They loved my facial glitter! I was low-key singing Rihanna's "Work, work, work, work, work!" in the cue and they agreed the sound system should be blasting tunes!
The bus ride was long but cozy! However, by the time I was on it, my shoes and socks were soaked! I noticed on the line that people who thought to protect their shoes fell into two categories. They either covered each shoe with a plastic bag, or they carried a pair of dry shoes for the rave, sorry race (Freudian slip!) and aimed to throw away the pair they wore. During the bus ride, my feet thawed out a bit and my Buff dried - yes it was that long a ride!
Arriving at the Athletes Village revealed a new set of issues.
ATHLETES' VILLAGE AND STARTING CORRALS
The Athlete's village at Hopkington was a muddy affair! There was snow which had fallen in the earlier hours of the morning. And there were mud pits from all the rainfall thus far!
I quickly used the ladies' facilities and made my way to the Clif tents where we were promised there were heaters. Of the four, there was only space in one! And in that one, there was face painting on offer. I declined since I already had my glitter on but they used my glitter style to entice others to have their faces similarly done up with glitter or country flag colours. I assured the curious runners that the glitter tended to last for the whole race (at least it had for CIM - lol!).
I sat briefly to put in my toe warmers (which did absolutely NOTHING for my numb toes) and shake out and apply my Hand warmers inside my arm sleeves and gloves. As I ate some of my snacks, a tall man came in and wished us well. He warned us to try and keep warm and watch it on the downhills. Then he said, "I'm Scott Jurek". *Gasp*
I looked to my left and YES, it was Scott Jurek! I was internally fan-girling but was too cold - numb fingers and all - to grab my phone for a picture. Darn it!
Shortly, they called the first wave Red bib wearers and then our second wave!
As we moved towards the holding area in the parking lot behind Athlete's Village, we all excitedly chatted and tried to calm our nerves. All too soon, they herded us forward on the half a mile walk to the actual corals. On the way there, there were more porta-potties for us to get rid of the extra layers and food we didn't want for the race.
I took of my leggings at this point but kept my trash bag poncho and the black hooded sweater.
I grabbed a mouthful of water and gave my spare trash bag (which I hadn't used for sitting at the Athlete's village (too muddy and wet) to one of the many lovely volunteers.
All too soon, it was time to go! Aaargh. I jogged up to my corral - actually, I jogged past it, oops - then waited to be let loose on the course. I quickly wrapped my Buff around my Visor hat instead of my neck to prevent a repeat of the previous water-boarding incident!
THE FIRST 6 MILES
So after pretty much NO warm-up because, what would be the point, the rain was freezing, I started at an 8:20 - 8:20 pace. Immediately, my Garmin started having issues. The sleeve of my hoodie, made heavier by the heavy rain, was hitting the touch screen and making false-laps!
Using that as a gauge was OUT then! So I ran on feel.
I made sure to be careful on the downhills and not go too fast.
I was very afraid in those early miles. Coming back from an injury that had me not running for 2 weeks and then having a short taper for the same reason, I didn't want to damage anything on the course! So when I noticed that my feet felt like blocks of wood, I was afraid!
You see, my feet were numb - not just the toes anymore - the bottom of the feet and I could just about feel my ankles. With a recent Right shin splint injury and the left calf being tight as usual, I was scared I was unwittingly doing damage! Hence, I took it easy and prayed internally for my feet to be okay. "Dear Lord, help me!" I made sure I did absolutely NO WEAVING between people. No energy wastage here!
I took my Clif bloks at just over the 3 mile point and kept moving! I threw off my outer trash bag between mile 3 and 6. I was overheating within it!
There were puddles everywhere! The middle of the road, the sides and when we dipped into any valley, the whole width of the road was wet.
As I neared the 6th mile, I realized I was having some GI discomfort. My lower abdomen felt tight and it was making me run slower and slightly hunched forward. I had alternately been drinking a sip or Gatorade and 3 sips of water from the cups. I want to shout out @Heatheruns from Instagram who gave great tips for grabbing water in cups from volunteers. I used those tips at CIM last year and again this year at Boston!
I briefly saw Bethany Davis of @be.fit.davis (IG) whom I'd met at the Rambling Runner meetup the day before. She was looking strong! Whoop whoop! As my discomfort continued, I let Bethany power on ahead of me and I struggled to keep pace.
I kept telling myself: "Never trust the first half of a marathon!" and "aim to be slower in the first half to pass folks in the second".
The rain and wind continued to batter us.
Miles 7 to 12
I was taking the Gatorade and water at alternate water stops up to mile 11. And with each step from mile 7 to 11, I felt my lower abdomen feeling more and more bloated.
No matter how I tried to ignore it, I just felt more bent forward with the pain. As I passed mile 11, I felt I really needed to pee (TMI alert!).
So for the first time in any race, I ran for the first loo I saw.
As I headed back out, I felt SO much better! Suddenly, I was actually back within 10 seconds of goal marathon pace. And just like that, 12 miles were complete! I dropped one of my hand warmers at this point (from my right hand). This meant it started to freeze up with the cold into a claw hold!
That was when I heard them! The screams!!
I turned to my left, about to ask if there were people being murdered up ahead, then remembered.
WELLESLEY! This was when the tables turned! The much lauded ladies of Wellesley College were just as loud and encouraging as they have been spoken of.
After a few high-fives (no extra energy for KISSES), I was sufficiently reinvigorated to keep pushing the pace and start flying towards the hills.
Miles 13 - 18
As I passed the halfway point, I had a choice to make. Either I hold on to my top layer of clothing, which was wet and making my GPS go crazy in the rain, or I ditch it and face the elements that were here to stay cold and wet.
So I threw off my Hooded zip up sweater and ran for the hills!
The crowds were very much in support - I believe we were now in Natick and crossing shortly into Newton with its famed hills.
I was prepared to try the 1 mile easy, 2 miles hard approach I had read on one of the many articles as I'd swatted up on the Boston course last week.
Imagine my happy surprise to find that I barely felt the hills!
Yes, you read that right. I had trained on Primrose Hill and even around Hampstead and Golders Green as little as a week beforehand and those were WAY harder than the hills of Boston. Even with the downhills at the start. My quads were not shredded as I had been warned by Bill Rodgers and my pal, Dr Steve Harris to train well downhill in long runs!
The main thing I noted was to keep up my cadence on the uphills (whilst many started walking) and not break on the downhills. When my left knee gave some protest on the first downhill, I leaned forward and let gravity take me rather than the backward lean I had unconsciously started with.
I kept passing people and I even had a friend yell, "Looking good, Lola!" I turned to see Bethany Davis again. She was holding on there but I knew these hills were a struggle for most.
The crowds held up signs and yelled encouragement. More and more people read out my number and rooted for me! This was EXACTLY what I needed. People took to calling me "Sparkles" because of my facial glitter! lol!
At mile 17, I made my second bathroom pit stop as darn it, I drank one more sip of Gatorade and it made me cramp (abdominally) again! No more Gatorade thereafter. I grabbed water at every other station from then onwards.
I perfected a new water grabbing technique here. With my right hand now frozen into a bit of a claw, I would swoop my left hand around the cup to lift it from the volunteer's hands and prevent splashing us both! Oh dear!
Sadly, my second had warmer fell off at this point - darn mile 17 - so my Left hand was a bit less frozen than the right but starting to feel the elements too!
This stretch of the course continued uphill until I was suddenly upon the infamous "Heartbreak Hill".
Some spectators had a rad sign saying "It's only a hill, get over it!" at the bottom. I flew up this hill.
Okay guys, here's my take: if you've done even a 2-3% gradient on the treadmill once a week, you are good! I did 2-3% as my minimum inclination on even easy runs and 4% + when I was practising for Heartbreak Hill. This hill was actually a beautifully low incline upwards over - I guess half a mile - and I didn't feel taxed going up it. I'm sure the crazy hills of Ultra races were miles worse (one had my heart racing just walking up it!) and they are more formidable foes.
Around mile 22, I noticed I was running with the same girl from San Diego. I figured that her shirt showed that because the crowd would alternately yell my number or say, "Go San Diego" as she an I kept shoulder to shoulder.
Someone yelled out somewhere around mile 23 - it's all downhill from here!
For the next 2 miles, "San Diego" and I would pass each other on uphills (she would pass me) and downhills (I would pass her)! So we battled onward.
I had been surreptitiously looking up to the horizon, searching for the CITGO sign I had seen on my Charles River shake out run and when I had gone close to Fenway Park a couple of nights beforehand. No sign of it (excuse the pun).
Suddenly, with about a mile and a bit to go (maybe 24.5 miles in) I spotted it. And it was close!
Shortly, I say the One mile to go signs by the crowd.
Someone yelled, "1-3-3-3-3, you're the best I've seen!" That was flattering! lol!
I thought to myself in those last 2 miles, "I can put up with ANY amount of pain for 2 miles!"
I was feeling my hamstrings and I was just T-I-R-E-D!
Suddenly, there was the sign for the right turn on Hereford! We were almost there!
Within a few yards of turning on Hereford, we were turning Left onto Boylston!
I could just about squint and see the finish.
I asked myself, "Can I push it a bit more? Can I go faster?" My muscles were screaming "No!"
However, I looked slightly to my right and saw that "San Diego" had switched to that side and was revving up for the finish.
Well, it was ON!
I started to speed up and used my arms to drive me forward. I knew I had a finishing kick in distances up to the half marathon but here was a chance to use it for a marathon. And at Boston NO LESS!
So I ran for my life and kept her behind me as I strode to the finish!
I looked up and saw 3:49 on the timer but knew it was several minutes off when I started so I would wait for my net time. I had given up looking at my Garmin at around mile 22!
Once I was over the line, I followed instructions to keep moving. They were handing out water bottles just behind the photographers (yep, NO ONE needed that at this point)! I started looking off to the right side to see if I could sneak off to my hotel ASAP.
Then I thought, I feel like I'm forgetting something....
I hadn't even gotten my medal yet and I was trying to get home! *Face palm*
So I kept moving forward a few more yards and there were the medals *sigh* and the beautiful hooded foil ponchos! I was too cold to actually managed to put it on by myself so a kind volunteer helped me fasten the front velcro!
I then turned to the side and was showed a gap through the barricades to get back to my hotel.
On that short walk, approximately 300m - I encountered the slightest incline. I had to turn around and walk up it backwards to stop my legs hurting. I looked crazy but what else could I do.
After a quick selfie and a few frozen handed mirror pics, I jumped in the shower.
My back was seizing up from the cold!
After the first 10 minutes, I stepped out and immediately started shaking again.
Another 20 minutes in the shower it was! I actually posted my instagram update in said shower (hot water on my back!).
MY THOUGHTS ON BOSTON 2018
I just want to say how amazing that race was!
In spite of the crazily adverse conditions, I learned - alongside many others - that as long as I showed up and kept trying, I could achieve anything I put my mind to. The first half reflected my mind not being set on fighting (and my poorer fueling choices) but the second half more than made up for it with my rediscovered GRIT!
The volunteers and the spectators were the real stars of the show! To stand there in the pelting, freezing rain and wind and yell encouragement for us all! I am humbled beyond words.
My final time was 03:44:28. My personal worst! However, it is still a London Good-for-Age qualifier and on one of the hardest courses out there!
That was a whirlwind taster of Boston. However, it has left me wanting more.
I have a CIM qualifying time already for next year (holler!) and I will try to improve on that in the year!
Thank you for coming on this Boston Marathon journey with me!
Later, Ladies and Gents.
Ps: Hand warmers are the BEES KNEES for keeping warm in cold races! Toe warmers did NOTHING for me. I do have a spare pair so I will try them in drier conditions to see if they fare better then.
Sorry, nowhere else to share this random tidbit. Okay. I'm done now.
I'm Lola - a hair obsessed doctor who stumbled into running long distances and baking all the cupcakes.
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