Truth be told, I wasn’t exactly sure of my capabilities before Sunday night. I was caught up writing plans for some different athletes and studied the course based on their capabilities. Sitting down Sunday night, a mere 14 hours before the gun set us off, I decided to write a best and probable case scenario.
I’m not one to get caught up in hype. It’s weird. I’m an anxious and often impatient person. It encompasses nearly 95% of my life, but racing seems to relinquish any and all uncertainty. I sit down and look at my data from all the training I accomplished and set up realistic expectations. I simply stick to my plan and trust in my training. It’s funny. I toe a starting line every year encompassed with uncertainty of my capability. I look at previous races and think, “wow, can I really run faster than that?” Regardless, I set a plan and gave it my best go.
Our weather report couldn’t have been better. Cooler temps paired with a tail wind called for a fast day. Working my way through athletes village, which resembled that of a refugee camp, I made my way to the start. One thing was clear: it was going to warmer than anticipated. I met up with a running friend, Matt Kellman, and we decided to run together (again). Overheating was my primary concern consider winter spent more time below freezing than above. None the less, I broke down the race into five segments and went to work.
Segment 1: Start to Mile 4
|Mile 1: 6:38||Mile 2: 6:25||Mile 3: 6:29||Mile 4: 6:31|
The first four miles are a mess of bodies and rolling downhill. With zero wiggle room, you were pretty much held to the pace of the pack. Runners were being tripped left and right, while some were pushing through for position. It was comparable to jumping lanes in traffic only to be stopped in another lane. The plan here was to bank some time without blowing the quads up early. Overall, I knew I was paced within a few seconds of the plan, but I wasn’t feeling overly confident. A crowded, narrow road left you at mercy of the pack.
With my lack of internal “hype” I’ve been known to be a rather slow starter. Inadvertently, this allows me to often run fairly even across long races. My last three marathons: Boston, New York and Pittsburgh have nearly all been even split.
Segment 2: Mile 4 to Mile 15
|Mile 5: 6:36||Mile 6: 6:34||Mile 7: 6:39||Mile 8: 6:34||Mile 9: 6:32||Mile 10: 6:41|
|Mile 11: 6:40||Mile 12: 6:41||Mile 13: 6:25||Mile 14: 6:35||Mile 15: 6:40|
After coming in hot from the downhill I knew it would be tough to dial in to a slower pace. I was still feeling sluggish coming through the 10K mark, but again, I think it helped me dial it in and prevented me from over reaching. The crowds began to grow as you ran through Ashland, Framingham, and Natick. A swell in crowds was coupled with growing adrenaline. Mile four to 15 were sandwiched between defining changes in terrain, it was easy to segment this nine miles. The entire segment was laced with rolling hills. A mile slow was followed by a mile fast, eventually averaging them to goal pace. Each passing town came out in full force and provided crazy noise. Fun fact: slapping outstretched hands of toddlers provides a significant boost in energy. I used it throughout my day at Boston. Shouts of ‘Thank You Runners’ and an outpouring of support from the crowd, volunteers, and law enforcement ticked these miles away faster than ever. The first twenty miles felt easily half of that. At the tail end of this segment came Wellesley. Wellesley is home to an all-female college who are notorious for offering up smooches and noise to fuel runners through mile 15. Signs of “Stamina Turns Me On” to a rolling tally of total kisses kept you smiling and running. The noise through Wellesley was unreal. Deafening is an understatement. I imagine it’s the closest you could feel to being a professional athlete. I ticked through miles and felt fantastic. After a quick self-assessment I thought about pushing. I can honestly say I felt zero fatigue moving through mile 15. I decided to hold back, which was the right decision.
Segment 3: Mile 15 to Mile 16
This short, fast downhill segment came before the notorious hills of Newton. The plan was to bank some time in anticipation. I did just that. Felt great and ready to tackle some hills!
Segment 4: Mile 16 to Mile 21
|Mile 17: 6:54||Mile 18: 6:54||
Mile 19: 6:39
|Mile 20: 6:52||Mile 21: 7:07|
I hit the hills with a high cadence and the goal of being able to push over the top. Again, the crowd was fantastic. Fueled on spilled Gatorade, high fives, and adrenaline, I took my time on the climbs. The sun began to roast and I continued my plan that I instituted from mile five. Hit up the water station and just start dumping. I felt terrible for anyone in tow, but I know what I needed to do. I averaged 3-4 cups of water at every station: one for my mouth and the rest for my body. As I lapped each mile I knew I was off considerably and even saw a single 7:05 on Heartbreak Hill. Still feeling great I calmed my nerves coming through mile 21 and looked forward to the descent into Boston—ready for a strong finish.
Segment 5: Mile 21 to 26.2
Plan: Whatever I Have Left
|Mile 22: 6:32||Mile 23: 6:41||Mile 24: 6:34|
|Mile 25: 6:44||Mile 26: 6:42||Finish: 5:49|
The downhill into Boston was awesome. What a fast way to end the course, that is, unless you pounded the downhill early. I felt fantastic cresting Heartbreak Hill. The plan here was to go with whatever was left in the tank. Truthfully I felt great. I took in all Boston had to offer. I settled into a groove and kept it there. “MEB WON” was shout from the crowds and for the first time I saw an entire pack of exhausted runners began to cheer. It was amazing. The downhill into Boston began to wear on my quads and the last three miles easily compensated for how easy the first 20 felt. I hit aid station repeat button, a simple sip of Gatorade paired with 5+ cups of water over my head. I kept reflecting back to all the support I had for this race. That, paired with an awful winter, urged me to continue my push. There’s a lot of pressure when you know so many onlookers are tracking you!
Finish Time: 2:54:22 – 43 Second PR
Much like the previous 26 miles, rounding Boylston was amazing. This was by far the most amazing piece of running I’ve had to date. I dug deep and knew a PR was all but mine. It hurt and when I finished I looked down to see 2:54:22, a 43 second PR.
Throughout the course complete strangers acted as if you’re a rock star. Awestruck: the only way to describe this experience. As fatigue set in you would run up on an athlete with a prosthetic (or two). You would see a mother or father pushing their child through the run. How could you do anything but run harder? Every obstacle was greeted by the city. It didn’t matter if they knew you or not. “Let’s go, baby!” “You got this!” “Keep it up. Let’s go. Let’s Go.” launched me over these hills. Prior to running Boston I thought I would be a one and done, but honestly, I have no doubt I will be back.