The marathon distance is unlike any other in running. All your eggs are in one basket. If it doesn’t go well it’s unlikely that you can brush yourself off and try again—at least not relatively soon.
Running 5ks, 10ks, or even half marathons give you a quicker turn around. It doesn’t go well? You can find a 5K a few weeks later and try again. Maybe that draws me in? The marathon a go big or go home event. Up until now, I found much success with five consecutive PRs.
I had high expectations for Boston 2016. I expected to keep my PR streak alive despite the tough Boston Course. I had three goals for Boston:
Goal A: Run Sub 2:50:00
Goal B: Run a PR – Sub 2:51:57
Goal C: Run a Boston PR: 2:54:22
Goal D: Place ahead of my Bib Number (1732)
If you’re reading this the times are really irrelevant. For some, my times are incredibly fast. For others they’re painfully slow. It’s all relative to what you aim to achieve. I set my goals and (spoiler alert) failed. I think it’s more important to focus on the connection between mind and body–remove the mental barriers you set for yourself (my biggest weakness!).
So here we go. As I did with my first Boston attempt in 2014, I broke the race down into manageable segments.
Segment 1: 0-4
“It’s getting warm” and “Why do my legs feel like jelly?”
Goal Pace: 6:25/mile
|Mile 1||Mile 2||Mile 3||Mile 4|
Sweating while we wait—never a good sign. The temp was starting to rise and most of us were talking about how warm it was in the corral (it was even worse for the later corrals :-/). As the gun went off I did my best to settle in. Everything felt pretty good early (as it always does), but I didn’t feel right.
For the first time I began wondering why my legs felt like jelly so early in a race. They felt tired. Either way, I tried my best to not dwell on it. I knew it would eat me alive in later stages—I did my best to block it out. I cruised through the first four downhill miles knowing I would bank a little time.
Segment 2: 4-15
“Only 20 miles to go.”
Goal Pace: 6:30
|Mile 5||Mile 6||Mile 7||Mile 8||Mile 9||Mile 10|
|Mile 11||Mile 12||Mile 13||Mile 14||Mile 15|
After the opening descent you hit a long stretch of rollers. They kick up, then down. I wanted to settle in early. I remember counting down my “miles to go” at 6. NEVER a good sign.
I clicked through the half mark in 1:25:18. Dang. There goes goal #1. With the submission of my first goal things started to unravel. My legs felt funny and I already had this “good enough” attitude. Instead of fighting to get back on track I focused on the negatives and how uncomfortable I felt, particularly for how early it was in the race.
I recognized my mind was losing the battle against my legs… And early. I tried to get myself back on track. I embraced the fans, ate oranges, and even slugged down on course gels that were nothing short of eating paste.
I saw my mile times begin to climb and I knew I had one more chance to get back on pace.
Segment 3: 15-16
“Get back on track..”
Goal Pace: 6:25
From 15-16 you hit a decent downhill before navigating the infamous Newton hills. I knew this was my last stand to get my legs back on track. I thought if I could just get some momentum in my favor it would do wonders from my mind—and hopefully drift distally to my legs.
I uncomfortably opened my stride; bumbling downhill at a 6:23/mile and hoped it could launch through the next five, difficult miles.
Segment 4: 16-21
“I wish I was you.”
Goal pace: 6:37
|Mile 17||Mile 18||Mile 19||Mile 20||Mile 21|
“Is it July?” I remember cursing with a choice word or two. So much for launching me into the Newton hills. The next five miles were growingly difficult, culminating with Heartbreak Hill.
On it’s own, Heartbreak isn’t a big deal, but at mile 20-21 it’s a bitch. Particularly when your mind is losing the battle to your legs. I remember passing 5-10 runners on each hill who were walking. Secretly, I wished I were them. Walking sounded sooo amazing at this point.
I crawled up each hill and tried to push down any descent that followed. It just wasn’t working. Despite cooler temps near Boston, it didn’t amount to much on the course. If anything, we traded higher temps for a head wind.
Segment 5: 21-26.2
Goal pace: 6:30
|Mile 22||Mile 23||Mile 24||Mile 25||Mile 26|
The final five miles into Boston is fast…or it should be. Defeated after dropping my 7:32 and knowing that most of my goals were out of reach I went into survival mode. I knew I would break three, but with each step I cared less.
For the final five I focused on putting one foot in front of the other, hoping to see my wife and son in the final push onto Boylston.
A few guys decided that they could project their voice better than my wife.
Mission accomplished. They grabbed my attention over the roar of a few thousand people (while spooking William). I looked back to see them both on the fence, my wife cheering—my son crying. 🙂
Final Time: 2:56:52
I set some pretty audacious, yet achievable goals for myself this April. Goals A through C were far gone. I knew that before I shut down on the Newton hills. As they say, with failure comes growth.
Boston 2016 was the race where I lost my grit. I let my weak link break—my mind 100% lost the battle to my legs. The plan is to continue to grow and improve. For now, I’ll be shutting it down and working through six weeks of RunSmart Yoga to recover.
In all, it wasn’t the effort or time I wanted, but that’s the nature of this sport (and life?). It’s the uncertainty that keeps bringing me back. “How much can I push with ZERO guarantee of an outcome?” I’ll be back—eventually. Stronger, faster, and ready for redemption.
Thank you to my wife who not only put up with my training since December, but also lugged a stubborn 15-month-old around Boston to capture this moment. I will always remember it!