2010 – The Seeds are Planted.. Last year, I was able to watch my Dad and sister run the Boston Marathon. I covered about 15 miles of it on foot, and the seeds were planted. I last ran a road marathon in 1993 — the Marine Corps Marathon. Since then, I’d somewhat lost interest in roads, and, in fact, only in the past 6 or 8 months have I run any road races — a couple of local 5k’s.
But, Boston is special. I knew it then, just watching Dad and Kim run, and I told them if they were going to do it in 2011, I’d love to run it as well.
2011 – The lead in… One of the (many) reasons Boston is special is because you have to qualify. For me, a 40 year old male, that means a 3:20, or a 7:38/mile pace. I’m close, but certainly not there (yet!). This spring I’d run about 6 or 7 miles at that pace. Adding 20 more would certainly be tough! Other ways “in” are by running for charity, and this year my friend and co-worker Greg raised ~ $8000 for the Children’s Hospital! Way to go Greg! And then there is another way in — comp’d spots. Last year my friend Jeff got in via Addidas — then again, he was able to run 2:45.
I was able to run via a “comp’d” spot (thanks Dad!), though I’m no 2:45 runner! And the comp’d spot didn’t become official until just a few weeks before the race date. I have to admit, after my 40 mile run at Uhwarrie in February of this year, I was ready for a break from running. And with the Boston registration not being fully confirmed until just prior to the race, I had lost motivation and my training really suffered. Additionally, I traveled a lot the prior three weeks before Boston. Here’s a graph of my running from Daily Mile:
Predictions… With the lack of training, I thought at best I could manage a 3:45, or about an 8:30/mile pace. My sister Kim, on the other hand, had run four 20 miles runs — at tempo! I knew she was running fast and strong and thought she could break 3:30.
Boston is special… Boston is special for a lot of reasons. Last year I had a fantastic weekend, spending time with Dad and Kim… Lots of good food, the marathon Expo, a trip to the American Girl store in Nattick (:-/), great conversation, etc. And following them on the run — seeing the crowds along the route in all the different places such as Wellesley College, Boston College, etc. was amazing. This year was no different and just as great. In fact, Kelly was able to fly up, so the four of us shared an amazing weekend in Boston.
All weekend, Kim and Dad said I was “sand bagging,” but I really did not think so. I would have been super happy with a 3:45. Kim even said she would not talk to me again if I beat her. But I knew she was going to be the stronger runner…
The night before… With my lack of training, and therefore lack of confidence, I thought I’d read Ryan Hall’s book, in which he described his training for last year’s race. Much of it is just his daily training log and reflections, so probably not much interest to non-runners. I read the intro and the race day entry. The Intro had Ryan’s insight into finding God’s joy in running, with the following Bible verse:
These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. — John 15:11
Ryan speaks of the Joy he found in running when he was able to just run, and drop all the goals and expectations surrounding his running. As America’s fastest marathoner, he had a lot of expectations placed on him. But when he let all of those fall aside, and run for Joy, he really found his groove.
Race Day I slept well, only waking up just once during the night and my alarm actually woke me — normally I wake several times and always just before the alarm! I had a quick breakfast of eggs and the like at the hotel restaurant, and then we walked to loading point where the many many buses were waiting. Here’s a shot of the people waiting in line, and Dad, Kim, and me waiting as well.
We rode the buses to the start in Hopkinton, which takes about an an hour. TheAthlete’sVillage was full and bustling, but not for long. We were in the 3rd wave, which started at 10:40, so the village cleared out pretty quickly as the other two waves headed to the start. Just before we left the village, I ate a chocolate glazed donut Dad had bought from Dunkin Donuts that morning — gluten problem or no, I wanted one of my favorite treats and figured the sugar would give me a good rush!
It was finally our time to go, so we first had to find our bus to put our drop bags in. Dad and I had very high numbers, and our bus was outside the village which took a while to find. I dropped my warm clothes and just kept my arm warmers and a black garbage bag on to stay warm and keep the wind off. It took Kim a while to find us after she had dropped her things, and then we started making our way to the start.
Wow, it was crowded! In fact, the 2nd wave had not even made it past the start, so those of us in the 3rd wave were kind of stuck for a while. Eventually we made it towards the starting line, and then headed towards our corrals. Dad was in corral 9, and I was supposed to be there as well — neither of us had marathon times submitted on our applications. Kim was in corral 1 as she had run a 3:49 last year. I wanted to sneak in there with her, so we made our way in that direction.
Due to the delay with wave 2, we had to jump out of the crowd and run on the grass and side walk towards the front. We arrived at the gate to corral 1 and there was a large crowd trying to get in. The “gate guards” were actually checking the corral numbers on the bibs! I hoped to sneak in with the garbage bag covering my number, but I wasn’t so sure it would work now. But then the announcer stated “one minute to start,” and the gate keeper of corral 2 dropped the rope, and all of those runners moved forward, and the gatekeepers at corral 1 were over run, so I was able to sneak in.
As we got into the corral and moved forward, the gun sounded and the race was off! I lost Kim in the 1st few seconds… She took off, and I had a head phone malfunction. As I was trying to get that adjusted, I lost her, and had no idea where she was!
The 1st few miles The race starts downhill for petty much the 1st 5 miles. I wanted to get some separation so the crowd wouldn’t be too bad, so I had a nice little tempo going. Kim was gone, but I kept looking for a pink shirt in front of me, and run for it, hoping to find her. I looked at my Garmin and saw 7:40 pace — oh no, too fast! I told my self to slow down…. But every time I looked at my pace (and I tried not to look too often) it was at 7:40…
Slow down….. 7:40. run run run 7:40
Slow down…. run run run 7:40
It felt easy and smooth.
Slow down. run run run 7:40
Slow down. run run run 7:40.
Ok, you get the idea.
After about 5 or 6 miles, sometimes high – fiving all the kids on the sides of the road, sometimes just running with ease, I thought I should just go with it. 7:40? That’s just about my BQ pace. Yeah, it’s almost a minute faster per mile than I thought I would run, but let’s just hold it as long as I can, and see how it goes. It felt good. It felt right. I was running with Joy, and it was awesome. Boston is special! The crowds were awesome. And it felt good. I figured it would catch up to me at some point, but who knew when, so why not just go with it?
Mid-way Kelly said she wanted to see Wellesley, about mile 13, so we told her to hang out on the left side of the run. The right side would be full of the “Scream Tunnel” girls giving out kisses and creating all kinds of havoc.
So around mile 12.5 I started looking for Kelly, enjoying the atmosphere all along. I saw her long before she saw me. In fact, I was jumping up and down and waving my arms, but she didn’t see me until I was right in front of her. I was there a little earlier than expected.
So she didn’t get any pictures of me running up towards her, but I’ll have the memory in my mind forever. I gave her a big hug and kiss and said I was going way too fast, but I felt good. She said “where’s Kim?” and that was really the 1st time I thought I might be in front of my sister… I knew I was running fast — much faster than I thought I could (sandbagging?) but Kim had taken off at the start and I had not seen her since — even though I was diligently looking. But if Kelly had not seen her??
Here’s the photo Kelly took of me as I turned back to her…
15 – 21…. At mile 15, I was still amazed I was holding something like 7:41 – 42 pace. How long would it last? I hit all the hills in this section, the three famous hills culminating with Heartbreak Hill, still feeling good. I came out of the hills at about a 7:46 pace. Could I get any of the lost time back? I wasn’t sure, but I tried to open it up on the down hills. But here I was finally starting to feel the early pace… And starting to slow.
Around mile 19 or so, I heard someone yell “SEAN!” Wow, my name, out here, in the middle of a million plus spectators. I didn’t have a name tag on — BTW, if you ever run Boston or any big marathon, put a name tag on! Everyone yells out for you. I turned back and saw my friend and co-worker Todd. He had spotted me in all the sea of runners! That “game face/mug shot” photo on Facebook the night before worked! Someone knew what to look for! That gave me a lift, but I was definitely starting to hurt.
Somewhere around mile 8 to 10, the crowd of runners had became thick. We had caught the 2nd wave…. And it kept getting thicker and thicker… Miles 18+ was wall to wall runners and I was having to run around them quite often. Now the water stations become much harder to navigate — in fact, towards the end, some runners were stopping right in front of me! Due to all the maneuvering, my Garmin shows I ran about a 1/2 mile further than the 26.2 of a marathon.
Miles 21 through the end were a a bit of struggle for me. The early pace had certainly caught up to me, but I did not totally fall apart. I passed many runners that had succumbed to walking. I never quite reached that point, but I did slow down.
At this point, let me put in the pace charts for Kim and me. Kim’s husband Paul, and Dad’s wife Nadia, were watching our splits “live” — Paul in Denmark and Nadia in SC. They watched me slowly build a 2 minute lead on Kim, but then watched her cut it down, closer and closer and closer. Would she catch me? Paul said it was a better than watching a football game…
Well, that gives away the finish…. With about a mile left, I heard a voice next to me: “Do you want to finish together?” Well, there Kim was after all those miles… I said “I don’t think I can,” and she responded “Yeah, I think I’m going to throw up.” I said I would try to stay with her.
So I tried, and maybe did for a minute or two. But it was crowded, she was flying, and I did not want to finish Boston throwing up at the finish! I let her go a little — or I should really say I couldn’t hang with her pace, but when we made that last turn where you can finally see the finish –a good half mile to go, I thought I’d give it one more go. A nice little (slight) down hill, open up, and let’s see what happens.
I would have loved to have kept up and cross the finish line together. But I couldn’t do it — she was too strong, I was too far gone, and she finished about 20 seconds in front of me. But she also broke 3:30, (3:28) which is where I thought she would be, and I finished just behind her.
I’m not complaining — 3:28 was 17 minutes faster than where I thought I would be. And granted it was a great day for running with gorgeous weather (though a touch warm for those of us in the last wave) with a nice tail wind, but I had one of those special days. I had found Joy in running. At least the 1st 18 -20 miles or so.
Kim and I made it through the finish chute grabbing all the goodies — food, water, etc., and eventually to the buses with our drop bags. I was able to get my bag, which had my phone, and I called Kelly to see where she was so we could meet. I also saw texts from my Dad saying:
“Absolute frigging amazing… I knew you were sandbagging!”
“I am so proud of you. You are a real man and brother allowing Kim to beat you!”
Let me just say right now — it was not me “allowing” Kim to beat me — she was definitely the stronger runner!
It was at this point that I realized Dad had dropped out early… His travel schedule had limited his ability to run, and when he finally did attempt a long run a few weeks prior the race, he strained his calf, so he had not run since then. A few miles in to Boston, his calf flared up, so he took the train back to Boston.
Kim and I eventually met up with Kelly:
Let me just say again that Boston is special. (Have I said that already?? )
I am not a “roadie,” but Boston was worth it. I had lost interest a bit, but I am so glad I ran. And I would do it again in a heart beat. I have a life long running goal of running a BQ, which for me is a 3:20. I was somewhat close to that through 20 miles, and while I dropped off a bit in the end and missed it by 8 minutes, I do think it would be possible for me with the right training and the right race. While my shorter term running goals of sub 20:00 on a road 5k and a 100 mile trail run may take precedence, Boston will always be calling. I’m not sure what order I’ll achieve my goals, but I now have the confidence that a BQ will fall.
(Though note the 3:20 I need this year drops to a 3:15 next year… Until I turn 45 and it goes back to 3:20! 3:20 seems much more doable than 3:15. :-/)
Here’s my Garmin data: