Obviously there were more important events that happened during the Boston Marathon, and I have already written about my thoughts on the tragic events that occurred, so this will strictly be my race report.
My goals going into Boston this year were mixed. One goal was simply to enjoy everything about the race from the expo, to the prerace events, to the race itself. The competitive goals were to break 3:05 and requalify for Boston even though I have no intentions on running it in 2014. I had a detailed plan on how I was going to do this and I thought I could easily achieve it. Because I didn't know how my training was going to be once Riley was born, I was impressed how much training I could actually accomplish. But over the past few weeks my training wasn't going as well as I wanted it to so I was interested to see what would happen during the race itself.
After driving the 3 hours or so with the wife up to Boston, and the first hour of that drive calming the wife down because it was her first night away from Riley, we ended up at the Expo Sunday afternoon around 2pm. Walking from our car to the Expo, we walked down Boylston St. which they closed to set up for the finish. We were dodging reporters, camera crews and construction workers to get to the Expo itself.
Once there it was fairly simple. We walked right in, I went straight to number pick up and within 2 minutes had my bib. From there, it was time to pick up a finisher's long sleeve shirt. I heard a bunch of complaints about this years shirt. I heard that the fabric wasn't as good as in year's past. But the fact that the shirt was yellow was a bonus for me, and realistically, it wasn't so bad. I give it a plus in my book.
After picking up my bib, shirt, and bag to bring before the race it was time to walk around the expo. I was fairly excited to do this because I heard that the Boston expo is by far the best expo for any race. After going through NYC's a few times I figured it would be awesome. Well, I was wrong. The expo was all over the place. There was no organization to it and realistically, I've seen everything that was there. I thought I would see some new products, some interesting booths, and just fun stuff. There was none of this. But after taking a few pictures in my SKORA gear, signing the 2013 Boston Marathon wall and checking out the finish area, the wife and I headed out to go back to our hotel to relax before an early dinner.
Boston has an unusually late start for a marathon. Because of the 10am start, all of the athletes have to get to the start of the race in Hopkington well before the actual start of the race. We do this by taking school buses to the Athlete's village. Easy enough, right? Sort of. Even though the race starts at 10 am, I had to be at my bus at 6am to get to the start of the race. Once I found a bus to head out in, I sat down and just relaxed on the 45 minute ride up to Hopkington. The bus ride is basically a ride where every tries to one up each other. All I heard on the bus were people talking about how many marathons they have done, where they qualified, how fast they have run, what triathlons they have run, and so on. It's like once we got on the school buses we were transformed back into high school where everyone wants to be better than everyone else. I had no interest in that. Luckily, the individual I was sitting next to was really nice and we started speaking about his kids, Riley, his family, and just normal every day things. There was no judging, trash talking, or any interest in being better than each other.
Once we arrived at the Athlete's village it was time to find a spot and get settled. It was like a big camping ground. People brought sleeping blankets, folding chairs, space heaters, an air mattress. People came prepared. And then there was me who had a few garbage bags and a stolen towel from the hotel to go along with 5 magazines, food, and Gatorade. And for me, time to hit the port-a-potties. This is a big thing for me before a race. I make it a point to get everything out of my system so I make sure I go often. When I got to the Athlete's Village, I was in awe. There were more port-a-potties than I have ever seen at any race. They just kept going on and on. It was awesome.
So after hanging out for 3 plus hours reading magazines, trying to take a nap, and keeping my mind clear, it was off to the baggage drop and then the start line
The Race itself:
Once they started loading us into the corrals, it became clear that this race was on. There were so many people and so many of them were fast. We heard the start of the women's race go off and then everyone started getting the nervous energy that surrounds the start of a race. What calmed me down was how many spectators there were, even at the start of the race. I made friends with a little old lady who kept telling me I'll do great. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a complete idiot. Especially before races. I'm the one laughs, jokes around, and basically acts like an ass before a race. Maybe its nerves, maybe it's just my personality, but I like to lighten the mood. So I shared plenty of laughs with my pre-race spectators.
Then at 10 AM, the cannon went off. Because I did so much research on this course, I knew that I wanted to control myself over the downhill first 6 miles. I didn't want to get sucked into the people gunning out of the start line and then have it hurt me later on. So after everyone got some space, I kept getting passed, and passed, and passed some more. I didn't care though. I was running my race, and everyone else can do their own thing. That's their choice. I kept looking down at my watch and it was exactly where I wanted it to be; a consistent 6:54 pace. Pretty good in my mind.
I have to be honest and say that once my foot crossed the start line and probably for the next 2 miles, I was actually getting emotional while running. It's a bucket list race to do Boston and here I was starting the race. I kept looking around and taking in all of the spectators and everything and it was overwhelming. I never thought I would be here but it was just such a moment I will never forget.
After the first 6 miles, I was on pace. My 10k split was 43:23. Perfect. I was running exactly how I planned, and my legs felt great. It seemed like everything was going my way that day. Once the first 6 miles are finished, its pretty much a flat course for the next 10 miles. It was here that my mind took control of my body and I just started to have an internal battle with myself. I knew after the Harrisburg Marathon that I didn't enjoy running standalone marathons anymore. They are just kind of boring. My memory came back to me and I started to feel this way again. My pace was great, my legs were great, but my mind wasn't in the race. I think one of the things that got me was that in most races I do, I'm usually in the top 5-10%. Here, everyone is just as fast, if not faster. There was a point in the race around mile 10 or so that I looked ahead and just saw the road completely packed. Runners were all over. It was both amazing to see, but also a little intimidating for some reason. There were so many people ahead of me, and I had a sub 7 minute mile pace going.
The sights and sounds of Boston are just incredible. I thought NYC was packed with fans, but Boston is by far the most crowded, loudest, most fun group of spectators there are. Around mile 12.5, I approached the Wellesley girls. I heard about this from different blogs and posts, and I knew to stay on the right side of the road to get the full effect. These girls are hysterical. When they aren't trying to get you to stop for a kiss, they are holding up very creative signs that I tried to read. But they keep you motivated which is awesome. It's definitely a revitalization once you get to this point. Once I passed them, I was at the Half mark. Half Marathon split- 1:32:23. Perfection for my goals.
This will be the last time you read anything about perfection, speed, pace, or anything. The Newton hills start around mile 16 and last until mile 21, with Heartbreak Hill coming around mile 20-21. There are a series of 4 hills, which in reality aren't that bad. I think they get the bad rap and it's in people's head. My problem was that once I got to the start of the hills, I actually stopped caring about the race. I slowed down considerably for no reason at all. I still felt good, but for some reason I couldn't push myself. So on the first hill, I just had to stop and walk. No idea why. I wasn't hurting, tired, nothing. I just decided to walk. After about 30 seconds of break, I ran a little more but glanced down at my watch and saw that there was no way I can hit my goal time of 3:05. In my mind, there is no difference between 3:06, 3:15, 3:30, or slower. So I said, let's just enjoy the race. Let me take everything in and have some fun. Well, having fun on a set of 4 hills isn't likely, so I had to get through them. I did a series of walk then run, run then walk for about 2 miles and then approached Heartbreak Hill. I said there is no way I'm walking this. Because I stopped caring, I was actually a little refreshed so I attacked the hill and ran up it. This is where I saw a lot of other runners giving me the weirdest looks. Like, how can this guy have all the energy to do this. I saw a TV camera and got filmed screaming into it. I conquered the hill, even though the other 3 conquered me.
The next 6 miles are all downhill. And let me say, they were harder than the uphills. I lost all the motivation to finish so every step was painful. The Boston College students were funny so I started slapping hands and enjoying them. I even stopped to hug a female police officer. With 5 miles left, I wanted to cherish the rest of this race. It was great to see soldiers in full gear running the course, so every one of them I passed, I cheered them on and shook a few hands. No one knew what they would have to deal with a few hours later.
As the final 2 miles approached, I saw the big famous Citgo sign. I thought once you see this sign, it's only like a mile left. Not 2. So I was a little thrown off that I saw the Citgo sign and then mile marker 24. Kind of kicked me in the stomach. But even so, I continued to enjoy the race, take in all the spectators, and then finally when I saw mile 25, I went. The crowd was pumped, I was re energized, and just wanted to soak in the last mile. So as I made the final turn onto Boylston St, the crowd lit up, I threw my hands in the air and pumped my fist and kept smiling. Even though my race didn't turn out the way I wanted it to, that doesn't mean I cant have the final few minutes in my memory as the greatest race. So I raced down Boylston St and crossed the finish in 3:21:33.
Post race thoughts
Once I collected my gear checked bag and met the wife at Georgetown Cupcakes, we found a cab, went to the hotel, grabbed a quick bite to eat and shower and decided to head home. We just wanted to get home to Riley. We got in our car at 2:45 and heading onto I-90, which takes us right under the marathon course. 5 minutes of driving and we were under the explosions within 2 minutes. We didn't know it at the time, but thankfully, we were in the car safe and heading home. We got a call from the wife's friend who she was with that morning asking if we were ok and she told us what happened. From there, it was a 3 hour drive home with nonstop calls, texts, Facebook messages checking on us. While I said this would be about my race, I still am in awe of what happened. I won't go into my thoughts again on how tragic it was, but I will say this. This was my first Boston Marathon. It was amazing. I'm glad I was there. And taking in the thought of just the race itself and not about the tragedy, this race will always be tainted in my mind. I will always know there were so many horrible things that happened after I crossed the finish line that that's all I will be able to think about. I am so thankful that I was a lucky one and the wife and I are safe but I know I will never be able to fully look back and truly enjoy this experience.
My final thoughts on the race is this: The Boston Marathon was the most fun, worst, best, most hated, most loved, hardest, easiest race I have ever done all rolled into one. The course is not difficult if you train for it. It's an amazing time and a race that every runner should strive to do. Throw out the goal time and enjoy it. Once you do it more than once, then go for time. But that first Boston Marathon experience is one to remember. I'm glad I got a chance to experience it. I'm definitely done with marathons for a few years. I want to recharge my marathon mindset, but I'll definitely be back to run this race again and beat my time from this year.
Run Real Everybody!
Jared is a Team SKORA member and athlete from New York.