Boston in the Spring: My First Boston Marathon

Ah Boston. A truly Classic City, with a classic race. When I moved out to Providence last Spring, I had it on my bucket-list to run Boston when I could, as living so close to the race meant there was no more excuse to make the pilgrimage . 2022 would be my year to give this race a go. The Boston Marathon is one of the most iconic running events in the world. From the screaming fans and spectators along the course, to the difficult downhill start and Newton hills, Boston is iconic for everything distance running.

What is a wild thing is that my running journey took me from the OKC Marathon in 2011 straight into ultra marathon running-skipping Boston. I have been lucky-enough that I have run other marathons and qualifiers fast-enough for myself to qualify for Boston at any time of my choosing. But I delayed my run at Boston until now.

This year’s marathon would be the first held in the Spring on Patriot’s Day. It would be approximately around 3 years of waiting due to Covid that Boston would be held on “Marathon Monday”. My training has been ramping up in preparation for the Cocodona 250 mile so Boston was viewed by me as more of a training race than anything. If it was in the cards for me to running sub 2:30 and PR, I would keep pushing, but if not, I would not sweat it and just take in the whole experience-placing time out the window.

The challenging nature of the Boston course would be a great last long-run and test for my legs before taking on the rigors of a 250 mile ultra race in Arizona with 40,000 feet of ascent. The lead-up to the race was smooth. Ashlee and myself were able to take on all of the sights and sounds of the Boston Marathon weekend. The expo was jam-packed and wild. The UCAN panel talk was fun (as I just signed with UCAN) and the breweries we went to were awesome.

All the excitement around Boston is next-level. I was pretty over-whelmed seeing so many people at the expo and around Boston. The City was BUZZING. We were lucky enough to also go to the Red Sox game vs the Twins Saturday night as part of fundraising for the Boston Red Sox Foundation. The Game was awesome and a perfect way to kick-off the Boston Marathon weekend.

Come race morning, we took the T to the finish line and over to the buses to the start. It was cool getting to make the grand voyage to Hopkinton. Once there, I thought I could devore some bananas but they did not have any. I should had had more to eat but my UCAN energy bar was a nice snack. I took my Spartan Hydrate Tablet which gives me that long lasting blast of electrolytes, filled up my bottle of Ucan Energy and proceeded to the start. You walk up to the corral and huddle along with everyone. The sing the National Anthem and then boom! You are off to the races.

The hard thing for me was how jammed up the field is. I was cruising at those downhill miles hovering around 5:45-5:50, my goal pace. Everything felt relaxed except that I could tell as early as mile 4 that my body felt tired. The run felt more like a fartlek as I had to break stride the first 6-8 miles as runners were all around you moving at erratic paces. When a water stop would come about, you would have runners weave from the far left-side of the road to the far right-creating some dodging traffic. It is funny because running trails, you rarely have those issues of traffic control. I felt a little like a fish out of water never getting into a rhythm, almost tripping over others feet a bunch of times and running way outside the tangents just to try and get some real running room.

But Boston is Boston. The crowd was fun and it was here everyone started calling me “Boston” because of the text on my shirt. As I was running for the Red Sox Foundation, it was an obvious way the crowd could cheer for me specifically. “Go Boston”, “You Got This Boston”, “Boston Strong”, was a lot of the things I heard. That was super cool. I did tell myself “My name is not Boston guys, if you look to my back you would see my name!” My legs were already feeling the downs and ups of the first 12 miles. I kept relaxed near my PR pace. It was not until near the half-way mark that I knew it might be a stretch to PR and even hard to run my current pace of 2:33/2:34. My legs felt toasted already. I went through my UCAN Energy and 3 Ucan Edge Gels which were amazing. But I was so dang thirsty. I spent the next 4 miles trying to get water. But every time I finally made it to the water stops, I grabbed Gatorade instead and threw the cups down. I had one I grabbed of water only to have the cup explode in my face. No water in my system. I could keep on pushing in this gradual dehydrated descent or just take in the sights.

So, I decided to just chill, and use this run as more of a workout. I can run other Bostons to try and run fast. This was my first. I blew kisses to the Wellesley girls which they went wild as one of them faked fainting which was hilarious. They really know how to entertain the runners. I started giving hi-fives to people. I tried some of those Maurten gels just to get something to wet my palate. That stuff is like jello. The one I had was with the caffeine and that gave me a nice boost for a few miles. Miles 15-22 was my hardest stretch. I needed more water and it was at this point the field was spread-out enough where I could hydrate more. I literally stopped at the water stop and chugged the water. I did that for the next few stops. I started feeling a little sick as my pace slowed.

Taking Boston in Stride.

The hills soon came about and they do slow you down but I ran them conservative. I did not want to blow the run but pushing too hard. It was until after Heartbreak that everyone started pushing fast and I did not know if we were done or had more to go. I had myself in such a hydration deficit that I needed more and more water. I started to pick things up and at mile 24, decided to take a swig of Gatorade. BAD IDEA. Immediately my stomach revolted. I felt sick to my stomach almost instantly knew I had to throw it up. I was dry-heaving and eventually was able to yak it not once, twice, three, four times. Every few steps I took, I yak’d. It was a surreal moment as the crowd was like “Oh” and people yelled “Cmon dude, keep going, you got this”. I held up my hand as I had one more yak. I had expelled the Gatorade and then gave a big thumbs up and said “I’m good” and the crowd erupted in cheers. It was epic. Like out of a scene out of a movie from animal house or something, it was too classic. I then picked things up back to low 6 minute mile pace heading into the finish.

I made the famous Right turn onto Hereford and then Left onto Boylston. I pushed to the finish and crossed the line in 2:44. A slow marathon for me in terms of time, but I was proud of the finish as I gave up tons of time the last 4 miles with all of my stopping.

The Boston marathon is a tough course and a cult-classic in the world of distance running. While NYC has an overall bigger crowd the majority of the time, Boston is like a crescendo of noise and excitement. It starts out loud and then becomes more quiet. Each time you cross through a town, things get loud again. Once to Newton, things get rowdy. And you ride that wave of noise and excitement into the finish. I will definitely run Boston again, and with a better idea of how to run it, maybe I can give a really hard effort out there.

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