Friday, April 24, 2015

2015 Boston Marathon recap

Get ready for the recap of your life.  Also, I plan to buy the official race photos and will edit this post to swap them in when I get the chance.

Quick stats:

  • First Boston Marathon
  • Qualified at 2013 Philly Marathon in 3:03:05
  • First half in 1:36
  • Finished in 3:29:36

For those in it to win it, here we go...

Ain't no time like go time

We were staying with my college friend Amy who lives just outside of Boston, so I needed to get up at 4:30am to walk to the busstop, catch a bus to the T, take the T to Boston Common, then take the BAA shuttle bus out to Athletes' Village.

6am at Boston Common

Adrenaline was pumping, but I still had to wait until 10am to actually start running.

Nike Pegasus: sunglasses not included

Athletes' Refugee Camp

Once I arrived at the Common, I checked a bag and headed for the nearest school bus.  The busride was about 40 minutes out to Hopkinton where the hype immediately started. Hopkinton Middle School is taken over by the BAA every year for the runners and deemed Athletes' Village.  I don't have any pictures because I don't run with my phone and so I left it in my gear bag back at the Common.  But let me paint you a picture.

Imagine thousands of runners all piled into two separate circus tents, trying to stay warm and dry with all manner of accoutrements, including trash bags, sleeping bags, and yoga mats. The runners are so packed together that it's nearly impossible to walk through the crowd. Hot tea, coffee, and other amenities are available on the periphery.  Outside of the tents are medical tents, information tents, and porta potties stretching off into the horizon with runners waiting patiently in line.  Music blasts and an announcer shrilly heralds each new arrival.  "Welcome to Athletes' Village!  You made it!"

I was cold while waiting around.  I'd brought some throwaway clothes, but clearly not enough, and I had nowhere to sit but the cold ground for two hours.

No seriously, it's now go time

At about 9:15 the announcer began calling my wave and corral, and we started walking en masse to the starting line, almost a full mile away.  The energy was intense; people were already cheering for us and we hadn't even started yet.

Volunteers checked our bibs multiple times to make sure we were going to the right corral, which I appreciated.  We stood there for a bit, I shed my throwaway sweatshirt, the national anthem was sung, and the race began.  Somewhere up ahead of me, Meb was already at the 1 mile mark, but I had yet to reach the starting line...

Miles 0 - 2: Runner's Nirvana

Just past the starting line, the landscape created a natural amphitheater where hundreds of people were sitting to watch, and all cheering wildly.  I started my watch and grinned, and the smile on my face would not budge for the first two miles of the race.  I high fived as many little kids as I could, I was struck by the thundering ACDC on the loudspeakers, I was swept along by the amazing crowd, and I thought, this is where runners must go when they die.

Miles 2 - 8: Reality Check

I had no idea how fast I was going because I hadn't brought my Garmin with me (intentionally), but each mile marker and a glance at my normal stopwatch told me I was doing about 7:30 miles.  I was trying to run by effort, and my body was telling me to take it easy because I had a lot of work ahead of me.  I stopped high fiving kids and just tried to focus on my running.

I was also aware of a slight pain in my left quad and was constantly monitoring it and hoping it wouldn't get worse.  This is a pain I've been dealing with for the last few weeks that I thought would be gone by now, but it has hung on all this time, never getting worse but never getting better.  Fortunately it did not become an issue later in the race.

Fueling was also an issue.  I stupidly left the gels I bought for the race in NJ, and forgot to bring my Clif Bloks to the starting line, so I was running the majority of the race on a banana and a luna bar that I'd eaten in the Athletes' Village.  I was desperately scanning the aid stations for gels, but would not find any until mile 18.

My dad had driven up from New Jersey the night before, spent the night with his brother, and took the train into Framingham to cheer for me there.  Unfortunately I missed his cheers and wouldn't see him until after I finished.

Miles 8 - 12: Someone build an ark

And then the rains came.  The rain started around mile 8 and continued steadily for almost the rest of the race.  Within a few miles I was completely soaked through to the skin.  There was a 20mph headwind throughout the race as well, and the temperature never went above 45 degrees.  April in New England - can't beat it.

I hung for a few miles with a U.S. Marine carrying an American flag, which was worth it to see the crowd's reaction.  Many, many chants of U-S-A! broke out.

Miles 12 - 20: Thank you Wellesley

By mile 12 I knew I was in trouble.  I didn't feel as strong and as confident as I wanted to, and I thought about how effortless the first 16 miles had felt in my last marathon compared to how they felt now.  I was much more fatigued than I wanted to be this early in the race, and was genuinely worried about how those last six miles were going to feel.

But those Wellesley girls.  Those Wellesley girls.  Let's take a break in this opus to acknowledge just how much they add to the allure of Boston.  For in what other race is one faced with a cheering section dubbed "The Scream Tunnel", where young coeds work themselves into a dionysian hysteria for the benefit of complete strangers?  In what other race is securing kisses from sweaty runners seen as a rite of passage?  Where else would high fiving the crowd lead to me being grabbed by one such coed and almost dragged over the railing?

I ask you!

I'll leave the shenanigans of the Scream Tunnel to the reader's imagination, but let's just say it was a needed boost when I was already dragging.

I hit the halfway point in 1:36, but started to slow down considerably after that.

Miles 20 - 25: Is that who I think it is?

Imagine running a race with 30,000 other people, and then imagine how you would feel if you accidentally ran into someone you knew at mile 20.  I've been following Bryon's blog for a few years now.  He's from Indiana, and we both qualified back in November 2013 and within 45 seconds of each other.  We ran together for about a mile and commiserated on how lousy we were feeling.  It was a welcome distraction running with someone, and he definitely took my mind off Heartbreak Hill, but pretty soon I knew his pace was too much for me, so I encouraged him to go on without me.

Me: Go on, man, finish strong!
Bryon: This is my strong!

Bryon gutted it out to a 3:24 finish.  Well done, Bryon, and good luck on your sub 3 attempt this fall.

The Newton Hills didn't bother me too much because I wasn't running as hard by then.  I never stopped running, though, and just powered up them with a cold, hard determination.

Once out of the hills I was doing 9 minute miles, watching the mile markers slowly tick by, wishing the race would be over, looking forward to Boylston Street and the feeling of being finished.  Finally I saw the symbol that told me I was near.

Mile 25 - Finish

The Citgo sign came into view and my eyes teared up a little.  I'd read about this point in the race many times, and to finally see it in person, knowing what it meant, was very emotional.

The streets widened, the buildings rose, the crowds thickened, and onward I trudged.

Right on Hereford.

Left on Boylston.

And four blocks later I was finished.

Now, I have had the privilege of experiencing many great things in my life, and I can honestly say those four blocks on Boylston rank among the best of my life's memories.  When I grow old and my muscles weaken and my joints creak, and my days of marathoning have long since ended, I will still hearken back to the deafening roar of Boylston Street and remember what it was like to touch greatness.

I just ran the Boston %@#!* Marathon

After crossing the line (3:29:36), I slowly made my way forward and collected items one at a time.  A bottle of water.  A poncho for warmth.  The medal.  My eyes teared up again when a volunteer and I made eye contact and I walked to her.  She put it around my neck and I must have stood there staring at it for a solid minute before continuing on.

I was staring at the culmination of over five years of hope and hard work.  The most intense training cycle of my life just to qualify.  Training through the most heinous winter just to prepare for this day. And suddenly it was all over.  It was a lot to process.

I had relied on adrenaline and emotion to carry me through the final miles, but after finishing the reality hit me.  I was soaking wet, it was 45 degrees and windy out, and now that I wasn't running anymore, my body temperature was sinking by the minute.  I was shivering and coughing uncontrollably, and had suddenly developed sharp pain in my groin.  On my way to the family meeting area, I had to stop several times to stretch.  Every time I stumbled and winced in pain, a volunteer swooped down on me and asked if I was ok or if I needed a wheelchair.

So much pain

The support crew

I met up with my dad, Stevie and Neale in the family meeting area, and they convinced me to visit the medical tent, though I wasn't sure what exactly they would do for me.  I went in and told them about my groin and just being cold, and they gave me a bed, a blanket and hot water and took down all of my information.  They took my temperature and found I was 95 degrees.  I sat there for about ten minutes warming up before I decided to leave.

I met Stevie and Neale back at the Common where I was finally able to change into dry clothes almost an hour after finishing.  I found out my dad had already had to leave because he needed to catch the train back to his car and start the drive home, so I didn't even get a picture with him.

Stevie and I took public transport back to Amy's apartment where we ate dinner and I drank beer all night, reveling in my accomplishment.

Let's wrap it up, shall we?

My sincere thanks go out to the Boston Marathon volunteers and the people of Massachussets in general for supporting us runners in that weather.  Yours are truly the hardiest of souls.

And it wouldn't be a proper marathon race recap if I didn't thank those who support me specifically.  Martina and Amy, thank you so much for letting us stay with you.  It was great to catch up with old friends.  Dad, Stevie, and Neale, thank you so much for coming with me on this journey, both the literal and the figurative.  Your support means more than you know.

I'll save full reflections and analysis for the next post as this is getting pretty long, but suffice it to say this was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I simply can't wait to go back.


  1. Haha, it really was my strong. It was great to finally "meet" you. I can't even imagine how amazing it must have been to see you beautiful family after finishing. Proud of you and congrats again! We ran the &@#%ing Boston Marathon!!

    Sorry if this double posted. I can never do anything right the first time.

    1. No worries, only one post.

      And yes, they were definitely a sight for sore eyes.

      We did it!

  2. Well-run and well-written, Scott. Years from now you will remember your first Boston, just as I remember my first New York (which was also my first marathon) 35 years ago on a day when temps were about the same as for you in Boston, but sunny rather than rain. No Scream Tunnel, but coming off the 59th Street Bridge onto First Avenue is a memory I will always have.
    Great job and congratulations from the family and the Jackson Road Striders!

    1. Thanks, dad, and thanks always for your support.

  3. Great work and extremely well written mate. 3 hours 29 minutes is a very impressive effort. I would have dropped out during the reality check portion of the run.

    1. Thanks, Adam. Also, I am going to come to Australia and run the bloody Canberra Marathon. And you are going to run it with me.

  4. Congratulations, brother! Very impressive work, indeed!

    1. Thanks, Brad, and thanks for reading!

  5. This is so awesome, Scott! You've come a long way from the Collingswood Book Festival 5K. :) Congratulations on pushing through the miserable weather and running a brave race!

    1. I don't know, winning a 5k with 20 people in it was pretty awesome...


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