Boston 2008 Race Report

Wow, I guess I owe quite a race report!

Any trip to Boston is amazing, but this weekend was really the ultimate running weekend.

I arrived in Boston on a beautiful Saturday morning. Even before I’d picked up my luggage, I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. A woman called me to tell me she’d found my cat, who had been missing for three weeks! I was so excited and happy to hear from her. For the rest of the day, I had the largest grin on my face, as a decent-sized weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

I stayed at a Bed and Breakfast out in Brookline, as I had my first year. I don’t mind the area despite its distance from the expo/start and finish. However, the proprietor of the B&B was a little.. weird.. which made it less than perfect.

For the first time ever, I made it to the Expo on Saturday. It wasn’t near as busy as it has been in years past. As we arrived at the bib pickup, I reached into my bag, and pulled out.. my confirmation card from 2006! I keep my old Boston stuff in the side pocket of my luggage, and evidently I’d pulled out the wrong paper. As it turned out, I’d grabbed both, but I was nervous there for a second. I picked up my bib and my nice technical shirt. I was a bit surprised to see they gave the exact same shirt to volunteers. I like to be able to pick out my fellow runners proudly sporting their new gear after the race. We wandered the expo, and after years of running, I committed to buying an entire BOX of gu! Generally I go through 3 a race, and the sales guy assured me they wouldn’t go bad. I buy a book at every race expo, and this year’s was an easy pic: Katherine Switzer was there, signing autographs in her new book. (For those of you who don’t know, K.V. Switzer was the first woman to register for and run the Boston marathon — she used her initials so it wasn’t flagged that she was female).

Sunday morning we rose early and headed out to watch the Women’s Olympic Trials. The women did a loop four times, so it was possible to see them several times. It was truly awe-inspiring to watch these women. As someone pointed out, they were running sub-6 min miles, but really didn’t appear to be pushing hard at all. I didn’t realize Joan Benoit-Samuellson was taking part as well, so it was an added bonus to see her. It was really inspiring and helped contribute to my excitement for the next day.
We met the gang for our pre-race dinner in the North End. I believe there were 27 of us! We scarfed down some pasta, and a few of us stopped by Mike’s Bakery for some added carbs 🙂 Doug and Lisa had met another marathoner on the plane and invited her to join us. Grace had qualified for Boston her first marathon. She said her goal was 3:30/3:35, which I think a few of us thought was probably pretty aggressive (her qualification time had been 3:46). She actually lived in the same area of town as Meredith, and we invited her to join us on our Wednesday training runs sometime.

This was my first year to run Boston with the earlier start time (10am rather than noon). Some of our more veteran running friends said they wanted to catch the 6:45 bus. We met at our “special corner” on the park, then made our way over to the buses. Although we didn’t wait too long to get on the buses, the ride to Hopkinton took forever! For some reason, it was a slow trip, and then we saw a bus up ahead stop to let off runners to relieve themselves by the side of the road. Soon, other buses were doing it as well. Then people in our bus started to request to be let off. And of course, with every stop, the trip took longer and longer. At one point, 5 people got off our bus to go off into the woods, and once 4 had got back on, the bus driver started to drive off! Luckily, a girl on the bus shouted up that her Mom had been left behind.

Finally we made it to Hopkinton, and those of us who had opted to wait to relieve ourselves headed for the porta-potties. As we were waiting in line, they were announcing that those of us in the first wave could head towards the corrals.

Three years ago, I posted about the unofficial porta-potty predictor. Helen finished first, then Meredith, then me. This year, Helen and I entered the stalls at the same time, and I finished before her. Meredith was next in line behind us both.

Helen and I headed off to our corral, ditching our extra clothes. On the bus ride, we’d been worried about getting rained on, but as we headed to our corral, we saw the sun peaking through. Helen lamented the fact she didn’t have a hat or sunscreen. Ahead of us it still looked overcast, but it seemed to be clearing up.

Finally it was time to start! Although Helen and I were in the same corral, we never run together. She has a tendency to start off really quickly, so we were separated pretty quickly. We were together long enough, however, to both be able to see the woman who squatted and peed while facing *away* from the course. Yes, we got a full-on view of … yeah. It was definitely a Boston Pee Party day!

I had set a goal of 3:30 -3:40 to finish (8:00-8:24mm). I remembered that two years prior, I’d hammered out several 8 minute miles before fading on the hills. However, I felt I was better prepared this time around.

M01: 8:15
M02: 7:51
M03: 8:03
M04: 7:51
M05: 8:02

The miles just seemed to be ticking by. I’m much more comfortable with this pace now, and things just seemed to feel good.

M06: 8:40 (potty break)
M07: 8:03
M08: 8:04
M09:7:51
M10: 7:51

Things just kept ticking along. I’m actually struggling writing this race report (granted, it is over a month after the fact), because things just went so smoothly.

M11: 8:06
M12: 7:51
M13: 8:06
M14: 8:03
M15: 8:15

I will note that I believe this was the best turn-out at Wellesley I’ve seen. It was probably due in part to the weather, but I was quite impressed. Actually, about a half mile before we hit the “scream tunnel”, a train passed by and blew its whistle at us. My ears were definitely engaged for this stretch! As we approached Wellesley, I heard a male runner joking with some others to fix their hair and get ready for the ladies. I told him about my friend Andy, who had dropped to do pushups several years earlier. I assured him that the girls really liked that.. he looked skeptical.

I enjoyed the race, there weren’t a ton of great t-shirts or slogans, but I enjoyed running behind the guy in a Yankees uniform. After hearing people boo him for miles I finally started chatting with him. I joked that that was his motivation to keep running, so as not to get caught. He said it was definitely what was pushing him along. At the end of the race, I heard someone talking to him and he said that the only real problem had been a kid throwing an orange at him. How sad that someone has already taught their children that that’s a good response. One good shirt idea: someone had a list of the marathon majors races (Boston, New York, Chicago, Berlin, London) and had a checklist with his finish times.

M16: 7:49
M17: 8:14
M18: 8:26
M19: 8:16
M20: 8:20
M21: 8:44

This is the hardest section of the course, but things were still clicking along ok. My pace had slowed, but that was due to the course topography, not anything to do with my performance. Soon enough I was past the hills and it was time to head for home!

M22: 8:03
M23: 8:15
M24: 8:41
M25: 8:15
M26: 8:29
.2 7:22pace

Overall, the last 5 miles of Boston are a slow downhill into town. Many folks describe it as a horrible tease, because often your quads are so shot you can’t let gravity help you along. Each footfall is jarring. By the end of the race I felt that the temperature of the day was getting to me. The back of my neck was a bit sore, but other than that I felt pretty good. I saw a few of my friends watching as I neared the final mile. I had been keeping an eye on my watch and was happy with what I saw. Finally I turned the last corner onto Boylston and – dangit, why do I always think the finish line should be right around the corner? – brought it in as best I could. I was amazed by how the time had ticked away, and I felt good as I crossed that line for the third time. A new Boston PR, and more importantly, a GOOD run there! I stopped my watch at 3:36:08. Mentally I went through my race times: Chicago 3:29:41, Steamtown 3:30:05, Detroit 3:36:18! I deviated from my standard practice of only twittering about work-related stuff, and sent a message out to the ether. (As it turns out, my Detroit time was also 3:36:08, so I have two races at the same pace.)

I met up with my friends: Andy and Mok had finished already, Andy had done the Wellesley push-ups again. I cheerfully announced my finish time. Soon Helen came in, we weren’t sure when I passed her. Then Doug and his new friend Grace came in. Doug’s time was 3:36:00 and Grace was a few seconds before him. She’d done fantastic, especially considering this was only her second marathon and she’d just set a 10min PR. WOW!

We headed our separate ways, again I walked the ~3 miles back to the b&b, cheering on runners and getting somewhat emotional. That night the whole gang met up for pizza and celebration. Another Boston in the books!