Recapping the 2019 Boston Marathon: 26.2 miles that just won’t quit

“Wow It’s over!” That was the first thought I had last Monday at just around 2:20pm. Yep, that was about the time I crossed the finish line at Bolyston Street in Boston at the 123rd running of the Boston Marathon – my fourth and best one thus far. Oops! Did I just leave myself open to another one? I just may have at that. I can just hear you thinking now… hmm, it must’ve been a good one for her to come out thinking of going back yet again! Especially after I said this would more than likely be my last Boston providing I had a good race. Well now, let’s see what qualifies as a good race: weather – all over the place, pace – conservative and consistent, course – manageable, BAA event handling – a bit of room for improvement, and volunteer and spectator experience – exceptional. Were I then to rate the 2019 Boston Marathon, it would get a score of 7/10. Quite an improvement from the last three times and a bit of a quandary for me in terms of deciding on whether I should go back next year.

Let me just say that the only reason I would even consider this is because I got within my goal range of 3:30 – 3:35, which has led me to believe that a goal of 3:30 is attainable after all. But what is it about Boston though that has be coming back for more? Am I some sort of maschiost that enjoys the hurt on those Newton hills? Or is it as simple as loving the challenge of a good course, which Boston altogether certainly is. Like every other runner of this race, I resent those hills and maybe I, along with those who’ve done it multiple times, even more so because we know exactly when they’re up and what it takes to get through and over them. They are undoubtedly the most difficult aspect of the race and a common cause of many failures to accomplish goals. Can you ever really be prepared for them? I don’t know. I think you can devise a strategy and with experience and commitment pull it off but whether one can conquer those hills would be a good question for the elite runners. I’d love to watch them run that particular aspect of the course. In any event, I got through them with a slow, steady, and sure strategy. The plan was never to race those hills but to keep a sure and steady pace on the incline and I stuck to it like glue. No stopping, or faltering, or walking, which would kill one’s momentum faster than you could think it. Again, you learn by experience sometimes and while I have stopped a few times while racing, they’ve never been on hills. I plan on keeping it that way.

But let’s go back a bit. In the past I’ve said that the easiest portion of this race is the first sixteen miles and that did not change. It was made a bit more challenging obviously when the sun came out around mile five, but its been hotter before. From there it got pretty hot pretty fast and stayed that way for the duration of my run. To be fair, we were promised a break in the weather, which started off with heavy rains and thunderstorms earlier that morning up to and during the loading of the busses to Hopkington. This window was supposed to have been between 10am and 2pm when the rains would stop. It was spot on, leaving us to start under overcast skies. Everyone seemed pretty happy with that and I was ecstatic. Not so much about the muddy mess that was Athletes Village, and after my harrowing experience to get to a port-a-pottie, I didn’t hang around but got started on the long trek to the start line. I had a late start being in wave 3 and too much time to think but we eventually got going and were toe to toe for the first 3-4 miles after which it spaced out some as we entered Ashland. Not too long after that the sun came out amidst the bluest of skies, the heat soon followed, backed up by the wonderful crowds that were with us from the beginning to the end. It’s easy to see that Bostonians are a patriotic and loyal bunch. It was Patriot’s Day in Boston and they were out in their numbers to celebrate and support the marathon with all of the fervor and leftover zeal from the Red Sox game the evening before. I figure one out of three wasn’t bad given perfect doesn’t exist. Only, the heat just never let up and while I’ve run in hotter conditions, and in Boston too, it does wear on you and will always cost you some time as it generally means more hydration and getting in between other runners and the water/Gatorade stops. A few noteworthy mentions are: the Wall at Wellesley, always fun to see the college girls out cheering us on like their lives depended on it and with the most outrageous signs too. For me, the pleasure is watching the faces of first time runners as they bathe in the experience..priceless! The supporters on the hills at Newton – I do so appreciate that they had to find their way there and were prepared to stay for hours to cheer the runners on. God bless their hearts they were all over those hills screaming and urging us on. They kept at it, wouldn’t let up, and gave tremendous boosts of encouragement at the moments they were direly needed. Then there were the hydration stations – perfectly positioned every 2/3 miles, we didn’t want for fuel at any point, and given the heat, that was super important.

Of course we couldn’t have done it without the thousands of volunteers..they’re a steadfast and amazing lot and at every race I remain dumbfounded by their generosity of spirit in giving their time (sometimes the entire day and/ or weekend) to ensure we have an amazing experience. They’ll always hold a special place in my heart. And after heartbreak hill, I was even more beholden to them and to the crowds of spectators who did more than cheer. Everything under the sun (and many were begging for rain then) that one could think about was out for grabs: Vaseline (came in so handy as my tighs were chaffing badly), candy, water, beer, fruit, wet towels, water hoses., you name it, were all made available by those cherry folks. Little do they know the impact they have on runners at this point. Most of us are either struggling or revelling at miles 21-26 and in either case need this jubilant display of support and generosity to take us to the finish line. For my part, I was in the zone about then and was aware only peripherally of what was happening around me and could only manage a few palm touches for fear of losing my momentum. Mile 25 was surreal in that I kept zoning in and out and can clearly remember some parts of it and nothing of other parts. I recall stopping at the last water station and being grasped by someone and getting pulled along for a few yards particularly, but then I blank until the final 800 meters, which looked like a distant star on the horizon. I mean, I thought that run down Bolyston street would never end, and was probably what prompted the words I started this narrative with, “wow, it’s over,” when I finally crossed the finish line in a time of 3:34:15. Soon after the rains came down in all it’s might and windy fury. And just then was I ever so glad I didn’t get caught in that. It was indeed over for me.

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