The 2014 Boston Marathon promised to be a special experience for runners, spectators, fans and in particular the city of Boston. I was so lucky to be part of such a moving (no pun intended!) experience. The atmosphere was indescribable with over a million people cheering you on, taking part in history that would prove how strong the community is to preserve from such a tragedy of 2013. I am not one to be extremely motivated by large crowds; I tend to run with blinkers on in my own world. But in this case I was well aware of the tragedy that many of the spectators likely saw this time last year, and compelled by their passion to revisit the experience.
I qualified for Boston in October 2012, my first marathon in Newport, Rhode Island. Believe it or not, Boston was only my second marathon “racing.” My other marathons have been expedition races so I was excited to get out there and see how far my running has come since 2012.
I have a lot of experience and love for the half marathon course and the switch to the full 26.2 has taken a tremendous transition in my training, and learning to let go of some of my favorite staple half marathon workouts. During this time I also picked up Ironman training, which has shifted my focus from the pure marathon. Instead of running 6 days a week, with 4 quality days, I now run on average 3 days a week, with 2 quality sessions. As much as I love triathlon training it has made my marathon progression much slower. When I met the Kenyans they all guessed I was a 2:40 marathoner, I scoffed saying my personal best was 3:28 and I was training for a 3:15 Boston. They called it a travesty that I did not focus on my marathon and the experience out there certainly made me antsy to have a proper 6 month marathon training block, no biking, no swimming, just running and see what I can really do.
With that being said, I came back from Kenya and did a hard 3 week training block for Boston really focusing on my running, and loving every minute of it. A good friend and fellow runner Chris Barrett provided me with a Newton Hills simulator workout that I would do on the treadmill at the end of long runs. I felt stronger than ever and was really confident in my training. I had gone for a run with my boss Jean who was training for Marathon de Sables, and he even laughed at my unique ability to bomb the downhill’s on the legendary bayberry hills of Westport. I felt confident and situated for Boston’s strategic course.
The day before the race I was feeling strong after a couple of good sessions with my chiropractor and mentor Josh Lander. Josh is very kindly sponsoring my athletic endeavors this year and has been an integral part in my success over the past couple of years living in Connecticut. He knows me well and is my go-to man before a race, with my spine out of alignment, tension in my hip, or just pre-race runner’s stress about what shoes to wear, he has the answer. Somehow miracously I lost one of my perfectly broken in racing shoes, 2 weeks before the race, ouch, runners nightmare.
I drove up to Boston with my official manager (my Mum) and we swung by the Newton Hills en route to the expo. I got a good gauge for the 4 corkers and definitely felt like the first was the worse, but after running 2000ft in Kenya, heartbreak hill looked like a speed bump. I was pumped and confident in my own strategy to crush the downhills knowing that downhills don’t break me and give what I had on the hills knowing that endurance is my strength.
It was a disappointing visit to the expo where they had sold out of all the small Boston jackets and even the free marathon t-shirt. Like my sister said, it’s a marathon, order up on the smalls! Hard to feel hard done by when fellow runners this time last year lost their legs in the tragedy, I am fortunate to be able to be a part of this experience and I don’t need a shirt to remind me of it.
The morning of the marathon was a strange one, with the race not starting until 10am I didn’t even set an alarm! I ended up staying in Framington closer to the start which was a master plan because my Mum dropped me off at the shuttle at 9, giving me plenty of time to get to athlete’s village with a whole morning to relax! What a concept! I sat down on the bus to the village and started chatting with a nice man from Boulder. He asked me what my strategy was for this famous course and I shared my game plan with him. Big mistake. I let him get in my head and convinced myself I should put the brakes on the first half, saved it for the hills and have enough left for a solid finish….i wish I hadn’t listened but, everything happens for a reason. I had a guardian angel coin tucked in my back pocket given to me by a good friend Missy Harmon. Maybe this was him acting to keep me safe and healthy for my next competition.
Once I got to athlete’s village it was warmup time. I started with my dynamic warmup and some running drills to get loose and polish up. High knees, butt kicks, carioca etc. They called for my coral and we began the walk to the start line. Perfectly timed, I dropped off my clothes at the donation stand and hoped in, doing my usual squeezing as close to the front as possible. This would not be so easy this time around. My coral gun went off and I was still fighting my way, it would be another minute or so before I made it across and was startled to look down and see my feet cross the start line, oops, not the dramatic start I was looking for. It was packed and I could not get a rhythm going, like it or not my first 4 miles were slow because I just couldn’t get a space.
Finally by mile 4 I managed to move away from the crowds, but kept on the brakes, by mile 6 when I realized I had yet to break a sweat on a warm April morning I picked it up a bit. The crowds were excited and the atmosphere was so positive and motivating. It made me feel a tremendous sense of support. I reached the half marathon mark in 1 hour and 39 minutes, 2 minutes behind my goal, I was feeling great. I kept an even pace and felt a surge of energy at mile 16, just before the Newton Hills, it was GO time. I felt so strong on the hills, prepared, and enjoyed every step of them. Once I got to heartbreak hill I was so euphoric I was actually singing (not uncommon if you have ever heard me on the treadmill at Sherpa…) I realized as soon as I got to top of heartbreak that I had left too much gas in the tank and I crushed out the final 6 miles, feeling strong and crossing the finish line in 3:18. People cheered me on as a kept a strong pace in the final couple of miles. It is always uplifting to finish this way but now I have a strong desire to go back next year and show Boston what I am capable of, leaving nothing behind. A few days after the race I was asked what place I came in. Actually looking at the numbers I finished 846 out of the females and overall placed 6,176 out of roughly 36,000.
All being said and done, I sit here three days later re-focused on my goal for this year: Ironman. I will start a very bike focused training block going into Eagleman on June 8th and allow my run to sit on the back burner for now. I know one day I will dive into a pure marathon program and I look forward to it, but for now back to the swim bike run.