This is a little lengthy so I want to give you a cliff-notes version first. If you feel so inclined, you can read the entire thing and get a breakdown of how all 26.2 miles went! If you haven't read what happened BEFORE the race, do it here! If you want to skip ahead to the AFTER, do it here!
- I had some lofty goals which included finishing in a time of 2:25:00 (avg. pace 5:32/mile)
- I was coming off an injury that forced me to take almost 5 weeks off from running outside with just 6 weeks to go before the marathon
- It was hot (71) and windy (10+ mph headwind)
- I was CRUISING through the first 10k (avg. pace 5:32) and felt fan-freaking-tastic!
- Everything fell apart right around the halfway point and I was just in survival mode after that, but I did NOT walk
- Going slow did have it's perks. I got to enjoy the atmosphere and experience of THE BOSTON MARATHON!
- Bostonian's have funny accents (you know you can pronounce the 'r' in words, right?!)
- I had so many people who texted, called, posted, and everything else that it was beyond humbling and I am so thankful for all of you!
- I finished in a time of 2:50:02 and missed my goal time by 25 minutes. This was my slowest marathon by 10 minutes since I started running marathons 3 years ago
- I am nowhere near satisfied with this effort and I will be back to Boston for redemption
The long version with wayyyyy too many details! I put some of this stuff in for myself so I can look back on it and use it to help me in future races. If you want to read on and get inside my head, then I wish you luck! If not, go ahead and see what happened AFTER the race here. Ready, set, go!
I want to start off with the goals I had for the race. They were pretty lofty even if I hadn’t been injured. With the injury and not running outside for 5 weeks, they were almost impossible but I wasn’t going to NOT try!
1. Finish in a time of 2:25:00 (avg. pace 5:32/mile)
I qualified for the Boston Marathon at the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City, MI with a time of 2:28:37 (avg. pace 5:40/mile). This was fast enough to rank me as the 40th fastest amateur qualifier at the Boston Marathon (hence my bib #140!) This goal kind of changed with my injury and I was going to be happy with anything between 2:25:00 and 2:30:00…heck even 2:40:00! Another sub-goal after my injury was to make it through the race without further injuring myself.
2. Finish in the top 50 overall, run a faster time than all the women, and finish in the top 10 Americans (including the elites for all 3 of those mini-goals)
This one was out of my control since I could only run my race and others would run theirs. Looking at times from last year, I knew that a 2:25:00 would get me well within the top 50. 2:25:00 would also get me close to the top woman from last year who went 2:24:55. And if I’m being really honest, I thought I might be able to finish as THE top American (not including elites). Because this year is an Olympic year, all of the top Americans just ran the Olympic Marathon Trials 2 months ago so NONE of them were running the Boston Marathon this year. The fastest non-elite American returning from last year went just a shade over 2:25:00, so I knew it was possible.
3. Enjoy the Boston experience
Not everyone gets to run the Boston Marathon. You have to qualify with a certain time based on your age and gender so it really is for the fastest of the fast. I wanted to soak up as much of the atmosphere as I could because you never know if you will get the chance to run in such a prestigious race again.
Bringing a pool chair to a marathon
The Boston Marathon is unique in that it is held on a Monday and it doesn’t start until 10am. I LOVE this day and time. First of all, it means I get to skip my stats class :) Second, it means I don’t have to wake up at 3 or 4am to have breakfast for the usual 7 or 8am start time. I got to sleep in until 5:30am AND take my time getting ready. Much preferred over the usual start time. I got this great idea to take an inflatable pool chair to the start area because I thought I would be waiting for a while and it would be nice to have something soft to sit on and keep me off the ground. Well, I got to the Athlete’s Village in Hopkinton around 7:45am and started blowing up the pool chair, but it was taking FOR-EV-ER! So after about 10 minutes, I gave up and just laid it partially inflated. It wasn’t so bad because I was going to start my warm-up at 8:15am since the wave 1 participants were heading to the corral at 9am. I think if I were in one of the later waves, the pool chair would have been a huge success so I’m giving myself points for the thought!
After lying on my not-so-inflated pool chair for about 10 minutes, I went and did my usual warm-up and could tell it was going to be a warm day (it ended up being 71 at start time). What’s more is the wind was blowing straight out of the East at about 10mph; or in other words, right into my face…yuck. After my warm-up, I got to watch the elite women start which was VERY cool. I’ve watched them on TV and here I was standing right behind them. Even cooler was when the elite men started because I was starting RIGHT behind them! I even got on TV myself :) (I’m blurry because I was running so fast!)
Miles 1-8: Feeling great!
I went out pretty conservatively because I’ve heard that you don’t want to go out under goal pace and then blow up later and, you guys, I felt SOOO good through 10k. I wasn’t working hard at all. I was just cruising right at goal pace of 5:32/mile. I could even see the leaders through the first 2 miles!! These first miles went by so fast I honestly couldn’t believe I had already gone 6.2 miles. The only thing that bothered me a tiny bit was that, in the opening miles because it’s so downhill, my toes were slamming into the front of my shoes. Not super painful, but not exactly the most comfortable thing either. It was around mile 8 when the group of 10 I was with started going a little faster than I wanted. I had to decide if I was going to stay with them and run 5:25/mile or drop back and maintain my pace on my own. I knew that if I stayed with them I could end up paying for it by going too fast, but if I didn’t stay with them I would be running on my own and have nobody to shield me from the wind. In the end, I decided to let them go and just tried to keep my pace. My parents were able to get out on the course and see me running right around this time and it was a huge moral boost to see them. I actually heard them before I saw them because of my mom’s signature whistle. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it!
Mile 1- 5:32
Mile 2- 5:31
Mile 3- 5:31
Mile 4- 5:24
Mile 5- 5:36
Mile 6- 5:29
Mile 7- 5:32
Mile 8- 5:42 (the group I was with broke away here, but I caught a Kenyan!)
Through the first 8 miles I was in 58th place overall including the elite runners (19th or 20th of the non-elites).
Miles 9-12: What just happened?
I can’t really tell you much about what was going on through these miles. It was around mile 10 when I knew it wasn’t going to be my day, though. The soles of my feet were starting to get sore and I could tell my right leg was getting a little crampy if I tried to go faster.
Mile 9- 5:42
Mile 10- 5:48
Mile 11- 5:53 (the wheels started to come off here)
Mile 12- 5:53
Miles 13-17: The Scream Tunnel
I went through the halfway point at 1:14:09 so I was still on pace for a 2:28:18, but at this point I was running 6:00+ per mile and knew that wasn’t going to happen. Guys were starting to pass me left and right and there was nothing I could do about it because my legs just wouldn’t respond. I tried to stay with one guy who was running just slightly faster than me, but even that slight increase in speed caused my legs to seize up so I had to back off.
Now Wellesley College is located right around mile 14. They call it the scream tunnel and say you will hear it before you see it. Boy was that true! It was deafening running through there and the girls were lined up with their 'kiss me' signs and reaching out for high-fives. I knew my race was blown at this point, so I just tried to enjoy myself and went right down the line giving fives to every hand I could reach (no kisses, though). That was pretty cool and took my mind off the pain in my legs for about half a mile. Once Wellesley ended though, it was back to (what felt like) a shuffle for me. Little did I know that it was going to get worse, much worse. Mile 17 is when you start the trek into Newton and have to tackle the Newton hills. This is basically just an undulating 3-4 miles of the course that seems to never end. You can see from my splits that this is where the wheels REALLY started to fall off for me. On the bright side, I’m pretty sure it was somewhere around here that I passed an aid station and they had music playing. It wasn’t just any music though…it was BACKSTREET BOYS! My fave. I just chuckled and started singing along.
Mile 13- 5:58
Mile 14- 6:03
Mile 15- 6:12
Mile 16- 6:09
Mile 17- 6:52
Miles 18-23: Holy Hills!
As I entered the Newton Hills, I was just in survival mode. The last 10 miles were the longest 10 miles of my life. With 10 to go I thought, “Okay, only an hour to go. I can do this.” Except I wasn’t running at 6:00 pace anymore…So with 9 miles to go and my pace slowed to 7:00, I thought the same thing, "Only one hour to go." Then with 8 to go and running slower still, I had the same thought, "Jeez, I still have an hour to go!" Those were probably the three longest miles of my life. Thinking I had just an hour to go, but still so, SO much longer.
To make things worse, after the Newton Hills is the famed Heartbreak Hill. Honestly this one wasn’t so bad (or at least it wouldn’t have been had I not been severely struggling as it was.) Heartbreak is during mile 21 and is just one hill. It really wasn’t any steeper than the hills I train on, but it was wayyyy longer. You can see from my pace that this was my slowest mile. A couple times during this stretch, I really felt like walking, but held strong to my shuffle. You can see from this picture that my stride was extremely short. Yes those are my feet that are on Runner’s World! Definitely not the way I thought I would make it into that magazine, but I’ll take it! The good news was that, after Heartbreak, it was all downhill to the finish. AND Boston College was right here so, with more screaming fans lining the fences asking for high-fives, I kindly obliged. It’s amazing the effect this had on me and I completely forgot about my legs while I was ensconced in the moment. My pace didn’t improve, but my mood definitely did.
Mile 18- 7:20 (the wheels REALLY fell off here)
Mile 19- 7:30
Mile 20- 7:53
Mile 21- 8:11 (Heartbreak Hill- I’m pretty sure the wheels were square at this point)
Mile 22- 7:31
Mile 23- 7:59
Miles 24-25: See-it-go
The start of mile 24 is when you first get a glimpse of the Citgo sign outside of Fenway Park, I mean Pahk. Side note: It’s funny, when the fans were cheering us runners on, all I could hear was the thick Bahstin accent: “Good jahb”, “work hahd”, and “stay strahng” were some of my faves. Another thing that doesn’t have to do with just Bostonians, but I thought I would mention anyway: if you’re spectating at a race, don’t light up a cigarette and smoke RIGHT NEXT TO THE COURSE! My gosh, I felt like I was going to vomit. Seriously people, get a freaking clue…Okay end side note! Mile 24 is also where the Green Line Train is located. It runs RIGHT next to the course and I’ve heard that runners race it during their training. At one point, the train was moving right beside me and I just thought, “If I could ACTUALLY run right now, I would totally be running faster than this thing.” Sadly, that was not going to happen today. Passing the 40k mark (24.86 miles), I was at a time of 2:40:25 making it officially my slowest marathon ever (2:40:24 was my first and, until now, slowest marathon) AND I still had 1.5 miles to go…woof!
Mile 24- 7:51
Mile 25- 7:52
Mile 26 AND 26.2: Right on Hereford, left on Boylston
While you could first see the Citgo sign at the beginning of mile 24, you don’t pass it until the start of mile 26. I checked the clock and saw I could still run under 2:50:00 if I ran close to 7:00 pace for the last 1.2. I tried to push the pain in my legs out of my mind and finish under that time. And NO the marathon is not finished at 26 miles! You have to run the last 0.2 too! The last 0.2 at Boston is probably the best quarter mile in any race. “Right on Hereford, left on Boylston.” As I said before, knowing my race was shot, I just tried to enjoy the experience. Making these two turns was amazing and I was just able to soak it up, looking at the crowd and thinking, “This is amazing. All of these people out here are cheering for us. How cool is that?!” Although it wasn't how I thought the day would turn out, this was a pretty great way to end it. It was a rough day today for me and, I know it sounds crazy to most people, but I'm pretty disappointed in my 6:29/mile pace because this was almost a minute slower per mile thn I was shooting for. However, a friend told me that my "bad" day might be someone else's dream day. It's all about perspective so I’m going to try and stay positive about it and enjoy the experience that I was able to have. Thanks Brittany :)
Mile 26- 7:06
26.2- 2:50:02, avg. pace- 6:29
Was it the heat or the hills?
One of my friends was watching online and saw me at the finish. He said it looked like I was out for a nice stroll and the truth is, I was! The steep downhills in the first 6 miles just shredded my quads. I couldn't run any faster without cramping so I was taking it nice and easy. It was tough because I was being passed left and right and kept thinking, “I’m faster than you…and you…you too.” Yet they kept passing me.
Everyone keeps saying it was the heat that got them, but the truth is: the heat really didn’t affect me. My clothes weren’t even wet when I finished because I wasn’t working hard enough to sweat. I was actually seeking out the sun so I would get a little tan because it was a beautiful day! haha. I poured water over my head every once in a while to stay cool and I drank at just about every aid station. It was my legs that couldn’t handle the pounding. After taking arguably the most important 5 weeks of marathon training off from any road running because of my feet, my legs just didn’t have enough mileage to handle the demands of the day. I also wasn't able to incorporate any downhill running into my training. Coach Barb and I had planned to do this once the snow and ice cleared from the roads which, of course, happened right AFTER I got hurt. Add in the fact that I didn't get the normal taper because I was trying to build myself back up a bit in the 2 weeks before the marathon and it was just a recipe for a let-down. Had I just been running 13.1, I think I would have been okay. Unfortunately when I hit the 13.1 mile mark, I still had 13.1 miles to go!
So did I meet my goals? In short, no. Not even close. I ended up running my slowest marathon by 10 minutes and missed my goal by 25 minutes. I finished 490th overall, got beat by all but a handful of the elite women, and I finished as the 361st American. To put this all in perspective: a 2:25:00 would have been 18th OVERALL and 4th American. 50th place was a 2:34:02. The winning men’s time was 2:12:45 (over 3 minutes slower than last year) and the winning women’s time was 2:29:19 (over 5 minutes slower than last year). It was a TOUGH year to race with temperatures peaking at 71 and the wind blowing straight into our faces at 10+ mph. Almost everyone I talked to said they ran much slower than expected.
Even though I was in a world of hurt for about half the race, I never walked. This was another goal that I set for myself during the race because it didn’t even cross my mind beforehand. This was my big takeaway from the race and one of the few bright spots. It was kind of cool going slower because I was able to just take in the atmosphere of the Boston Marathon and enjoy the experience. Because, even though my it felt like knives were stabbing my quads if I tried to go fast, my mind was completely fine. This also made it possible for me to give high-fives to the little kids along the road who were holding their hands out. You guys should have seen them light up when a runner gave them a five. It was the coolest thing ever. I hope I inspired one of those little ones to someday run the marathon because of that high-five! You can see from the pictures here that I was just kind of looking around and drinking it all in. Another bright spot was that my feet didn’t hurt at all from my injury. I honestly didn't even notice them! (Probably because my quads were in so much pain :P)
First of all, I’ve got to give a shout out to Mary and Katie at MSU Rehab for getting me healed up before race day! I wouldn't have even made it to the starting line without you! Thanks to the MojoFit guys, Matt and Mark, for hooking me up with the sweet singlet. I’ve also got to give a big thanks to James Fry for setting me up with this platform to tell my tales to you all! A delicious thank you goes to Nick at Rise Grand Rapids for the AMAZAZING doughnuts that I came home to. Guys, they are UNREAL! You'll have to check them out in Part 3 of my story, though so I'm going to keep you hanging for now :) Absolutely thank you to my parents for making the trip with me. Dad drove the entire way from East Lansing to Boston AND back! And mom was literally holding me up after the race. And thanks to all who wished me luck and texted me updates during/after the race. I know I didn’t give some of you the responses you deserved, but it truly means the world to me that so many people followed along on my day. I didn’t know that so many people cared about my race, but it was great getting all the notifications and hearing from each and every one of you. So thank you, thank you, thank you!
If you want to see some fun stats, keep reading below. Otherwise, head on over to the final installment to see what happened AFTER I crossed the finish line and get my final thoughts on the race!
By the numbers
Since I am a numbers nerd, here are just some fun stats from my training leading up to Boston and the race itself!
Training miles logged in the 6 weeks AFTER my injury:
- On the road- 64.07 miles (and 25 of these miles came from 2 runs in the 2 weeks before the race)
- On the treadmill/in the pool- 73.09 miles (treadmill miles were all on the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill)
- Total training miles in the 6 weeks AFTER my injury- 137.16 miles
- Total time spent running in the 6 weeks AFTER my injury- 19:31:19
Training miles logged in the 1 week BEFORE my injury:
- On the road- 48.86 miles
- On the treadmill- 10.60 miles
- Total training miles in the 1 week BEFORE my injury- 57.46 miles
- Total training miles in the 6 weeks BEFORE my injury- 371.41 miles
- Total time spent running in the 6 weeks BEFORE my injury- 43:33:28
Cards on the table: I did not know these stats before posting them here. I had no idea I only ran 64 miles outside in the 6 weeks leading up to the marathon. That was only 7 miles farther than I had run the ONE week before I got injured! It's no wonder my legs couldn't stand up to the bombardment of hills toward Boston!
- Total runners who registered for the race- 30,741
- Total runners who started the race- 27,487
- Total runners who finished the race- 26,639 (96.9%)
- My first 13.1 miles- 1:14:07 (avg. pace 5:40, faster than ALL the elite women)
- My second 13.1 miles- 1:35:45 (avg. pace 7:19, much MUCH slower than the elite women)
- Finish time- 2:50:02 (avg. pace 6:29)
- Finish place- 490th
- I ran miles 2-4 in 16:25
- I ran miles 20-21 in 16:04
- Fastest mile- 5:24
- Slowest mile- 8:11
- Average cadence- 191 steps/minute
- Total steps- 32,492
- Total elevation gain- 830 feet (just shy of the Eiffel Tower)
- Total elevation loss- 1,263 (the height of the Empire State Building...killed the quads!)
- High fives given- close to 1,000!
- Calories burned- 2,685 (that's a lot of doughnuts!)