2013 Boston Marathon

Overall Time: 2:55:28 (1:28:00 / 1:27:28)
Pace: 6:41
Place: 1305 of 23,336
AG% : 71.19%

Weather: 48 degrees, sunny
Start Time: 10:00am

The Boston Marathon was my “A” race for spring 2013, and I’m very pleased with my performance. I had put in some decent training — not quite perfect training due to some small races along the way that made it difficult to strictly adhere to my marathon plans, but respectable enough to get me a PR on a moderately difficult course.

I had read a lot about the marathon course and had the chance to run the last 20 miles of it three weeks prior to the race. In the back of my head I kept a good piece of advice from my friend Chris F: take the first 10 km of downhill easy, so as to save my quads for the last 10 km. I decided to take advantage of the first 10 km and just hit my target pace, and then hold it until the half. I’d need these “free” marathon-paced miles to save energy for the hilly second half.

I opted also to jump back three corrals, figuring that those who qualified with my pace (around 2:56) would even then go out too fast. I’m a believer in easy starts and fast finishes (negative splitting marathons), and I didn’t want to get sucked into going out too fast.

The first 5 kms were definitely tricky. They were rolling downhills and crowded. Trying not to use too much energy jockeying for position was a little difficult, both mentally and physically. I was irritated, but tried not to let it get the best of me. This was my first Boston and I was going to try and remain as relaxed as possible.

Despite a first mile of 7:15, I hit the first 5K in 21:12 (6:49 pace) and executed the next 5 km more or less the same way, with a 20:42 (6:39 pace). The Boston crowd is fast and I had settled into a good rhythm with those around me. There wasn’t a whole lot of passing at this rather early stage of the race. I think everyone was just trying to find a nice gear to keep for the remaining 30+ km.

When I passed the 10 km mark, I was happy to know that at that point I would be familiar with the remainder of the course (having run it three weeks prior). The comfort of familiarity really helps me gauge my energy expenditure, so I felt confident with my pacing at this point knowing how to run the rest of the course.

In all honesty, the stretch from miles 6 – 12 are pretty much a blur — just typical marathon miles and running through small towns on my way to Boston. I hit my next 5 km in 20:53 (6:42 pace) — nice and steady.

It wasn’t until mile 12 that I woke up. I don’t think I had a choice : the wall of screams from Wellesley was absolutely mind-bending. I had heard about it before (who hasn’t?) but I was still caught off guard at the intensity of it. I was on the right side of the road, where the girls are, and quickly had to dart to the left side so that the guys cutting to kiss the college girls wouldn’t trip over me. The energy, the excitement, the craziness of it all caused us all to speed up a bit; it was a lot like the NYC Marathon coming off the Queensboro Bridge to the thousands of screaming fans along 1st Avenue in Manhattan. It’s impossible not to get excited.

I tried to keep my cool, and hit the next 5 km in 20:43 (6:40 pace). My pacing was very even. I was pleased.

Crossing the halfway mark shortly after, I was exactly at 1:28:00. It was about a minute slower than I wanted, but I think my pacing was about as good as I could have expected. I don’t think I could have gone much faster and still had life left for the last half. I was still feeling very good, but I could sense that the last 10 km would be a real dog fight.

I started mentally preparing myself for the 4 Newton Hills from miles 16 – 20. When the first hill came around mile 16, I was lucky enough to see two friends, Gabe and Kelly. Seeing them gave me a little boost and enough energy to crest the hill with a lot of strength. I hurt going up, but relaxed enough on the downhills to conserve energy while maintaining pace.

The next two hills were almost the same story : pain going up, relief coming down. Knowing that Heartbreak Hill was coming up around mile 20, I charged up it with everything I had left. I caught dangerously close to dropping to a 7+ minute mile, but managed to hold onto a 6:57 pace for the mile before flying down to the last 10 km to Boylston Street.

At this point I was hurting. I was hurting bad. There were only two sights I wanted to see: The Citgo sign (marking 1 mile to go), and the finish line (no explanation needed). When I saw the Citgo sign creeping up in the distance, I heard my good friend Mike O screaming my name from the sidelines. I had my head down at that point, but instantly sprang to life when I heard him screaming my name. That gave me a big smile on my face, seeing Mike and knowing that I had only a mile to go…. and so I went. My last mile was around a 6:00 flat, and making that left turn on Boylston and seeing the finish line in the distance was just… amazing.

I crossed the finish line in 2:55:28, a new PR. I was now a Boston Marathon finisher. So many of my best friends have run Boston, and I was honored to share this accomplishment with them.

My 5 km splits were remarkably consistent despite the hills: 21:12, 20:42, 20:53, 20:43, 20:29, 20:39, 20:57, 20:44. I couldn’t have done it without a lot of hard training, and without the massive support of my friends along the way.

Unfortunately as we all know now that’s not the end of the marathon story. The bombings that occurred at the finish line are a tragedy that left everyone in disbelief. I was with a large group of friends in Boston and we spent the next 24 hours trying to process exactly what happened. My blog isn’t about politics and it’s not about anything more than a single person’s race experience, so I don’t want to speak much about the bombings at the finish line.

That said, many people (myself included) were in a very awkward position — how do we feel good about our race, when we should be feeling sympathetic for the victims? The truth is that the two feelings are not mutually exclusive; we cannot let the bad over shadow all the good that occurred for so many on April 15, 2013. We cannot forget those who lost their lives or were injured in the bombings and we cannot allow the bombings to affect us so that we cannot celebrate our accomplishments. As runners we are a community — we mourn together and we feel pride in others’ accomplishments. And when the start gun goes off in Hopkinton in 2014, we will all remember 2013 and run our hearts out for them and for ourselves on our way to Boston again.

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