2016 Boston Marathon

Overall Time: 3:03:22
Pace: 6:59
Overall Place: 1887 of 30,740
Age Group Place: 1297 of 5488
AG%: 67.23% (per 2015 USATF tables)

Going into this race, a lot of people asked me how I felt. To be honest, I felt great. I had never put in such a successful training block before. My overall mileage was consistently high for me, and I was hitting my speed workout paces right on the nose. I had hit a 17:22 5K on a hilly course, and that along with my weekly mileage numbers gave me the confidence that I had the speed and endurance to slip in a 2:49 marathon this year at Boston. I had performed a 20-mile run along the Boston course three weeks prior to the race, and averaged under 6:30 pace for the final 13 miles of the run. My buildup had gone right according to plan.

Like any marathoner who tries to plan every element of their race, I started checking the weather as soon as it was within the 10-day forecast of the major weather websites (Accuweather, weather.com and Weather Underground). As the calendar counted down, the picture got worse and worse: relatively warm running conditions, sunny, and a head wind to finish. Ugh.

On the morning of the race, I made my way with Connor to Boston Common to jump on a bus to the start at Hopkinton. We bumped into Andrew C. and Gen W. and the four of us made our way together. The bus ride always feels so long (“We have to run back?”), so it was nice to have company. Andrew, Connor, and Gen were all running their first Boston Marathon. I was excited for them and nervous for myself.

Stepping off the bus in Hopkinton we made our way to the Athlete Village and met up with more friends. It was warm already. We didn’t need our throw-away clothes in the sun, but I kept mine on just because I felt like it would be a waste otherwise. I had brought this clothes 300+ miles I was damn well going to wear it! As the 10:00 a.m. start approached, I got in a light jog by the corrals and jumped to the start in time for the Apache helicopters to fly overhead and the gun to go off. I was already sweating from my 10:00-pace jog and I knew that the road ahead would be a long, hot, difficult 26.2 miles to the finish line in Boston. I was prepared mentally for a struggle but not looking forward to it.

Miles 1 – 5:
The first few miles are downhill and fast. There’s congestion at the start to keep things from getting too crazy, but I was almost on pace the first mile (6:39) and by Mile 2 (6:30) things were flowing nicely. My friend Dan F, who had the same sub-2:50 goal as myself, was a hundred meters ahead and disappeared into the distance with each mile. Miles 3-5 (6:30, 6:28, 6:31) were perfectly on pace, and the downhill assist in the opening miles was a nice way to conserve energy while hitting target pace.

Miles 6 – 9:
Entering Framingham, things began to look more familiar to me. I had run the race only twice before, but had run the course itself more times in training and this is where I start to get mentally comfortable. Unfortunately this is where I started to feel the heat of the sun in the cloudless sky. As much as possible through town, I kept to the right to seek any shade that some of the buildings offered. It wasn’t a pleasant thought knowing that I had more than 20 miles more of this and that there wouldn’t be many opportunities for shade ahead as the day got warmer. My pace slipped a bit in these miles (6:35, 6:35, 6:39, 6:35) but not enough to alarm me.

Miles 10 – 13:
The miles through Wellesley are always great — the screaming girls, a couple of nice downhills, and of course the halfway point. Unfortunately this is where I knew a PR attempt was off. I was starting to heat up and slow down. First a 6:41 Mile 10, then a 6:43, 6:38, and 6:41. These paces were slower than my old PR pace. Not a good sign. I hit the halfway in 1:26:32.

Miles 14 – 21:
The second half of the course was trying to manage expectations given the heat and the hills to come. I was fine on the flats; Mile 14-16 was 6:40, 6:53, and 6:40. But I could feel myself struggling. I was slowing down and overheating but the hills hadn’t even come yet. When they finally came, it marked the end of a decent race. With the first hill in the 17th mile, my pace slipped above 7:00 pace and would never go back under. At every aid station I would take three cups of water: one to dump on my head, one to dump down my spine, and one to actually drink. For every short-lived cooling effect I was grateful, but this effort was beyond salvaging. I had redlined already and there was no going back. A 7:07 (mile 17) led to a 7:19, 7:07, 7:33, and a miserable 7:48 mile 21 up Heartbreak Hill.

Miles 22 – 26.2:
The rest of the race was a struggle simply to finish. I kept getting as much water as possible to cool off, but the damage was done and I couldn’t pick up the pace. The final miles were all in the Mid-7 range and I couldn’t speed up despite the cooling weather approaching Boston. With the cooler weather came a headwind, which normally I might complain about but it helped me from overheating and actually felt quite pleasant. I was waiting for Connor and Gen to pass me by but that never came. By the time I made the famous right on Hereford and left on Boylston, my watch read over three hours for the first time in a marathon since 2011. I was happy to see the finish line ahead but had no motivation to bother sprinting the final quarter mile down. I simply maintained pace and crossed the finish line as if it were a typical weekend long run. I was done and ready to move on.

I crossed the finish line in a relatively slow time for me. I wasn’t disappointed, though. I wasn’t even frustrated. I had put in a solid training block, but there wasn’t anything I could do about the warm and sunny [slow] weather that day. Looking at the numbers, everyone else suffered as well.

BQ rates among all participants were down a whopping 29% compared to the year before.

I charted my friends who ran, and plotted their individual 5K speeds at each marker. Everyone slowed down, even my friend Dan F who has negative split probably every marathon he’s run in the past 3 years:

Positive splits all over the place!
Positive splits all over the place!

LetsRun.com had a short write-up of how slow the times were this year and included the time of the 500th and 1000th finisher for the past three years. This year was noticeably slower by about 6-8 minutes:

Slower times in 2016 due to heat.
Slower times in 2016 due to heat.

Of my friends who ran, on the whole we were all slow. Dan ran a 2:58 (2:50 PR). I ran a 3:03 (2:53 PR). Gen ran a 3:35 (2:58 PR). Erik ran a 3:14 (3:00 PR). It just wasn’t the day to PR, so when I look back at my time I’m not disappointed. I gave it a solid effort and never threw in the towel even when I knew it wouldn’t be a time I was proud of.

I wish I could take some time off to recoup, but tomorrow (April 30th) I’ve got a tough trail 50K that is a training run for an even tougher 100K in June. And just for good measure there is a half marathon (Brooklyn) and the Dipsea Race thrown in for some speed. This is going to be a painful spring race season but potentially my best yet. Stay tuned!

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