Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Holy crap that was sweet: Boston Marathon Race Report


This was my first Boston, and my fourth marathon overall. I qualified in December at the Cal International Marathon in Sacramento with 3:39:22. My first marathon was just over a year before that- the Nike Women’s Marathon in Oct. 2005 (3:55), and I ran the Avenue of the Giants Marathon in May 2006 in 3:45. After my qualifying race at CIM, I was out of commission for about 6 weeks with a sore knee. I saw a doctor, who couldn’t find anything really wrong and just advised I take some time off. That was really, really rough. This was my first real setback since I started running and it shook me up. I gained a whole new perspective on and appreciation for my running.

When I resumed running I felt great. It took a few weeks to get my fitness back. I had my first run January 12, just 14 weeks before Boston. After a few easy weeks, I started a 10 week program. I was careful and conservative, my only goal being to be strong enough to run the distance, with no time goal. My training went much better than expected. My leg never bothered me again. My long runs went 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 17, 20, 16, 12, race. I ran 4 days a week and included tempo runs, speedwork, and mid-week longer runs of 10-12 miles. My paces were right on with my previous training cycle. My mileage peaked at 45, with just 3 weeks over 40. I incorporated a lot of cross training, which was completely new to me. I’ve never been able to swim, but I learned, loved it, and started going 2-3 times a week. I swam on the days I didn’t run, with usually no complete rest days in the week. I also lifted weights twice a week with my husband. I felt fantastic. My running was mild enough that I could easily handle the extra cross training. Also turns out I LOVE swimming! I am now planning on doing a triathlon this summer.

Race Weekend

This would be my first trip to the east coast. It was a first for my husband Zach, and my Mom and Dad (who flew out from Montana) too. Monday also happened to be my husband’s birthday. We made the most of our 4 days there and had a blast. We stayed in Cambridge and took the T around, just soaking it all up. This was the first time my parents came and saw me run a race (I only started running after I moved to California). It was perfect. The whole city of Boston makes such a big deal of the race that it’s easy for non-runners to get excited about it. Zach, as always, was my loyal crew and supporter.

I was so excited I pretty much overlooked the weather. I honestly couldn’t believe some people’s negative attitudes. I’m sure if I was really going for a PR I’d be worried, but still. I decided not to waste the energy. I just crossed my fingers and dressed properly. I was pretty satisfied with how the weather turned out, after the doomsday predictions!

The Expo was impressive, and really really crowded. I bought some stuff, including a daring last-minute purchase of a singlet I decided to wear for the race, my previous choice not being wick-y enough. The best part of the expo was meeting amazing and friendly Bill Rodgers, and also Grete Waitz, Carrie Tollefson, Amy Rudolph, Sara Slattery, Todd Williams, and Tim Broe. They were all so great, and totally inspiring.

Race Strategy

I was going to do my best and enjoy every second of it. That’s pretty much it. I figured I wouldn’t re-qualify or PR, but I thought I could run 3:45 ish (8:35 pace). I wanted to run smart – go easy on the downhills, run strong on the uphills, and finish strong.

Race Day

I slept pretty well and woke up energized. It was pretty decent outside- warmer at least and not really raining. Boston Common was so beautiful. I got on the bus about 6:45 and rode up to Hopkinton in the steamy little box. The Athlete’s Village was big and crowded and wet. I wore old shoes and socks, I put bags over the shoes, and I wore a poncho and sweats too. I mucked around for a couple of hours, taking shelter in the tents (the weather was all over the place, downright nasty at times), using the porto potty, waiting. Finally the first wave runners had all exited, and the second wave runners started heading out. It was really raining at this point, so I stayed under cover for as long as possible. I changed out of my warm stuff – settling on a race outfit of shorts, singlet, long-sleeve tech shirt, garbage bag, and gloves. I kept my poncho on for now too. At the buses, I changed into dry shoes and socks, checked my bag, then headed up to the start at the back of the pack. The ‘gun’ went off (I head an announcement) and I was still on Grove Street, not even close to the corrals! Oh well, I popped into the porto potty once more (why not), shed the poncho, and finally crossed the starting line at 10:45.

It was pretty tight, and I spent the first few miles dodging people (and puddles). I didn’t waste too much energy on it though, and just went with the flow as best I could. It helped me start out slow, which was important.

Mile 1 9:27
Mile 2 (8:55 ave)
Mile 3 (8:55 ave)

I settled in a good groove, was dry and comfortable, and enjoyed the scenery. High-fived some kids. I thought the course felt very rolling, with lots of little uphills. It was tough. We got some bursts of rain and wind.

Mile 4 8:32
Mile 5 8:51
Mile 6 8:28
Mile 7 8:29
Mile 8 8:29
Mile 9 8:41
Mile 10 8:41

Somewhere in here my right knee started hurting. The same place where I was so sore after my last marathon. This injury hadn’t even surfaced in 14 weeks but it appears today?! I decide it’s really like a 3 on the scale of discomfort and ignore it. It eventually passed.

A BIG highlight of this race happened around here too. Who do I see ahead of me but Steve Runner of the Phedippidations podcast! This guy is awesome and I am a big fan of the podcast. I ran up and said hello, and introduced myself – I’ve sent him race reports and emails, so I think he remembered me. He was really nice and we exchanged encouragement, then I ran on ahead. So cool. He does the podcast while running, so I wonder if I’ll make it on the show?

Then, I hear it… Wellesley! You really can hear it coming. I gave high-fives and yelled out. I’ve never yelled in a race before! I did it a bunch this day. I’m loving this.

Mile 11 8:39
Mile 12 8:33
Mile 13 8:58 (Half 1:54:38, 8:45 pace)
Mile 14 8:39
Mile 15 8:46

In this stretch, after Wellesley but before the hills, I got a side cramp. I put up with it for a while, but finally decided to walk it out. This was hard to do with so many spectators, but I knew it was my only chance of shedding the cramp. This worked and I felt fine the rest of the way, stomach-wise.

The hills were big. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, but ya. Long hills. They aren’t steep, just long. I ran up them all at a slower pace but strong. The crowds were heavy and I especially loved running by Boston College. Like Wellesley with guys and beer. I yelled more there. Heartbreak Hill was especially tough, and turned out to be my slowest mile by far. I walked briefly at some water stops and once to eat some oranges. At one point my other knee started to stiffen up, and my legs were definitely getting tired. My pace slowed down, but I stayed really consistent.

Mile 16 9:10
Mile 17 9:18
Mile 18 9:15
Mile 19 9:03
Mile 20 9:30
Mile 21 10:21

After that, it was all downhill except a couple bumps. My lungs were good, but my legs were sore. I finally decided to take my long sleeve shirt off, so I was in singlet and shorts. Hopefully I got a couple Marathon Photo shots since only then did I show my bib #. I took my last water at mile 23. I really loved this last part. The crowds, there’s the Citgo sign! There’s my family!!! Yaaaaaa! I probably saw them about quarter mile from the end, and I sprinted it in, huge smile on my face.

Mile 22 9:03
Mile 23 9:24
Mile 24 9:21
Mile 25 9:07
Mile 26.2 10:33 (8:47 ave) !

Official Time 3:55:18 (8:59 average pace)


I’m really proud of my time, even though it is my slowest marathon time yet. I’d hardly use the phrase “personal worst.” This was the best yet, by far.

After the race my legs were so sore, no surprise there, and I got so cold! I got that space blanket, my medal, then found my family just on the other side of the fence and got dry clothes (and my Boston jacket!). I picked up my sweats bag and we headed out. The ride back to Cambridge was fun, with lots of runners packed on the T.

The rest of the trip was great, Boston is a really fun city. Monday night we celebrated with dinner and drinks, and watched my San Jose Sharks win a playoff game. Of course they won, it was a perfect day.

Tuesday my legs felt all right. We had a late flight out, so we got up and went to Faneuil Hall and the Quincy Market. I went to Bill Rodgers’ running store, where I met the beautiful and amazing Kathy Switzer. I’d bought a photo of her famous run over in Faneuil Hall, and she signed it for me. Wow.

I loved this race. I am so amazed and impressed that this event lived up to everything I’d heard. Everyone in Boston was so great, and the marathon was classic. Incredible.

We’ll definitely be going back to Boston, I want to really see the city and all the history, and also see how it looks in the sun. And I don’t know when, but I’ll run the marathon there again. I can’t wait.


Chad in the Arizona Desert said...

What a great race report! Congratulations! I could really feel just how much fun you had by the way you wrote this. So relax and bask in the glow of a job well done.

Oh ya...what's this I hear about a traithlon? Tell me more. Tell me more!

Chad in the Arizona Desert said...

You don't take off of spelling, do you? (traithlon???) Oops...

Bob Gentile said...

JEN SAID: Then, I hear it… Wellesley! You really can hear it coming. I gave high-fives and yelled out. I’ve never yelled in a race before! I did it a bunch this day. I’m loving this.
very Cool Jen & way to enjoy ALL the moments in Boston & sounds like you met some amazing runners!...

I think your time was great... U worked out the side cramp, Added some High Fives & yells..( U probably could have shaved a few minutes running a boring Head down race--LOL) but "NO Way" YOU Did it perfectly, yes a perfect day for ya-


CHEERS \_/ \_/

Marathon Maritza said...

You rule! I'm calling you in 5 min to hear it first hand!

Anonymous said...

Great race report. It was fun to read along with your travels.

If you're interested in reading about how the race unfolded watching it from home, I was blogging about the race live. Take a peek for another view of your big day.

Coach Joe

Eed said...

You are so much more awesome than me sitting on my couch. Good on you!

Steve Runner said...


Of course I remember you!!

It was very cool to meet you!! CONGRATULATIONS on a great finish!!

This was definitly a race to remember.

Your fan...


Cory said...

Thanks for a great race report. A well run race. Congrats!!

GB said...

Hi Jen! I found your blog through Bob Gentile's. Way to go in Boston! You ran great through that knee pain and the side cramp. I am with you on the hills...while they aren't super steep, they're steep enough to hurt because they are long. Anyway, I'm from your neck of the woods. I also BQ'd at the CIM in December, and can't wait to run it again this December. Should be fun because it's the 25th Anniversary. I look forward to reading your blog regularly.

Kevin said...

There I was running this weekend listening to F'Dip, and there you were!! JEN! I know her! (well, kinda). How very cool! What memories you made this weekend! As always, great job Jen!!

Meredith said...


Congrats on such a strong finish! I heard your blog mentioned in the Phedippidations podcast and I had to check it out. I was in Cambridge/Boston last week for a business trip - my goal is to one day run the Boston marathon. I am running my first marathon in October, so we'll see if I get a BQ!