2008 Boston Marathon
April 21, 2008
This year’s Boston Marathon was my 6th marathon and my second time in Boston. Last year I ran during a huge Nor’easter which was some of the worst weather they had in years, but this year’s conditions were ideal. It was clear and warm, but not hot, which made for not only good running but excellent sightseeing too. We arrived in Boston on Saturday night and headed to our hotel – the Omni Parker House in downtown Boston. It is the oldest continuously operating hotel in the U.S. and a good example of how freaking old everything in Boston is! It is amazing the history the city contains in such a small amount of space. The marathon is run on Patriot’s Day, a state holiday commemorating the battles at Lexington and Concord in 1775 which were the first battles of the American Revolution. This was the 112th running of the Boston Marathon and I was honored to be a part of it.
Sunday we got up and made it to Boylston St. just in time to see the finish of the Women’s Olympic Trials race. I saw Deena Castor finish in first place and watched her celebrate her victory with the other top women and the crowd. It was inspiring. I saw Joan Benoit Samuelson finish her race in less than 2 hours and 50 minutes, a women’s 50+ record. We headed over to the expo where I picked up my race number, t-shirt (a nice long sleeve tech women’s fit shirt) and bought a whole lotta gear and souvenirs. We dropped our bags off at the hotel and continued onto the Fanuiel Hall Marketplace where I had some more gear to pick up from the Bill Rodgers Running Store. There I met John Ellis, a friend and running coach of SteveRunner of the Phedippidations podcast. He was really nice and gave me great advice on race strategy (which I apparently chose to ignore). We had a big pasta lunch at Bertucci’s and my best friend Deana met us. She flew in from Portland Oregon to cheer me on and see the sights. I decided I’d spent enough time on my feet so I went to the hotel to rest and get my race stuff ready while they walked around. We met for dinner at a pub where unfortunately they weren’t showing the San Jose Sharks playoff game, but that’s ok because they ended up losing anyway, forcing a game 7 back in San Jose on Tuesday night. We walked Deana to the T stop (she was staying with a friend at Harvard) and then turned in for the night.
I slept pretty well and woke up easily at 6:00 am. While I got dressed, Zach went down to the “marathon lounge” in the lobby which was a pathetic array of yogurt and coffee (do they know what a marathon is??) and got me some milk for my oatmeal. I ate my 2 packets of instant oatmeal with a handful of raisins and drank a little water. We walked the two blocks to Boston Common where the busses would be picking up runners and driving us the thousand miles (or so it seemed) to Hopkinton. I got a last good luck hug and kiss and lined up. I met a few guys from Philly and a girl from San Francisco, Amy, who would become my friend for the next 3 hours. We sat together on the bus and the ride seemed to take forever. As we finally approached the Hopkinton exit, the traffic was backed up and guys were getting off their busses to pee on the side of the road and then running to catch up to their bus. It was very entertaining! One guy got off our bus and we all cheered when he made it back safely. We finally unloaded at Athlete’s Village around 9:00 I think, which was ok because it was warm and comfortable and left less time to sit around getting antsy. After using the porto potty I took my new friend Amy to meet up with a bunch of people from the RunningTimes and Runango web forums. There we found Blazer (Cathy), SeoulRunner (Cindy), Sparky Runner, Stace76 (Robyn), Steve in CT, High Hopes, Rio, and a few others that I am forgetting. It was cool to finally meet these people and we chatted while we waited for the race to start. I couldn’t stop thinking about how different it was from last year’s wet, muddy, gloom fest. I ate a Quaker Oatmeal Bar and a banana and then headed over for one last porto potty stop. Good thing I left when I did because the line was slow and I barely made it in time to shed my outer layers, turn in my sweats bag, and hurry over toward the corrals. The fog had cleared and the sun was shining by this point.
Last year, due to the rain, I waited until the very last second to line up and was forced to start at the very back of the pack, which lead to a very slow first couple of miles. This year I wanted to be right up at the head of Wave 2 where I should be with a bib number in the 14000’s. It wasn’t looking good as the minutes counted down and I was still a ways away. Then, where you turn right to get to the corrals, a bunch of people were cutting the corner and zig-zagging through the crowds and buildings to bypass the other corrals. I followed them and found myself right up front. I squeezed back through the gate right into Corral 14 literally when the gun went off!
Race Goals and Strategy
My “A” goal was to re-qualify with a time of 3:40 or better. I knew this was optimistic and would be hard, but it was within the realm of possibility so why not go for it. I wore a pace band showing my required splits for that finishing time. That’s about an 8:23 average pace. My “B” goal was to get as close to 3:40 as possible (low 3:40’s I guess) and my “C” goal was to beat my time from last year (3:55:18) which was my slowest marathon ever. So “Course Record” and “don’t run the slowest marathon of your life” were the same goal. I also had the goal of having fun and enjoying the experience, which was not going to be a challenge! I knew I would slow on the hills and possibly fade toward the end, so I knew I should run a slight positive split to account for that. But I wanted to run strong on the hills, and I figured I could hold it together to make my goal.
The solid advice I received from John Ellis, as well as every other source I’d ever consulted on running ever, suggested I don’t go out too fast. So guess what I did? Ya.
At first the dives down a few nice hills, but there are some uphills too, which were not easy. There were woods and some houses at first, then some small towns, but not a ton of people cheering yet (compared to what was to come). The sea of runners in front of me was a beautiful sight. When I went over the timing mat at the 5k mark, I thought of the coworkers, friends, family- everyone who was tracking me online and I got a little choked up. I thought “make ‘em proud.” I thought this every 5k as I crossed a mat.
Mile 1: 8:25 (crowds)
Mile 2: 8:07
Mile 3: 8:03
Mile 4: 8:00
Mile 5: 8:17
I was feeling good. I knew I should slow down, but honestly I was glad to see I was banking some time. I know, I know. We started going through the towns of Framingham and Natick and the crowds were increasing. There were a few bands, some early bar-goers, and people were already handing out water and oranges. I gave high five to about a hundred kids already. I was feeling strong and still running fast, but not as fast. It was feeling warm but very comfortable. I had carried my own water bottle in my hand (in addition to the one in my fuel belt) and I’d finished that by mile 7 or so. I also ate Sharkies (gummies) at mile 6. I knew that since it was warm I would need a lot of water so I started taking it from the water stops and from random spectators.
Mile 6: 8:12
Mile 7: 8:14
Mile 8: 8:19
Mile 9: 8:14
Mile 10: 8:20
I admit that by mile 10 I was already starting to feel tired. Not like, lie down and die tired, but I was feeling it. Luckily, the crowds were loud and the runners around me were looking strong, so I didn’t dwell on it. In the next few miles I started to eat into my “time bank” just a little and that bothered me. I’d hoped to save that for the hills and the end. But I wasn’t thinking too far ahead, I just focused on getting to Wellesley, the half way mark, and then I’d think about the hills. I continued to drink water which was kind of interesting- I’ve never been a water stop person; I’m usually very self sufficient with my own water bottles. At CIM Zach would find me several times throughout the race and bring me a new water bottle. I perfected my running-while-drinking on the spot. I ate more Sharkies at mile 12.
Mile 11: 8:26
Mile 12: 8:12
Mile 13: 8:29 (First Half 1:48:15- 8:16 average pace)
Mile 14: 8:34
Mile 15: 8:35
Wellesley was loud and exciting like last year. I alternated high-fiving the girls and screaming “Yaaaaah! You guys rock! Thank you!!!” with running a few feet away catching my breath and calming down. You can waste a lot of energy going crazy with the crowd! I wanted to enjoy it but I didn’t want it to cost me my race. The crowds continued to grow as I continued to tire, which sort of offset each other. I was still running (no walk breaks yet) and feeling good. I slowed down a little but not drastically, and I figured if I stayed strong I could still come in under 3:40. I also remembered that technically I can re-qualify with a time of 3:40:59, which means I had an additional “secret minute bank.” I hoped that would be enough, but I was not sure. We turned the corner onto Commonwealth in Newton and I prepared myself to run like hell up the hills. The first one appears right away and it’s a killer- the gradual climb over that highway. It’s never ending. There’s a break in between every hill, with some downhills and a ton of encouraging people, but then another hill would come along and challenge your willpower.
Mile 16: 8:25
Mile 17: (8:55)
Mile 18: (8:55) average
Mile 19: 8:48
Mile 20: (9:18) average
I had slowed down through the hills but not too bad. I had completely spent my banked time, including my secret minute, but I wasn’t far behind. I still had Heartbreak Hill ahead of me, but I was kind of confused. Last year I knew right where to expect the hills but this year I had lost track. When I was on Heartbreak I wasn’t sure until I heard someone yell “Last hill!” I actually felt ok, despite running a much slower pace on the inclines. There were a lot of people walking and I encouraged them as I passed. I kept drinking water at every stop and whenever I wanted it. Also I took a handful of ice cubes from one guy and put them down the back of my shirt. It wasn’t that hot but it still felt good. I took a cold sponge from another person and squeezed it on my back as well. I even ran through a sprinkler but that was mostly because I didn’t have the energy to avoid it. I was feeling the usual fatigue and soreness in my legs but actually didn’t feel that bad. I was watching my pace band and after the top of Heartbreak Hill I was technically still within seconds of being on pace (accounting for my secret minute) and honestly, that kind of killed me. I hated thinking “well, if you can maintain 8:23 pace you could still make it” because I wanted to just slow down. I tried speeding up a little but my legs let me know right away that that was NOT happening. Tiny cramps warned me of the full body spasm that was waiting for me at that 8:23 pace. So I backed off and just kept running. When the next mile put me almost a minute over goal pace I was relieved. I could let it go. Plan B it is. I had a bit of a side cramp but I just ignored it. What are ya gonna do. The crowds were incredible. I wish I had more words to describe it… I felt that they were cheering from the bottoms of their hearts for us. To me, they meant every word of it. We CAN do it! We ARE awesome. We ARE doing a great job. And praise the Lord, we ARE almost there.
Mile 21: (9:18) average
Mile 22: 8:45
Mile 23: 9:14
Mile 24: 9:00
Mile 25: 9:16
Mile 26.2: 10:30 (8:45 pace)
As I turned onto Boylston Street I just soaked it up. I moved over to the left where Deana and Zach would be and I spotted them easily. Deana had sort of climbed a light pole and they were screaming and pointing and waving. I screamed and pointed and waved back and that whole section of people exploded. It was awesome. I had a huge smile as I ran toward the finish line and I threw my arms up as I ran across. I crossed the line without having walked a step since Hopkinton.
Finish time: 3:44:56 (8:35 average pace)
Second Half 1:56:41 (8:54 average pace)
Placed 10,648/22,375 Overall
As soon as I crossed my heart filled up with happiness. I started crying. I looked over to the woman next to me and congratulated her, and she put her arm around me and we embraced in the spirit of the moment. I got my cell phone out of my fuel belt pocket and sent a video message to Maritza. I got my silver blanket even though I was really warm, and moved forward with the crowd. Those next few minutes were like a dream, where we were all draped in the silver victory capes, staggering forward with the sun shining hard down on us. I was a little out of it and everything was just a little blurry, and I was sort of crying. I memorized the sight and the way it made me feel. This is what it’s all about. This is what I live for.
I called my mom a minute later as I continued to move forward (I swear it is another mile to the finisher medal station!) and she was crying also and I told her “I did it!” and I told her it was beautiful out and how happy I was. Finally, I got to the station where they take your timing chip off your shoe and the girl was so nice, asking me how it was (my response: smile/cry “It was amazing!” smile/cry). She placed the medal around my neck and gave me a hug. I tell you, the volunteers at Boston are saints, every one of them. I called Zach and they came and found me – I couldn’t exit the runner’s area but I got some big hugs across the barrier. Deana got teary when she saw me all teary, man it was so emotional. I got my new 2008 Boston Marathon Jacket and donned it with pride. I then made my way over to the baggage busses and then exited the barricaded area and was released into the city.
We wandered down Newbury St (you could hardly move on Boylston) and then cut over to Boylston and went into the Pour House for some celebration brews and food. I spent the next few hours there drinking and eating and accepting awed congratulations from drunk college kids. I even participated in an arm-wrestling contest (I lost, but I put up a good fight against the possible professional arm-wrestler). I spent the rest of the day with my wonderful husband and best friend and loved every second of it. We were in town for another two days, returning late last night (Wednesday) so we took in all the sights and enjoyed the warm spring weather. Tuesday night in our hotel we watched our Sharks destroy Calgary on home ice in the crucial 7th game of the series and we ate the Boston Cream Pie that was invented at our hotel. This whole experiences ranks right up there with the best in my life and I can’t wait to go back.
Photo album here. I will post some pics directly on the next post but this is the whole set. Well, not even, but it's a larger set than I'll post on my blog.
Marathon Photo Link here (if it doesn't take you directly to my pics, choose 2008 Boston Marathon, last name Barnes, bib# 14709.) Apparantly I didn't see all the cameras, hense the long face in some.
Thanks so much you guys for all your encouragement and support. Like I said, I thought of you all as I crossed those timing mats and it means the world to me that you logged on and tracked me online. A huge part of what drives me and keeps me running is my friends and I do consider all of you friends. You are the best. :)