The Boston Marathon has been on my radar since I qualified at NAIA Outdoor Track Nationals in 2014. My college running buddy and I decided that Boston would be a good goal to keep us motivated after we graduated from college. Before I joined Hudson Community, my previous marathon buildups were mostly just some extra-long long runs sprinkled into my regular 5k and 10k training. The marathon-specific workouts that I did this time were often new and challenging, but all of the training I received was excellent and prepared me to race well at Boston.
My goals at Boston were to run a PR, get as close to three hours as possible, and at minimum qualify for next year. The night before the race I was pretty nervous. This was my first marathon with this many runners. I called Kara, my Hudson Elite coach, to talk through a race plan because having concrete details to focus on usually helps calm my pre-race jitters. She said the warmer temperatures and head wind would make it harder to PR. It would be okay to just run it for the experience of a big marathon and not obsess about time. I decided that my new goal was to run a smart race and stay comfortable in the first half before the hills.
The morning of the race I was anxious-excited. I expected the Athlete’s Village to be kind of overwhelming, but it was actually cool, because it reminded me of a giant track or cross–country meet. I was able to relax a bit once I finally found my place in the start corrals.
The gun went off! There was a jolt of nervous excitement, a pause for effect, and a slow shuffle to the line. It felt good to pick up momentum and move at a familiar rhythm amidst all the adrenaline. It was exhilarating to see the river of runners winding their way up the course ahead of me. I was concerned about staying at a comfortable, not-too-fast pace in the beginning, aiming for about 7:25’s. By the time we were two miles in, I had figured out that the best thing was to just roll with the ebb and flow and let the group control the pace. There was no use wasting energy to weave past people or slow down to achieve the magic number, so I just aimed to run what felt comfortable in the first 5k and 10k.
Throughout the race I found other women to pace with. I would run comfortably with one runner for several miles only to leave them for another runner going slightly faster and repeat the process a few miles later. I became increasingly eager to pick up the pace after the 13 mile mark, but I knew I needed to be patient until we got to the hills. As I made the right hand turn onto the first hill after the 17 mile mark, I told myself “Ok, now you can go!” I now knew how much energy I had left and what obstacles I was up against. I sped up into the right hand turn and started to pass people on the hills. All of a sudden I looked up to see a spectator holding a sign that read “The top of Heartbreak Hill is here.” I almost didn’t believe it; I was expecting more pain and suffering.
I reached the downhills and knew that I didn’t have to save my energy; now I could finally let go. So I did. At one point my watch told me I was going 6:40 pace, which was faster than it felt. I didn’t worry about slowing down but concentrated on matching my effort to the number of miles remaining. I was waiting to hit a wall with two miles to go. In the past, those last two miles have felt like the longest two miles of my life. That didn’t happen. This time, the last two just felt long because I was impatient to get to the finish. In the last few miles, I started noticing signs with our cumulative time: 3:13, then 3:27. With one mile to go I thought I was too slow to even qualify for next year. Turns out those were the times for wave one and my time was actually 3:09:28; a new PR by 4 minutes and 37 seconds! I thoroughly enjoyed my Boston experience. I can’t wait to run my next big marathon and see how much faster I can get!