Unlike last year, the weather this year was fantastic- high 50s and sun by the midpoint of the race. (Compare this to the picture at left from 2007 with temperatures in the 30s/40s and rain, sleet, and wind – ugh!) 2008 was great for running and spectators, and boy are there a lot of spectators along the route! The marathon is run on a Monday when Boston celebrates Patriots Day, a state holiday. Schools close, the marathon, Red Sox day game - it’s a big party!
Because of the crowd, we had to be at the start 26 miles out in Hopkinton, MA about 2½ hours before the start. That’s a lot of time waiting with 23,000 runners lying around the athlete’s village (a middle and high school) like a runner's refugee camp. That's 2 hours of checking my blood sugar 3 or 4 times prior to the start. It was good, hovering around 150 mg/dl. I know from experience I’ll need about 60 to 80 grams of carbohydrate per hour during the marathon and I can’t get that from half cups of Gatorade along the route. So I ran with a Fuel Belt with two 10 ounce vials of high carb drink strapped to my waist, and a Clif Bar, 3 sport gels and 1 pack of Clif Shot Bloks in my hands. Not how most run a marathon, carrying a personal carb buffet 26 miles, but they don’t provide nutrition for diabetics to keep our blood sugar up along the course. I also carried my Omnipod personal diabetes manager (PDM) in a pocket on my Fuel Belt so I could set a 3.5 hour temporary (50% lower) basal rate on my insulin pump just prior to the start, and have it at the finish.
Boston is a crowded marathon, over 23,000 in the race. Since I was running for Joslin, I started in the very back of the 10:30 a.m. second wave with the other Team Joslin and charity runners. It’s great to see so many people running a marathon for charities, many of them first time marathoners. But that makes the start in Hopkinton very crowded on narrow roads, and hard to run with 23,000 runners crammed on the road in front of you. Thus, the first 5 miles are very sloooow. I got tripped several times by all the heels and feet, and even ran on the sidewalks a few times. But I was patient and didn’t try to force anything. I wasn’t here to win or knock anyone down. I knew I could start running around mile 6 after swimming through the crowd.
I was runing for charity and not for placing, so I planned to run about a 3:30 marathon- an easy 8:00 minute/mile pace - and enjoy the race atmosphere. The first 4 or 5 miles would be much slower, then I’d pick it up and run 7:30 until about mile 18 when I’d slow on the Newton hills, Heartbreak hill and the final miles of the race. As expected my 10k split was 50:30 minutes, a slow 8:20 min/mile trot. Finally the road opened up and I settled into a quicker 7:30 min/mile comfortable pace.
At mile 12.5 the course passes all female Wellesley College. The entire student body lines this half mile, partying and screaming in a deafening squeal like you’re a rock star, creating the famous “scream tunnel.” That will make you go fast! I felt great at the midpoint, not pushing real hard and just enjoying the tremendous crowds, staying right on my pace for 3:30. I had to run faster in the middle miles 6 to 13 to make up time. I hit the half way point (13.1 miles) at 1:45:05, dead on pace for a 3:30 finish.
I ate my Clif Bar in the first hour, then a gel or Clif Shot Blok about every 20 minutes, and took a few sips of Gatorade and water every couple of miles. By the midpoint I had caught the faster runners and enjoyed the steady pace. At mile 18 the fun starts – the Newton Hills. Up and down and up and down. My quads started really hurting so I pushed hard up the climbs because the descents hurt worse, pounding my quads with each step. The final climb is the famous Heartbreak Hill at mile 20 – a ½ mile steep climb when you are really spent! Lance Armstrong was running the race and said it was harder than he’d been told. I ran Boston last year so I knew what to expect. The best thing about Heartbreak Hill is Boston College at the top, another throng of thousands of college students partying since sunrise screaming at you like you’re winning the Olympic marathon. Awesome! I pumped my arms and slapped their hands for about ½ mile. That about wore me out! Oh yeah, I still need to run 6 more miles.
Miles 20 through 26 were quite painful on my quads, now tight and about to pop. I even stopped a few times for about a minute each to stretch them. I knew I’d be losing a few minutes, but no need to risk an injury. My pace was slower here, but I expected that. The crowd the last 5 miles in Boston is fantastic all the way to the finish!
I finished in 3:35. About 5 minutes slower than I’d planned but overall a fun race. I felt great at the finish with plenty of gas left in my tank, so its good to know I could go a lot faster if I had open road to race at the start. Also a good running base for triathlons coming up this year. It was great to hug Janna and Anna at the finish! Last year at this race Janna was 2 weeks from being born. The year she just liked the finisher’s medal, so I’ll run 26.2 miles for that any day.
Next for me are a few shorter triathlons and then the Rock and Roll Half Ironman, in Macon, Georgia on May 30. Thanks for your comments and emails!