Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Boston Marathon 2012

Its not everyone that gets to run a Boston Marathon, so i consider myself lucky. Even if the conditions on the day meant i failed to hit my target goal. However despite that my Boston 2012 was the best run marathon Ive done, I still came away with a shiny new PB, and an overall result that id only dreamed about.

Leading up to Race day the discussion online, in the hostel, and on the street was all about the weather. Would the cold front hold up and 'deliver us' with cooler running conditions or would the Weather Frogs actually get it right this time and it would pass through and be followed by a whole lot of warm air and clear skies comming up from the southern states. Sunday night solved the riddle as we tried to catch a few hours of sleep with the window open and no sheets on the bed.

Although id set my alarm for 4:30am I was awake earlier than that, partly because of the heat, but also because id been struggling with jetlag and the change in sleeptimes. So after lying there awake for what seemed like forever i eventually just got up and went out for my Raceday Wakeup jog. Then it was showering, lubing up, and breakfast, My usual Porridge with walnuts and a banana topped with honey. I left the hostel at 5:50ish and headed for Boston Common to catch the busses up to the Athlettes Village at the Start. I found myself a spot in the tent and lay down to rest before a final toilet stop and heading to the start line around 9:25am. I joined Coral 5 and lined up virtually at the back of it with 5 mins to go, and started my cooling strategy. I emptied a couple of bottles of water over my head and clothes much to the ammusement of those standing around me.... but i was just an early adopter.

Unfortunately from coral 5 i couldnt see the startline as it was just over the crest of the hill in Hopkington. But the gun went off, there was a cheer and we started to move foward. We walked for the first hundred meters, then as we passed under a tv camera broke into a jog about 50m from the start line. I crossed about 3 and a half minutes after the gun. I had a couple more water bottles in my hands that i intended to use in the first stretch so that i could avoid the crowded first drink station.

Km 1-5: The course really drops right from the start line, the road is bordered by forest on both sides. I decide to use my successfull cut in strategy, Id put together a pace band the night before, with a Sub-3 goal time my average gMP needed to be 4:15/km. So for the cut-in I decided to do the first km in 4:30, the next two in 4:25/km, then two more at 4:20/km, before coming up onto gMP. I managed to control my pace quite well, although the steep hills and small rises made hitting the exact splits difficult, what did happen was that hundreds if not a thousand people streamed past me. But I knew that i would pull back all but the absolute best prepared of them. I spoted a few kids holding out hands for a high five, so in order to oblige them i tucked a water bottle into the band of my shorts... which worked really well, they wernt annoying me, they didnt rub, so i decide to hold onto one of them to use when taking my gels. My Official split for the first 5k was 22:03

Km 6-10: I took my first gel, at Km 5 with water from the bottle i was carrying. The course now goes through a section of rolling hills. Which made it hard for me to keep my Km splits on my gMP, on reflection I probably wasnt pushing quite hard enough on the downhills to stay on target. I was also a little simplistic in using 4:15/km instead of a more appropriate 4:13/km as what i was trying to hit. But i was running easily breathing in a 4/4 pattern and well in control. Pretty soon i was starting to pull back runners, I was trying to run the blue line so as i moved from one side of the course to the other id use it too slip past groups of slower runners, the course was still fairly congested. and i wasnt allways able to run freely. I finshed the 5k in 21:29

Km 11-15: At this point the race goes down some really wide streets that are also fairly long and straight. However many runners were running on the far right of the course as there was a slim sliver of shade cast by the occasional building. The Crowd support was amazing it seems like every man and his dog in the towns along the route comes out to watch the race. There were lots of people handing out cut up oranges, however i chose to avoid those as i wasnt sure how id handle them. I also started to see people holding out the flavoured ice sticks, insiring how generous the audience was along the whole course. I was running well, at the drinks stations i was taking 2-3 cups tiping them over my chest or down my back, and taking a small sip from the last cup. I didnt feel like i was overheating, but i did start to see a lot of people that looked like they were really starting to struggle. I ran through this 5k in 21:21

Km 16-20: I took my second gel and finished off the last of the water i was carrying with me and tossed the bottle. I continued to click off the Km's running in the shade whenever i could find some, maintaining the water going over me at the drinks stations... however they were still fairly crowded and occasionally id get piped to a cup by a runner ahead of me, I was still running in control, holding back a little, I started to accept water from the spectators whenever i could, all of it being dumped over me. As the Km clicked off i started to realise that i was still very close to my pace band time, I knew that i wanted to make the call about wether to continue pushing hard, or to completly back off and make the second half more of a running party before i got to Wellesley. It must have been a good Km out and a runner next to me commented that he could hear the scream tunnel already... and he was right. I thought it must be right around the corner, but i kept on running and running still not seeing it, then finally we were there. I decided that id continue to push hard, So i wasnt going to stop and grab a few kisses. but i did put my hand up and ran the 500m outside of the college doing what seemed like a constant high five... Interestingly most of the guys picked their pace up a bit so i didnt need to do too much passing. I ran that 5k block in 21:18

Km 21-25: Having decide to have a go at my Sub-3 hr goal going through the 20km mark I realised I was about 30 seconds down on my pace chart. So i started to run a bit harder, and my pace picked up a little. However i almost immediatly noticed that i was starting to heat up, I noticed that my singlet wasnt allways completly wet with the 2-3 cups of water i was getting at the drinks stations so i decided to make use of the thining crowds at the drinks stations and started taking as many cups as i could get, typically 4-5 or even more. I concentrated on making sure my clothes were completly soaking, including my hat. I was refreshing that with any water i could get on course, at one point someone handed me a plastic drinking water bottle that was still icy cold from the fridge... OMG it was bliss. I held against the back of my neck for a while and then tipped half of it over me and saved about 150ml for my gel at 25k by tucking it my waist band again. I also took any ice that spectators were handing out... that went under my hat. which burnt a little, but im sure helped. My increased cooling efforts managed to get my heating back under control. I settled into the slightly harder effort level and completed that 5k stretch in 21:04 and went through the half in 1:30:48

Km 26-30: The start of this section hits a steep downhill into Newton lower Falls, and then we start into the famous Newton Hills section. Id run from the top of this hill through to Boston College on the Friday morning before the race, so i knew what was coming. The first hill rises up from the river over the interstate and continues towards Newton Hospital. In my opinion its equally as hard a hill as heartbreak, due to its length, but just comes a bit earlier in the race. I simply tried to maintain my effort level, and rolled up the hill fairly well, but there were quite a few runners that were doing the deadmans shuffle, or even just walking it. At the top it wasnt too long before we ran through the PowerBar Gel station. I was looking for a Latta Mocha, but grabbed several as i went past each volunteer because i wasnt sure what flavours they had... I stuffed the excess in the pocket of my tights, and held onto the Latta Mocha that id scored after all. At the turn onto Commonwealth at the newton Fire Station Me, and every single runner i saw diverted off course and ran through a spray tent they had set up... briliant with nice cold mains water. This section although famed for its hills actuall is quite rolling there are plenty of downhills, but i wasnt prepared to let loose on them just yet. This 5k section i completed in 21:22

Km 31-35: This section includes the 3rd of the newton hills and then the 'big' one Heartbreak, before the down hill and running past Boston College. I didnt want to push the pace at all untill i was over heartbreak, and past the first steep down hill. But my legs were starting to hurt and i took some gatorade at one of the drinks stations thinking maybe some electrolytes would be a good idea. By this stage in particular on the hills i felt like i was running in almost a completly different race to the people around me. I was pacing people left and right. I also went back to running the tangents knowing that i needed to make the absolute most of my pace, i couldnt afford running any further than necessary. It felt like i charged up heartbreak compared to the pained faces around me, i guess all the hills id been able to run in New Zealand really paid off. I high fived a few kids at the top took a few moments to collect myself i also took the last gel a bit earlier than the 35k mark and then started a controlled descesnt, The lads at Boston College were almost as loud as wellesley, and i tried to fire them up a bit. I high fived several until one guy decided to highfive me with his arm completely tensed, which really mashed my arm as i ran past... not good, and i didnt high five anyone else after that. Unfortunately coming down out of Newton i got my first cramp, It was triggered by a runner stopping in front of me that i had to swerve to avoid bowling right into. It wast too bad i flexed my toes up towards my shins and ran on my heel a bit slower for a couple of hundred meters before it eased out. But it was enough to make me worried about completly letting loose and pushing with everything i had from that far out. I ran the 5k in 21:50

Km 36-40: With my thighs really starting to hurt, and worrying that my calf would cramp again, I started to ask myself how much further, I had wanted to push a lot harder than what i did but in retrospect i doubt id have been able to make up the lost time, and if i had i may well have run into more serious cramping. As it was i had another light cramp that i could run out going past the cemetary. The course was exposed to the sun and the spectator support had dropped off a little, and it was really starting to hurt, i was starting to over heat again but there was nothing else i could think of doing. The race was also thining out with bigger and bigger gaps between runners. So i just tried to concentrate on running down the people in front of me, and trying to feel like i was gaining a little energy from each one i passed. I can only imagine what ws going through some of their heads as i flew past most of them. the final full 5k i ran in 20:59

Km 41-Finish: Coming up to the 40km band i really wanted to know if i was on target for my Sub-3 Id forgotten to check at Km 35. I felt that i was running faster, but my pace band km splits were bassed on a constant effort run, so it was expected id run the last downhill section a bit faster. I knew going through 40k i would need about eight and a half minutes on the clock. I looked at the clock at the 40k mark... there was only about 4 minutes or so left... I was absolutly gutted, Id pushed so hard, and i wasnt even sure id set a PB. I felt like walking, but decided that no id still try for the PB. It wasnt until i glanced at Lady Garmin to check on my pace that i realised my mistake. Id looked at the gun time on the clock, not the net time as shown on my garmin. But by then i didnt know how far id run, or exactly how much longer i had... but it was close, So I gritted my teeth and started pushing with everything i had left. My legs immediately started complaining. and were in outright rebelion as i ran back up the other side of the underpass before the turn onto Hereford. At the time i was ready to layout the town planner that had decided to put it there... I made the turn onto Boylston with about 2 mins left, and then saw the finsh line way down in the distance 600m away and knew that id miss out on going under 3 hours but at that point i wasnt going to slow down, not with the primal roar coming from the massive crowds on each side. I made a half hearted attempt to put my hands in the air as i crossed the line before stumbling to a stop in some shade off to the side.

The medics immediately came over to ask if i was okay, I knew that i was fine and just needed to catch my breath and recover from the oxygen debt from that last sprint. So i strightened up and started to make my way down the finishing chute. First i was handed some luke warm water, but then i got some cold recovery Gatorade, i should have grabed more that the two bottles i did get. Im a bit fuzzy on the sequence but we were given the goody bag, had the foil wrapped around us and then were presented with the medal. I sure know i earned this one.  At each station there were more medics all asking if i was okay... at the time i thought geeze do i look that bad, but later realised they were probably asking all the runners coming through at that point. I wandered around a bit, before heading to pick up my clothing bag... then i heard the announcer saying that there were massages in the building to my right... so i found the queue and joined it. It was a bit harsh standing in the blazing sun. but i chatted with some of the other runners there, and before i knew it we were ushered inside... which was almost as good as the massage to follow itself... there is a lot to be said about airconditioning but after a marathon in that heat its all favourable. I was lead to a table relatively quickly and then Jessica my Boston Massage Angel spent what felt like 30 minutes sorting my legs out. Bliss. When it was finished headed to the restrooms to discover that there was an antechamber before them with comfy seats... so i stopped there, got changed out of my race gear, and ate every last morsel in my goody bag before heading outside to watch some of the other races come in.

Those first few hours i was still feeling dissapointed that id not been able to get the Sub-3 that id worked so hard for. It wasnt till i got back to the hostel, and started to hear that most people had run significantly slower than what they had hopped for, often well over 30 minutes slower that i started to put it into perspective, then when i saw what place id achieved it really brought it home for me just what a tremendous race id actually run. My official Finishing time was 3:00:31 but more importantly with a bib number of 4749 id managed to place 547th over all. Thats an improvement of over 4000 places on my qualifying rank. If it hadnt been as hot id probably not gotten anywhere near as good a placing as my pace strategy was completly geared around hitting the Sub-3 and not running the best time i could possibly run... but now im convinced that on Patriots Day 2012 3:00:31 was the absolute best time i could possibly race in those conditions

Here the tale from Lady Garmin.


  1. Was für ein schöner Laufbericht und unglaublich, dass du bei diesem Wetter und nach deiner langen Reise überhaupt ins Bett und etwas Ruhe gefunden hast.

    Klasse Leistung, noch einmal herzlichen Glückwunsch!

  2. Wow, reading this brings back a lot of memories! The Boston Marathon was so hard yet so fulfilling! I've never done so much running before!.

  3. I wish I can join in the next event. I really love running and I want to run with them.