||Monday, April 21, 2003
||Run - Marathon
||Male 25 - 29
||151 / 17567
||151th overall, 17,567 starters, 17,046 finishers, hot and sunny for the first half, windy for the second half
I've never really Run the Boston marathon. Sure, I've done it --- this was my third year at the race --- but each of my previous attempts have required an asterisk next to my result for some reason. The first year, it was a bum IT band that gave me problems a week before the race, and cause me to limp for 26.2 miles. (Actually, that's not entirely true. I got through a half mile before it really started to hurt, so I only actually limped 25.7 miles of the course.) The second time I went to Boston, my race was preceded by an extended (some might even say "excessive") warm-up jog that probably hurt, rather than helped, my race time. This year, however, no pains were slowing me down, and no one was interested in doing a warm-up jog with me. Finally: an asterisk-free Boston.
That might not be entirely true. After a month or two of frequent racing (including a race the week before Boston), and no speed-work in recent memory (you can't count the races, since they were all marathons or longer), I wasn't in what one might call "peak shape" for a fast marathon. Add to that the fact that for me, the marathon is really just an excuse for me to get together with friends in Boston for a weekend of tom-foolery... Well, I didn't have extremely high expectations for my "race".
Monday morning --- race morning --- rolled around, and I found myself in Hopkinton, waiting for the noon start. This year, thanks to a friend of a friend, I was able to avoid the Athletes' Village (a big, grassy field with a few thousand jittery runners fighting for a couple hundred port-o-potties) in favor of a comfortable couch in a house not far from the starting line. With a handful of friends who were also running, I was able to avoid baking in the sun for several hours before the beginning of the race. That's a good thing, too, since it was a warm and sunny day. When I finally had to leave the house, and head to my corral 15 minutes before the race began, I realized that anyone not prepared for the heat would be having a miserable day.
After a few announcements, the singing of the nation anthem, a fly-over by a couple military jets (that part always just seems so cool to me!) and one last message of, "THE RACE WILL START IN 30 SECONDS - THIS IS THE LAST ANNOUNCEMENT," they fired the gun and the crowd began to move forward.
Really, once we started to move, the heat wasn't a factor for me at all. Maybe I wasn't running hard enough, but I never found myself dripping with sweat as so many other did. Instead, I just stuck with a nice, moderate effort. For me, the first 10 miles are always the hardest. During the first 10 miles, I always feel like the race is just starting, and I still have a long way to go. This was no exception. I was worried that I was going too fast (even though I knew that I wasn't), I was worried that my recent race schedule would catch up with me before long, I was worried about the fact that as I was standing behind the start line, I realized that I was quite hungry. Worrying doesn't get you anywhere; running does. So I just kept running.
After passing mile 10, my feeling was (as it always is), "Hey, I'm kinda sorta getting to the middle of this race, which is the part right next to the end." Happy that I had gotten that far feeling good, I knew I could start to pick up the effort ever so slightly. I still had to save something for the hard miles --- 16-21 --- where the course hits exactly the sort of hills you don't want to hit in miles 16-21 of a marathon. Before I could start thinking about the hills, I'd have to deal with another obstacle: the wind. It seemed that as we ran closer and closer to Boston, the headwind became stronger and stronger. By this point in the race, everyone was spread out enough that I couldn't find anyone suitable for drafting. The headwind was getting stronger, and there was nothing to do but to put your head down, elbows out, and march forward.
When I crossed the half-way point, I was quite surprised to see that I was on PR-pace. Of course, even at that I realized that unless the wind died down, the second half of the race would be considerably slower. No matter, I was still quite tickled to see that I was running far better than I expected.
Just past the 16th mile marker, I hit the first real climb. I should note that I'm a downhill runner. Give me a descent, and I'll let gravity do the work. But give me a climb, and... Well, gravity is still doing quite a bit of work. So the plan was this: Between miles 16 and 21, I'd just go nice and easy, letting folks pass me, going as slow as I needed to go to feel comfortable. After mile 21, it would be time to put down the hammer, and just GO for the last five miles. Not far past mile 16, I realized that my legs hadn't completely recovered from the previous weekend's race. It wasn't that they were sore, it was that they were even weaker than they should have been. Still, I'd stick to my plan, even if it meant that I was just shuffling up the hills. Into the wind. Tired. Hungry.
Five miles isn't so terribly far. That's a good thing. I reached 21 knowing that my strategy had worked. I just needed to open up, and catch as many people as possible. It started off great. The 21st mile marker is at the top of a climb, with a descent on the other side. One, two, three, four... I was shooting fish in a barrel. There were a couple folks who had spent the previous 21 miles running 50-100 meters in front of me. In a half mile, I caught them. In the next several miles, I caught many more people who had left me behind long ago. In four miles, I must have passed 100 people. At mile 24, I saw doug and scott (friends who gave me a place to stay for the weekend) spectating. They gave me a cheer, and I gave them a cheer right back. I was feeling great. Then, shortly past the marker that indicates one mile to go, I started to get a side stitch. A little bit after that, my stomach started to feel not-so-right. I had to ease up the pace. In most races, I suppose that would be pretty frustrating. But on this day, I didn't have any goals other than to have fun, and it was clear that by that point, I could practically walk to the finish line and still exceed my predicted best-case scenario for the day.
I decided that a whole lotta suffering wasn't worth a few seconds just then. Perhaps the side stitch was a cosmic message that I was supposed to just savor the moment during the final amazing jog down Boylston Street. Just before the finish line, my stomach pain disappeared. Still, I preferred just to enjoy the moment.
I ended up running a positive split by about five minutes. Normally, I would consider that a big positive split, but even some of the top guys were posting big positive splits. A quick scan through the results shows that this was one of the slowest Boston Marathons in recent memory. Between the heat and the wind, most people were coming in 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or even more behind what they normally do. I don't think that the conditions slowed me down more than a minute or two, but still, it's particularly sweet to realize that I ran a fairly solid race on what was considered by most people to be a particularly difficult day. All things considered, I'm so happy with my race that I'll let the results stand, no asterisk needed.