April 21, 2017 -
Having a hard time finding the words to desribe how awesome an experience the Boston Marathon is. When I started running several years ago I made qualifying for Boston a goal even though I was a 4 hour marathoner and needed 3:05 to qualify. Long story short, it took longer than I thought to qualify but I finally managed a 3:01 in Jan 2016. The city support for the marathon is insane. I had high expectations for the weekend based on what I read, but you really have to experience it to understand just how special it is. I took a chartered bus from a local running club to Hopkington from downtown Boston race morning. The athlete village was overwhelming. People everywhere, and snipers on the roof of the high school for security. They started corraling wave 1 at 9am, a full hour before our start time. I didn't realize it, but theres about a 3/4 mile walk from the village to the start line. Along the walk the locals were out grilling and offering shots and/or beers. After a long walk down to the start it finally hits you whats going on. I can hear the PA but can't make out what's being said. I was in the 5th corral of wave 1, so was about 5k people back from the elites. Hear a gun go off shortly after getting into the corral, and realize the disabled group have just gone off. What happend next was kind of a blur. We either had the national anthem and F15 flyover, then the elite ladies went off. Or the elite ladies went off then we had the national anthem and flyover. I really can't remember. Next thing I know I hear what sounds like a cap gun go off and were shuffling forward. Guess this thing just started? It took 2 minutes to get to the starting line. Once I was able to start running it's pretty funny how well the seeding process works. There's the random guy running to fast, but for the most part we're all running stride for stride together. I started a little conservative hoping to save some for the second half. The first 10k is great. Not really the most iconic part of the course, but the fans out towards Hopkington were the drunkest on the couse. The first 10k smelled like stale beer and weed, which I found hilarious. The first half is through the smaller towns but they were all packed with cheering crowds. What I think of when I think Boston Marathon started at the half when you enter the scream tunnel at Wellesley. You can hear them coming 1/4 mile away, the tunnel last for about 1/2 mile, and you can hear them for another 1/4 mile once you've past them. I didn't stop along the tunnel but stayed to the right to get the full experience. MIle 15 hits and you start getting into the Newton hills. This is where the shit hits the fan. I run in Florida. We don't have hills. I factored in slowing down through the hills, but the downhill at mile 16 was TOUGH! It drops 100+ feet in a 1/4 mile. My quads were screaming there and we still had 10 miles to go. I was on pace for a 2:58 finish at the half. When I hit the hills I had to make a decision. Either continue on at pace and pray my legs could handle it, or set cruise control and finish happy and enjoy the rest of the race. I didn't want to end up walking into Boston, so I chose to enjoy the views and abandoned sub 3 goals. There were 2 hills in Newton that are tougher climbs than Heartbreak in my opinion. Even still the uphills weren't the problem. Getting down them was the painful part. Heartbreak hill hits at mile 20. Honestly the hill itself isn't terrible, just long. The crowds there really help push you through. It was around this time that people started pulling into med tents regularly and even falling out on the side of the road to get stretched in the crowds. Another little sneaky hill at mile 23. Shortly after hitting that hill you can see the infamous Citgo sign. It takes FOREVER to get to that sign. Once you finally get to the sign there's one more painful downhill under an overpass then back uphill into Boston. At this point there's people cheering everywhere. I was in pain but able to not think about it with everyone going crazy. Right on Hereford, left on Boylston up next. Once I got out onto Boylston I slowed to a jog and really soaked it in. This is what it's all about. I got chills several times along the course, but nothing compares to that stretch on Boylston. I still managed a 3:05 but didn't even care at this point. It wasn't my fastest marathon, but without a doubt was my most memorable.