My Boston Marathon Experience (2009)

For those that want to skip the novel, scroll down to “race day” or “the race” and for those that want to get straight to stats, my splits and heart rates are at the bottom!

I decided in the late summer/early fall of ’08 to make this year the year to run Boston. The Boston Marathon is the oldest annual marathon in the world, and 2009 was the 113th running of the race. After competing in some triathlons for about a year and a half, I was again feeling the itch to run another marathon. I decided on the Tucson Marathon as a good race to qualify in terms of time of year, early December. Qualifying times are based on age and sex, and for me the time to hit is 3:10 (about 7:15 a mile). I raced the SOMA half ironman at the end of October, then focused on getting some lengthy runs in before the December 7th race. I was aerobically fit from all of the tri training, but my legs didn’t have a ton of miles in them compared to the other two marathons that I had run before then. I was expecting to run hopefully 2:50 to 2:55 in Tucson and was stoked to run a 2:44. That’s a fast course! I entered Boston the following week and already felt super excited.

My girlfriend Janee and I left for Boston on Saturday and arrived at 5pm Boston time. My mom, dad, and sister picked us up from the airport. They were awesome enough to drive ten hours(!) to come watch me run. My mom, Cindi, will be running her first half marathon next weekend (Flying Pig in Cincinnati, OH) and she’ll be doing the pump ‘n run. My mom can bench more than your mom. My dad, Joe, is a former body builder and has run some marathons, 50k’s and one 50 miler. My sister, Kaylee, is a stellar student at Indiana State University, competes in figure competitions and can bench more than your mom and dad combined.

Aaaanywho, we went to the hotel and I headed out for a four miler. I felt pretty darn good and unlike Flagstaff, I noticed I wasn’t struggling to catch my breath at the tops of hills. This run really got me excited and I was ready to race. After that we went out for dinner and I wanted to take advantage of some good seafood while being so close to the Atlantic, but didn’t want to risk getting sick or anything, so I opted for pasta haha.

The next day we drove downtown to go to the expo and pick up my number. Driving in Boston was a nightmare (Thanks for driving, dad. Haha). We got honked at multiple times for doing seemingly nothing. It’s fast paced there! At number pick-up, it was cool to find that my number was in the very first box. The numbers are assigned based on qualifying time, and apparently my 2:44 from Tucson was the 333rd fastest qualifying time. The number ‘1’ in my number 1333 refers to what corral I was starting in. After picking up the number, we checked out the expo and despite buying my Boston Marathon jacket and getting an autographed poster from Steve Jones (former world record holder in the marathon with a PR of 2:07:13), I left in kind of a bad mood. There were just way too many people there. It was like being at the mall the weekend before Christmas. Plus, I was hungry, which never helps my mood. Ever. Haha.

After that, we drove out to Hopkinton to check out the start. For being the world’s oldest annual marathon and having 26,000 registered runners, the starting line is in a very small town on a two lane road. Kinda funny. Checked it out, took some pictures, then drove back toward the hotel. We stopped at UNO to eat dinner and I had some broccoli, chicken, pasta thingy-doo as my last big meal before the race. When we got back to the hotel, Janee and Kaylee made some rad signs for the race (check my facebook pics!).

Race Day:
Although my start time was at 10am, we got up around 5am and departed shortly after six to drive to the start. With such a large number of spectators (one article I saw said approximately 500,000) and 26,000 runners, you probably want to leave early to be on the safe side. The weather was in the mid 40’s and foggy. Perfect temperature. Between 530am and 9am, I ate a wheat bagel with peanut butter and jelly, a banana, a bagel with cream cheese, a granola bar, and I had about 32 ounces of Gatorade and roughly 40 ounces of water. We got to the starting area near 730am and I walked the .7 miles to the Athlete Village. The village was at a high school and practically surrounded by port-o-potties. There were huge tents where many people were just lounging on blankets and loading up on water, Gatorade, and other calories. I busted out my $4 Walgreens flannel blanket and sat on it for awhile pretty much doing the same as the others. At about 8:30, I figured I might want to get in line for one last bathroom stop before going to the start. Boy, was I lucky I got in line when I did. The lines were unbelievably long and despite barely having to go when I got in line, I REALLY had to go when I got to the front of the line. I exited the john right around 9:10, the time that was recommended for the first wave to get their gear to the buses. I headed to the buses, took off my warm ups and such, gave my gear bag to the people on the gear buses, and wore my cozy blanket for the .7 mile walk back to the start.
At the starting area, I found my corral and after looking over at the bathroom line nearby, decided I had time to go one last time. I really didn’t want to start while having to pee haha. After that I made my way into my corral and put my blanket in one of the trash bags along the fence. All of the clothing and blankets that are left at the start are donated. After a few minutes, the elite athletes were escorted along the side and were allowed to line up at the very front. I was about 30ft behind these amazing athletes. I felt grateful and lucky that I was able to line up in the very first corral, this close to the front, in my first running of the oldest marathon in the world. After the national anthem, two F-15s flew overhead bringing back memories from when I worked on F-16s in the Air Force. Right after that the start gun went off.

The Race:
Considering the number of people in the race, the start wasn’t too crazy. I’m guessing this is because of how they line up everyone in corrals based on qualifying times, so everyone is roughly in order of where they’ll finish anyway. There are hills between 16 and 18 miles, and since that is when many people tend to hit “the wall,” it’s best to start out very conservatively on this course. Also, a lot of people get carried away in the beginning because it’s downhill for the first couple miles, but most pay later if they take those miles too fast! My plan was to be smart about it. My goal was mainly to run a personal best (under 2:38:45), but I really wanted to average under six minutes a mile which works out to a 2:37:18 finishing time right at six a mile. During the first mile, I overheard two guys talking about wanting to run about six-minute pace. They were older than me, and I later learned that one guy has run a 2:27 marathon and has run Boston 20 times, so I figured this would be a good bunch to run with. The first mile was covered in 6:10, perfect. The next mile was 5:55 and comfortable. Again, perfect. The next several miles were paced perfectly as well and I was able to sit back, let them block the wind (there was a head wind the entire race), and set the pace. Besides checking my watch at every mile, I didn’t have to worry about setting the pace too much, I just had to worry about keeping up and keeping hydrated. I had water or gatorade at every station (which was about every mile) except for two. I stuck to water in the first half and then alternated water and Gatorade in the second half for some electrolytes. I also had a total of three gels between 14 miles and the finish. I hit half way in 1:18:35 which works out to an average of exactly six minutes a mile. Once again, perfect. I’ve never smiled so much during a race. The crowd was amazing, I was having a fantastic race, and I felt GOOD. After half way, my next focus was seeing my family and girlfriend. They planned on being at mile 16, but I tried not to get my hopes up because of how crowded the course is with spectators, so there was a chance they wouldn’t make it. Truth be told, I did get my hopes up, and thank goodness they were there haha. I actually missed my split for the 16th mile because I was looking for them. I saw the big ol’ signs that Janee and Kaylee made and I slapped hands with everyone. It was a great boost for the following uphill. I averaged 5:50s for miles 16 and 17. Next, I focused on staying comfortable in the hills through heartbreak hill which tops out near mile 21. I was hoping to feel strong after that, and if so, I could push it then. Mile 21, which includes heartbreak hill, was my slowest mile at 6:18. It was quite a long hill, especially that far into the race, and 18 seconds over my goal pace was kind of a lot to add but my average was still under six minute pace. Now is when it typically gets very tough – I didn’t feel it. It didn’t get tough, or numb, or heavy like I expected. The crowd got stronger. From 21 miles on, it was at least five people deep on each side. I think the crowd and enjoying and taking in this race brought me to the finish (a lot of training helped too ;-)). I felt awesome and puzzled at how great I felt. My fastest mile of the race ended up being the 24th mile at 5:43, and the next fastest mile, 5:49, was my last mile of the race. In my other marathons, after 20 miles it went into more of a survival mode where I just wanted to hang on and hopefully not slow down too much. I crossed the line of the Boston Marathon feeling like a million bucks with what felt like a million spectators cheering me on. My finishing time was 2:36:26, an average of 5:58 a mile.
The race itself was an amazing experience. In the couple other marathons I’ve run, there were about 1,000 finishers and some spectators at the start and finish. For this race, there were nearly 23,000 finishers and there were spectators along the ENTIRE course cheering everyone on. It was also awesome to have my family and girlfriend there to share it with, plus they were spectacular fans as well.

Thanks so much to everyone who offered me encouragement and good luck before the race. It’s awesome to have so much support. Thanks specifically to mom, dad, Kaylee, and Janee for taking the time to go all the way out there. Also thanks to my coaches, Bettina and Gus, for helping me to reach my goals and finish as the top Arizonan at Boston!

Finishing time: 2:36:26 (5:58/mile)
Place: 118th out of 22,849 finishers
1st out of 235 finishers from Arizona
1st Half: 1:18:35 (6:00/mile)
2nd half: 1:17:51 (-:44) (5:56/mile)
Average HR: 168
Max HR: 181
1 – 6:10 – 147
2 – 5:58 (12:08) – 157
3 – 5:57 (18:06) – 158 1st 5k: 18:44
4 – 6:00 (24:06) – 160
5 – 6:12 (30:18) – 161
6 – 5:55 (36:14) – 164 2nd 5k: 18:47
7 – 5:59 (42:13) – 165
8 – 5:56 (48:10) – 167
9 – 5:59 (54:09) – 167 3rd 5k: 18:34
10 – 5:56 (1:00:06) – 169
11 – 5:59 (1:06:05) – 170
12 – 5:51 (1:11:56) – 168 4th 5k: 18:27
13 – 5:57 (1:17:54) – 168
14 – 5:52 (1:23:46) – 170
15 – 5:57 (1:29:43) – 171 5th 5k: 18:20
16/17 – 11:40 (1:41:24) – 172
18 – 6:00 (1:47:25) – 173 6th 5k: 18:22 – Hills started
19 – 5:55 (1:53:20) – 171
20 – 6:08 (1:59:28) – 173
21 – 6:18 (2:05:47) – 174 7th 5k: 18:54 – Heartbreak Hill
22 – 5:53 (2:11:41) – 172
23 – 5:59 (2:17:46) – 173
24 – 5:43 (2:23:23) – 174 8th 5k: 18:17
25 – 5:55 (2:29:19) – 174
26 – 5:49 (2:35:09 + 1:17 for .2mi = 2:36:26) – 178
(25-26.2) – 7:06

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