Every runner has their own race day routine, but I bet all of us start out the same way. Before even getting out of bed on Marathon Monday, I took inventory of my body. Those last couple of weeks before a race are most critical– we’ve put our bodies through so much, and we can’t have them failing us now! Race morning I woke up feeling great. Cadence had slept pretty well during the night, and I had been making an effort to get more sleep in the weeks leading up to this day, despite Cadence’s tough 6 month old sleep patterns.
Nutrition for this race was a little different than I’ve encountered in the past because my start time was 10:50 am, meaning I’d be running through lunch time. I ate a piece of freshly milled, whole grain bread (thanks to my mom) and drank half a cup of coffee in the hotel. Before the race, I would also end up eating half of a bagel, a banana, a protein bar, and a caffeine shot (I don’t normally drink coffee, so wanted the added boost). I pumped/nursed about 19 oz of breastmilk before the 10:50 am start, so I was aware that I would need to replace fluids and calories, as well as eat enough for my body to keep producing and fuel my muscles while I ran.
I felt good at the start, although I had been awake since 5 am. The weather was in the low 60s with full-on (beautiful but hot) sunshine. I wore a hat, tank top, tight shorts, and compression socks. Days before the race, I had been nervous that I would be cold, but this was obviously not going to be a problem.
I describe the details leading up to the race and after the finish here if you want to get an idea of what the buses and Athlete’s Village were like. At 10:05 a.m., Wave 3 was called to start walking toward our corrals. I was in Corral 1, so I got up toward the front of the line. At 10:50 am the gun went off, and we all started running in Hopkinton. We ran as a pretty dense bunch of runners for the first mile or so, but the corrals are segregated by runner pace, so we were able to keep moving faster than I had anticipated. The first mile flew by (actually, most miles seemed to pass pretty quickly), and I completed it with a pace of 7:48 min, one of my slower splits. Throughout the race, I had to make sure that I ran my race and didn’t compare myself to the other runners around me, whether they were running faster or slower. It’s easy to start doubting yourself on the run!
I anticipated the downhill at the beginning of the race, but I felt as prepared as I could for the beating my quads were about to take. My training had consisted of some trails and the stroller miles through my hilly neighborhood. As much as I did notice the downhills, the first miles of the race felt like hills with both uphill and downhill portions. The course runs through quaint towns in a fairly straight line all the way to Boston. The crowd support was phenomenal, with individuals, businesses, and armed forces all lining the path to Boston. For almost the entire race, there were crowds cheering us on, and I could smell barbecues grilling out along the way. I had my earphones playing my fast beat music, but for long stretches of the race, I could not hear it over the crowds.
As much as I wanted a fast race, I also wanted to experience the marathon. Little kids lined the streets with their tiny hands outstretched for a high five, and I ran along the road high fiving as I went. It took extra energy in my legs, but it recharged my heart. I can’t wait until Cadence understands what I’m doing and stretches her little hand for a high five, mom! The girls at Wellesley did not disappoint with their whole bodies reaching over the course barricade requesting kisses and high fives. These girls may have been my favorite supporters along the course, as they clearly fulfilled their role in this historical race. They all looked so young, which made me realize all the more how removed I am from the college days! They gushed over me as a fellow female, and I loved every cheer and high five from their long line of outstretched arms.
I won’t detail every mile or every town along the course, but I’ll highlight how I was feeling as the terrain changed. As I said before, the course starts relatively downhill, and I maintained a pace of about 7:35s for the first half of the race. I knew that I was not running tangents, as my distance did not match the mile markers, but the course was too congested to attempt to weave to the most expedient route. I felt my quads within the first few miles, but I was running pain free. I pushed my pace just enough to feel discomfort, but only to the point where I knew that I was within my capability. One of the challenges of endurance running is knowing how hard to push given the distance to be achieved.
The hills started to pile up in Newton right around mile 16. There is a lot of talk about Heartbreak Hill, but the hills in Newton leading up to that infamous hill are worth a little heartbreak of their own! My legs hurt going both up and down the hills, but I still felt strong and had confidence that I could power through, even if my pace slowed. My pace was closer to 8 minute miles in the range of 17-20 miles, and my slowest pace was 8:25 at mile 21. Heartbreak was not the worst hill to tackle, but it was the last big hill after a few miles of Newton hospitality!
|Splits||Time||Cumulative Time||Moving Time||Distance|
I maintained my nutrition by eating 3 gels and 1 Clif Shot Block pack. I typically would have eaten half of that, but I wanted to make sure to account for our later start time and the breastmilk that my body was busy making on the run. I also drank water or Gatorade at almost every aid station, which I normally do not do. The day was hot, and I knew that I needed to be intentional with hydration and breastfeeding. I felt very strong with this approach. I know that slowing at the aid stations to grab fluids affected my pace, but it also prevented me from blowing up and being dehydrated. I was not used to the obstacle course that became the aid station areas, as the discarded cups couldn’t easily be swept aside with so many runners. It was an added effort to pick up my feet and not trip as I grabbed a cup and ran. Again, all worth it, and the volunteers were phenomenal. Think of how long they stood out there!
I am often nostalgic as races are coming to an end because I know that all of the training and anticipation is going to be over, but this time, I was ready to see my wonderful husband and sweet baby at the finish. I saw the famous Citgo sign in the distance around mile 23, and I knew that I would be at mile 25 when I reached it.
By now, I was feeling pretty stiff as I forced my legs to keep pushing, but I had no doubt that I could keep running strong. My mile 25 pace was 7:53 and mile 26 was 8:16. I was able to speed up to sub-7 minute mile pace for the last stretch to the finish, and I finished with a final time of 3:24:05 and distance of 26.42 miles. My watch pace was 7:43 minutes/mile and my official race pace was 7:47 minutes/mile.
My goal was to PR with a time better than 3:29:52, which I was happy to beat by over five minutes. I BQ’d at a very flat race with that time a month before I got pregnant. Six months post-partum, and I was able to BQ again with a faster time. My body has been through a lot over the last year, and I am grateful that it can serve as both a runner and a mother.
I will probably have a runner’s high for a while after an experience like that. Everything about the race, from the organizers, to the crowd support, to the great city of Boston were absolutely phenomenal. I BQ’d again, so we’ll see what next year holds!