In September 2011, I hiked up Cascade mountain in the Adirondacks, embarking upon a very long term goal to climb all 46 high peaks in the region. That hike was too hard for my liking, especially after being passed a few times by much older people.
Upon returning home to Buffalo, running became a regular part of my schedule again. I found the RWOL beginner's forum while googling for help with a shoe issue, and in a matter of weeks had embarked on marathon training for the first time.
Boston. There were some stories about that race in the copies of RW I had read back in high school, but the folks on the forum were talking about qualifying and running now. Intrigued by the mystique, my goal for Cleveland would be not just finishing, but finishing under 3:10 to BQ.
Long story short, Cleveland was a disaster. I was under-prepared, the weather was unseasonably hot, and I blew up badly, missing my target time by 14 minutes. Amid the consoling comments, Striders and Docket were realists enough to say that perhaps my training was simply not good enough. Also, MothAudio gave me some perspective when he noted that what I considered a complete failure was still in the top 7% of finishing times.
Back to the drawing board, this time in the good hands of Pfitz 18/70, and the next attempt was a success. My 3rd marathon would be run on Patriots Day.
Winter weather in Buffalo is not always ideal for distance training. When the forecast includes "more accumulation in persistent lake-effect bands", it really means "Shirfan gets to white-kuckle it back home up the hill, then snowblow, and then go running in the pitch dark during a squall." There was a lot of that this year, and some workouts ended up being MP +2:00 or more. I used Pfitz principles but made up my own schedule, getting in quality when possible. Many nights, that required taking all my gear to work and running at a lower elevation with street lights.
Towards the end of the cycle, I was able to get in long runs with lots of MP miles, but still worried if I was prepared. Instead of shooting for a sub-3, I revised my goal to A) Enjoying the race and B) running a qualifying time if possible, but not at the risk of blowing up.
After much procrastinating, I researched Boston, decided that driving a car there would be possibly suicidal, and booked my travel package around being able to ride the "T" everywhere.
The flight in was on a prop plane, with a change to a small jet in Newark after seeing NYC from the air. Super cool. During the layover I was reading my copy of "Advanced Marathoning", and looked up to see a girl in 2012's orange and black jacket staring intently at the book. She smiled and asked where to get a copy, then if Amazon would ship overseas. To where? Hong Kong. Hmm, this race might be a Big Deal.
Once I had found the shuttle to the T station, seemingly everyone on it was there for the race. A friendly but frazzled employee gave rapid-fire instructions on how to buy a ticket. I helped Hong Kong find her way to the inbound train, and then caught my outbound to Wonderland station in Revere. Walked along the seashore boulevard and up to my hotel, got a delicious chicken and rice burrito in a joint where no one else was speaking English, and went to bed exhausted.
On Sunday I slept in until 8:30, took the T to the convention center, was processed for my bib and bag quickly, and went to check out the expo. Caught up in the moment, I bought a jacket... YOLO. I checked out a few booths but started to get claustrophobic in the sea of people and rode back out to Revere, where I opted to stay local and load up on fusilli marinara rather than heading back in for the included dinner.
Then it was time to have everything ready to go and eat as many mini-wheats as possible. I got about 2/3 of a box down on top of the pasta, had one beer, and turned in early feeling like a bloated whale.
One of the two alarms I had set woke me at 4:15. Sleep had been a success! A quick shower, a bite to eat, and off I went into the calm morning darkness to catch the first train at 5:15, slowly jogging to the station. At least 30 other marathoners were there waiting, but even the transfer to the green line wasn't too crowded yet. I emerged at the Common and called Matt to meet up for the bus ride to the start. (Matt is one of the owners of the company I work for, and was not only returning to Boston but training for his first Ironman this summer. Bad ass.) It was nice to have familiar company on the long ride, and of course he had the whole Athlete's Village system down. We grabbed some bagels, drinks, and set up camp out in the sun to wait.
From here on out, I was surprisingly calm. With no real pressure on myself, I just started to soak everything in and enjoy the day. After one very short line and one very long line to use the porta-potties, my corral was called. Finally, it was time to line up for a race 54 weeks in the making. I shed my throw-away warmups at the first collection bin, revealing bright orange for a reason unbeknownst to most. With 10 minutes to go, there was just enough time to hit the last-chance potties rather than using the woods after the line. Not losing that 30 seconds would be important in a few hours.
And we're off!:
After the gun, the initial movement was walking. I started to try to slowly jog, but everyone else just walked all the way to the line before breaking stride. With chip timing, I guess that made sense.
Lots of people smiled and waved or hammed it up for the camera at the start line. I just went on through, there would be another line 26.2 miles away appropriate for celebrating at. And just like that, I was running the Boston marathon. Heck yeah!
The first mile felt incredibly slow and crowded, but when I checked my watch, we were at a 7:00 pace. This was one of the most striking things about Boston -- hundreds of runners in a group, moving at the same speed. For much of the first half, there was the feeling of being a snowflake in a blizzard, a small part of something huge that was not of my control.
The weather was perfect, mid 50's and mostly sunny with a mildly overcast period. Wind was not a factor.
The early miles went by quickly, hanging out at a pace slightly faster than I wanted. It was just not possible to break the pack mentality, and still crowded enough to feel that I was being pulled along.
The spectators were already amazing, cheering loudly, handing out water and orange slices, holding up clever signs. From start to finish, I have never felt more like a rock star, especially at Wellesley . It was absolute bedlam there, and although I was very tempted to stop in for some kisses, I had a race to run and settled for a lot of high fives. Sad to move on, and starting to question the pace I had locked into as I was starting to bank time if 3:10 was the goal.
During the stretch from 13.1 to the Newton hills, I continued to worry about pacing too quickly, and continued to do nothing to abate a 7:00 mark. I was careful to hit most stops for gatorade and a few for water. My legs had picked up minor discomfort but it was awfully easy to ignore with so much going on. I chose certain runners to silently use as pace bunnies until they sped or slowed, moving on to another as convenient. Crowd interaction here was fun too, high fiving kids or grabbing an orange slice with a sincere "thank you".
Miles 15-20 finally required me to get a little conservative. Minor stride changes, shaking out my arms, trying to stay loose and fight off both physical and mental fatigue. I don't remember any of the Newton hills being challenging; that entire stretch was just a blur of conserving energy for the final push.
Then came Heartbreak and the beginning of the endgame. Approaching it, I snapped out of my daze and started to feel euphoric. As most runners slowed their pace, I just smiled and roared up the hill, judging correctly that it was of no consequence compared to what I've trained on. The boost from passing dozens, maybe hundreds of runners was incredible. From there on, every mile marker was just another shot of confidence to turn the screws a little harder. The crowd support had become raucous, unbelievable. I went in for high five flybys many times here.
Once the Citgo sign came into view, there was no shred of caution, just running in a dream. At mile 26, I pulled out the small medal my niece had sent me for good luck and carried it to the finish. This race would be for her. And just like that, I had finished the Boston marathon, breaking my PR by a modest few seconds.
Roughly an hour later there would be a tragic event at the finish line, and my heart and prayers will forever be with those victims. Good will always outweigh evil, and there are certainly a lot of good people in Boston. God bless.
They say that a picture is worth 1000 words, but nothing of how many miles they may have invested. Sometimes it doesn't matter.
Job well done Jay! Your race reports flow effortlessly, very nice read!
I remember Cleveland, and I still think that sick heat played a part in your performance there. I had a 20 mile run that same day in the same conditions and about died lol! But it's of no consequence now, you proved you were ready a few short months later.
"This was one of the most striking things about Boston -- hundreds of runners in a group, moving at the same speed. For much of the first half, there was the feeling of being a snowflake in a blizzard, a small part of something huge that was not of my control."
Very nicely put!
And just like that, I had finished the Boston marathon...
Great race, Jay! And congrats on breaking your PR at Boston!
Nice race. Way to crush the hills like they weren't there! What was the final time? A PB at Boston is pretty solid.
In the words of my late-coach : Just hang in there, relax... and at the end of a race anyone you see.....just pass them
For much of the first half, there was the feeling of being a snowflake in a blizzard, a small part of
something huge that was not of my control.
Love that line ^^^^^^
Jay, big huge congrats. Loved your RR. Love your story. You have come such a long way since
My Aunt has lived in Buffalo for the last 60 years. Tonawanda to be exact. She grew up where i live
and always talks about how similar the winters are so I know exactly what you trained through.
Winters in Buffalo (and here) are not exactly ideal for any kind of training let alone long distance.
You look just as good as Lily did in the photo on the turn!
Great job. Great memories.
YAYpril - B-Plus
Congratulations on a great race and a new PR! I really enjoyed reading your report and looking at the pictures.
Huge congratulations! What an amazing adventure.
HUGE Congrats, Jay!! What an awesome race!! I read your RR with my morning coffee and English muffin - it was the perfect breakfast companion. Thanks for sharing your story with us and giving me a peek at what it's like to run that race! Love the pics!! Well done, sir!
But The Smile That I Sent Out Returned With You.
Good stuff, Jay! I like your comments on Heartbreak Hill. Stuff like that reminds me to just suck it up and stay strong when I am running hills in training.
We had fun stalking you during the race. We cheered for you, and it certainly helped make the work day fly by.
Hip Hip Hooray
Excellent RR! Nice work and I'm glad you had such a good race.
Don't call me Buttercup!
Congrats! Thanks for posting! I'm so glad we can focus on the positives that happened that day.
Slow and steady wins the.... wait a second! I've been lied to!
Brains aint me forte
Thanks for such a great report! Reading it made me feel like I was there too.
Good will always outweigh evil, and there are certainly a lot of good people in Boston.
Amen to this!
"Address the process rather than the outcome. Then, the outcome becomes more likely." - Robert Fripp
Great report, and a great race! What an amazing experience!
Congratulations on a fantastic race. I was awestruck just reading the Report. Thanks!
I love sponge cake.
Wow. Great read. Thanks for sharing.