123rd Boston Marathon featuring some excellent RPI representation!
Officially a 1:48 PR from Hyannis, not quite the PR I was hoping for but a PR is a PR! This wasn't the race of my life but I'm definitely proud of the execution and the result, I beat my bib by a lot, and I had a great time overall.
19:43 (6:21) - 19:24 (6:15) - 19:23 (6:14) - 19:18 (6:13) - 19:18 (6:13) - 20:09 (6:29) - 20:03 (6:27) - 19:38 (6:19) - 8:48 (6:27)
1:21:59 (6:15) - 1:23:45.(6:24)
Now for the novel...
I'm definitely satisfied with this performance, but out of the handful of PRs I've set over the past few months, this one is the least exciting for me... which is a great "problem" to have. Similar to Hyannis, this was a bit of a monkey-off-my-back kind of race that didn't feature any big breakthrough or broken barrier, just another incremental improvement. I would obviously be more excited by a 2:45 if it seemed like I had more in the tank, but it's pretty clear I was right at my limit despite thinking I was being overly conservative for almost all of the race. But, I guess it's nice to have that certainty compared to a "how much faster could I have gone" Hyannis-type race. I'm sure I could find seconds here and there, but not minutes.
I was back and forth on my plan all the way up until the gun. As much as I wanted to rip one, I wanted to avoid a 2017-type performance even more. If things felt fantastic and the weather was good, only then I'd consider getting more aggressive.
Pre-race was essentially the same as two years ago, nothing special. We spent more time waiting for the buses but that just meant less time nervously pacing around Athlete's Village - as Rob said, it's wait here or wait there. We got rained on waiting for buses but it was only sprinkling by the time we got to AV, which was muddy but not horrible and we all had a change of shoes and socks anyway. I got to the start time a little later than I wanted to but still in plenty of time. Lost the crew on the way to the start but it's not like we were going to run together anyway, it just meant ~10min less palling around.
The weather was fine enough - no rain during the race, warmer than ideal temperatures but not hot (I think just under 60 to start, high 60s by the end when the sun came out), crosswinds here and there, kind of muggy, I guess some tailwind. Not perfect, but not the thunderstorms that were being predicted. As for fueling, I couldn't easily get to the first water stop but I hit almost all the rest until the last couple (probably a mistake to skip those). Tried to drink and run for half and "stopped" for 2s to get the whole cup down on the other half to be safe. Mostly grabbed Gatorade, and gels around 5-10-14-18-22, and 1 before (I'd rather overdo than under).
There's nothing too exciting to detail here either. Before the start, my Achilles tendons were feeling the best they had in days, but I started to notice both a bit as I got going (but I was prepared for that possibility). I glanced at my watch here and there over the first half (in addition to mile markers of course) but I was generally trying to feel it out. I felt decent but never great, and the race was passing kind of slowly for a while. On mile 10 I had a little realization that I was maybe confusing Achilles soreness for tired legs and got a little boost from recognizing my legs generally felt alright. Over 11-16 I just kept telling myself "not yet, not yet, not yet" knowing the worst was yet to come. I'm definitely happy with how I handled the hills - I kept the effort moderate on the ups and used the downs to recover a bit and didn't worry about the pace (but I did get a mental boost from the numbers I was seeing), and I was past Newton before I knew it.
Getting over Heartbreak, I knew I was in a much better spot for the last 5.2 compared to 2017, and was holding onto hope of an even split if I could get those miles right around 6', but I couldn't get there comfortably without pushing more than I wanted to. Good thing I didn't, because I started to crack on 25 when I was expecting to be ready to let it rip. Legs got really heavy on 26 and that little under-the-overpass hill hit me way harder than I expected, but the energy of the crowd on Boylston gave me enough to finish the race strong. I realized they had reset the finish clock for Wave 1 but I forgot that I was ~40s behind that, so it was a nice little consolation looking down at my watch seeing 2:45:xx after thinking I had run 2:46+.
One thing I wanted to do this time was engage in/enjoy the experience more compared to 2017, and I think I did (certainly for the last few miles), but maybe not as much as I wanted to. BM17 and BM19 were two very different experiences. In 2017 the excitement was through the roof, which led to an aggressive first half and a big time struggle in the last few miles (which I can barely remember). This year, although I think I allowed myself to have more fun in the first half, I also almost felt like I was running more detached from the race to make sure I wasn't getting too sucked into the excitement again. I wasn't hyper-focused on any pace like in 2017, but I was constantly analyzing how I was feeling and often felt like I was running scared.
Considering I ran over 6 minutes faster this time, it's pretty remarkable how far ahead 2017 Paul was late in the race. My 2017 "lead" peaked at ~1:30 at mile 18 and I was still ~50s up by mile 21 - I didn't make the "pass" this year until mile 23. It just goes to show how a marathon can turn on a dime, and that was certainly on my mind late in this race. Even this year, I feel like a switch was flipped on mile 26, but fortunately the damage was pretty minimal.
I don't really regret anything in my training leading up to this. I'm sure the time off in Australia/New Zealand made a difference, but I wouldn't trade that experience for a faster time. I probably would have benefited from a few more quality long runs, but a lot of my training decisions were based on managing the same old aches and pains in my legs and paying attention to energy levels - a different strategy may have kept me off the starting line, who knows. I still believe there's a lot to be said for very easy easy runs and for structuring mileage in a way that isn't a mental burden; that doesn't change. It wasn't a very focused build-up, but in contrast to 2017, I'm on the other side of the race not feeling mentally drained and not feeling like I wasted months of obsessive preparation. I mean, at the end of the day, it wasn't a perfect build-up, perfect conditions, or my perfect day, and I still walked away with a PR on a tough course.
I don't mean to sound like a downer. This was a very fun day, a rewarding experience, and a solid result. It wasn't quite the magic of my first Boston, but that's to be expected. I was glad I was able to enjoy the crowd and energy of the city at the end way more than last time, even if I wasn't quite flying by or feeling as good as I wanted to then. I do feel pretty confident that this was my last Boston, but I think I'd like to give the marathon at least one more try because I think I have a 2:3x in me. Maybe I'll never get it right compared to my times at other distances, maybe I'm just not a marathoner, but even if that's the case I know better than to evaluate my worth as a runner by my times at one distance.
Congrats to Rob and Shannon on the great PRs, Jarrett on the gutsy redemption run, Pat on toughing it out with calf muscles that weren't cooperating, as well as to the PRs and/or first Bostons for Cish, Chris, Nolan, and anyone else I'm missing! Definitely a great day to remember.