Boston Marathon - RunMarathon

View Member's Race Log View other race reports
Boston, Massachusetts
United States
Boston Athletic Association
55F / 13C
Total Time = 3h 39m 53s
Overall Rank = 10549/23879
Age Group = M 50-54
Age Group Rank = 916/1927
Pre-race routine:

In all likelihood, running Boston will be a one-time venture for me, so gird your loins for a really long race report...

My earliest running history was a track and field camp in around 1973. I went out for track for the first time in 1975 and ran my first road race (a 5-miler) in the summer of 1976, when I was 16. None of which has anything to do with this race report...except that those were the glory years for runners like Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers. There was something really magical about the marathon back was something reserved for a particular blend of crazy and talented and it was something I never really considered doing. I was mostly a half miler back then (my other inspirations were Dave Wottle and Alberto Juantorena) and a really terrible cross country runner.

Anyhoo...behind all of that lay Boston. For all the talk about how the Boston Marathon pales in significance when measured against NYC and London, for a teenage runner in the '70s, Boston was the granddaddy and the one that stood out with the greatest veneer of myth. So, filing all that away in the teenage unconscious, we flash forward to...

2004. I'm fat, but I'm determined to lose weight. After a few months of cleaning up my diet (and dropping about 9 lbs off a high of 240 or so), I commit to walking at least 20 minutes a day. A few months later, that's up to over 40 minutes and a few painfully short run breaks are starting to enter the mix. Mind you, at this point, I don't even own running shoes: These walks...and now, runs...are being done in hiking boots.

Finally, running shoes become a must-have for the first time since my early 30s and I'm running at least 1-3 miles a day. Then, as I'm hitting my goal of 60 lbs lost, the notion of entering a 10K jumps into my head. That goes ridiculously well...I find I'm running 7 days a week with weekly long runs of 6 to 10.25, of course, I sign up for a marathon. (For which I'm ludicrously undertrained and which sucks horribly...but that's another race report.)

Anyhoo...four marathons (and a couple IMs) later, I'm running misty-eyed down the finishing stretch of the 2010 Long Beach Marathon, my ticket to the Boston Marathon stamped with almost four minutes to spare (this after a disastrous attempt at a BQ six months earlier that involved paramedics and an IV). My wife is an easy sell on the whole fly-from-LA-to-Boston for four days thing, since she's a New Englander and her family will be only too happy for the excuse to get together.

Now there's just one little wrinkle to work through: Signing up for the race. Long Beach is on Sunday, October 17, 2010. Registration for Boston 2011 opens at 6:00am PT on Monday, October 18. Now I don't follow these things that closely, but I am aware that in late 2009, Boston filled up before the CA International mary in Sacramento for the very first time. (I'm aware of this cuz my original thought was to run the CIM for my BQ attempt.) So I figure there's no point in waiting to register. I'm up and online at 5:45am and the moment the registration link is active, I sign up.

Except it doesn't work. I don't get the promised confirmation screen. I try again. And again. I try a different browser. Nope. I boot up my wife's MacBook. Same deal. I'm starting to get a little freaked out (and I don't even know the extent of the epidemic of frustration and despair that is about to ensue as the day progresses). Happily, a fellow BTer--whom I can't identify at this point--has posted an alternate link to registration. Bingo. Looks like I'm in. (We'll skip over the multiple panicky calls to the BAA when I realize I've entered my first and last names backward in the registration form fields and am convinced that my credit card will be declined...)

So, I've got six months to get ready. No IM training to mess with my marathoning this winter. Just the lingering quad tendon injury caused by deciding it would be a fine idea to run a 5K two weeks after Long Beach. Then a 10K two weeks after that. Then a sprint tri two weeks after that. And then the lower leg injury that I'm still not certain isn't the early stages of chronic compartment syndrome...but which only cost me 11 days of training in February.

And so, six months after BQ, we're off to Beantown on a red eye, Friday night before the 115th Boston Marathon. Fifty year old, 75 pounds lighter, me and my wife, Liz...on a crowded JetBlue flight...for which I believe we should all receive a fare rebate by reason of all the fuel being saved with the cabin full of ridiculously fit marathoners.

Liz's niece--who lives in Boston--picked us up at the airport and joined us for breakfast in Cambridge. Then it was off to the expo.

Other than perhaps at the expo for IM St George, I don't know that I've ever felt as fat at any time in the last six years as I did at the Boston expo. (And, yes, I know I'm not actually fat anymore.) Made our way to the bib number pickup, then moved on to get my t-shirt and goodie bag. That was the second time on this journey (after making the final turn for the finish in Long Beach) that I teared up a bit. All that teenage marathon mythologizing cresting the surface for a few minutes. Easy to be cynical about how "easy" it is to qualify for Boston, but when you get there, that cynicism really rings hollow.

Anyhow, got the shirt and proceeded to mull interminably over the branded apparel. Oy. Liz was getting me a jacket as an early birthday present and I settled on a hat, a white tech t-shirt, and a "Boston Qualifier" tee on my own dime. Walked around the expo...bought gels for the race...bought tickets to the athletes' dinner for family who were planning to join us. Then off to drive the course before checking in to the hotel.

Barely managed to stay awake on the drive out to Hopkinton, but paid rapt attention as Liz's niece drove the course. Noted the ups and downs...noted the Sisters and Heartbreak. Saw everything except the last half mile--right on Hereford, left on Boylston--where traffic was just too congested. Checked into the hotel, got some dinner, bought some snacks, put in a 20 minute run on the treadmill around race pace that I'd promised myself, and called it a night.

Sunday morning was brunch in Cambridge with nine of Liz's immediate family (mom, three siblings, two sisters-in-law, two nephews and a niece). Although I really wanted to minimize the walking around--besides my ongoing tweaky calves, the arthritis in my left foot and ankle had been acting up since a half marathon I ran as a training day at the end of March--I went along with Liz and the gang to the Museum of Science for a couple hours. After getting back to the hotel, Liz and I walked the route to the shuttle buses in the morning and bought some provisions. Then it was off to the athletes' dinner, where we ended up sharing a table with another couple from California...the guy, Ron, was running and was in my age group. We hit it off pretty well with them and invited the woman, Phyllis, to join Liz and her family at mile 22, where they would be watching for me during the race.

Got all my stuff laid out and managed to call it a night fairly early. Even though my wave wouldn't be starting until 10:20am, shuttle buses would be leaving at 6:30.

Now somehow, Liz and I both managed to fail to set our alarms correctly, but she woke up on time and we got out the door when we planned. Walk to the shuttle buses was as planned...I said goodbye to Liz and got in the shortest line I could find. Worked out on the first bus that pulled up there and we left at 6:31.

The bus ride to Hopkinton takes about an hour and I found it really gives you a unique perspective on just how far you're about to run. The bus route on the turnpike parallels the experience the terrain and the urban/suburban/rural communities along the course, only in reverse. I read a newspaper then took in the sights and had a lot of opportunity to reflect: On why I was there, on matters of spirituality animating my training, and even on the personalities of a busload of Boston qualifiers.

After an hour and 15 minutes or so, we pulled into the dropoff zone at the "Athletes Village" at the Hopkinton HS campus.
Event warmup:

So, if you are reading this in preparation for a run at Boston, the first piece of advice I can give you is: Don't jump in line at the first portapotties you see. There are a zillion portajohns, scattered in clusters and rows all around the campus. You really don't have to go far (assuming you haven't arrived on one of the later buses) to find one with no line during the early part of the morning. Without going too deep in to TMI-Land, I'll just say that I visited the portapotties more than once over the roughly 2 hours I spent in the Athletes Village and only when I went during the last 30 minutes before the start did I have to wait even a couple minutes. Okay...enough with the toilette...on with the prep...

I made a decision right away to carve out my own agenda and my own space while waiting to go to the starting corrals. I was going to be in the 4th of 9 corrals in the 2nd of 3 starting waves and it was going to be chilly and windy while waiting. I skipped the couple big open-sided tents they had up and avoided the shelter of the school building walls where lots of people were sitting and just walked around for awhile taking in the scene and making sure my legs stayed loose.

I was dressed relatively lightly--long- and short-sleeved tech shirts for the race, under a light long-sleeve tee and a track jacket, plus wind pants, ball cap, and fingerless knit gloves--but was warm enough. Really interesting to see different peoples' strategies for killing time and staying warm.

I'd brought a 20 oz bottle of G2 I'd been nursing since I got on the bus. On top of two Zone Perfect bars I'd had for breakfast, I had two Special K cereal bars to eat at intervals closer to the start. Made the decision not to avail myself of any of the Power Bar or Gatorade products (or bananas or bagels) they had in the Village...just stick to my plan.

Eventually I decided to catnap a bit, so I found a sunny patch on a grassy spot hidden behind one of the most lightly used (hence least odiforous) rows of portajohns, adjacent to the exit from the Village to the start, and lay down there. Soon, a guy with a British accent came up and said, "You've found the right spot you mind if I share the sun?" "Sure," I said. After a couple minutes, he piped up with, "How are your hands not freezing? I've got three layers on and mine are like ice." Didn't have the heart to tell this northern European fella that I was from sunny L.A. and was doing just fine...just said, "It's all good right now"...or something to that effect.

Now I have to say that was one instance of several I encountered of negative self-talk and drama. Like the guy who was freaking out because he couldn't find the gear check buses for the first start wave. I told him they'd only been announcing their location over the P.A. about every ten minutes for the previous two hours, but he was all "But there are no SIGNS!! There are no fucking SIGNS!!!" At that point, I had to say, "Brother, I passed a sign pointing to them right when I got here." He stomped full freakout...which left me wondering how he was going to handle when things got really hairy on the course.

It's all good before a race. Always. At that point, everything is what it is and there's no point in adding stress (read: "burning precious calories") through anxiety, drama seeking, and negative self-talk...plenty of opportunities for those on the course.

Besides: It's the Boston-freakin'-Marathon, for heaven's sake. The "runner's victory lap." What could be better?

On top of that, though, I felt like I'd done a lot of homework--on everything from the course to the weather forecasts--and that I was prepared. I really studied the course elevation profile on the bus and I spent a few minutes here doing that one last time: Planting little mantras in my head about where the downhills and the climbs (and the flats) were going to be and visualizing how I'd handle them (including where I was vowing not to martyr myself for the sake of an unlikely was about running the whole course above all else).

For my part, the only real anxiety was over what layers to wear on the course. I was planning to wear my Long Beach mary short sleeve shirt (from my BQ race...for luck) over a new lightweight UA long sleeve tech shirt. Now, as the first wave runners are starting to go to the start, I'm aware of how few are wearing more than one layer. I've never worn two layers in a mary before, but I've never started one in temps in the 40s with wind gusts up to 30 mph before, either. I consider ditching the long sleeve base layer, but remind myself to stick to my plan.

I get in a few easy jogs just to see how everything feels. So far, so good. Get back down on the grass in another sunny patch and do a few gentle stretches. As it gets closer to time to go to the start, I shed my wind pants and track jacket, then stretch some more. Finally, I take off the last outer layer, stuff that in my gear check bag and hand that up through the designated window of the designated bus.

Time has arrived to head to the start. Map says it's 0.7 miles to the start...I'd decided in advance to jog it if possible. I'm one of a few folks who do so. Clock the jog with my Garmin...ends up being 0.5 miles until we hit the checkpoint where they are holding back the second wave folks (i.e., me).

Then we're let through and we walk down 135 to our corrals. Plenty of elbow room in my corral. End up next to two guys who also did IM St George, so we chat a bit about that. Before I realize it...holy cow, there's our start!

Not that we're really moving. Creeping forward until we reach corral one...then we start to run. Garmin and watch both started. Feeling generally okay, except for left arch (which was a problem in my most recent race). Hope is to get a re-qual (i.e., 3:35), training predicts more like a 3:38-3:39. Promise myself to run first 10K easy but leaving room to decide on a run at 3:30 at that point.
  • 3h 39m 53s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 08m 23s  min/mile

So, the course looks like this:

The conventional wisdom is that you have to resist the temptation to haul ass down the initial hill out of Hopkinton. Actually, the Boston course is remarkably similar to the 2007-2008 Universal City-to-downtown LA course...which was the site of my disastrous first marathon...disastrous largely as a result of taking the initial downhill way too fast. So I was absolutely of a mind to hold back. And, for the most part, I did. I felt like I was leaving open the possibility of pressing for a sub-3:30 if things went perfectly, without cashing in too many chips too early.

This was the first marathon I'd ever really started mid-pack since my very first. Definitely helped me moderate my pace. The other limiter that came up early on was pain in my left big toe (as well as into my arch). I have arthritis there and had been having some recent discomfort, so this wasn't unexpected. It did leave me concerned that--if it got worse--I might not finish.

Spent a lot of time mentally juggling two priorities--trying to work out the pain in my toe without triggering spasms in my still-tweaked left calf while also taking in the sights and sounds of the race. At the same time, I was reminding myself of the various hills on the course that I had been memorizing earlier in the morning.

The course largely trends downhill along a narrow two-lane highway for most of the first six miles. My pace was consistent through the 5K and 10K splits--between my splits and the pain in my foot, I ruled out the possibility of a sub-3:30, but wasn't ruling out a PR (3:32:12) just yet.

Miles 6-10 are essentially flat and mostly take you through Framingham. For all the discussion I've seen on BT about how "run/walking will be faster than running," one thing I didn't see anyone doing during the first 10 miles (other than one hurting guy on the first significant hill around miles 7) was walking. Even running in the mid-pack, I saw no evident planned run/walking from anybody.

Although the day started chilly and quite windy, the sun was warming things up a bit. With my long sleeve shirt on--and with my experience of getting dehydrated at LA a year earlier--I was being careful to hydrate perhaps more diligently than ever.

Mile 11 presented the first meaningful climb...and was the first place I saw more than one person walk (at least a couple women walked up the hill that I saw). I was finding that uphills were bothering my arthritic foot and downhills were slightly relieving it. Overall, though, I felt like I'd be able to work through the was pretty constant, though, and I was continually adjusting my big toe's position...and worrying about the effect on my calf.

Generally, though, apart from my left foot, I felt good. Left quad that had been strained ten days earlier was a non-factor. No evident ITB or hamstring issues. Back was tight (and would get tighter), but I felt like I would be able to hold a decent pace and at least get a re-qualifying time (3:35 or better).

Half marathon point in Wellesley seemed to be forever in coming, though, and I constantly reminded myself that I had a long way to go. Lot of self-talk in this race, actually...more than usual and earlier than usual.

The section on the Wellesley campus with the screaming coeds was a trip. Even more surreal was how it went from deafening to dead quiet the moment you left the campus.

Just after the halfway point, I heard a spectator yell "Go, Team Hoyt!" Looked to my right and I had just passed them. Made a veer to my right...nearly a get in front of them and flash a thumbs-up.

Kept thinking that the race really begins at mile 16. I knew there was a big downhill at 15.5 to cross the Charles River, followed by the first of the "Three Sisters" at mile 16. I was again reminding myself of the rhythm of the terrain ahead from our pre-race drive and the course map...starting at 16, there were four climbs every 1.5 miles, culminating in Heartbreak. I wanted to come off the downhill to 16 without having trashed my quads or IT bands. Ultimately, that plan worked out (though I'm sure the conservative strategy cost me time).

What was becoming apparent after the half mary point was that I really needed to pee. I've never--ever--stopped at a portapotty in any running event in my life. But I was starting to calculate the options and it was coming down to peeing in my shorts or hitting a portajohn. Didn't want to limit my drinking the rest of the way in order to try to make the last 90 minutes without I decided after the hill at 16 that I would stop if I saw an open portapotty with no one waiting.

At mile 17.5, just before the second of the Newton Hills, I saw a guy come out of a portapotty just ahead and seized my chance. In one of the most OCD moments of my life, I--of course--looked at my watch to clock the stop. OMGZ...thought I'd never get out of there. 1:16 total. Now I was hoping that wouldn't cost me my main goal of sub-3:40.

Found that my frequent hill training in the Santa Monica Mountains made the Three Sisters look positively demure. Especially after my 1:16 rest, I was passing a lot of people on the hills. Still felt strong and was confident I could press the pace through Heartbreak.

I made a point of hammering Heartbreak. Quite a few people were walking, but I really flew up it. Made some spectators laugh at the top went I shouted out "Hey, where's this Heartbreak Hill I keep hearing about?" Yes, I was courting a bit of negative course karma, but hammering the Newton Hills felt great.

On the long descent off Heartbreak, I started to get fatiqued, though. My tight back didn't care for the downhill after all the climbing. I knew I'd be seeing Liz and her family at mile 22, so I settled myself with that prospect in mind. Finally rounded the bend where I knew I'd see them and there they were. Liz waved and then chased along the sidewalk as I passed. I gave her a wave and thumbs up and headed into the flats on Beacon St.

Looking at my splits (and adjusting for the potty stop in mile 18), I was pretty consistent through mile 23. But I did hit the wall a little after that--miles 24, 25, & 26 were all a full 10 seconds or more slower and I was definitely ready for the race to be over. Heading into that stretch, it seemed like a done deal I'd finish in the 3:30s, but now I was doing the math and recognizing I was losing any margin for error. Definitely couldn't afford to slacken my pace the rest of the way.

There are only a couple little rollers in the last three miles, but they hurt worse than the Newton Hills. My right knee got sore sometime after Heartbreak...nothing serious, but it was slowing me down a little. I remembered, though, how at LA in 2010, miles 23 and 24 had been miserable slogs where I lost 2:00/mile in was nothing like that.

Finally saw the sign for "One Mile to Go" and looked at my watch: I only had 8:23 left to 3:40. My last two mile splits had been 8:35 and 8:36. I had to push it.

My Garmin was running ahead of the mile markers, so when I got to the right turn off Commonwealth onto Hereford, I thought I had a half mile to go, but couldn't be certain. Hereford and Boylston were the only part of the course we didn't drive, so I had no idea how far the finish line was after the last left turn. Pushed hard up the one block on Hereford, then turned left. Not too far to the finish line...but the clock was against me.

Started to run Garmin tells me that I was running a 7:15/mile pace for the last half mile of the course. With about 400m to go, I knew I had to kick hard. I was cashed, but I know that I can always go a bit anaerobic for a quarter mile in any finishing stretch, so I did. Drove hard across the finish line, while trying to look okay for the inevitable photos, and stopped my Garmin. 3:39:53...barely had the energy to pump my fist in response.
What would you do differently?:

Maybe drink a bit less pre-race. Otherwise, I feel like I hit the time my recent training basically predicted...would have liked to have PR'ed, but the reality is that I lost too much training to injury in February to have that expectation on a challenging (and unfamiliar) course.
Post race
Warm down:

I was pretty trashed after the finishing kick. Had not gotten to enjoy the finish line...but I wouldn't have appreciated that if I'd finished in the 3:40s, so it was all good. Felt dehydrated (ironically, after the full bladder phase of the day's adventures), but could tell I was successfully taking in water. Took a few ounces of Gatorade when offered, but it didn't sit well, so went back to water.

Food was banana (ate half), bag with bagel, chips, fruit cup (with no and something else I've forgotten, and Power Bar recovery bars (yum). Got my medal. Clutched and never used the inevitable space blanket. Retrieved my gear bag. Then made my way through the throng to the "Family Reunion Area" and waited forever for Liz (who was on a crowded 'T' train from mile 22).

Once she met up with me, we walked about 20 minutes to our hotel. My lower back was really stiff and left foot still aching, but no evident injuries to speak of. All-in-all, a pretty satisfying run at Boston.

In looking at the results afterwards, I expected that I would have dropped in the pack relative to my initial seeding (12696), as my finishing time was 7:30+ slower than my qualifying time. Instead, I effectively moved up 717 spots in the field based on where I would have been projected to finish based on my starting position. So I guess the demands of the course relative to the flatter courses so many people qualify on (like me) and the tendency to relax in training for Boston lead to a lot of slower Boston times.

So, anyhow, Boston is in the books for me. Got to see Bill Rodgers at his running shop and take in all the memorabilia from over the years. Left for LA with way too much souvenir apparel, but with a real sense of pride in having made it all the way from teenage runner to couch potato and back to runner.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Painful left foot. First on-course potty stop ever.

Event comments:

It's Boston...what else is there to say. There's so much information available online and in print about the race and the course, that there's no excuse not to go in well informed and prepared. In the end, if you have a chance to race Boston, you do it. At least that's my two cents.

Profile Album

Last updated: 2010-10-18 12:00 AM
03:39:53 | 26.2 miles | 08m 23s  min/mile
Age Group: 916/1927
Overall: 10549/23879
Performance: Good
1-8:04,2-7:59,3-8:05,4-8:00,5-8:13,6-8:09,7-8:02,8-8:09,9-8:18,10-8:13,11-8:13,12-8:08,13-8:14 (HM = 1:47:25 official) // 14-8:05,15-8:15,16-8:10,(begin Newton Hills)->17-8:25,18-9:40(net of portajohn stop=8:24),19-8:08,20-8:18, (Heartbreak)->21-8:27,22-8:26,23-8:23,24-8:35,25-8:36,26-8:34. (2nd HM = 1:52:28 official; net of stop = 1:51:12). Last mile of course = 8:16.
Course: Point-to-point course, starting in rural Hopkinton, proceeding through the outer SW suburbs of Boston, over the Newton hills, to finish at Copley Square in Boston.
Keeping cool Average Drinking Too much
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? Yes
Course challenge
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5