This year I was lucky enough to run the Boston Marathon after qualifying at the San Francisco Marathon in 2016. Since moving to SF a year ago, I have continuously trained for the longest time in my life. Running has become a core component of my day-to-day routine, and I get great fulfillment through running high mileage and setting lofty performance goals.
Until recently, I was a self-coached running. I discovered ultra running through the website URP. I caught the ultra bug and ran my first 50k in December at the North Face Endurance Challenge in Marin (I will be back next year, maybe even for the longer event..). URP has a daily news blast where I got links to many relevant running blogs and training articles, and I found articles by David Roche, my current coach, the most useful and informative.
To prepare for the marathon, I ran 50-65 miles a week for the past 3-4 months. My full training can be viewed on Strava. Most training included some vert since I live on a hill, and almost all of my runs took place in the morning. The last month of my training was quite intense, including 3 consecutive weekends of 20+ mile runs with 10 miles at marathon effort.
Going into marathon week, I started getting incredibly nervous. I didn’t know exactly where my fitness was – and even though I had run 10 mile runs at around 7 minute pace – I didn’t feel confident I could keep that up for a full marathon. My previous PR was 3:21:23 (~7:40 pace), but with my high mileage I knew I was in significantly better shape. On top of that, the forecast called for up to 70 degree temperatures and full sun on race day, which is very hot for a marathon.
The Boston Marathon is a family event for me since my dad runs it every year (this was his 39th consecutive) and my brother lives in Boston. The days before the marathon were filled with family reunion dinners and lots of fatty food and pasta. I crave red meat, particular burgers, when I run high mileage weeks or am recovering. The night before the race I had pasta, half a burger and bread. I barely slept (nerves :/) and woke up at 4:30AM with my dad to go to the bus.
For food, I have found that I can perform better in longer runs if I am full beforehand. I ate a full bowl of oatmeal about 2.5 hours pre-race and a Gu 45 minutes before the race. I also had 2 shots of espresso. I will need to continue practicing to perfect my pre-race and long run fuel.
I run for Oiselle Volee and found a fellow bird in the start corral to chat with before we started. After months of training prep and three full days of pre-race activities, it was go time! I started as slow as I could, and the race was much more crowded than I remembered. I wouldn’t have been able to go faster if I had wanted to. My original goal had been 3 hours for this race, but I knew that I was not in 6:52 shape. My guess was that I would run between 3:05 and 3:15. When the race started, I tried to go easy and stay “aerobic” as long as I could. I drank at every aid station or every other aid station and took a Gu approximately every 30 minutes. Whenever I take water during races, I also dump 1-2 cups on my head and body, which helps me stay as cool as possible. This took longer since I physically stopped to pour the water, but it was worth it for the cooling effectiveness.
After the half way mark, I was feeling okay but definitely not great. My goal was to focus on getting to the hills where I knew I had more experience than many fellow racers. The first two hills went by rather quickly, but I started feeling the heat and the impact of 18 miles of rolling hills catch up with me as well. On the third hill I knew I was really slowing down and couldn’t wait to pass Boston College and start the long descent. I was hoping that on the downhills I would be able to catch up some time and hit them at about 7:15 pace, but my legs had other things in mind. Around Brookline (4 miles from the finish), the sun came out in full force and my toes started to cramp. In hindsight I wish I had taken a salt pill around mile 20 to try to ward this off. I focused on running one step at a time and just tried not to slow down too much. With two miles to go, I switched my focus to beating my PR of 3:21.
The last two miles felt like they took forever and lots of runners were walking at this point, but I kept moving (albeit slowly). Luckily I saw my boyfriend, mom, and brother around a quarter mile from the finish line, and I knew I was almost there. I finished in 3:18:12, which is slower than I was expecting, but I was happy with this time considering it was a hot day. I also re-qualified for Boston, so I will be joining my dad on the start line next year when he runs his 40th Boston Marathon. Sub-3 hours, here I come!
Lessons for Next Time
Heat train no matter what – At Boston you never know what the temperature will be, so it’s worth it to invest in sauna time to adapt.
Do lots of runs on rolling hills – Rolling hills impact your body very differently than one-off steep climbs do. The best way to practice is to do long runs on lots of up-and-down hills without taking any breaks.
Practice taking water cups while running – I’m horrible at taking water cups while running, so I had to stop almost every time.
Take a day off work after the race – Next time I will take the day after the race off of work so I have more time to enjoy the city!