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Posts Tagged ‘Boston Marathon 2014’

Monday, April 21st was a great day for redemption in Boston! After the unthinkable events of Boston 2013, it seemed that the marathon would be negatively affected forever. It turns out that Boston and the running community used their resiliency and the memories of a year ago to fuel the excitement of the day and make Boston what it once was, and always should be; a day of celebration, achievement, and joy. This year, Boston was bigger and louder than ever! While there was a moderately increased awareness of law enforcement and security, which was graciously accepted, it quickly faded into the background of the overwhelming support from the entire world. The stage was set first by perfect weather – mid 50’s and barely a cloud in the sky.

a small sample of Athlete's Village

a small sample of Athlete’s Village

Before being directed to the start line, the runners gather in an area called “Athlete’s Village” which is a couple of the athletic fields of Hopkinton high school (surrounded by just about every rentable porta john in the state of Massachusetts). Spirits were high and the energy of the gathering crowd clearly indicated that today was about more than just running a marathon. Race director Dave McGillivray summed it up in the moments before the start when he said “We’re taking back our race today! We’re taking back the finish line!”

Dave’s comment likely carried a slightly different meaning to different people, whether you thought of it as a more global message to the running community or more personally directed to the people who were injured or didn’t get the opportunity to cross the finish line in 2013. But I’d imagine that no one saw it as a prediction that the U.S. would take back the men’s title, as Meb Keflezighi became the first American champion since Greg Meyer in 1983. Meb is also the oldest winner since 1931. Meb represents the true spirit of the marathon. Leading up to the London Olympics, Meb was recovering from a glute injury and had very minimal training. Despite the odds, he still managed to finish 4th overall. He recognized that friends, family and the country were looking for him to do his best, and that’s what he did. In the NYC marathon last fall, he decided early in the race that it was not going to be a good day for him, but he did not drop out. He finished the race with another competitor, showing that the race is not always about winning. These kind of selfless acts are truly inspiring and no one else deserved to win the 2014 Boston Marathon more than Meb!Meb Boston_edited-1

 

I went to the start line cautiously optimistic. I felt like my training had gone well. Over the past months I had tremendous support from my girlfriend who made sure I was eating well and recovering well. She also helped motivate me to run on those single-digit Vermont winter days in January (and February… and March). I had some fine tuning from my friend and coach Dick Vincent. I recovered very quickly from speed work, hill repeats (up and down) and IMG_7589long runs. My legs and my head felt ready. But I’ve had that feeling before only to have the later part of the Boston course beat me into submission. The start corral was surrounded by countless supporters holding signs saying: “Boston Strong!” “We own that finish line!” “This is our race!” “Boston is BACK!.” Once the race was underway, that trend, along with many other encouraging signs only increased as we ticked away the miles to Boston.

The key to Boston is to run the first 5k a lot more slowly than you think you should. I crossed the 5k at 20 min and the 10k at 40 min; much better pacing than I’d done in the past. I began to play around with my pace for the next few miles, picking it up on the flatter sections but still holding back a little on the steeper down hills. After having my ear drums blasted at Wellesley College, I entered the center of Wellesley and hit the half in 1:24, a bit slower than I planned. In previous years, this is when I realized I was already in trouble because my quads were showing untimely signs of fatigue. But this year my legs still felt good which boosted my confidence a little. I tried to stay steady and relaxed for the next few miles as I approached the Newton hills.

Finally, I arrived at the turn at the Newton fire station which is followed immediately by a respectable climb. Most will agree, this is where the work really starts. I put my head down, focused on my technique and the fantastic energy of the crowd and went up the hill with surprising ease. The next hill was easy too! And the next! Only one more hill, Heartbreak hill. Just as I started up the famed hill I realized that I had usually walked once or twice by now, but today walking had not even entered my head. I still felt really good! About half way up the hill I looked for the top to focus on getting to it. At that instant a red-tailed hawk soared very low over the top of the hill and three thoughts simultaneously came to my head – Dad is watching me. Float like that bird. Go! Any soreness that I was experiencing disappeared and I found an extra gear.

At 20+ miles in the marathon there are many things you have no control over and can’t change, but there is at least one thing that you CAN control – your breathing. For the next 6 miles I made sure I was breathing fully, inhaling and exhaling all the way. Doing this, I was able to hold a pace that I never thought I could maintain this late in the race. The last mile was quite a bit of work and pretty uncomfortable but knowing that I was going to have a new marathon PR made it much easier to tough it out. I crossed the line in 2:46:10 bettering my previous best by 4 minutes and 20 seconds. It was one of those days that we all hope for.  A day where all the training comes together and you feel like you could run forever. It turns out I WAS ready for Boston!

2:46:10

2:46:10

Did you run Boston this year?  How did it go for you?

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The Boston Marathon is less than a week away! The weather forecast, so far, is setting us up for a great day -partly sunny with a high in the upper 50’s. I always hope for nice weather because that will encourage more spectators to come out. I can clearly remember not just the sound of the crowd but the feel as I passed through the center of Wellsley in 2011.  The cheering was beyond loud, it was deafening, like it was literally traveling through me. It was awesome! I’m expecting that times 10 this year!  The crowd was a little more subdued in 2012 because it was so hot.Boston_strong_edited-1

When I crossed the finish line in 2012 in the 90 degree heat, I decided right then that I would take a break from Boston in 2013. Watching the events of the 2013 marathon unfold on TV brought a sense of anger and sadness to me. Marathon Monday is supposed to be a day filled with joy, pride and happiness.  Everyone is there because they want to be, whether they’re running, volunteering or lining the course cheering for the runners. People who have qualified for the race have a sense of personal achievement and pride.  The people running for the charities have their hearts filled with pride because of the difference they are helping make. Everyone has worked hard to get to the starting line of the Boston Marathon and each person should have the happiness of crossing the finish line and celebrating with their friends & family. That was thoughtlessly taken away from so many people last year, leaving physical and emotional scars. I have heard many stories of people who are coming back with more determination than ever this year; to cross the finish line, to have their closure. I’m really looking forward to hearing their stories after.

There is a Tibetan saying – ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’ The support that the world will have for the city of Boston, the runners and everyone associated with the marathon will be overwhelming. That will reinforce the strength the running community has this year, which is already immeasurable. It’s going to be a great year to run Boston!  As I have been reflecting back on past experiences and thinking about this year’s race, I came up with the following list that I hope will enhance the Boston marathon experience…

Things for runners to do on Marathon Monday:

Talk to someone you don’t know on the bus to the start. My first year I sat next to an older fellow with a long grey beard. After asking him his name and where he was from, I asked him how many times he has run Boston. Without saying a word, he unzipped his warm-up jacket to reveal a home-made race bib he had pinned to his shirt. It said: “BILL, 25th Boston, 100th lifetime marathon”  This was the year he would make the Quarter Century Club!

Breathe. The long early downhill miles are not as metabolically demanding so you won’t feel the need to breathe as deeply. You can probably carry on a conversation without too much work. This can set you up for cramping and early fatigue later in the race as the course levels out and heads into the hills.  Try to take a few really deep breaths every mile to keep the lower regions of your lungs trading oxygen for CO2.

A little motivation at the 40k mark

A little motivation at the 40k mark

High-five 50-100 cheering spectators in a row along the course. Nothing picks you up like being right next to the crowd and drawing from their energy. That strategy has helped me through some tough sections in the past.  Technique is important here to keep moving: don’t make full hand to hand contact because each hand you hit slows you down just a little and you’ll be reduce to a walk after just 4-5 people.

Thank a volunteer. Whether it’s the bus driver that you pass at 7am, the person handing you water at the half or the person putting your finisher’s medal around your neck, the marathon would not be the experience it is without volunteers. Be appreciative and let them know it!

Smile. Researchers have been looking more closely at the ways our brain effects our performance. Keeping a positive attitude is paramount, whether you’re trying to set a new PR or just finish the race. I try to keep positive words in my head (“up”, “light”, “fast”) and congratulate my self for staying strong up a hill or keeping good running form when I’m tired. The minute negative thoughts enter our head, we start a downward spiral that makes us feel worse and slows us down.

Remember you’re running The Boston Marathon. People come from all around the globe to run this race because of its history.  It’s one of the few remaining races that’s not shrouded in cheating, doping or other unnecessary drama. This is also a race where you can actually compete against the best runners in the world! True, you’re probably not going to run next to them on the course, but you’re still running the exact same course on the same day as the best.  I consider myself fortunate that I grew up about 40 min from the start line and now only have to drive a few hours to get to the race. I never take a single step of it for granted.

 

Are you running Boston?  What would you add to the above list?

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