Thursday, April 19, 2018

Wind at my Back into a Headwind - Boston Marathon 2018

On Monday, I ran my 12th Boston Marathon.  While I would identify myself more as a trail runner and ultra runner, there's just something about Boston that keeps me coming back year after year.  It could be the enthusiasm along the course - as if for one day, everyone gets out and rallies for crazy endurance runners.  It could be the familiar faces I see along the course - from my Uncle Sam at mile 6, a friend from high school xc at mile 16, my parents at mile 17, and random trail friends at mile 20...and all the random folks that are waiting to cheer for each and every one of us.  However, I think it mostly comes back to being a young child watching the Boston Marathon and thinking that these folks (no matter their pace) were the best athletes that I would ever see.

In my 12 runnings of Boston, I've run through quite a few different weather conditions - from driving rain to blazing sun, headwind or tailwind, and 90-degree sufferfests to 40-degree hypothermia-inducing days.  This year, however, was likely the coldest conditions I had experienced at Boston (and with the rain, made worse).  Luckily, I had some amazing Inov-8 gear that is designed and tested in England, so I just layered up and was good to go.

My friend Kyle was also racing, and starting later in the same wave as me, so I stepped back a few corrals to start with him.  There was something magical about crossing the Boston Marathon starting line, and all the better to share it with a friend!  Starting with him put me at the back of Wave 2, so I was immediately blocked and slowed by runners ahead.  'Don't panic, starting easy is smart' I told myself as I eased into the first downhill mile.  As much as I tried to keep my feet dry, I splashed through a puddle and soaked my feet only 100 yards into the race - oh well!

(Kyle and I pre-race)

The first few miles passed quickly (early downhill miles often do), but I was amazed to be completely drenched already.  That being said, I had a huge grin on my face as I tried to slap high fives with as many fans along the way as possible.  I likely pissed off someone at the mile 2 bar (where folks line the course and try to hand off beers), as I failed in my attempt to grab a beer as I ran by...splashing it along the already wet pavement.

At mile 5, it was like someone opened the faucet and the rain intensity increased.  i didn't know it was possible to be wetter than I was, yet a cold sensation crept down me as my body was drenched with this cold persistent rain.  At mile 6, I caught up to my teammate Jane and ran along side her for a bit - grateful for a friendly face to share a few moments with.  However, I was feeling good so I pushed on ahead of her.

I quickly realized that this was going to be a day of cold rain, wind, and lots of grumpy runners watching their hard work and PR goals wash away on the flooded roadways.  In that moment, I thought back to a Pineland Farms race a few years ago when Aliza and I shared 25 miles - and she just laughed out loud every time her foot got stuck in mud pit.  That memory reminded me that no amount of grumpy moods or unhappy faces could change the day...and I was running Boston Marathon after all!  I plastered a grin on my face, I purposefully splashed in puddles, I ran into the headwind along the side of the road so that I could slap high fives with kids, I laughed out loud every time the rain intensified.

(Staying mostly dry, certainly warm, in my Inov8 raincoat)

By the halfway mark, as I often do when things are clicking in a race, I felt as if I had the wind at my back.  Miles felt easy and were ticking off (although since I had vowed not to look at my watch) and I was having a blast.  I peeked at my watch once, at the halfway mark, and saw that the time was 1:38 and change - which was about on pace for my PR, but given that the 2nd half of the race includes the Newton Hills I figured that I would slow down.  Oh well, still not doing too bad.

Luckily, I seemed to have friends at the bottom of each of the Newton Hills, and their support buoyed me up the climbs - especially the mile 17 climb where my WMDP teammates cheered me on yelling 'Desi won!'.  I think I floated up that climb with the enthusiasm of an amazing American victory! 

(Soaked to the bone but having fun!)

Before I knew it, I was at the top of Heartbreak Hill and there was nothing but downhill to the finish.  the field had thinned out, but I refused to run in the middle of the road and duck behind others - partly because I was still consistently passing other runners, but I also wanted to slap high fives as I went.  The fans were enthusiastic as ever along the way - while there weren't as many supporters, they were certainly loud and super encouraging.  Folks kept pointing directly at me and cheering for me - I think maybe I looked like the only person having fun, as I ran along with my shit-eating grin through the rain.

About 2 miles to go, I took my second look at my watch.  I was almost in shock - somehow, it was still possible that I could run a PR!  What?!?  I had been running into the headwind the entire time, I had been splashing in puddles and slapping high fives...I hadn't looked at my watch to check my pace, or even thought about pushing the pace (just running within myself and having fun!).  I did my best to finish strong, knowing that something magical was happening for me.  And as I made the right on Hereford, left on Boylston, and cruised into the finish, I stopped my watch at 3:16:38 - a 2-minute PR...and with almost completely even splits throughout the day.

What I learned from the day is that having a positive attitude (and, let's face it, a bit of fun) along the way can lead to great things.  Being upset or flustered by the conditions aren't going to change them so it's best to just embrace them.  And for me, not looking at my watch (and just running on feel) is typically the best plan...I am 'the metronome' after all.  What an epic and wonderful day!

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on your PR, Amy! Sorry we didn't see you..we were in Wellesley cheering on our niece! Despite the rain and cold, no surprise your day was great and full of smiles!