Approaching my 5th Boston marathon (and 7th overall), I was physically in the best shape I had ever been. I had reached a fitness level that I hadn’t seen since high school, I had a great training season which was injury free and I had achieved a low race weight despite a heavy travel schedule.
My training runs were regularly now in the 7:10 – 7:20 pace which was a good 40 seconds ahead of my previous best Boston (2015 result – 3:28:08 – 7:57 pace). To top it off, 5 weeks before Marathon Monday, I had my best race to date. I placed 21st overall (3rd in age group) at the Savin Rock half marathon in CT with a time of 1:30:32 (6:54 pace). Not only that, I ran the race RIGHT with a 1st half split of 46:46 and a second half, negative split of 43:51. A week later, I ran my 21 miler at 7:25 pace and I rested in the subsequent taper period. Everything was aligned for me to note only crush my PR but to put me in the ballpark of a BQ (3:05 for my age group). I wasn’t expecting a BQ but kept it in the back of my head if there was a nice tailwind and some low temps. Pre-race I was hoping to fall around a 3:10.
The idea of qualifying for the race first entered my mind after my 2013 race. This was my second marathon and I beat my first year by nearly 45 minutes. I will always proudly run this race with the Dana Farber name on my chest but there’s been the strong desire to “earn my bib”, even if it happens just once.
In 2016, that didn’t happen. I didn’t BQ, I missed my PR by over 15 minutes and it was the worst race I have ever run. I blindly went out hard, despite hearing reports that the temp had spiken beyond the forecast and was approaching high 60s. I remember being in the starting corral, eyes closed and the sweat dripping down my neck before I had started running. I didn’t listen to my coach Jack or adjust my plan. I went out hard and one of the most challenging marathon courses there is chewed me up and spit me out.
Around Mile 5 I remember beginning to feel light headed so I backed it down. I had gone out at about a 7:15 pace. I slowed a little but could feel the heat crushing me. Somewhere around Mile 9 or 10, I reach the top of a small hill and started to throw up. I swallowed it at first but pulled to the right side and couldn’t keep it down. I quickly got back to running, trying to shake it off and looking forward to the next water stop shortly ahead. From there, it’s mostly a blur – I remember bits and pieces of the course but the pictures I have seen look pretty rough. I remember passing Mile 17 near Newton Wellesley hospital and trying to eat as many GUs and any food spectators were handing out. I remember being part of the way through the hills, doing some sort of a jog/walk while I struggled to keep going, knowing that my patient partner and friends were waiting at Mile 25. After Cleveland circle, I started to feel better but remember my legs being absolutely shot as I really “came to” and realized the opportunity I had squandered. Right before Kenmore Square I put a smile on my face and thanked those who came out to support me but my last mile was filled with self anger after knowing how poor of a race I had run. Boylston street was not the memorable and enjoyable experience it had been my previous 4 years.
For the last year, I really put the whole race in the back of my head. I put my focus on my work and didn’t dwell on that Marathon Monday or the mistakes I made. I also had promised myself that my training for 2017 wouldn’t completely take over and that I would allow myself to ski, travel and not buckle down nearly as much as I had in the past.
Going into this year, I again am injury free but I am not close to the fitness level I was at 12 months ago. That said, I have experienced how to waste a perfectly good training season by not RUNNING SMART. Tomorrow’s forecast is starting to shape up to be the same. Temps which were projected in the 50s a few days ago are now mid to high 60s with some mention to being up at 70. I look forward to having another shot at the course this year and the opportunity to erase last year’s result.
Like one year ago, 3:28:08 is still my time to beat and I once again have the opportunity to run my first Boston with a negative split.
Despite this year’s result, I will be proudly representing the marathon’s top charity and a cause that is dear to my heart. I take honor in wearing my parents names on my back each race I run and also the names of some incredible people who have lost their battle or who have fought this terrible disease and persevered as survivors. Regardless of the numbers on the clock when I cross the finish line in Copley, I know we will have made strides towards the ultimate finish line: A World Free of Cancer.
Happy Marathon Monday and thank you to everyone who continue to support my fundraising efforts for Dana Farber.