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Race Report: 2018 Boston Marathon

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The weather was as forecast, wind from 11 to 25 mph in my face, temperature from the high 30s to mid 40s, rain from showers to steady. The temperature and the wind would not have been significant factors without the rain. It was wet.

One of the smarter things I did this year was buy a premium package that included a charter bus to the start line. The differences between the charter bus and the BAA buses were, I had to leave an hour earlier; and I could stay on the dry, warm bus until time for my wave to leave. That saved me 2 hours of waiting around outside in the wind and rain. Worth. Every. Penny.

BAA advice was to wear old shoes that you could discard, then change into dry shoes for running. That makes no sense for most runners, because there will be no dry place in Athletes' Village to change shoes and your race shoes will be wet anyway. I thought maybe I could wear old shoe to walk into Athletes' Village and grab some coffee and a banana; but when the rain turned out to be steady I realized all I would see in Atheletes' Village would be a bunch of runner butts as people tried to crowd into the tent where the food was. So I wore my Darn Tough wool socks and the shoes I would run in.

Marathon Tours gave me a discardable poncho that I wore from the bus to the staging area; then I discarded it. I was prepared to run in what I was wearing, but not prepared to stand around in the rain for a long time. An awful lot of runners started running in plastic bags or cheap ponchos; I don't understand. They're going to be wet anyway, and I don't get why someone would choose to run 16 miles (about as late as I saw something like this) in a plastic bag. But here you have it:

The early part of the race went to plan. Took gels at 5.5 and 11 miles. Realized just after I past the port-a-pot group at mile 12 that I should have stopped; saw the next small clump at 12.4 miles. Was looking for the green flag, and saw a runner come out of one with no one between me and there. That was an easy decision. Had to take my gloves off, so I took a second S-cap. Then it took a while to put my soaked gloves back on, but I clearly needed them for warmth. I would not remove my gloves again until I was back in my hotel.

Got a gel from a volunteer along the way, took it maybe around mile 14. Wellesley was a mental challenge, but I'd seen it. Slowed down deliberately to rest for Newton getting through Wellesley, then ran the drop at Lower Newton Falls fast, but more importantly so as not to make my quads hurt. Worked hard not to challenge the hills in Newton, ended up challenging Heartbreak toward the end.

And I could keep running. By this time, I had another gel from a volunteer in my glove, but I never had the mental energy to deal with manipulating it. So I ran the rest of the race with a gel in my glove that I should have taken somewhere between 20 and 24 miles. Got up Heartbreak on pride, to keep running further than I did last year. Got to mile 23 on pride, to keep running further than I did in 2016. Somewhere in there, I realized that if I slowed to a walk I was dead. I would be very unlikely to start running again, and might not be physically capable of completing the course walking in that weather if I had to go more than a mile.

So I ran to be able to keep running. I ran on mental toughness. I ran looking for the landmarks I saw on my shakedown run the day before. It had been a good call to take the T out a mile along Beacon Street; looking for where I had been made Beacon Street less of an eternity than it had been in past years.

Got to Kenmore and the Citgo sign. The last mile is very familiar. I'm passing people. I know I'm slowing down, but I'm passing more people than I have. WTF? Get down Commonwealth Ave on guts and pride. See the underpass, know that Hereford Street isn't very far past it. As the shirt says, right on Hereford Street and left on Boyleston.

It looked like an awful long way from turning onto Boyleston to the finish line. I had no finish line kick at all. I heard my sister call my name, but didn't see her. I ran to keep running to the finish. I had no idea how many runners were around me. Until I saw the pictures, I assumed I should not have caught up to any white bibs (wave 2), let alone red bibs (wave 1):

I got there, stopped, and both calves threatened to cramp up. Concentrated on not falling down, then stopped the watch. The watch said 3:29 and change, so I knew I'd beat 3:30 officially.

It was a slow, painful blur to go find a medal. I stopped for one shot from the professional photographer, knowing that I was not going to take the time to pose for a designed backdrop:

Then it was another slow, painful blur to go find the heat shield. God bless the young, smiling, cheerful volunteer who patiently dressed me in the heat shield/rain poncho that I could not put on myself. Long, slow walk to find the closest door to the inside, the more slow, painful walk to get to my own hotel. Got a hot shower, got dry clothes, began to feel fairly normal, and only then realized that I had almost certainly been suffering from hypothermia just a hair from being bad enough to require someone else to do stuff for me. I mean, more than just put a raincoat on me.

While walking back to the hotel, I thought this might be a good time to declare victory and stop trying to run marathons. Three hours later, with a good hot meal in me and my calves recovered enough to let me walk a moderate pace and go up and down short flights of stairs while carrying nothing, I was already thinking about Boston 2019. I beat my qualifying target by over 20 minutes, so I can register on the first day. This morning my sister told me if I run Boston next year, she'll run the BAA 5K again. So I have enough notice now to get another night in the hotel next year and see her run.

Today I am still recovering, but I feel better than I did the day after Boston either of the last two years. I have started 5 marathons, and yesterday I completed one where I really managed the race well. And I affirm that I am a marathon runner. That's part of who I am.
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