It was a beautiful day with a blue sky and temperature in the low 60s. I was sitting on the yellow school bus in Boston Common wearing running shorts, running hat, and just a t-shirt over my Dashing Whippets singlet as we began our way to Hopkinton for the start of the 121st Boston Marathon.
I’m relatively new to the Dashing Whippets Running team having joined in November 2016 and participated in a few Tuesday night workouts and the Holiday Party. So, it was great when I met Garrett, a fellow Whippet from New York on the bus ride to Hopkinton. Both of us were excited about the race and stayed relaxed chatting. The mild temperature in Hopkinton was not quite what I was looking for as most of my training was in New York’s chillier winter weather. I followed a Lydiard-style training program that focused on a mixture of aerobic conditioning long runs, hill training, anaerobic development, and tapering where heart rate level was my primary performance indicator. This would prove valuable during the race. Training went very well and I was able to stay healthy throughout and build up to 60+ mile weeks. Running multiple loops in Central Park and multi-direction repeats of the 102nd street transverse – Harlem Hill loop were helpful in building the strength in my legs to withstand the hills and have some left over for Beacon and Boylston Streets.
As I sat on the grass field in the runner’s camp at the Hopkinton High School, I was calm and ready to run. The F-15 low-level flyover at the start of the race was perfect. I’m a U.S. Air Force veteran and seeing high-performance jets flying overhead put me in the mood to race.
In the first mile, I realized that heat was going to be a factor. I was sweating more than usual and my heart rate (HR) was higher than expected. I decided to keep a watchful eye on my HR and not overextend too much, too soon. Deciding to not concern myself with pace, I settled into a mid-high aerobic run at about 83-85% max HR. I hydrated took water and Gatorade at most of the hydration stops—more often than I’d expected—and kept cool by dousing myself with water. I took GU Rocktane gels 15 minutes prior to the start and again at the 6, 12, and 18 mile marks.
I remained a bit conservative during the first 10K by keeping an eye on HR, especially on the downhills, to save my legs and prevent overheating. During the second 10K, I just tried to keep the run steady, stay hydrated, and as cool as possible. As we went through Framingham and Natick, the cheering was amazing and a definite energy booster. Going through 13.1, while it was a bit slower than I would have liked, I was feeling great and all systems were in good shape.
The race would get exciting during the next 10K as we ran through the Wellesley noise tunnel, hit some big downhills, and began the run into the Newton Hills. I look forward to the Newton Hills, as it’s the time to drop the hammer. I was feeling good and I decided to pick up the pace. I kept up the hydration effort and the water dousing as my body temp was staying in check. My early race strategy to stay conservative appeared to be working as I was running the Newton Hills well and my quads were still functioning. I was hearing Whippet cheers throughout the course, especially on the second half, which was awesome. I ran Heartbreak Hill with excitement as the Boston College students added an incredible amount of energy to the race. It was hard to hear myself think with their wildly enthusiastic cheering. On the downhill toward Cleveland Circle, the Whippets banner provided inspiration as my quads were beginning to feel the race. While I was thankful not to hit a wall during the last stretch of miles to Boylston, every hill felt like a mountain and my legs were ready to finish. Fortunately, I was able to push through the discomfort as I focused on form, driving my arms, lifting my legs (just like hills workouts and intervals) and taking in as much air as possible with short rapid breathing on the uphills.
For the final part of the race, I fed off the crowd for energy and they did not disappoint. Seeing my wife and niece on Commonwealth Ave after the Mass Ave tunnel gave me the boost to push up Mt. Hereford and finish with a strong run down Boylston Street. I was pleasantly surprised that I had finished with runners having race numbers that were a lot lower than my number. In conditions that were less than optimal, my time of 3:11:36 with half splits of 1:35:45 and 1:35:51 was a definite plus in the win column.
This was my 7th time running Boston—and it’s a privilege that I treasure. Since 2009 when I first qualified, the 3rd Monday in April has become very special and is always reserved for this race. Since 2013, when I completed the race about an hour before the bombing, the Boston Marathon has become a part of who I am and I’m determined to run and be part of this race every year.