I joined the Whippets to run Boston.
In the spring of 2017, I was coming off my second dispiriting marathon and figured a
running team would provide much-needed structure. On the recommendation from a
friend—no Matt Wong sales pitch for me—I went to a Whippets practice in Central
Park. I was intimidated by the size of the group, yet everyone was so welcoming I
started showing up regularly. A few weeks later I heard that an informal “BQ” group
was starting and I was hooked. Qualifying for Boston became an exciting
experience: I now had a community of runners who pushed me, provided advice,
and made the process fun.
Marathon training started a bit differently than previous cycles. Having been side-
lined for eight weeks with a low-grade stress fracture, preparation began with simply
getting healthy: stretching, stationary biking, sleeping. Rinse, dry, repeat.
Ultimately I got the green light to run from my PT in the first week of January—fresh start to 2019!—yet training that month was a struggle due to my lack of fitness and confidence. In hindsight, the injury was a game-changer: I started taking ‘rest and recovery’ as seriously as my workouts. This allowed me to steadily increase volume and intensity in ways I had never attempted before. The two workouts I relied on most were Canova Ks and MP intervals (e.g. 2×3 & 60min): long, gruelling runs that force the body to learn—and hopefully accept—goal marathon pace. I also relied heavily on my Central Park training partners. Big thank you to Steve, Garrett, Jordan, Charlie, Mike, and all the Whippets who endured those winter sessions! As March gave way to April, I started to hone my goals for Boston. While injured, I didn’t allow myself to think about sub-2:30. Lack of training time, Boston weather, Newton Hills –these thoughts restrained my ambition. Yet the seed had been planted months earlier watching Jordan O’Donoghue compete in NYCM. Whippets never cease to
I was lucky to get six hours of sleep before the familiar sounds of shuffling feet, door swings, yawns, and toilet flushes reverberated throughout the airbnb. I had been nervous about the 6:1 Whippet-to-bathroom ratio of our flat, yet these fears were thankfully unrealized due to patience and efficiency. Especially efficiency. While I fully sympathize with wanting one’s own hotel room, I encourage Whippets to consider sharing flats before races. So with a sesame bagel, Gatorade, and an extra poncho in hand, we scurried out the door promptly at 6am towards the buses that
would bring us to Hopkinton.
With the morning’s rain abating, I rolled into my corral still unsure what pace I
intended to go. The weather was troublingly warm and humid, yet after the horn sounded, my body stubbornly found its trained marathon cadence – a testament to all the Central Park workouts. I followed Forti’s advice on holding back for the first 10k and let runners pass me. To help manage the urge to speed, I periodically closed my eyes and focused on feeling my arms swing and my legs rise.
After the first 10k, the initial bottleneck of runners dissipated. I knew that from there until the Newton Hills at mile 17 the course would be relatively straight and flat. This was the time to steady myself and—much to my surprise—enjoy the race. With the warm temperatures, the crowds in Ashland, Framingham, and Wellesley were encouraging and boisterous. It also meant that I needed to hydrate early and often; I took Gatorade at every stop and kept a steady intake of gels (one every four miles). I clocked through the halfway mark at 1:14:38; I was on target, though would have to
closely manage my pacing.
When the first hill came, I barely noticed, yet by the time I pushed up Heartbreak Hill, I had lost nearly all of my earlier momentum. Searching for inspiration, I focused on the streetlight at the top of Heartbreak and grinding past it I was relieved to see I had ‘only’ slowed a minute in Newtown. Over the next mile I let gravity do the work—second largest drop in the race—to grab back some time. With five miles to go, I still had life in my legs, yet what little margin I had carried into hills had been
Five miles feels like an impossibly long distance at the end of marathon. Anticipating this, I strategically placed my family along the course for motivation. At mile 22, I saw my mother and step-father, then at mile 24 my father and step-mother. At this point the course flattened, yet I could feel every inch of elevation change, potholes and divots included. The Whippet cheer station at mile 25 was a wonderful boost: seeing the Whippet banner—and knowing someone was probably taking pictures—kept my head up and form intact. I realized I was running alone, so I moved toward the center of the road (sorry Forti, not a tangent) and imagined I was Rocky Balboa. I know how similar we look. I let the Rocky imagery and noise of the crowd pull me through until Boylston Street, 600m from the finish. The timing was still tight; it wasn’t until the final 100m I knew I’d hit my goal. It was the happiest 20 seconds I have ever felt in a race. Official result was 2:29:29 and 98th overall.