What It All Comes Down To
Right onto Hereford, Left onto Boylston. Mid 2:58 on my watch. And suddenly the hamstring pain that’s gripped my last 3 miles is meaningless compared to missing this. I’m squeezing every bit of speed from my legs to make it under 3 hours. I can see the race clock, but I started in corral 8, and it’s a few minutes off my watch. There’s no time to check. As countless track races have taught me, I lean over the finish (for the marathon!). Only after passing both timing mats do I look at my watch: 3:00:02. I let out a sob, then ride the elation of finishing THE marathon in a new PR. It’s not until I find my family and my boyfriend that I learn I’ve run 2:59:59!
What Goes In
It’s 9pm on April 14th. I’m sitting in the bed of my hotel room, flicking through Instagram when a particular post catches my eye. It’s Tracksmith, and the caption says, “The reality of marathon training is that – while we go in with A, B, and C goals – the real victory is the work that went in to getting us to the line…This is the fun part.” As so many times this weekend, I felt the energy of this city and this marathon go through me.
As Tracksmith rightly said, so much of this race happened before toeing the line in Hopkinton. I’ve now run three marathons (New York 2016, ‘17 and Boston ‘19) and this was the first cycle I fully trained with the Whippets. The support and progress was instantaneous. Starting with my training partner, Young Cho, pushing me to train at 2:55 marathon pace (6:40/mile) after both of us were coming back from injury. If it weren’t for that push, combined with workouts and long runs over so many bridges and hills (a favorite of this cycle was running repeat loops of Harlem Hill), I’m quite positive Boston would have chewed me up and spit me out alive (more than it did, anyways).
How to Run a 2:59:59
Boston is probably the marathon that inspires the most advice. Go out conservative. Save yourself for the hills. Don’t underestimate the final 5 miles. I was recounting all of it up until I entered Athletes Village. There I found something no advice could give me, something I’ve found I can rely on time and time again with the Whippets: THE most supportive teammates! Greg Pezolano and Andrew Hadro both moved back corrals to start with me, made the miles fly by and set up my sub-3 finish. Here’s how it happened:
- Miles 1-5 were a loud, exciting blur! A couple of times Greg pulled me back from going out too fast (I’d be even more thankful for this later) and I high-fived every hand I could reach.
- Miles 6-16: We settled in to a comfortable pace around 6:45-6:50, with Andrew leading the way around other runners and the two of us passing water and Gatorade at each mile. I saw my friend Kristen at mile 7 and my best friend (and fellow Whippet) Emily’s family at 16, which made my endorphins fly!
- Miles 17-21: Newton hills. Before heading into the first hill, Andrew and I went over the next 10 miles. I was right on pace for 2:59 and couldn’t afford to slow up through or after the hills. Then he dropped back to run with some other teammates struggling in the humidity. Up until this point I had barely noticed, but heading into the third hill I felt suffocated. My teammates’ voice ringing in my ears, I managed to hold 6:50s through Heartbreak.
- Mile 22 seemed to be the start of a quick finish. But after soaking up everything the post-Heartbreak downhill offered, my legs were left shattered.
- Miles 23-26 are the part of the marathon I’ve struggled with each race. And each race has gotten a little better, but I haven’t quite nailed it. While I was still hanging on to a respectable pace, my hamstrings were on the verge of seizing. I would be lying if I said I cared about a time goal during these miles.
- The Finish: At mile 26 I realize it’s going to be close and I have to give it a shot or I will never forgive myself. Right onto Hereford, Left onto Boylston. And I go…