Race Report: Boston Marathon 2017

This is a race report I have been waiting a long time to write. There is so much to say about my experience in Boston that I will leave tonight’s post to my race day experience and I will likely post additional thoughts on marathon weekend in Boston later this week.

My day started off at 5:30 when I got up and had breakfast consisting of a bagel and a banana. Following that I slowly got ready, said goodbye to my family and left the hotel room just before 7:00 to catch the subway to Boston Common where I would catch a bus to Hopkinton. Since I was in wave 2 I was instructed to catch a bus between 7:00-7:40.

The process for getting on the buses was my first indication of just how well organized the B.A.A is on race day. Within 5 minutes of getting off the subway I was sitting on a bus waiting to take runners to the athletes village. Shortly after we pulled away, drove past Cheers on Beacon St and headed down the highway.

The bus ride took roughly an hour. Not that I needed one but it was a reminder of just how long a marathon is. It was also gave me my first visual of some of the communities along the course (Newton, Wellesley, Natick) that I had heard so much about since I took an interest in the Boston Marathon.

At the athletes village I took advantage of the food that was available and had a second breakfast consisting of coffee, a banana and half a Clif bar. I had a couple of magazines with me to help pass the time but I really could not focus on them.

Fortunately my time in the athletes village went by quickly. Before I knew it my wave was called to the start area and it was time for me to drop my throwaway clothes in the donation bins and head down Grove St. toward the starting corrals.

The walk down Grove St. is just under 1 mile long. It is the first glimpse you get of the downhill nature to the start of the marathon. I made a point of heading to the left side of my corral because I read that T.J. Spirits, a biker bar in Ashland,  was the first area with vocal crowd support that the marathon passes. It is located along the left side of the course at mile 2 or 3.

I was in the corral for about 15 minutes before wave 2 started. Due to the downhill nature of the first portion of the course my plan was to try and run conservative for the first 5 miles in order to keep my legs in shape for the uphill portions in the late stages of the course.

The fact that it was a warmer day than expected (18C at the start) was another reason not to go out too hard. I was later told that this year’s marathon was the second hottest Boston Marathon in the last 10 years.

T.J. Spirits did not disappoint. There was a large and boisterous crowd as we passed by. I felt good as we passed through Ashland and into Framingham where the course started to flatten out a bit. My initial plan was to try and pick up the pace in Framingham after a conservative start.

My first indication that I might have a tougher second half came around 15 or 16 km into the marathon when I started to feel tightness and twitching in my calf muscles. Based on my previous experience this is usually a precursor to muscle cramps later on.

If you have heard anything about the Boston Marathon you have likely heard about the scream tunnel at Wellesley College just before the half. I am not sure how far away I was but I could hear the noise coming from a distance before I reached the college and the boisterous crowds of students. Here is a sample of what runners encountered this year.

After the scream tunnel we went through the city of Wellesley. It was at this point where I decided to make the most of my experience and have some fun. I began giving high-fives to as many of the smallest spectators along the course as I could. I also offered encouragement to the military veterans running on artificial limbs I passed along the way.

Between 25 and 26 km there is another lengthy downhill portion as the course moves into Newton. Once I got to the bottom and made the right turn onto Commonwealth Ave. and passed the Newton Fire Station I knew that I was about encounter the Newton hills,  a series of 4 uphill sections culminating in Heartbreak Hill at 32 km.

At this point I knew I was getting slower and losing time. Despite that I was determined to push ahead and not take any walk breaks on the hills. Although I was moving slower I survived the first 3 hills without stopping.

At some point on Heartbreak Hill I started to get cramps in my left calf. Since they were not yet as bad as cramps I have experienced in the past and I was still determined not to take a walk break I decided to slow down and keep going in the hopes it would go away.

My plan worked and I crested Heartbreak Hill knowing boisterous crowds were coming up at Boston College and the course was mainly downhill the rest of the way. The support of the BC students and the downhill nature of the course gave me a boost I needed at that point.

The next boost I received was the appearance of the famous Citgo sign on the left side of the course. From there I knew I had roughly 2 km to go until I crossed the finish line. The final portion of the course involves a right turn on Hereford St. followed by a left turn on Boylston St. for the final 0.5 km.

About halfway into this final stretch I saw a runner in front of me in need of assistance. Two runners in front of me stopped and were holding the runner in difficulty up by her arms when I got closer. I stopped to see if I could be of assistance in getting the runner to the finish.The runner was experiencing cramping in her legs and did not want to be carried to the finish line at that point.

I did what I thought was the next best thing and hurried to the finish line and alerted the first medical official I saw to the fact that a runner nearby was in need of assistance. Based on this article it would appear that what I observed was not an isolated incident and given the warm conditions I am not surprised,

As I walked away I turned around took a last look at the scenes on Boylston St. before I to collect my finisher’s medal medal and put an end to my Boston Marathon experience.

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