It’s taken me a long time to write this post… not because I’m traumatized by my experience or upset about it, basically just because I’m lazy 🙂
When I set myself the challenge or running all the World majors and knowing I had to run a sub 3:05 marathon to realistically get in to Boston, I’m not sure I truly believed I could do it. I hadn’t even broken 3:30 at that stage!
But after becoming a boring runner and focusing everything on that goal I managed to run a 3:04:48 in the 2015 Berlin marathon. Having already run London, Chicago, New York and having a charity entry for Tokyo 2016, I knew I was in touching distance. All I had to do was wait the best part of a year to officially register for Boston 2017 and hope that the cut-off time wasn’t double what it had ever been.
I had a bit of scare just before Tokyo when I suffered a slight calf tear, but I dosed myself up with pain killers and anti-inflammatories and got myself round. After my long, long wait, I finally got confirmation of my 2017 place in the Boston marathon and that was it; I could fulfill my ambition, I just had to do a bit of training, get to Boston injury free and have a glory run to the finish line.
I started my training after 6 months of pretty much no running and unsurprisingly it was a struggle… okay I was a bit surprised I wasn’t able to hit my old pace, but I shouldn’t have been. I got through a winter’s training block (moaning all the way) and got to Boston with niggles but no injury. In truth, I probably hadn’t pushed myself that hard as I just didn’t want to get injured. Life had changed (for the better) and I knew I’d never be able to devote the same amount of time to my running to ever get another qualifying time, it was now or never. Even so, I never would have expected to suffer like I did.
Before we get to that, I have to write something about Boston itself… it was amazing!!! A wonderful city that was very different to New York and much more Mr and Mrs D’s type of place! We traveled in style, Virgin upper class, and stayed in a beautiful hotel in the habour. We went to the expo, had a look around Boston, had some nice meals and a highlight was a whale watching trip, where we saw more whales than the lady commentator had seen together in 3 seasons. But then it was down to business and the little matter of the marathon.
I was awake early to prepare myself and walk to the bus to get shipped out to the start at Hopkinton. I was nervous the whole way there and was very happy when we made it so I could relieve my nerves in the nearest porta-loo. I had a 3 hour wait until I was due to be called to the start line, but the weather was okay, it was warm enough and dry. For once I wasn’t too nervous as I waited, I guess it was because I had no time targets as such, I just had to go out and enjoy myself. I did want to break 3:30, felt after my training I was more likely to be around 3:45, but would take anything under 4 hours. I felt this was well within my abilities.
After my long wait, we were finally called around to the starting corals and we all started making our way there. There was time for one last visit to the toilets, then I was there, waiting for the gun at the race I’d worked 5 years to get in to. The day had started to warm up but it didn’t appear to be too sunny, nothing that was worrying me. And that was it, the gun went and we were off.
I did my usual thing of setting off far too quick in a mix of adrenaline and the first 4 miles being downhill. I backed it off, but I was starting to feel I was burning up inside. I got some water at the next aid station, but it didn’t really help. I took my first energy gel at 6 miles and started to feel a bit better, but by the time I got 8 miles I was back in the red zone and knew I was in trouble. I was getting slower and slower and making deals with myself. I told myself if I got to halfway still running, I’d reward myself with a little walk. I did get there in 1:49 but I was struggling, I gave in to a little walk and that was it, the second half of my race fell apart in spectacular fashion.
I had nothing, it was the first time in my running career that my stubbornness wasn’t enough to get me through. I gave in to run/walking, that turned in to jog/walking that quickly became walk/jogging until I was eventually just walking. I tried my best to appreciate all the support on the course and the encouragement I was being given, but I was embarrassed to be being cheered on as I trudged along. I was joined by a marshal as I was walking along to ask if I was okay… I guess I was a bit wobbly… but I told them I was fine, just a bad day, and they let me continue. There was only one thing that kept me going and that was the knowledge that my wonderful wife had come out to see me at 22.4 miles and I had to at least get there for her. I was aware though that any predicted time for being there was long gone, but luckily she had been tracking me on the marathon app and knew I was in trouble but still moving.
When I did finally get to 22.4 miles and heard Katie calling out to me, I made my way to where she was standing, I slumped over the barriers and told her I didn’t think I could finish. Despite her worry, she told me to get my arse to the finish and she’d walk with me if she had to. I couldn’t have that as she was pregnant with our first baby; I told her to get the train back to the finish area and I’d see her there. I found out afterwards that it’s the first time she has ever been seriously worried about me and I looked like death; she worried all the way back as to whether she had done the right thing. I meanwhile trudged on, trying to get back to jogging and weaving my way down the road. I was feeling so sick that I stopped at the next 2 toilets to just try and get some relief. I just couldn’t throw up though. I gulped down 2 cup fulls of water at the next water station to try and force something up and still nothing, but it seemed to help a bit. I somehow got through the last few miles with mainly jogging and just a couple of walks; there were others not quite as fortunate as me though, with people pulling up with cramp and others doubled over throwing up. I also had another visit from the marshals wondering what was wrong with me as I had a red bib on indicating I’d been in the first wave of corals and everyone around me were in the yellow bibs of the fourth and last wave. Luckily I managed to get rid of them again.
And then I was there, I turned the corner on to Boylston Street and the finish line was in sight, I got my legs moving as quickly as I could and crossed the line with a mixture of pride, disappointment, excitement and relief. I had completed the Boston marathon, the marathon I had worked so hard to qualify for with a 3:04, and it had taken me 4:56, haha! The second half had taken me longer than the whole marathon had taken me that I qualified with. It was my slowest marathon by over an hour and the first time I had walked, even when I had run previous marathons with injuries.
I can’t really explain why it went so badly. I hadn’t done as much training as for previous ones, but I had done enough to at least get under 4 hours. It had been a warm day, but not that hot; I’d run up to 20 miles in a lot hotter temperatures without any affect. I can only really put it down to the fact that I had nothing to aim for really. My desire to get under a particular time wasn’t that strong. I’d achieved all I’d wanted to achieve; I wanted to qualify for Boston, I didn’t expect to then win it or go quick enough to qualify for it again… the accomplishment was getting there. You have to push your body hard to run a marathon as quick as I had in the past, you have to push it hard to run a marathon in any time; maybe I just didn’t have that motivation anymore to run 26.2 miles.
For all my problems, I recovered quite quickly, I had shuffled along to get my medal and some water, then found the World marathon major stand to pick up a second medal for completing all 6 world majors. Hung both medals around my neck and made my way to the meet and greet area to find Katie. By the time I found her I must have looked a bit more human as she wasn’t as worried about me. We had a sit down for 10 minutes then decided to make our way back to the hotel and as sick as I felt during the race, this was the closest I came to being sick all day. We got on the subway to get back and it was packed; we set off and then the train stopped between stations; it was packed, very hot and I had to rush to where there was a gap by the door to sit on the steps and dry heave in to a bag… the other passengers looked slightly perturbed by the smelly, pasty English guy that was threatening to throw up all over them, haha!!
We got off at the next stop though to walk the rest of the way and once I was back in the fresh air, all was okay with the world. By the time we got back to the hotel, I was fine. I had a shower and a lie down and then I was ready to head out for a traditional post US marathon huge steak 🙂
The next day we got the train to New York and had a few nights there before flying home. If we had known how much we would have enjoyed Boston we would have just had longer there, but New York was great too.
So what next???
I have a deferred good for age entry for London marathon next year which I have taken up, but I haven’t run since Boston. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to as such, but I have had more important stuff to do with my free time. As already mentioned, my wife was pregnant with our first baby in Boston and I spent the summer getting the house and garden ready for our impending arrival. We were blessed to welcome Charlotte Sophie Olivia in to the world at 18:10 BST, 1st October and she is amazing. I’m not sure how having a new born to look after will go with training for a marathon; it will be training through the winter again; I have nothing to aim for and I just don’t know if I can put in the energy to go through it again. I don’t really want my experience in Boston to be my last marathon, so that is a bit of motivation to do London, but I am also worried about going through the same again. I will look at starting with some short runs over the next few weeks and see how it goes. It will definitely be my last marathon if I do it. I may carry on running short distances if I can do it at a reasonable pace, without any niggles and without having to put in the time with gym sessions, cross training, pilates, etc. I am 40 next year though and would like to have one last blow out before I become a couch potato. I’d like to do the Fred Whitton challenge (112 mile bike ride around the Lake District) and the Ride 100 again, so adding in the London Marathon to that wouldn’t be the greatest of issues, they’d all be good training for each other. I’d look at doing them all for the Stroke Association too, for the help and support that they provided my wife when she suffered her stroke and the invaluable support they give others.
Will I keep on blogging? Probably not… this blog was always about getting a BQ and completing the World major marathons… job done! If anyone comes across this and they are aiming for the same thing, good luck and enjoy Boston… however she treats you… you put in the hard work to get there and deserve your day!