For those of us who ran it, the 2013 Boston Marathon will be our most memorable marathon, for a sad reason, unfortunately. Luckily for me, and for Pete Lyons, who was there to cheer me, we were not near the finish line when the bombs went off, having left the area in a taxi about 15 minutes before.
I had a terrible race, which has cured me of running marathons for the foreseeable future.
My previous marathon, 13 months earlier, had been 3:08:22, when I went out too fast and slowed the last 7k due to painful quads (as in all my previous marathons). So this time, also because Boston is downhill the first 8k, I planned to run easily at 3:10 pace (7:15 miles/4:30kms) the first 16-18 miles (26-29k), then run strongly up the Boston hills and as fast as possible to the finish, targeting about 3:07. Not to be!
The weather the day of the race (Monday the 15th) was good. About 8C/46F in the morning, so it was chilly sitting around for 2 hours, but not too bad. The race started at 10:00 (1st wave of 3) and it seemed like ideal temperature, with the sun warming things up a bit.
I was with Brent Millican, and we started conservatively, running 7:35 for the first mile. We then sped up to 7:06, and after 7:19 and 7:06, I ran the next 4 exactly on pace. Stayed quite close to pace through 14 miles, reaching the half in just about 1:35.
I enjoyed seeing and hearing (!) the Wellesley girls at mile 14, but in miles 15 and 16 I slowed slightly to 7:40 and 7:37, and then it went bad. Mile 17 (27.3k), with the first of the four Newton hills, was 8:25 (over 5:00/km) and then I got progressively slower — much slower. The main problem was pain in the quads, bad pain that got worse and worse. Also I felt like I had no energy. I resorted to short walks to get up the next two hills, but was determined to make it up Heartbreak Hill (mile 20/33k) without stopping, which I did. Thereafter I was just jogging, with occasional walks, due to quad pain and general weakness. Lots of people streaming by, which was depressing and embarrassing.
The crowd support was incredible, however, far above any race I've ever run. The noise and enthusiasm was awesome. I remember one intersection 5m/8k from the finish where the noise was enormous. I was expecting that near the finish, but this was 8k away! And it stayed very loud all the way. The race is worth running just for the crowd support. If you're feeling good, I'm sure it would be a big help.
So I shuffled/walked the last 2 miles, managing to not walk the last 400m on Boylston St., and then managed to stay upright. About 6 volunteers asked, repeatedly, if I was ok, so I must have looked bad. And in fact, I did feel faint for a while. I was also freezing. There had been a wind against us the last 10k, and it was very chilly and windy after the finish. It was a long, agonizing walk to the bag buses, but I finally got some clothes on and felt a bit better. Met Pete at the meeting area, we walked two blocks, luckily found a taxi (which I had difficulty entering, could not raise my legs), and were out of there — about 15 minutes before the bombs went off. We had not been near the finish line, however, so there would have been no danger.
It must have been terrible for anyone near the blasts, and also for the 8 or 9,000 who couldn't finish. But I also sympathized with those who had finished but couldn't get their bags or find their family and friends. If that had happened to me, I would have collapsed with hypothermia and Pete would have had to search the hospitals for me. And imagine the foreigners who didn't speak much English — a nightmare.
Oh, and as further proof as to how weak I was, I fainted on the subway on the way to dinner. Suddenly I was on the floor, looking up at Pete. We got off the train to meet Anna, Brett and Stan at Harvard, where a Pepsi and cold air revived me.
So, 3:40 and no desire to run any more marathons. You have to do lots of long, slow training, which isn't much fun, you lose your speed, and the race is always painful the last 10k. I'll get my speed back and stick to halfs, 10Ks and 5Ks.
But I suppose some analysis is in order. What was the problem? A number of things, I think. But not injuries. My long time issues with the left hamstring and right knee did not bother me during the race. I also got a strong pain in the left inner thigh while running 6 days before, but that was sorted out by rest and a massage therapist recommended by Anna Novick, who was great. So no running the five days before, but that just meant I was well rested.
1) Lack of sleep. Jet lag limited me to about 4 hours of sleep a night for the 5 nights before the race, which is not enough before a marathon. But maybe not so much of a factor — I felt fine at the start.
2) Lack of food before the race. I ate a decent breakfast and lunch the day before, but no dinner and then no breakfast, because I prefer to have an empty stomach when racing. Before a marathon, however, this is almost certainly not a good idea.
3) The low carb, high fat diet, which I followed quite strictly for 4 months prior to the race, was not helpful, I think. You are supposed be able to access lots of energy from your body's fat stores, but I had zero energy the last half of the race. I think this diet may be good for longer, slower events like triathlons and ultra marathons, but not for running "fast" for only 3 hours.
4) Lack of training — not enough kms in the legs. I ran 368 in Jan, 296 in Feb and 383 in Mar, about 80km/50mi per week. Almost no "easy" runs, but even so, 80k is not enough. Most important, I didn't do long marathon pace runs. I did quite a lot of 5k and 10k MP runs and only 3 15k runs. I think it's necessary to do 20k, 25k even 30k MP runs. These are really hard for me, though. In fact, I have only ever done one 25k MP run, several years ago. Maybe this means my goal pace is too fast! It would also require two days rest before and after, but I should have done that. This is probably more important for masters runners, who have less muscle mass and are thus more prone to quad pain. Well, I'm not going to put that lesson to use, except for half marathon training. From now on, I eat pasta, I do lots of intervals, and I win some age group 10ks and half marathons! I run fast and I have fun!
Good running to you all,