The Boston Marathon is so very special for many reasons. It’s the longest running marathon in the world, with 2017 being its 121st consecutive annual hosting of the event. It has a massive number of competitors with some twenty six thousand completing the course this year. It is also a highly competitive race, probably more so than any other major city marathon with a qualifying time only getting you into the ballot! This makes the field of athletes generally much faster than other big city marathons and ability to simply get a place very difficult. The crowd support is massive with about half a million lining the course. I could go on and on listing the reasons this race is special. It certainly deserves it position as one of the six “World Marathon Majors”. For me completing in the Boston Marathon this year was a very long term dream come true, as I’ve wanted to come to Boston and run this marathon for over 15 years. It has been every bit the fantastic experience I had hoped and expected and has certainly been worth every minute of my long wait to finally make this trip and take part.
The Boston marathon is a point to point course. It starts in the town of Hopkinton with its typical American style large wooden houses, nestled in a fairly wooded picturesque landscape and finishes in the centre of Boston amongst its lovely old brick architecture and modern tall glass sky-scrapers. Most of the runners get an officially organised bus service from Boston to the start. The buses queued up around Boston Common in the city centre where the runners board. All of the buses are the typical American yellow school buses, two rows of them snaked round three sides of the park, making the green common seem like a picture which had been framed in yellow. The whole set up was on such an impressive large scale and set the tone for the whole day of this massive well organised race.
The race was split into 4 waves of runners. Just as the race started for the first wave there was a fly over by two military jets. They were very low, extremely close together and deafening. I presumed this was a display to mark the start of the race but it could have been a complete coincidence, I doubted this later as I didn’t see or for that matter hear any more jets for the rest of the day.
I had expected this race to have fairly cool weather conditions but surprisingly this year it was unseasonably very warm at 23 degrees with a tail wind for the runners. Often you expect a tail wind to help but all it did was make the air seem still like running in a sauna or on a treadmill in a gym. I had hoped to run the race in under 3 hours 30 minutes and set off with a pace to easily do this. The first couple of miles were significantly downhill and it was easy to have a quick start but in the warm weather I could feel the heat rising from the tarmac and I was quickly sweating badly. I soon knew this pace was unsustainable for me in this heat and reduced it to something I thought I could survive for 26.2 miles but sadly soon realised my 3:30 goal was looking out of reach.
Lots of the crowds held up boards with slogans on, I particularly liked the one which read “Way to go Random Runner!”
Probably the most noise out on the course came from the student girls from the college in Wellesley screaming and shouting with posters asking for kisses at the 12.5 mile point. Certainly a very pleasant distraction from the heat of the run and shortly afterwards I was so pleased when I finally passed half way.
At 17 miles, I turned right at what looked like a brick fire station with a loud sound system playing a favourite tune of mine from the early 1990’s, “Kernkraft 400” by Zombie Nation. I love this tune, it brought back some great memories from my clubbing days and its beat injected a bit of positivity into my struggling running. For some miles afterwards I enjoyed humming the tune to myself.
There were water and Gatorade stations every 2 miles which is very generous as it is usually 3 miles in the UK. Each time I got 2 cups of water, one to drink and one to pour over my arms and legs to cool me down. As I cooled I felt like I could run better but this only lasted for about half a mile before it all dried and I overheated again.
At a couple of points out on the course a shower head had been fitted to a fire hydrant delivering a massive powerful shower across the road which I hugely appreciated. It was that powerful I could feel the force of the cold water pressing into my skin and it took my breath away.
At mile 21 there is a famous hill on the course known as “Heart Break Hill” which I suppose is fairly self-explanatory. It comes near the end of the race which makes it very tough to run up. I was struggling with the heat but I was pleased that my usual ability to run hills was still with me and I didn’t find it any more of an effort than the flat sections.
Being British, something I’m not used to is seeing is armed police. Along the course I saw hundreds, including military police. Being armed they seem somewhat more serious. Lots of the children lining the route wanted to give the runners “High fives”, I obliged as often as I could. At one point as I high fived a long line of children, I came across a police man and couldn’t help myself and shouted “High five”, just to see what his reaction would be. I was pleased and somewhat relieved to get given a high five with a bit of a shocked smile from the officer, nice to see that even though they were on duty they would participate in the event.
I know the US and the UK speak the same language but I do find the subtle differences amusing. If I was in a town in the UK, I would put rubbish in a bin on the pavement. I the US, I put trash in a trash can on the side walk. Walking to the start, a runner next to me called a little stream a creek. Apparently they consider a small stream a creek, so I learnt something new. In shops they don’t have queues they have lines, just subtle little differences but sometimes it makes it hard to understand them and I find it pleasantly amusing.
I also picked up two saying I’ve never come across before while running marathons “Way to go” and “You got this”. I must have heard these two sayings shouted by the crowds so many times over the length of the course that if I was deduced a second off my time for every time I heard it then my poor time today would have probably been a PB!
I was hot and exhausted as I approached the finish so I was amazed to be able to pick out my name being shouted out from amongst the noisy crowds, it was Anne from my club, Astley and Tyldesley Road Runners who had moved to live in Boston. It was lovely to see her waving in the crowd even though only briefly, “Hi Anne!” Eventually I took the final two corners right and then left into the finishing straight of Boylston Street with the logo of the Boston Marathon and BAA printed in massive blue and yellow strip across the floor with the biggest finishing gantry I have ever seem arching above. I mustered up enough energy to jump with my hands in the air as I flew over the finish line. The finishing time was much slower than I had wished for at 3 hours 48 minutes but I’m not too upset, the event was fabulous and I have eventually had the opportunity to experience this iconic marathon race.
I’ve always wanted to own a Boston Marathon jacket which is a light weight running jacket with a large Boston Marathon logo embroidered on the back so I bought one from the expo and can now wear it with pride along with my famous unicorn designed race medal.