It’s that week where either you’re going to run the Boston Marathon or someone you know is going to run the Boston Marathon. The most prestigious marathon is not only challenging to get accepted but once you’re there, race day can really be a crap shoot. This is where you need to have faith and believe in yourself.
I’m not a “Boston expert” but I’ve done the race twice now. My first Boston Marathon I was ready to go for the big PB. My training was the best it had ever been and all my numbers said I was capable of a 2:48 to 2:52 marathon. That was the year of the heat wave and everything changed for all Boston runners. Over half the field dropped out, deferring their bib to the following year which was highly recommended by the organizers. Still there were others like me who despite a little heat wave, thought, just maybe I can still do this. Boston won that round that year. I ran a 3:08, I ran much farther than 26.2 miles (due to weaving all over the course in search of water and shade). The interesting thing about that year was from elites to back of the pack everyone was off their mark by around the same time. Although I didn’t hit my actual time goal, upon post-race reflection and according to the experts on these things, I actually would have run a 2:54 in more ideal conditions. That was good enough for me.
When sign up came around for the next Boston, I felt like I had unfinished business so I registered. I didn’t stop there though, I also registered for Big Sur and the well known Boston to Big Sur Challenge. The goal for 2013 was to win Boston to Big Sur and that was it. 2012 and 2013 weren’t going to be very good years for me though. In Late 2012 I had to terminate a pregnancy leaving my hormones a mess as I started training for Boston in early December. I was a wreck to say the least, but I did my best to get in the training I could. Early in January I decided to take my life savings, buy a house that would be all mine and shortly after I started a new job. With the mounting stress 1/3 of the way through my training, things started to break down. Early in the season I ended up with a small calf tear. I took 7 days off and got back to it without noticing much of a blip.
It was sometime in February where I finally got my stride. Training was going much better, my hormones had finally calmed down and I felt I was back on the right track. My new job was amazing, and I got to do a lot of travelling and in March I was told I’d be going to Los Angeles to work the LA Marathon expo. I spent 7 days in San Francisco and LA working and doing a lot of running. 4 weeks out from the Boston Marathon I did something I would never recommend to anyone. My boss got me a bib for the LA Marathon and told me I had to run at least up to 20-30km then I could drop out. It was for work, so I wasn’t going to say no, and it fit with my training run perfectly.
Once the marathon started, I got into a comfortable pace with the 3:30 pace group and at 30km I decided I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to see the finish line and get the medal and dip my legs in the ocean. So I did. Hours later I was on a plane and back in Toronto, ready to get back into my routine. And then the worst thing happened. I really tore my calf. I didn’t just tweak a few fibres, I had a such a large tear, I couldn’t even walk for a week. I was F**ked for Boston. Boston to Big Sur was over!
I couldn’t run the first week and was getting therapy every other day. The second week wasn’t much better, but I could cross train and 3 hours on the elliptical became a normal day for me. With now 2 weeks to go before Boston I NEEDED to run. My therapist had these crazy shoes made so you were basically running in high heels, I’m talking like 20mm drop shoes. This was going to help take the pressure off my calf and allow me to train for the remaining two weeks. To my surprise it worked! I was able to do three speed workouts and some easy running in the craziest shoes I’ve ever run in. My therapist was my saviour.
The big question was how was I going to get my goal in Boston at this point. My goal was sub 3 hours, I was not going to settle for anything less. The night before the race, my then coach handed me a race plan for a 3:08 marathon, explaining based on my season, I would be lucky to get this time. I was furious! I didn’t drive all the way to Boston for a 3:08. For the first time ever, I threw away my race plan and scribbled out something totally different. I made a plan to positive split the course, taking the first half 2-3 minutes faster so I would have some minutes to give back on the second half which is usually slower. My friend Roger and I made a pack to each other we were going to get this goal no matter what.
Race day was perfect, the weather and I were calm. I raced smart and paced the first half exactly as I had planned. I stopped to kiss the girls at Wellesley College and when I saw Roger’s wife and baby on the sidelines I had to stop and get a baby snuggle. I wasn’t feeling amazing on the second half, but I wasn’t dying. With just 6 miles to go, the cramps started coming on fast and strong. I remembered this part from the year before. The crowds got louder, the Citgo sign got bigger and my watch was telling me my goal was within reach. With only 2 miles left to go, I got my second wind and I just started running my heart out. I weaved through the crowds not letting anyone slow me down. Once I turned onto Bolyston street and saw the finish, I closed my eyes and just ran as hard as I could. I crossed the finish line in 2:57:38, not a PB but not far off my best time. I did it!
That was a long story I know and I’m sorry. This week I’ve been reflecting on my own Boston as my athletes and friends are about to embark on a similar journey. I was reminding them that sometimes Boston will surprise you. Sharing my story of the worst season of training I’d ever had and no real logic as to how I ran such a great race. I want to believe that it was the one day where the mind was stronger than the body and I had enough good training from the season before. Also if truth be told, the two weeks of forced rest was probably just what I needed to have the freshest legs for the race. Boston is not just any road race, it’s physically challenging but mentally there are so many challenges leading up to and during the race.
So my advice is to just believe in yourself. Be honest with yourself about your training and your abilities, but have some faith in your inner strength. With my closest friends I’ve passed on my 2013 Boston mantra in hopes it will get them through the bad times that are sure to creep up on course. It helped me a lot.
That year started off like a shit storm but ended with so many high points. Not only did I get my Boston goal, I was actually 2nd Canadian female that year and I went on to win the Boston to Big Sur Challenge. There were so many people that year who didn’t believe I had it in me, but I had one very strong believer, myself. When you race on Monday, race with your heart and your head, your legs already know what to do.
Good luck Boston runners, let the wind be at your back but if it’s not then draft! lol
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