Boston 2011: April 18th 2011

As many will know, Boston is the only one of the five Major Marathons that you have to meet stringent qualification times before given the right to pay an extortionate entry fee to run. If you were one of the lucky ones who got in before this years race filled up in 8 hours 3 minutes, you then had to shell out nearly £500 in airfare tickets and to find affordable accommodation for the five or six days required. Therefore running Boston, the oldest continuously run city marathon, is not for the faint hearted and requires a certain level of commitment….

Of the 234 runners from the UK that started the 115th Boston Marathon, five were from 26.2, making it a great turn out by the Club. For me, it was the most expensive, most painful and slowest marathon I have run. So, was the hype of the Boston Marathon worth it?

In short, Absolutely.

This was a fantastic trip made special by being able to enjoy the pleasures of New England and the Marathon experience with Joe Brewer, Jason Blair, and Mark Weight. Mark Enderby was also running but unfortunately we did not meet up before, during or after.

For us, the long weekend involved flying out on the Thursday before the race on Monday. Joe was staying with me at friends of mine who now live in the Boston area and Jason and Mark were staying at a hostel closer to town.

The four of us met up on Friday morning to run the five miles of the famous Newton Hills; a series of hills that comprise miles 16 to 21 of the marathon route and finish with the famous Heartbreak Hill before heading to the Expo to pick up our numbers and goodies. It must be said that the Hills were not terribly demanding. In fact, we were not sure we had run up the infamous Heartbreak Hill until a mile or so later when we realised we must have passed it already as we had run out of any more uphill and had started downwards into Town! It turns out that Heartbreak Hill is a vertical climb of just 88 feet. Typical. The Americans must have made a big thing over nothing…

The Marathon weekend atmosphere in Boston was building now with constant press coverage and everyone was incredibly friendly to anyone wearing one of the marathon jackets. In addition, the Boston Red Sox (Baseball) always play at home on this weekend and this year the Bruins (Ice Hockey) and Celtics (Basketball) were both in the end of year play offs and were also playing at home and all of the teams turned around recent losing streaks to start winning this weekend. The four of us were lucky enough to get tickets to see the Red Sox play at the famous Fenway Park. On the Sunday, we attended the Pasta Party (free to runners) which included as much beer and really good tasty pasta meals as you wanted. The atmosphere was building still.

Jason and Mark took the early morning Marathon buses escorted by police outriders from Boston to the Athletes village at Hopkington where Joe and I joined them. The morning was perfect for running. It was a cool (approx 6 deg C, rising to about 15 deg C by the time I finished) with a 10-20 mph tail wind. Excellent.

I have struggled with injury since mid January when I strained my muscles in my stomach / groin area and so my training during January February and March was hampered. Then, two weeks before the big day, 6 miles into a run, I had a severe pain which forced me to stop and finish half way into a run in Putney and I had to catch a train to the end. As a result, I though I would rest until the big day and hope for the best.

I started out okay and was on track for my 3:30 target but the Ibuprofen gel started to wear off and so by mile 11 the pain was pretty intense and I could only run for maybe 400 meters to half a mile at a time before having to stop. My race was effectively over at this point and I really was not sure if I could finish. I initially thought I would get to the 13.1 mile timing mat so that Carmela and Sharon (who I knew would be watching the timing splits on the web) would see me at that point and so wouldn’t be too worried before I could call on the mobile.

However, I was fortunate to meet a guy called Sean Maher from San Diego who was in a similar condition as me and we helped each other get from one stop light to the next, taking pain and stretch breaks as we went. He was a 3:18 qualifier and was also 43 and was also in a similar job so we got along well.

One unexpected bright spot in this however, was Wellesley College or the “Scream Tunnel” as I now understand it is called. Here, maybe a thousand.screaming college girls with signs begging for runners to stop and give them a kiss. One had a sign saying she was a “Southern Belle” who must have been testing the trade descriptions act, but it was good fun and I must confess I slowed up a lot and took a few stops along that part of the course… Most of the male runners I could see were succumbing to the sirens’ calls….memorable fun and an image that will stay with me for a long time.

We reached the now familiar Newton Hills and we managed to run up Heartbreak Hill. Even here at 21 miles, with 5 miles downhill to go, I was not sure I would finish and I was slowing up still further. I see that the last measured 5K took me a rather pathetic and painful 41 minutes to complete, but I got there and Sean and I crossed the Finish line together with arms aloft. My second confession of this write up is that on finishing we were so relieved that we had a “Man Hug”. I have since sought confirmation from other American colleagues that this is now a common and acceptable thing ….but I am not so sure.

However, moving on to the others; Leading us home in great style was Jason Blair in another sub-3 hour time of 2:59:02. An awesome run and fully deserved Jason. Jason ran this time knowing that he is to run the 35 mile Two Oceans Ultra in South Africa this Saturday. Well done Jason. Safe travels and have a great one in South Africa.

Next was Mark Weight in a time of 3:15:09 which is a qualifying time Boston next year but under the new times announced earlier this year would not be a qualifying time for the 2013 event (for a 40-44 year old male Vet). This was just 8 days after running 3:12 at Brighton. Once again, very impressive Mark especially on fatigued legs.

Mark Enderby ran strong for a time 3:27:51 and Joe Brewer was pleased to get his sub-3:30 time of 3:28:04 having been injured during most of his training and having notched up one long run of just 15 miles. Boston was Joe’s fourth marathon of the five “Majors” and now just has Chicago to go now….(Pegs plants the seed and walks away to leave it to germinate….Reader – please water regularly).

All in all. This is a special event and if you are able to, I would recommend giving it a go. It’s a big effort and commitment but the atmosphere both during the run up and when on course is second to none. Going with friends from the club definitely made it worthwhile for me. It would not have been half as good without you. Thanks Guys.

Enjoy your running.


PS I finally finished in 4:25:23. Some were saying it was getting dark. It was my slowest marathon by some margin and more than an hour slower than my 3:18 qualification time from Paris last year. But you can always take something from your running. I learnt I was more stubborn than I thought and that you can make great friends in the most unusual of places….