I put this Boston Marathon Race Report together in the hopes that it will entertain you and entice you to run this incredible event. Qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon was on my lifetime to-do list. And while it took years for me to qualify and many hard months to train for…it was worth every early morning run, ibuprofen & drop of sweat!
The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest & most prestigious marathon. It is the ultimate goal of most distance runners and it one of the few times outside of the Olympics that distance runners are on the world stage. It attracts runners from all over the globe and the times to qualify are age-based and fairly stringent to attain.
I ran the Boston Marathon in 2008 and it was unlike any other of my previous 8 marathons. I read about the crowds, the Newton Hills, and the final stretch after the Citgo sign, but I really was quite overwhelmed by the whole experience. It was a phenomenal event from start to finish. Here’s my 2008 Boston Marathon Race Report:
Most race expos are a giant flea market of vendors, promotions and souvenirs. Boston is no different except it’s on a much grander scale. There are speeches and book signings by all the great runners. Most of the Runner’s World staff seemed to be on hand at various times through the Expo. There was an exciting carnival-like atmosphere despite the thick crowds…and if I wasn’t pushing a baby stroller and keeping a watchful eye on my kids, I probably would have stayed there all day. The Boston Marathon was a few years in the making for me and I really wanted to get a nice souvenir for myself. I chose the windbreaker ($90). I know it’s steep, but the embroidery is really ornate. It’s a nice jacket. Besides, wearing it around town on Saturday and Sunday brought a lot of waves around town from other jacket-bearing hopefuls…and after the race it’s been a nice conversation piece. If you’re on the fence, buy it.
The Expo is located right on Boylston Street, less than a high mile from the finish. Go check it out! There are plaques, statues, and sidewalk quotes commemorating its location. Take it all in now, because on Monday there will be too many people and legs filled with lactic acid to enjoy it ;-).
If the weather is nice, take a stroll through the Boston Commons, follow a tour along the Freedom Trail, ride the famous Ducks tour bus, and visit the USS Constitution & Bunker Hill. Boston is such a nice city to walk in and can be a lot of fun if the weather cooperates. If you’re looking for a place to eat that has something for everyone, stroll by Quincy Market. Try a bread bowl of clam chowder or lobster bisque. The seating here is limited, but it’s a fun place to hang out.
The town of Hopkinton is the neatest rural New England town that the world descends upon once a year. There is a mini carnival at the starting line with vendors, media, and other events. I got there early and was able to relax and take in the whole atmosphere. I had fun chatting with runners from California, Wisconsin, Illinois, and yes, even Boston. It was also fun comparing notes about training plans, running shoes and other marathon experiences. Getting to the starting line early also afforded me some other bennies…like no port-o-john lines and catching a glimpse of the elite runners as they warmed up and stretched in the park. It’s also fun to watch the elite women’s start, and wheel chairs begin. And with the finish of the National Anthem, the roar of a jet flyover gave us a final boost of adrenalin before the gun…
As the course goes into its famous down hills, I was still riding high from the fanfare at he start. My biggest challenge in those first few miles was trying not step on someone else’s heels or elbow the runners next to me. The dense running pack was a welcome atmosphere, though, because it allowed me to relax and not go out too fast or get caught up in the downhill speed-up. The towns of Hopkinton and Ashland are nice rural New England towns. I really enjoyed the beautiful scenery and atmosphere of the start of the race and the small towns. The crowd of people along the course was amazing. Little did I know that the crowds would grow exponentially as we trekked to Boston! I was pleasantly surprised at my 5k split and felt that I could run that pace for the whole race…the town of Newton would soon squash that hope ;-).
The course can be deceptively gentle during these middle 10 miles and the energy of the crowds is amazing. In my 8 previous marathons, I don’t ever recall such a high density of cheering sections as Boston had…what a rush! I really liked the town of Natick, from the Lake Cochituate crossing to the crowds along Washington Street. And the Wellesly College girls lived up to their reputation. I could hear their screams almost ½ mile before I reached them!! It’s amazing. If you ever need a boost, run on the right shoulder and high-5 some cheering fans…they gave me a boost of energy which I would soon spend in the town of Newton…
Newton is what makes the Boston Marathon so memorable. To be completely honest, I don’t recall Heartbreak Hill as being an unconquerable beast. I do recall, however, the feeling of running past Boston College at Mile 21 and wondering, “What just happened to my legs?!”. The hills of Newton are gradual, long and can be appear deceivingly non-threatening. But as I went up that last ½ mile incline, I could really feel their cumulative effect on my legs. They also come at that point in the race that matches most people’s longest training run distance. They are a worthy adversary and one which I’ll train for next time! The crowd levels are incredible, though, and they can often drown out that little voice in your head that’s begging you to stop and walk. I got through it by slowing my pace and taking long & deep breaths. I stared down at the lines on the road because looking up for an end of the hill just depressed me. In the whole grand scheme of things, the Newton Hills were a small percentage of the race. The key was staying calm and just keep chugging.
This part of the race looks nicer on paper than it felt. The affects of the Newton hills caught up to me at this point and the challenge for me was just hanging on. When you crest that last hill just past Boston College, you can see the Boston skyline off in the distance. This brought on a mixed feeling: Part of me felt good to have the end in my sights…another part of me seemed to sink as those tall buildings seemed a lot farther away than my legs were hoping to carry me! While I did take some walk breaks through the water stops in Brookline, I tried to focus on my breathing and a steady pace. My quadriceps muscles were burning and my hamstrings and calf muscles had some mild cramps. I think this was partly due to the heat and sun, and a larger part due to the impact of miles 16-21. This is the point in any marathon when staying positive and diverting your mind is the biggest challenge. I had built up so much anticipation for the Citgo sign that I conveniently forgot the 2 miles I had to run after I got a glimpse of the famous Citgo sign?! But the Boston crowd would soon come to the rescue…
This mile deserves its own section. The 2008 Boston Marathon was my 9th marathon and my first Boston…and I’ve never experienced anything like that last mile. Part of it was internal – I just couldn’t wait to finish the Boston Marathon! But a bigger part was the thousands upon thousands of people that lined the street and made it an absolutely incredible finish line experience. You’ll be able to see the finish line over ½ mile away, as soon as you turn onto to Boylston Street. The energy of the crowd will push you to & through the finish line – it’s fantastic! And somehow those leg cramps temporarily faded away. The home stretch always feels good…Boston’s home stretch trumps them all!! Crossing that finish line, I felt like I won the race, as I’m sure the thousands of people ahead of me and behind me felt the same way. Thank you, Boston!
We only get credit for running 26.2 miles, but I easily walked at least another mile before I reached my family. Hobbling with tiny strides, we proudly donned our finish medals and foil blankets and herded like cattle to the family meeting area. The volunteers are great and they expediently handed our water, medals, food bags, and foil blankets. And ½ hour later when I finally reached my letter of the Alphabet on Stuart Street, I crumbled to the curb like a rag doll. It always amazes me how quickly your body goes from over-heated to freezing cold. I wanted that warm sweatshirt more than anything at this point (although ibuprofen was a close second). It’s also equally intriguing how I got a 2nd wind as I re-lived my 26.2 mile battle with my family and friends. And by mid-week, as the fatigue and pain of the race faded away I was on-line scouting out Marathon #10 for the Fall.
If you’re thinking of running the Boston Marathon, it’s an experience you’ll never forget. Coming into it, I thought it would be a once in a lifetime. But I know now that it’s just a matter of time before I go back. Well that’s my 2008 Boston Marathon Race Report. Hope it inspires you to write one in the coming years. Happy Running!!