In 2016 I returned to run my second Boston Marathon. I never wrote a report of my first race there because I could never work out the story I wanted to tell. That first time took place in 2013 and many narratives of that race have already been told.
I was joined in 2013 by two great running mates. On a remarkable day in fantastic conditions, all three of us managed to achieve best times over the marathon. It was a day to be celebrated, and it started off that way as we enjoyed drinks in the Lenox Hotel, with a view of runners headed down Boylston St towards the finish line from one story above street level. The bombs that went off were to either side of the hotel.
By the following day armoured vehicles were parked on Boston Common, and at the airport, as we prepared to depart two days after the race we were interviewed by the FBI. The manhunt was still ongoing and they were interested in any photos or video from the finishing area.
I knew that Boston would respond and considered returning for the 2014 race, but it didn’t fit in with my travels at that time. So in 2016 I returned to enjoy a Boston Marathon trip from start to finish.
I had no company for this trip, but as I waited in a toilet queue I started up a conversation with a guy just behind me when I spotted his Seattle Running Club cap. Then it turned out that the guy in front of me was also from Seattle so we talked about favourite running spots.
I had qualified with a time five minutes faster than in 2013 but would start from the same wave and corral. In another parallel to 2013, my target was not to race flat out but rather to slip in under the three-hour mark. In 2013 I had gone three minutes under that mark for a PR.
I set out at a controlled pace, and similar to 2013 I was amazed at the quality of the Boston field, with the narrow road out of Hopkinton packed ahead of me with runners averaging a pace that would take them under three hours for the marathon. I had this run plotted into my training plan with a controlled start and then a faster finish, but had not defined specific pacing. I went through halfway in over 1:31, and started calculating required pacing to the finish. Just before the start of the Newton hills I realised that I had left myself a bit more work that intended.
I picked up the pace and as I ran the four hills at a pace faster than my average up to that point, I felt as if I was flying past other runners. I crested Heartbreak Hill and picked up the pace even further, pushing towards the finish and enjoying the feel of running at speed. I eventually calculated that I would make my target but continued to accelerate, crossing the line in just under 2:59.
After the collecting my medal and funnelling out of the finish area, I made my way to an Aussie-owned cafe for a meat pie, returned to my accommodation for a shower, and by early evening I was on a flight back to Seattle. My post-race was in many ways quite unexciting, but it was exactly what I was after.