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 ran the marathon distance for the first time in 2006 at the Melbourne Marathon. It then took me over 4 years before completing my next marathon. Then in the 3 years following my second marathon I completed road races covering the marathon distance or longer on 23 occasions. But it took me 8 years to run the Melbourne Marathon for a second time.
Back in 2006 the Melbourne Marathon followed a point-to-point route, starting 42 km south-east of Melbourne and following a fairly straight line into the city to finish just south of the city centre. Since then the route has changed to start in the sports district of Melbourne and to finish at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). The race has previously finished with a lap of the hallowed turf, but unfortunately this year would finish in the parkland just outside the ground.
I arrived at the start line in 2014 having not run further than 26 km since my previous race at the end of August, but I lined up alongside the 3-hour pace bus. When I found out that they intended to run a positive split by crossing halfway in 88:30 I decided that I would set off behind them, but expected to finish ahead.
In the early kilometres I struggled to settle into a rhythm, frequently checking my watch as I seemed to be running either too fast or too slow. It was only after looping around a section of the Melbourne Grand Prix track, and starting the descent towards the beach that I felt settled with my pace. I tend to find that I have a pretty good idea of how a marathon will unfold at around 17-18 km in, and it was at that point that I noted I was running ahead of 3-hour pace and felt comfortable that I would cross the line prior to that barrier with some time to spare. From that point on I rarely looked at my watch, and about 19 kilometres into the race I passed the 3-hour pace bus.
The PE City Marathon (down on the south coast of South Africa in the city of Port Elizabeth) is a race with some very good memories. In 2011 after a good season of training I travelled down there with Kirsten and Lindsey where I recorded my current marathon PB of 2:58:46. Kirsten had also recorded a PB so we proceeded to celebrate very hard, but luckily this a running blog so I won’t go into the details of the post-race celebrations.
This year I again travelled down with Kirsten and Lindsey, but with a very different target. With an important 100-km race coming up in January the PE City Marathon would form part of a full training week prior to starting my taper. I had completed the RAC Tough One the previous Sunday (read my race report here) and had completed a full training week. I tend to vary my rest day between Monday and Friday but had planned my rest for Friday on that week so that I would run the marathon off slightly rested legs, and it avoided me having to squeeze in a workout on the day I travelled to PE.
As per last year Kirsten and I would be staying with a mate in PE. Chris had been unable to run last year due to injury but was running this year after getting in some decent training. Earlier in the year Chris had discussed targeting a sub-3:20 marathon and I had offered to pace him since it was around the pace that I wanted to run. However as the race drew nearer he decided that he hadn’t managed quite enough training and decided to target a slower sub-3:30 time instead. He then suggested that I could run with another friend, Jane, who would be targeting a sub-3:20. The night before the race while chatting at Chris’ house it came up that he didn’t have a running watch, so I offered him mine since I would be running with Jane anyway.
On race morning after a couple of kilometres warming up we headed to the start line, and Kirsten muscled his way to the front with the quick runners. I stood around looking for someone I recognised until I spotted Chris waving me over. Beside him was Jane and we started discussing the race plan. It turned out that her running watch was sitting in her house broken and waiting to be repaired, so after kindly lending mine out the previous night we were left without a watch between us. Luckily another friend of Jane was also targeting a sub-3:20 and was wearing a watch. Davera has been 11th female home at Comrades on three occasions and has a marathon PB of 2:48, but luckily for us she was running her first marathon since having a child earlier in the year.
Often it is a chance occurrence that can turn an ordinary training run into something special.
Yesterday I set off for a run on one of my regular routes. The weather was a bit cooler than ideal, my legs felt fine without feeling great so it started off as just a regular run. By the end of the run I felt rejuvenated and inspired.