This year, my third consecutive Boston Marathon, I had set some ambitious goals and had some unfinished business to resolve. Last year, on a warm day and with a nagging hamstring injury, I ran a belabored and disappointing 3:23. In 2013, I ran a 3:20, a huge PR at the time but one that was greatly overshadowed by the tragic events of the Boston bombing that day.
This year, with a target finish time of 3:10, four minutes faster than my then-current personal best (run on the relatively flat Richmond course last fall), I needed to run 7:14 average mile splits. I knew this goal would be challenging for Boston, especially given the rainy, cold, and windy weather conditions last Monday.
Thanks to a great race plan built by advice from Coach Jerry, Greg and Marty McCormick (PR 2:37 at Boston last year), I knew what I had to do. Rather than running exactly even 7:14 splits (which would be 1:35 at the half), I set myself up to manage the hilly second half of the race, with four hills from miles 16-21, by running hard early but comfortably at 7:08 pace for the first half, with a goal of 1:33:30. This would allow me to slow down to as much as 7:21/mile for the second half if I needed to, finishing with a second half of 1:36:30 and still breaking 3:10 (if I had a little gas left in the tank for a finishing kick).
Despite a slow and crowded first mile (7:40), everything else went according to or better than planned. I didn’t freak out from the slow start and try to make it up. I just hit all my splits for the first half at 7:08 or better, and the half was right on pace (1:34:07, factoring in the slow first mile).
But, the great thing after that was, even when I hit the hills starting at mile 16, I didn’t slow down as planned to 7:21 pace. The windy and rainy conditions didn’t bother me much – in fact, I barely noticed them. I had a powerful stride up the hills, loosened up and ran hard on the downhills, and maintained a 7:10-11 per mile average through 20 miles. Mile 21 (with Heartbreak Hill) was my slowest mile, at 7:24. But I followed that up with a 6:59 for mile 22. Once I was through Heartbreak, I just focused on coasting in the last five miles at an even 7:08 pace or faster.
My legs did begin to tighten up at miles 23/24 from the cold and wind, so it was a bit of a challenge to maintain pace, but I kept up 7:04-7:11 pace through mile 25. The classic Citgo sign at the 25.2 mile mark gave me a boost, though I was hurting at this point. I hit 7:18 for mile 26. But once I turned down Boylston Street, the energy of the crowd and the achievement of a sub 3:10 PR was all I needed to bring it in. I ran an almost identical second half marathon of 1:34:27 and final finish time of 3:08:34, a six minute PR.
Thanks to everyone at NOVA for your help along the way. I’ve got no plans for another marathon any time soon – I want to focus on PRs in the shorter distances this fall. Looking forward to seeing what else I can do!