Your Wellness Team had a busy past weekend!  Cristin was in Missoula for her first triathlon, the Grizzly Tri, and Neal was in Boston for the 118th Boston Marathon.  Both had experiences to share.  Look forward to hearing all about Cristin’s first triathlon experience tomorrow.  Meanwhile, here is a report from Neal about Boston:

Every time I run a marathon I say it will be my last one. I was a middle-distance runner in high school and college, which means my comfort distances range between a mile and two miles. I like to run fast. Because of this, I had always shied away from the thought of doing a full marathon.  I was no stranger to distances between 5k and the half-marathon, but 26.2 miles is a long way. However, when I lived in New York City, I thought I would be remiss not to run the NYC Marathon, as it is the largest athletic event in the world, and an amazing race through all five NYC Boroughs. I ended up running twice in NY, and in so doing earned a qualifying time for Boston. Using the same logic, I signed up for the 2013 Boston Marathon—many runners train for years to qualify for Boston, and I had a QT. Boston is the oldest and perhaps most prestigious marathon in the world. I had to do it.

Last year, for me, the stars aligned, the weather cooperated, and I ran my personal-best, breaking the 3-hour barrier for the first time. I was ecstatic and very emotional about being able to successfully run such a challenging race. My euphoria was short-lived, however, when a little over an hour later, as I sat recovering in a downtown pub eating french fries, everything changed. You know the story.

Three days after the race and the bombings, I was back home, and I watched the memorial service for the victims, in which President Obama spoke.  This is how he closed his speech:

And this time next year, on the third Monday in April, the world will return to this great American city to run harder than ever, and to cheer even louder, for the 118th Boston Marathon. Bet on it. 

I thought last year might be my last marathon, but especially after hearing those words, I knew I was going back. I wanted to run to send a message. To say that we will not be afraid, that we will carry on, that we will continue to exercise the freedom to pursue the things we love, and to honor those who could not run. The amazing thing I learned was that this wasn’t just my reaction—this seemed to be some universal human resolve. The field had to be expanded this year to accommodate around 9,000 more runners, and the crowd of spectators doubled to around one million. The message was loud and clear. For me, the best part of the was the start of the race—feeling the collective emotion of the throng of runners, spectators, and volunteers.  Just before the starting gun, the announcer shouted,

“Now we take back the streets of Boston!”

It was awesome. The energy from the crowd was electric for the entire race.

The start my also have been my favorite part because, unlike last year, I didn’t quite have the same gas in my tank. I hit almost identical splits over the first half of the course as last year, but I knew by some early fatigue in my legs that the second half would be a challenge.  As I climbed infamous Heartbreak Hill at mile 20, the temperatures were climbing as well. Even though it was only 65 degrees, between the full-sun and the pavement, I wilted. As you know, there were not many warm weather training opportunities this winter in Montana, and it was catching up to me. By mile 23 I was cramping and not sweating anymore, both early signs of dehydration and heat illness. Knowing there was no shot at a personal best, but still wanting to finish, I checked into a medical tent at Mile 24. I had only two miles to go, but in my state it might as well been 100.

I received some great care in the med tent, along with heaping portions of Gatorade and water. The staff threw in a salt cube and orange for good measure. Eventually, when I started cracking jokes with the med staff, I knew I was probably good enough to stagger along to the finish line. After what that city, and so many, went through last year, there was no way I wasn’t finishing this race. It wasn’t pretty, but I got it done, and I’m glad I was there to be a part of it.

Will it be my last marathon? Definitely maybe. For now, it’s about to be summer in Montana. I have some mountains to climb.

boston medal
Better late than never.


2 thoughts on “Weekend Race Report Part 1 (Boston)

  1. Neal,
    Congratulations on Boston (again). Thanks for sharing your race woes too. Finishing when you “have fuel in the tank” may lead to better times, better memories and more “1 more time”races, but stories from fit, trained athletes having things go wrong on race day and having to dig deep to keep going are even more inspirational to many of us. While every marathon has its inspirational moments, I hope nothing ever, ever competes against this year’s Boston for stories of people having to overcoming harrowing obstacles (to put it mildly) just to walk, run or cheer at a race! Peace – Leah

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