Boston Marathon: Race Report (or How to Reconcile Things)

(Note: OK, yes, shorter posts again soon. Sorry.)

I’m back in California now and here things are less as singularly-focused on possible attacks — fewer police obviously, fewer evacuations and transit shut-downs. There’s also less of the ‘we’re all in this together’ thing here outside of the running community. In Boston and on the endurance sports internet, everyone wants to know how they can help and how they’re all going to stand together and not be afraid, but I don’t know, fear is ok sometimes. There’s been lots of insisting on wearing race shirts to represent and show solidarity, lots of going out for 4.09 mile runs (because that’s what the time clock said) or 26.2 miles or the 5 miles left that people weren’t able to finish.

These kinds of things are not really my kind of thing. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with them. You should do whatever you feel you need to do, but I have a hard time with those sorts of public displays. It’s not that I don’t appreciate a good rousing insistence that we will come back stronger and it’s not that I haven’t teared up more than a few times, but if I think about what would help me if I was one of the people in the hospital or one of the people who’s loved ones had died, then I don’t think it would be a bunch of strangers running. But, maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know.

There is a memorial tribute shirt being sold by Adidas with all funds going to the One Fund Boston, or you could just donate to One Fund Boston — which is supposed to go directly to the people who need the help the most. Or, maybe you can ID these ‘persons of interests’ for the FBI. Not that any of those things would necessarily make me feel better. Maybe running would.

So, basically, I have mixed feelings. Those mixed feelings extend to the actual race as well, before everything went to hell. I feel bad that I dropped out. Everyone after kept asking me if I finished and when I finished and did I not get to finish because they stopped me, but I kept having to say, ‘No, I just quit.’

I didn’t love the race, though. I wasn’t wowed by the crowds and I felt miserable most of the 10.5 miles I ran. It was sort of like when everyone told me I had to race the Wildflower Triathlon, it’s soooo much fun, so I did and hated it and didn’t sleep because of all the crazed yelling and just kept thinking, ‘I’ve seen drunken crowds before, this isn’t that exciting.’ But, I didn’t even make it to halfway in Boston, so now I feel like I have to finish, I need to give it a second shot.

Here’s a picture of Rachel and I before the race at Hawaii House:

I look like a midget.
I look like a midget.

The cortisone shot worked. My foot didn’t hurt — though it may come back and I may have to deal with that at some point (it even started to twinge from all the walking around in Boston). But, what did hurt during the race was everything else.

I had thought the first half of the race would be easy. I am fit and the first halves of marathons are always suppose to be easy, right? And I think everyone kind of agreed that the wheels were going to come off sometime between 15 and 20 miles and I’d just have to hang on. The question was how much and when.

But, Friday I went for a four-mile run, with a couple strides and a mile slightly faster than race pace, and was crippled with pain the rest of the day: hamstrings, glutes, IT band. While I limped around Saturday, I started to suspect I might not be able to do this.

It seems not having run outside in four weeks other than a few 20′ runs to test the foot, left me not totally prepared to run outside.

I don’t love the whole EXPERIENCE of big races like this. It’s fun, but never puts me into that race zone/killer instinct place — which I was definitely counting on to get me through things. I caught a ride with Rachel in the morning after sleeping 45′ that whole night and hung out in a fancy mansion for 2.5 hours. That kind of hanging out, without a real warm-up, throws me off. I sort of started to doze and zone out. And, I couldn’t figure out what to eat. I don’t know. I just felt weird.

I started running right on pace (7:06s and 7:08s) and staring and staring at my watch. I probably should have felt the crowds more and gotten into, but I felt nauseous from the beginning. Sometimes the best races you never feel good. At least that’s what I told myself, but by mile six I was running 7:15-7:20s and having a hard time doing that. It wasn’t hard the way trying to run a 5K is hard, but I was pushing way too much for six miles into a marathon and I knew it. I stopped staring at my watch and decided I needed to just run a more sustainable pace if I wanted any shot at finishing, so I did a few miles at 7:30-40. But, it didn’t help. My feet were burning the way your feet burn after 20 miles. My hamstring felt like it was ripping and my IT band on the other leg was pinching in my knee. My legs felt like lead. Basically, I felt like how the last six miles of a marathon feel — but I was only eight or nine miles in.

I even thought about how everyone says it’s such a great experience and you should just enjoy it, so I thought I’d just finish and have fun. I ran another couple miles even slower, but I wasn’t having fun. At 10.5 miles I bee-lined to the med tent, stopped, and said, “I want out.”

I think this was at 10K, when I realized this was not going to end well.
I think this picture was at 10K, when I realized this was not going to end well.

I think if I hadn’t missed the couple of long runs I had on my schedule or if I had only had to water-run and Alter-G for 2-3 weeks or if I had gotten the cortisone shot earlier and had more time to get my legs under me or if the race was shorter, maybe I’d have been able to pull it off. I felt really bad about myself after because I’m pretty sure I could have gone a few more miles at least, maybe I could have slogged out a walk/shuffle finish in something close to four hours. But then I’d have gotten to the finish maybe 30-45′ later than I did, which wouldn’t have been good either, in any way.

I’m not sure what to do now. I can’t decide. I have mixed feelings. I feel like I should run, but I don’t know if I want to. I don’t know if I should try and capitalize on what was some very good fitness four weeks ago or if I should just rest. I haven’t done anything since Monday; Tuesday I was crippled from running the 10.5 miles (which suggests that yeah, my legs were not ready for a marathon).

I don’t know. I’m sort of at loose ends.

15 thoughts on “Boston Marathon: Race Report (or How to Reconcile Things)

  1. well you can always swim if that is your thing. It isn’t yours. You can always bike. Running always comes back. I think I have *started* training for my last 5’ish marathons only to be injured along the training. Never even showing up for race day. Know what?? I am planning on starting again next week. Tuesday, and Thursday 6.7 mile runs. I am healthy’ish, but I like running, and I will be running with friends. I like that.

    My best to you Kelly. You know I like you, and wish the best. 🙂


  2. Understand this. My body doesn’t magically pull off marathons either unless I have a shitload of miles, on the road, at goal pace in the most recent 12 weeks. Some people have access to a sort of race magic where everything comes together on race day even when it didn’t in training. I am not one of those people! Rest up and start running again when you feel like you want to.

  3. […] My plan after Boston was that I was going to so thoroughly cripple myself by finishing, and I had so thoroughly crippled my will to workout through hours of water running and Alter-Ging, that I would do nothing but lay on the couch for at least two weeks. I had/have no plans for the rest of the year and a good rule of thumb is to not make any in the immediate aftermath of a race (even if you don’t finish said race). […]

  4. I can relate to many of your feelings about not being drawn to running community events, not loving huge crowds at races….I often feel like an outsider to this whole running community. I do think experiencing crowds like that would be something else. Hope to give it a try someday.

    Even the best have to drop out of races when it clearly isn’t their day. I’m glad you didn’t break your body by pushing on.

    1. I liked Chicago, which is twice the size of Boston. I just feel underwhelmed by races that everyone raves about, like you keep expecting a unicorn to shit gold in front of you.

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