Marathons are tricky, because there is so much you try to control…yet there’s actually so much that you have zero control of, namely the weather. I’ve run 3 Bostons and have experienced 3 COMPLETELY different race scenarios and weather patterns:
1) Perfect weather! My dream day! Huge PR! (2014)
2) Monsoon. Ran within 12 seconds of ’14. And broke my femur along the way, FML. (2015)
3) Heatwave. Readjusted goals mid-race and scored another PR! (2016)
Then I’ve coached a couple more Bostons:
1) Heatwave #2 (2017)
2) Hurricane (2018)
So let’s face it: at this point, you don’t run the Boston Marathon because you know you’re going to have an amazing weather day. You run it for the experience and you run it to be a part of history. Proclaiming yourself as a Boston Finisher is no small feat, and I tell every person I coach that they should never take their Boston experience for granted, even if it’s not the day they were hoping for. We like to think our running days will never end…but the truth is that you never know when you’ll cross that finish line again.
I, like many others, totally under-estimated the severity of the weather from last year’s Boston. When I watched a girl in a purple shirt with the name SELLERS run in front of me on Boylston St., placing 2nd, I knew something was weird. And just minutes after that, I watched Molly Huddle death march down the street, skin white as a ghost, looking like she might collapse at any second. In those moments, I knew the day was going to produce some really intense stories and experiences, and that just finishing would be a victory.
So with Monday’s weather reports looking eerily similar to last year’s (and we’re all thinking, “IT CAN’T BE THAT BAD AGAIN…CAN IT?!”) —I’ve reached out to a few speedy friends to get their take on running last year’s Boston. I wanted to know what they learned and what they would do differently. Because I could talk all day about pacing and remind you all to bring a yoga mat to Athlete’s Village to sit on. But that shit’s boring and I already wrote about it in other posts throughout my blog.
Not surprisingly, the answers from my friends had many similarities. The biggest takeaway? You are stronger than you realize. And the reality is that, no matter the weather, you CAN run a strong 26.2 mile race and enjoy the hell out of Boston. It’s important to stay calm, trust your training, focus on yourself, and just run.
Question 1: What did you learn from running Boston in a hurricane?
I learned that I am stronger than I think! That racing in conditions not conducive to a PR can be a fun test of how much you love the sport and are willing to fight for a finish and something you’ve worked so hard for. I am so unbelievably proud of myself for being brave, strong, and resilient and if I ever doubt that about myself again–I will look back on how strong I was on Patriot’s Day in 2018.
I learned that your mind is stronger than your body. Also wearing a throwaway rain jacket to get rid of along the course and bringing a change of shoes/socks was life-changing. And it’s so much easier to pee in torrential downpours with 0% visibility.
I learned that sometimes you have to let go of all the strange details you can cling to in running and just have fun out there. For the first 15mi or so of that race, I was having some of the most fun I’d ever had running in my whole life. The insanity of the conditions simplified everything for me: just run. The two athletes I coached in the race ran lifetime PRs because they were tough, excited and never lost sight of the fact that this was still the Boston Marathon despite the conditions. I was definitely inspired by all the athletes who found their way to Boylston that day and commend their grit, determination, freedom and preparation.
I learned that plastic gloves can save your life and sometimes extra wet layers can man you colder.
I learned to not be so stubborn, and that listening to my coach and adjusting my race plan was necessary. I started about 10-15 seconds slower per mile than I had planned because we accounted for the headwind. I heard plenty of women around me freaking out and ditching their plan and jogging it from the start. I did not. I went in with an adjusted plan, knowing it could fail, and hoping for the best. Mostly because I did not train this hard to give up without trying.
Question 2: What would you have done differently?
- If you run cold, adjust your outfit. If you wear contacts, make sure you have a hat. If it’s going to rain, assume the start village will be muddy and bring a pair of throw away sneakers and socks. The elements do not define your race. You get to do that.
- I dressed for a light drizzle. I’ve raced in the rain and I prefer to not be weighed down by wet clothes, but man, was I underdressed! I do prefer to not race in a rain jacket, but in those monsoon-like conditions, I should have reconsidered. I wore a crop and arm sleeves. If I were to go back to Boston 2018 I would have worn a jacket or at least kept my poncho on longer. I didn’t realize how being cold and wet and blown in the wind would create hypothermic conditions.
- Bring throwaway sneakers!! I didn’t realize how much of a difference walking in wet grass and having cold and soaked feet for 3 hours BEFORE even starting would make. Bring extra socks while you’re at it! The grassy area before Boston, if it’s wet at all it will become a MUDPIT!
- The day was so crazy [I] should have gotten out of “race mode” and simply looked at it as a long run in the rain. If I woke up on a long run day and saw those conditions, I would have worn my trainers, tights, thermals, etc. and not thought so much of racing, lightness and efficiency. I would have just wanted to stay as dry and warm as was possible (which still would have been very little).
- I would have worn my racing flats. I was too worried about slipping so I wore my trainers and they were way too clunky.
- I underestimated just how much energy I was burning simply to keep my core temp up. When my stores ran out around 90mins, despite taking in my normal fuel for a marathon, I was still on empty. That’s when my body couldn’t run any more and without being able to run, I couldn’t keep the temps up and boom: I came to a screeching halt at 30k and found myself in the med tent shivering for over 60mins
- I should’ve had more to drink – it was so cold and wet that I skipped too many water stops and ended up feeling terrible in the later parts of the race.
- I struggled to take in my fuel…because I usually take in a carb liquid (Maurten) and the day was COLD. I didn’t realize that being cold would rapidly use more of my fuel stores (I learned/read about this later) and really left me even more depleted. I should have been taking in MORE, but instead because it was cold I was struggling and took in about 1/4 of what I normally would in a marathon.
- No one is expecting you to be perfect, monsoon or otherwise. Focus on yourself. If I could redo Boston last year, I would have been as calm as I was on the start line, the whole week before the race. This year, I see rain, I see wind, and I know it doesn’t matter. I am coming to race and I am going to show up either way.
- OK again, having fun and relaxing is hard to do when you’re blacking out and hypothermic. But despite my body shutting down, I was still trying to race hard. If I were to go back, I would probably let go and have fun along the course more. Still race, because that’s who I am, but take the pressure off!
- Talking with my coach after, we decided that the day was so crazy we should have gotten out of “race mode” and simply looked at it as a long run in the rain (as looking at the results showed that simply finishing gave you a good shot at the top).
- I didn’t finish and I wish I did. I wish I would have swallowed my pride a little bit and walked until I was able to jog. At the time, I felt like I didn’t care, it was too cold and I felt too beat up to keep going.. I knew people always said a DNF feels worse but I gave up.
- If I were to go back, I would have kept positive a little longer and tried to stick it out. It was kind of like cross country. I wish I had been able to pick off a few more women and stay in it longer mentally.
So no matter what Marathon Monday brings, it’s important to keep an open mind and some perspective. Whether you’re in it to race or in it to experience the magic that the city has to bring…make sure you make it a race to remember. It’s time to celebrate together and kick some serious marathon ass. All in for Boston.
Liz Campbell – 2:57 marathoner, 3:04 Boston ’18
Anoush Arakelian – 3:11 marathoner, 3:15 Boston ’18*
Tim Ritchie – 2:11 marathoner, DNF Boston ’18
Aimee Patel – 3:04 marathoner, DNF Boston ’18
Carly Gill – 2:47 marathoner, 2:55 Boston ’18