This post was originally written for The Adaptive Howlers. My running group, my friends, and an inspiring group of people that I have the privilege to coach.
I haven’t done a race report since 2016. I thought about it. Tried. But my races since then have been a little methodical. I’m proud of my Mississauga, Pittsburgh and Hamilton Marathons, the races since my Toronto Marathon, but I felt I have nothing to add. Nothing new to share. . My 2016 Toronto Report is here. I will try again now.
My 2019 Boston Marathon, while not my fastest marathon, may be the best race that I have ever run.
Boston is hard. One of the runners that I had the pleasure to coach, Trevor D, told me after his Boston, that despite all the prep and insight that I tried to give he didn’t understand until he raced this race. It’s hard.
My second best race that I have ever run before the 2019 Boston is the 2012 Boston Marathon. I didn’t beat the course that day and wasn’t close to my personal best time either but I ran well. The course crushed me in 2008 and again in 2014.
I had a very good training session leading up to The Race. I had a break through personal best time in Hamilton in November 2018 and, after a 6 week break, was strong and ready to begin the fitness build again mid way through December. It was a tough winter in Toronto for runners. We didn’t have those little thaw breaks that we usually get. (sorry the rest of Canada!) Despite the conditions, I trained extensively with the Adaptive Runners and remained strong. Most of my paces were different than the group, but having friends out there with you makes all the difference! Remarkably, considering our winter, I’m not sure that I missed a scheduled training day!
Race day morning was tough! I planned to meet friends at Boston Common but due to weather (raining like heck!) we were separated. I waited in the rain but had to make the decision to get in the bus to the start. (I did get a chance to say hi to Paul, who also ran well that day, and Trevor who will one day race Boston! )
Hopkinton (the start of the race) kind of came and went. I watched for my friends also racing, but no luck. Despite all, everything felt good. I had dry clothes in my pack, my shoes were dry and I was ready to race!
At the start I went to the front of coral 3. Sure enough I found 2 fellow Adaptive Howlers, Coach Stan Ong and Jane Weber (who would finish as the 4th fastest Canadian woman!) I tend to be very focused, but I have to admit that seeing friends tends to calm me. (Not as much as my wife Yvonne, but she couldn’t make the trip this time) Still, it was good to see friends.
We were close enough to the start to see the elite runners come to the start. Then the gun sounded and the race began. I fell in to pace quick. It’s such a tough thing mentally at the start. Trying to decide if you are going to fast or too slow. This time I trusted the runners around me. They all had similar qualifying times. I didn’t pass much, just kept my pace.
At 3k I experienced shortness of breath. Talking the talk and walking the walk is tough! I tell the runners that I coach to persevere! Marathons are full of ups and downs and I had no idea what was happening but I stayed the pace because that is what I tell my runners. The coughing and shortness of breath occurred for about 3k then subsided.
Almost directly after I was comfortable with my breathing sharp intermittent achilles pain began. Once again I didn’t lose pace. But it freaked me out! I tried to think about other things but it kept coming back to my achilles. Would it end my day? Am I doing permanent damage? Every hill I would steel myself. Arms and knees! (Adaptive runners hear that a lot from me!) The whole run I kept wondering if this was my last race. The marathon plays tricks with our minds!
Funny thing is my pace never wavered. At the half I was 1:26:10. Slower than I intended but my body was strong. I assumed my friends Jane and Stan were ahead but that didn’t bother me either. That’s the funny thing about teams. You want the best for your comrades!
Somewhere past the half way point I saw my friends Jeff and Trevor cheering and they gave me strength.
The infamous Newton Hills arrived. Once again I steeled myself. Arms and knees! I ran them well and at the top my body felt good.
At the top of Heart Break Hill I ran hard to loosen up my legs, it felt good.
It’s hard to explain the rest of the race. I kept running hard and passing other runners. The Boston crowd are so knowledgeable that they saw me coming and running hard and responded so loudly and with such encouragement towards me. Only in Boston will you experience this much appreciation for our sport!
I continued to kick for the last 8k of the Boston Marathon. The crowds responded and I kept going.
I have no answers about where my strength came from that last 8k. Normally I run to see my wife Yvonne. I run to make her proud but I am probably fooling myself. I run for validation and I am proud that she sees it.
At the end of the race I felt down. I felt that I hadn’t worked hard enough. Normally my body lets me down. This time I wondered if it was my competitive spirit that lacked. Later, when I looked at how I did against the field I felt better about the race and about myself. I missed a negative split by 30 seconds. Rats! That would have been something!
It was a good result. It is my last Boston. But it was a good Boston.
2:52:43. 23rd in category. Pretty good at a World Major event.