The oldest marathon in the world. A marathon of mythical proportions and not just because of the unicorn. The marathon I finally ran last Monday. Is the reputation right? Or is it exaggerated? It's not exaggerated at all. It is the most special marathon I have experienced, but more on that later. Before the start I was bursting with confidence. I had run pretty good prep, I was in great shape, tapered well and stacked good carbs in the two days leading up to the race. In addition, I had done extensive research into the course and developed a good race plan and I was going to stick to it. What could go wrong?
Part of the marathon anticipation is checking the weather far in advance. It makes no sense to do that two weeks in advance, but you feel like it and you think of little else, so you do it anyway. The weather for this race went in all directions for two weeks, but the last few days the temperature of the weekend has risen more and more. The day before the race it was 27 degrees but it would cool down on Monday, it would be 16-17 degrees and there would be clouds. A bit warm but not unbearable.
To the start
The alarm goes off at 05.00, I wake up pretty quickly. I woke up every hour all night. Pretty standard the night before a marathon, although the heat didn't help. I quickly jump in the shower, get dressed and make breakfast to eat about 3.5 hours before the start. Then I take the subway to the place where we can leave our bags and take the bus to the start in Hopkinton. You can bring a small bag for drinks and food, the rest all stays in Boston. The typical yellow American school buses are fantastic. The atmosphere that has been there all weekend is fantastic. Rarely experienced something so beautiful. The marathon doesn't feel like a big marathon at all and that's what makes it so fantastic. When we arrive at the athletes' village in Hopkinton, we have to wait plus drink coffee and water before we can go to the start. Maybe we shouldn't have waited in the full sun but in the shade. It is a lot warmer than expected and there is not a cloud to be seen, but I remain positive. At some point it is time to go to the starting areas. Now it's really almost time!
Ready for the start
We are ready in the starting boxes. Now just a little warm up + stretching and stretching and then it's time. With the American national anthem comes the first highlight of the day. As soon as it is over, two fighter jets fly over. Goosebumps! After this it really is time for the main meal: the race! Within a few minutes the starting gun sounds and we are on our way! The race plan is not very complicated, up to and including the hills it is to keep the peace. Don't over do it on the descents, which is certainly steep in the first 5K, so the assignment is: "Keep yourself in check and walk down and up with small steps".
Boylston is still far...
All guides and videos talked about a long descent in the first five kilometers. They could have said better that it was rolling terrain! It is a bit of descending and a bit of climbing and that is five kilometers long. Actually, that is longer the case, only I expected by reading in that it was a bit more down in the first five. No problem otherwise. Although not with that. I soon feel that my legs are not good. I know within a few minutes that today is going to be tough and that it will be fighting but I don't give in and just keep going according to plan. I feel that my legs are not great, but it is still going well. After every mile there is a water station, at the first two I drink the water and then throw the cup away. Pretty soon after that I throw the water over my head and over my back. The tailwind cools me down a bit. Later I see showers and water being sprayed from fire hydrants, I don't hesitate and run under them. Every time I cool down I feel better and I can pick up the pace again. Although this is often short-lived.
After the first five kilometers the terrain has flattened out a bit so I can get into my rhythm. Around 17K there is still a reasonable climb. Legs feel heavy and I think: "Am I going to break already?". This thought is already suppressed the next kilometer when I run another kilometer at the right pace. Now I am quickly approaching the world famous point at Wellesley: “The Tunnel of Scream”. You would hear them before you see them. Well that's right! You see trees and the road goes up slightly in front of you but you already hear the beginning of the hurricane of sound. Goosebumps again!
There they are...
The kilometers between Wellesley and Newton are a bit 'filler' and it is also quieter than in the other kilometers. It is especially 'filler' because it is the lead-up to the dreaded moment: the Newton Hills. Four hills in a row with a high point or low point, it depends on how you see it ;). I see the Newton sign appear and I want to say to myself and those around me: “Now it really starts”. In the meantime I am no longer concerned with my final time, so I no longer look at the pace on my watch during the climb, but at the number of kilometers. They are crawling by right now. It's actually going pretty well, but fun is different. I soon lose count of how many hills I run. On what I think is Heartbreak Hill I think I'm up a dozen times. You climb and then it flattens out again but then you are not there because then you start climbing again and that 4-5 times. I'm looking for the Black Roses flag on Heartbreak Hill because there's also the cheer zone next to the top! Finally I see them! They're on the left. I walk in the middle of the road. Small problem here, I don't want to deviate from my line at all… still I shoot left into the cheer zone. I would also get Maurten here (the "secret" weapon of the elite, men like Bekele , Kipchoge etc.), this just doesn't work, but luckily I still have a gel for the last part.
In the race plan, the idea was now to blast, fly down and rake in that negative split. That was no longer the case. I had executed the plan towards perfection, but lesser legs and the heat had thrown a spanner in the works. From now on it's just ramping up, so just going down like I've been doing all day so not throwing in the extra gear. At this point, I'm bitching. Rarely has a plan been executed so well, but in the end today is not the day for this. I think in the end 99% can't run the race they came up with. The kilometers fly by fairly quickly, it is not easy and I often think: “I can just walk a bit..“. I'm getting better and better at suppressing this thought. Two more climbs to Boylston and the finish. I take them reasonably, everything hurts even more but I keep a rhythm. Just a little bit more and we'll turn Boylston on an I can see the finish!
I already knew that, but once you get onto Boylston it's still painfully far! You see the finish but still have to run something like 800 meters. I'm really running out now, although I see later that I accelerated a bit in the last 200 meters. Meanwhile, I enjoy the mega masses on the side screaming you to the finish! When I cross the finish line I'm glad I don't have to run anymore. I don't like how my legs feel. I expected more pain 😉 I walk through the finish area and as soon as I get water I drink two half liter bottles within a minute. Ooooh I was so dehydrated! I have now hung my medal proudly on my neck. A little later I am in the beautiful park and I want to lie down, with quite a bit of effort and pain I finally succeed. Now to try and get some pain out of my legs and then… BEER!
Boston was the dream come true on Monday last week. It exceeded all my expectations and was a fantastic experience. I totally get why people want to come back for this race so often! I also want to come back! How the event lives and is organized is unparalleled! What do I think of my race? I'm not disappointed. I wasn't happy that my legs weren't strong in the beginning, I think it was partly because I didn't drink enough the day before when it was 27 degrees, although that was really hard to drink. I am very happy how I executed the race plan, handled water + the gels smartly and well and that I got everything right and let's say enjoyed the whole experience! The conclusion for me is mainly that I wasn't the only one who quickly realized that I didn't have good legs. 99% had the same and on average most of them came out about 14-15 minutes above their target time and that's true for me too. I can actually be proud. Four weeks ago I had another epileptic attack, this time I recovered super fast. Combined with the heat, 3.08 is pretty good. At the end of September we are going to Berlin to sharpen my PR!