I awoke to the sound of thunder around 5:30 on Marathon Monday.
All week they forecasted rain and possibly thunder and lightening during the race.
I didn’t pay much attention until Wednesday.
On Wednesday, April 10th, the BAA sent the following email update:
Marathon Monday is a fun day for all, but amateurs to elites should all remember to take the weather seriously. The current weather predictions are predicted to be similar to 2018’s race, so please keep an eye on the extended forecast and dress accordingly for the weather conditions. Packing extra layers, gloves, hats, and waterproof gear is encouraged.
By Friday meteorologists said the rain should end before the race and most likely before noon. Over the weekend the forecast improved to rain ending before 9:00 with race temps in the 50’s and some wind.
On Friday the BAA announced that Wave 4 would start immediately after Wave 3. Normally there is a 25 minute gap between waves. In 2018 when we had close to a Nor’easter they also had Wave 4 start right after Wave 3.
Even with the improving forecast, everyone knew that anything could happen.
As I had my coffee and toast I hoped that they were right. While getting dressed I noticed that the thunder had stopped and the rain seemed to be getting lighter.
I checked my go bag and running belt for the 10th time and headed out. As I drove down my street NPR said it was 7:01 on Marathon Monday, Patriots Day.
Getting to the 2019 Boston Marathon
I parked in my garage around 7:30 and walked to the Kendall/MIT Red Line T station. The rain was now light, it was reasonably warm and there wasn’t much of a breeze.
I had considered walking, but the Red Line stop at Arlington was right around the corner from the bag drop area. Last year I walked over in the rain and got soaked. The walk also added over a mile of walking which I wanted to avoid.
The train ride was uneventful and the cars were not crowded. I even made a good transition at Park Street from the Red Line to the Green Line.
In no time I was walking down Boylston Street towards the 2019 Boston Marathon finish line and looking for my bag drop. The buses where they collected our gear were not lined up in bib order so I had to look around a bit.
There were plenty of eager volunteers ready to take my bag and I was on my way to the buses in no time.
I slipped on the KT Tape poncho from The Expo and made my way down Boylston Street. As I crossed Arlington Street I heard my friend Bill Ozaslan call my name! He was directing runners towards the buses. We said hello and chatted briefly in passing.
It was great to see a friend and get some encouragement before the race.
The Walk though the Public Garden was easier than last year. The puddles were smaller and the crowd seemed lighter.
I was seeded in Wave 4 and my assigned bus loading time was 8:55 to 9:30. It was around 8:00 AM when I got in line for the buses. Wave 3 loaded from 8:00 to 8:45 AM, but no one was turned away. Their goal was to fill every seat in every bus and roll em out.
As we stood in line I chatted with several people. One young lady had come to Boston from Paris! That was pretty cool. We made idle chit-chat while waiting our turn to board.
Later in the day when I heard about the massive fire at Notre Dame I felt bad for her. She probably heard about the disaster in her home town soon after finishing the race. To feel such sorrow and anguish after achieving such a triumph.
On the bus I sat with a guy from Vancouver, BC. He went to college in Boston many years ago and had run Boston a few times before. We were both old hands at running and had a good chat all the way out to Hopkinton.2019 Boston Marathon Recap and course description Click To Tweet
Hanging with Team Mass General
When I ran for MGH in 2018 they had a heated tent for the team. Since the 2019 forecast was similar to 2018, I hoped they would have the tent again.
All training season, I hadn’t received a single email from MGH about the race. I had no idea if they would have a tent, but I was hopeful.
While working the Bib Pickup station at the Boston Marathon Expo Sunday night, me and my friend Marty Hergert started looking for an MGH Twitter account to reach out to. Turns out that MGH has many twitter handles, none of which seemed like the obvious choice to contact.
I sent a Tweet to an MGH account but didn’t get a reply until 10:24 Monday night.
They had a post race get together that I didn’t know about that until after the race also. I was too busy before the race to even think about these things.
As I walked into Athletes Village I asked a volunteer about MGH. They didn’t know but pointed to someone holding an MGH sign. The person holding the sign told me the tent was in the same parking lot as last year.
Because the first wave had been called and I had a fourth wave bib, she had to walk me through security, which was no problem. I was so grateful for her assistance.
I managed to find my way to the MGH tent in a few minutes. I had my MGH singlet on and they let me in with a smile.
The tent wasn’t heated but they had food, drink and just about anything else a marathon runner would need. They even had a DJ and an MGH photo background.
I settled in and started chatting with people like we were old friends. I recognized one older guy from last year, but that was it. I was in a room full of strangers and fellow travelers.
They had a line of porta-potties in the parking lot and I only had to wait a minute or two. When I went back inside the tent I surveyed the food and beverages, got a cup of coffee and some sort of breakfast bar. I wasn’t really hungry but I knew I would be in a few hours.
Each time I went back to the seat I claimed, there seemed to be new people around. Each time people struck up conversations like we were my old friends. It was pretty cool.
A lady next to me was putting her name on her bib with a sharpie. I asked if she would write “Andy” on both arms. No problem!
I finally got some ink!
Running 2019 Boston Marathon
Sometime after 10:00 they told us to make our final race preparations and to then head outside for some photos. I was pretty much ready to go so I headed out to the porta-potty line one last time. It’s the most important pre-race check box to tick!
People were still coming out of the tent when I exited The Loo. I tried not to be in front but the way the crowd moved into place I was pretty much in the middle. They took a bunch of photos and had a high tech camera that I think was going to make a 3-D image, or something.
With that most of us headed for the start. A few people were still getting ready.
As I walked down the street I could feel the excitement build. Even for my 9th Boston Marathon it was still a thrill to walk with the crowd towards the start.
As we approached Grove Street, the road that goes from the High School to the start area, we went through a check point. They were using wand metal detectors! I was shocked they didn’t go off since all of us had a phone, keys or something metallic on us.
The walk down Grove Street was joyous and long, as usual. Unlike 2018, people were out on their lawns wishing us well. Some folks offered supplies and I think one little girl had a free lemonade stand.
You gotta love the people of of Hopkinton. 35,000 runners massively inconvenience them and they offer the sweetest kindnesses to strangers in return. That is class.
I saw the tent for Race Cancer Foundation and my friend Jessie Lizette was there! Another friendly face to share the day with. We had a quick hug and I was on my way.
As we turned right onto Main Street and started to walk up the hill my excitement clicked up to 11. The crowds were growing and it was beginning to feel frickin real!
Like 2018, we just kept walking towards the start line. No stopping and engagement with the announcer. No camera on a huge boom swinging over the crowd. I was totally prepared this time.
As I crossed the first timing mat I started my watch. It was freakin real now!
And They’re off to Boston
In 2018 only steel barricades lined the road out of Hopkinton. This year the cheering crowd was back!
The road out of Hopkinton is down hill for the first 0.7 miles. This makes it easy to let the adrenaline and crowds carry you along like a leaf in the breeze. Everyone feels awesome at this point in the race.
I did my best to stay in the middle of the road and chill out. My left knee conveniently started acting up about two weeks before the marathon. So I was paying attention to how both knees felt as I ran that first mile.
At 0.7 miles we hit our first hill. In the first mile we lost 130 feet of elevation and that first hill gave us back 34 feet. I was so pumped up in 2003 that I didn’t even notice this hill. In subsequent years I’ve noticed it.
Over the years, I’ve become a student of the course.
I ran the hill intentionally knowing there were many more hills to come and paid attention to how everything felt.
Mile One came in at 9:31. Right on my goal pace of 9:30.
Mile two was gently rolling hills. At 2.1 miles we hit our next hill of about 29 feet.
Mile two was 9:21 and mile three was 9:12. My goal was to run even splits around 9:30, so these miles were a little fast.
I skipped the first water stop at mile two and drank from a 500ml bottle to which I had added an electrolyte mix. At 5K I took my first gel and washed it down with some water.
Somehow my bib didn’t register at the 5K mark. I believe my watch had me around 28 minutes at the 5K mark. Way off my 5K pace but close to my marathon pace.
Things were going well.
Around this time I began to think about a porta-potty stop. I really didn’t want to but sweat was dripping down my left arm. In order to keep drinking the way I knew I needed to, I would need to make a stop.
The BAA had water stations and porta-potties starting at mile two and I began to look for on open porta-potty.
The mile three porta-potties looked occupied so I kept on going. At mile four they had ten in a parking lot and at least one had a green handle.
As I ran into the parking lot someone else ran in front of me and I was afraid I’d have to wait. But as the other runner went in, a runner came out of another door.
I still had two water bottles with me and managed to balance them on the “shelf” in the corner of the porta-potty.
I timed my self and got in and out in 30 seconds. I joked that I had done a “Flannagan” like Shalane did in 2018.
Mile four came in at 9:36 with my pit stop, but mile five came in at 8:56. I was definitely feeling better.
At 4.2 miles we hit the first hill that I remember from 2003. It’s 52 feet over a half mile as we entered Framingham.
This time I greeted it like an old friend. I took the hill.
Settling into The Run
Now that I had resolved my hydration issue I could focus on running. My knee was only a 2 on a scale of 10 and didn’t seem to be getting any worse. I worried about pounding it on the down hills in Newton, but that was many miles away.
I had plenty of gels, two bottles on my belt and most of two bottles in my hands. I was warmed up and was settled into the race.
Mile six and seven were 8:55 and 8:49. At 10K I took my next gel, finished the plain water bottle and tossed it.
The BAA clocked me at 57:51 at the 10K mark. I estimated that my second 5K had a pace around 29 minutes. The fact that the 2nd 5K included a pit stop, my 5K splits were basically even.
My overall pace at 10K was 9:18!
Mile eight chimed about half a mile into Natick. My pace was 9:12.
The crowds were pretty deep and consistent through Natick. I finished and tossed my second bottle, so now I could slap some hands along the way!
At Mile nine I ate one of the four Snickers bars I brought with me. Even in what seemed like heat, it was firm. I washed it down with some electrolyte drink from one of my belt bottles and satisfied some of my hunger.
There was very little cloud cover at this point in the race. Remembering 2014, I tried to run on the shaded side of the road but it didn’t work very well.
Just after mile nine I crossed the 15K timing mat at 1:26:23. It took me about 28:32 to run the 5K between the 10K and 15K mark.
I was running remarkably consistent splits of 9:16 still.
On one hand I figured I was one-third of the way through the race, on the other hand I knew that the halfway mark was really at mile twenty!
Mile nine through 13.1 miles went smoothly. I took a gel around mile twelve and started taking water at stops. The crowd at the stops was thinner now and I was getting tired of gels and sport drink.
At 20K the BAA clocked me at 1:55:10 or 28:43 for that 5K. Still at a 9:16 overall pace.
I crossed the Half Marathon mat at 2:01:31, still a 9:16 pace.
Running to Boston!
After mile thirteen we were headed for The Wellesley College Scream Tunnel. In 2018 there were a few hearty souls still hanging on the barricades for us. I was so miserable by then that I could barely muster a smile for them.
This year there was a huge crowd of college girls screaming at us. Many held signs, some with provocative or funny things on them. Oh to be 20-something again!
I smiled and waved but didn’t stop for a kiss.
There are just rolling hills between 20K and 25K, nothing challenging at all. Just the miles.
25K is at the top of the hill that drops down to the ramp to the Rt. 128 bridge. I heard Shalane Flanagan call this bridge the toughest hill on the course and I am inclined to agree.
At 25K my time was 2:24:42, just under a 9:19 pace. Mile 15 had rung in at 9:43 and I’m not sure why.
I managed to run down the hill to the Rt. 128 bridge and mile 16 came in at 9:10.
While training for this marathon I had practiced running down hill. It takes more than just throwing your foot out there. You have to condition your muscles for the impact, practice maintaining good form and trust that you can control your body and not fall on your face.
After the trough at mile sixteen we began the climb up the ramp to the bridge.
In 2018 there had been a raging brook running down the right side of the road! About half-way up the ramp there was water gushing two feet out of a drain and creating the torrent. It was a sight to see.
This year I just focused on getting up that damned hill.
Some people were walking and most everyone slowed down. Running the seventeenth mile, a 76 foot hill kicked everyone’s ass. I managed to keep running and felt okay for where I was.
Mile seventeen chimed in at 10:10. My first mile over 10 minutes. It was beginning to feel like a run.
Dem Damned Hills!
At about 17.25 mile we took that famous turn in front of the Newton Fire Station.
The road is so wide here and the crowd is large and loud.
I knew that the Melrose Running Club and my daughter were less than four miles away, atop Heartbreak Hill. I wished they had been at mile 16 or 18. Mile twenty-one, for god’s sake!
The Rt. 128 bridge may be in Wellesley, but it’s the first of the “Newton Hills.” At 17.5 miles we made the steep ascent of hill #2. 50 feet over a third of a mile on tired legs and a swimming mind.
I could have been pulled over for an OUI at this point, I was so altered. Count back from 100? I can’t even count up to 10!
Mile 18 came in at 10:08 even with the hill.
After summiting hill #2 we had a dip and another rise. Then mostly down hill until 19.25 or so.
My quads were shredded by this point, so I couldn’t really run down the hills. I did okay and mile nineteen came in at 9:45.
30K was just before mile 19. The BAA clocked me at 2:56:12 and my overall pace had dropped to 9:27.
Still under my goal of 9:30 but the hills were taking their toll on me.
At 19.25 we hit hill #3 and ascended another 50 feet over about a third of a mile. Mile twenty came in at 10:11. I was doing better than a lot of people but I was running out of gas.
At mile twenty I took some Gatorade and another gel. The big one was coming.
The crowd was huge and loud. Somewhere along here I realized that my ears were ringing! It was that loud. Or was I that altered?
I took a salt pill and two Hyland Arnica pills after the big turn at the fire station. So I should have been in relatively good shape. I knew what I was doing.
At 20.3 miles that big damned hill began! It’s 85 feet over about a quarter of a mile!
I knew that my stop was coming up, but I still chugged up the hill like the express train. It gives me such a feeling of accomplishment to run Heartbreak Hill. I have walked it before, but not in recent years.
As I ran the hill I moved to the left side of the road and kept looking ahead. The Melrose Running Club color is purple and I was looking for our pop up tent.
Finally it came into view and looked so far away!
I never stop for long at the tent. It is a race after all!
In 2018 they had plastic barricade fencing along the road. This year they just had a rope, so I could get off of the course.
I saw my daughter Angela standing there and gave her a big hug. I’m sure she was thrilled. My buddy Matt Sazama was a few feet away with his camera.
I had to motion to him to take our picture. That’s all I really wanted from this stop. Later he said he wasn’t sure who the girl was so he didn’t want to just take a picture of me with some random girl!
I don’t recall what we said but I’m sure she asked how I was and I probably said okay. Next I moved to the pit crew. My throat was so dry I could barely speak. My friend AJ Drummond kept asking if I wanted a pretzel for salt.
I kept try to say I had taken a salt tablet a few miles back but the words just wouldn’t come out. Finally Jose Viveiros understood that I wanted water.
He came over with a bottle and I took the top off of one of the bottles in my belt. The electrolyte mix was too strong so I wanted to top off my bottles and make them drinkable again.
I quickly got the top on the first bottle and then filled the second bottle. I tried to look into the crowd to see who else was there, but my eyes didn’t seem to be working!
I waved goodbye to everyone and I was off. With just a bit of uphill left, the long descent into Boston began.
Mile twenty-one came in at 12:36. The pit stop was well worth the loss of a few minutes.
To Cleveland Circle and Beyond!
Mile twenty-two was mostly down hill. The crowds were still as big and as loud as they were all through Newton.
Nothing hurt, I was simply exhausted. My muscles were shredded. But nothing hurt, so I kept running.
At 35K the BAA clocked me in at 3:30:09 and my overall pace was just under 9:40. My goal pace was 9:30. It didn’t look like I was going to hit that mark, but the wheels were still on the bus.
Just after 35K I hit the twenty-two mile mark at 9:34. With only 4.2 miles to go it would be hard to bend the time much closer to 9:30.
As we cruised past the Chestnut Hill Reservoir and headed into Cleveland Circle I felt a second wind. Mile twenty-two has 79 feet of decline and I kicked it in.
I moved to the left side of the road and ran between the tracks. I had the road to my self here and moved freely.
Heading out of Cleveland Circle toward mile twenty-three we lost an additional 54 feet. It was just what I needed. Mile twenty-three came in at 9:33!
After mile twenty-three, my two miles of exuberant running began to take their toll. Mile twenty-four is mostly downhill and the crowd support is phenomenal.
I could feel every rise in the road in my thighs. Even with pretty good fueling and hydration I was running on fumes.
Mile twenty-four had 21 feet of incline and 54 feet of decline. Nothing really. But mile twenty-four dropped to 10:09. With only 2.2 miles to go I decided to go all in.
2019 Boston Marathon Finish
Somewhere around mile twenty-four we entered Boston. The home stretch!
No one in the fourth wave had qualified for Boston. We paid our fees, did our fundraising and ran as much as we could. At this late stage in the race many runners were beyond any distance they had ever run before. It was all guts and will power fueling these brave folks.
The crowds were deep and loud even this late in the day. Usually I look into the crowd and exchange a few whoops with someone who has had a few more beers than I. It’s a lot of fun and helps distract me from the pain.
For 2019 I kept my head down for the most part and focused on keeping my feet moving.
I knew I could keep moving and not walk. It just took every fiber of my being to keep the party rolling towards Boylston Street.
Part of the reason a marathon is so mentally taxing is the reduced level of glucose going to your brain. The other reason is the level of focus required to keep running when your body and good judgement say, “hell no!”
At 40K the BAA clocked me at 4:01:20 for an overall pace of just under 9:43. Mile twenty-five came in at 9:57! Under ten minutes! 40K and 25 miles are just about the same distance.
I was running about 0.3 miles long, so Garmin shows mile 25 before the Turnpike Bridge. The BAA map has mile twenty-five just past the bridge.
The bridge is one of the last challenges for runners. In a car you’d barely notice it. On marathon Monday it’s just one more hill between you and the finish.
Somewhere after the bridge there is the “One Mile to go” sign.
Then we entered Kenmore Square. The crowd was huge and loud! I looked to see if any of my colleagues had managed to make it to the race. A few hinted that they might, but I didn’t see anyone.
As we left Kenmore Square we came to the last water stop near the Charles Gate overpass. Some people grabbed a cup but I kept in the middle of the road.
Commonwealth Ave was packed with people. I was highly focused on finishing the race and didn’t engage with the crowd or pay them much attention.
Soon the Mass Ave underpass came into view. Most runners hate this dip in the road. Our legs can handle neither the decline or rise out of the tunnel. I don’t think anyone let out a whoop in the tunnel.
I was surprised how easily I made the ascent out of the tunnel. As soon as I got back on Comm Ave I made my way to the right side of the road.
I could hardly believe that I was seeing the Hereford Street sign come into view! I’ve run this corner many times between the marathon and BAA 5K.
During a marathon, seeing that sign is like seeing the shoots open before splashdown for an Apollo mission. Almost home, but it’s not over yet!
Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston
In 2018 Hereford was a slick hill littered with piles of ponchos, jackets and other trash. What a freakin mess was all I could think.
This year the road layed invitingly before me. There were more runners than last year but it still felt like the road was mine to run. I took the hill and approached the corner.
As I got to the top of the hill I moved left and got ready to execute the turn onto Boylston Street. It went perfectly.
All of a sudden, there were runners around me. The road is so wide but there were people near me!
Way the hell down the road I could see the finish line. This year it was a big screen TV or something. I didn’t recall all of the lights from before.
We ran and ran and ran! Then all of a sudden the finish line was there! I moved to the right side for Wave Four finishers and threw peace signs into the air as I approached the sacred line!
Finishing my ninth Boston Marathon was just as exciting as any other, except for maybe the first one!
As I left the finish area one of the BAA executives was standing there clapping for everyone. I stuck my hand out and he shook it and said “Congratulations.”
As I caught my breath I kept walking towards Mylar blankets and my medal!
My friend Meg Micheals volunteers to give out medals every year. I always look for her and found her this year. It was great.
I had to keep moving and got my bag of food and headed to the bag pickup area. The volunteers saw me coming and had already called into the bus with my bag number. Very efficient.
I didn’t have anything to hang around for, so I headed for the exit. At the corner I took a left and the Arlington T stop was right there!
After the 2019 Boston Marathon
I was surprised how easy it was to get down the stairs to the platform. Someone was playing music and the air was warm. Unlike previous years, no one said a word to me.
At Park Street I made an efficient transfer to the Red Line and headed for Kendall Square. Walking up the stairs out of the Kendall/MIT stop was a bit more challenging.
Walking down the street to my office was cold and seemed to take too long! Fortunately the garage door was open and I didn’t have to go around to the front of the building.
I tossed my stuff in the back seat and tossed my self into the front seat.
The drive home was okay. It was a holiday so traffic was light.
Getting out of the car was a bit of a challenge and so was getting up the stairs! My muscles were tightening up.
I took a nice shower and sat down to watch my DVR recording of the 2019 Boston Marathon. What an exciting finish!
Run well my Friends,