The inaugural BAA Half Marathon was run in 2001. That year Wayne Levy (JAM) was the men’s champion at 1:10:57, and the women’s champion was Sarah Nixon (USA) at 1:21:16. Sarah was also the champion in 2002.
The finish times have steadily improved and in 2013 Lelisa Desisa (ETH) set a blistering course record of 1:00:34!
The BAA Half Marathon is now part of the BAA Distance Medley and a perennial favorite among runners near and far.
BAA Half Marathon 2017
Highlights from the 17th running of the B.A.A. Half Marathon
Kenyans Daniel Salel and Joan Chelimo swept the top spots at today’s 17th annual B.A.A. Half Marathon, presented by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund. Salel completed the three-peat, running away from a large lead pack in the final two miles before breaking the tape in 1:04:31. Calling Boston her lucky city, Chelimo returned to the Bay State and earned a commanding victory in 1:10:31.
A total of 6,431 participants started the B.A.A. Half Marathon, including more than one thousand B.A.A. Distance Medley runners.
My BAA Half Marathon 2017
Durm Cahill and I got a ride in from Cynthia Berger. We left Medford shortly after 6 AM and arrived at our parking garage around 6:30. The shuttle buses were waiting and in no time we were at the Franklin Park Zoo.
I’m usually the organization guy, but for some reason I didn’t have the BAA mail my bib to me. Fortunately the bib pick up line was short, and we were off to the porta-potty lines. Again, short lines.
I checked my bag at the bag drop and the three of us found a place to sit down and stretch a little. Around 7:20 we headed for the 9:00 minute corral. As we waited we saw Bill Ozaslan on his way to line up.
Shortly before 8 AM they played the National Anthem and there was a US flag on the start line structure for us to salute. The crowd was very respectful.
A little after 8 AM they blew the horn for us to start. Even with the crowd we managed to cross the start line within 3 minutes. Lining up properly this year really helped us take advantage of the down hill coming out of the zoo and we managed a 9:02 first mile.
We were so focused that the first mile snuck up on us just after we exited the Franklin Park Zoo.
The road was still under construction just like five years ago. Being a little smarter this year it was much easier to get over the bridges and mile two snuck up on us at 9:11.
Somewhere around mile two we transitioned from The Arborway to The Jamaica Way. This road hugs the shore of Jamaica Pond. With views of the pond on our left and some fantastic homes on our right we paid attention to our pace but not the distance. Mile three snuck up on us at 9:10!
Our goal pace was 9:30. At the Smuttynose Rockfest Half our goal pace was 10:00 and we ran a 9:40 pace. We felt confident in a 9:30 pace, but we were over running this pace as well.
We had started the race with Cynthia Berger but Durm and I had moved ahead on some of the downhills. Now we caught up to her on the Jamaica Way! We ran together loosely for a while and Cynthia pulled ahead. I was trying to maintain a pace.
Mile four had a lot of downhill and we managed an 8:51 pace. I did not feel like I could keep that pace and finish the race the way I wanted to. I told Durm to run ahead if he wanted to, so he headed off to run with Cynthia.
Somewhere between miles four and five I found Paul Locke. He was running pretty comfortably and I told him the pace I was trying to maintain. Just like me, he has a hard time maintaining a pace and ran with me for about a mile so I could pace him.
At about mile 4.75 we had a hair-pin turn and started heading back. Paul and I talked about how this was not the half-way point, even though a turn like that is often the half-way mark. He’s run the race a few times and remembered better than me the distance and hills we had to run once we got back onto the zoo property. Mile five came in at 9:13.
We were now running up hill and I didn’t want to push it. I was way ahead of my goal and didn’t want to strain anything. Paul moved ahead, and even at my pace I kept passing people.
The River Way turned into Pond Avenue in Brookline. I took my first gel around mile 5 and a little later took my salt capsule.
It was a warm day and I could feel the sweat dripping off of my hair and down my back. My shorts were drenched and I knew I would need the salt. Sweating profusely on a warm day is a good sign. When you stop sweating you know you are in trouble. But sweat also means salt depletion.
Mile six came in at 9:25 and I felt I had finally been successful with my pacing.
Around 6.78 miles they were handing out Cliff gels. The first one I grabbed was vanilla without caffeine. Further down they were handing out some fruit flavored gels with caffeine, so I grabbed on of them also. I could feel the little tug as I grabbed the second gel. Clearly they did not want me to take two.
Why do the gel companies seem to always hand out the most awful flavors at races? Why not hand out your most popular flavors?
Mile seven had 64 feet of elevation gain and I was beginning to feel fatigue. At mile seven my average pace was now 9:33. I had my watch set to display time, distance and overall average pace.
I find it more useful to show my average pace, which is my goal pace. Current pace fluctuates all over the place. At each mile my watch shows the pace for that mile which helps my gauge how I’m doing at that time.
We were now coming around the end of Jamaica Pond and getting back onto the Arbor Way. We had to run through two large rotaries and I tried to negotiate those turns efficiently.
In the middle of mile eight we ran next to the Arnold Arboretum, but at this point I was more focused on running and less so on the scenery. I had taken a second gel which helped boost my energy and mile eight came in at 9:08.
I knew we still had 5.1 miles to go and a good portion of uphill to run, but I was feeling strong. Mile nine was about as flat as mile eight and I managed an 9:14 mile and my average pace was now 9:15!
Just before mile nine we re-entered the zoo property. The hill we had enjoyed running down at the start, now faced us.
As I pushed up the hill I kept passing runners and quite a few walkers. I saw one person laying on the side of the road with three people checking on her. She had her legs up and I heard her answer “yes” when the EMT asked if she was diabetic.
I must have passed five more people laying on the side of the road. Others were leaning on light poles stretching hamstrings and achilles.
I couldn’t tell if they were noobs or just having a bad day. Either way, all of these people were having a bad day.
For mile 10 we gained 52 feet and my pace was 9:06 and overall pace was now down to 9:12.
Only a 5K to go I thought to my self!
At mile 10.20 we made another hair-pin turn. The road was in rough shape and I recall wondering if some of the money the BAA was donating to the zoo would be used to repair some of these roads.
Shortly after the turn I saw Paul Lock again. I must have missed Durm and Jeff Rushton when I was running up the hill.
I felt pretty good for having just pushed up that hill. After the turn I could see that the hill took a toll on many runners. There were more walkers now but no one on the ground.
As I ran along the rutted road I pulled out my last gel. We only had about 2.5 miles to go, but I wanted to make sure my legs had the juice to finish strong.
Mile eleven came in at 9:04 and my average pace was 9:06. This was just crazy. I was running well beyond my wildest expectations. I had the usual fatigue but nothing hurt and my breathing was fine.
Just after mile eleven we took a sharp right and headed up what seemed like a steep hill. We gained 58 feet in less than a quarter-mile. At mile 11, that’s steep.
The hill melted a few runners around me, but I pushed ahead. We were now running through the zoo. Some of the path was packed crushed stone and there were some divets to look out for.
We made all kinds of turns and you could smell the zoo. At one point I looked off to my left and saw two kangaroos leaping around in their pen. It brought back memories of my second marathon in Providence, RI where we also ran though the zoo near the end of the race.
As we ran past the butterfly cage and I chuckled when I thought how my oldest daughter is deathly frightened of butterflies. We also saw a huge aviary full of parakeets and other birds. I wondered how they got through Boston winters.
Probably 100 feet before we got to the gate to the running track I saw people walking! Didn’t they know we were almost done? I encouraged one guy to start running and he did. For about 100 feet he was actually in front of me. Jokes on me I thought. Then I passed him on the track.
The sensation of running on the rubber track was odd after pounding pavement for almost two hours. My tired feet felt new life.
I took the inside lane and put the hammer down. Now where the hell is the finish mat! I managed to run a 7:48 pace for the last 0.3 miles.
As I crossed the finish line I raised both hands in victory. The clock was turned off but my watch said 2:02 and change.
On a more challenging course I had improved my time by more than 4 minutes.
Apre BAA Half Marathon
After the finish line I could feel in my chest that I had left it all out there. I was a little short of breath, but better than at some other races. I found someone handing out medals and had to put in over my head my self. Then I searched for water.
I grabbed a 500ml and sucked it down. As I walked across the field I found a table with more bottles and grabbed another.
On the other side of the field I could see Durm’s purple singlet. He was hanging onto the fence doing some stretches. I headed for the baseball backstop to lay down and put my feet up for a few minutes.
It was tough getting down on the ground, but putting my feet up felt so good. After a few minutes we both struggled to our feet and followed the crowd to the food.
Cynthia left right after the race so we didn’t see her. We made our way through the food tents and got what we could. The hamburgers were pretty good and still warm.
While eating our burgers we got in line to take our pictures with our times. We had mixed results.
After photos it was time to get our race shirts and pick up my bag.
The BAA had well organized shuttle buses to the Forrest Hills T station. On our way over I checked on my Charlie card. It was soaked and I tried to dry it out, but when I put it through the machine it got mangled.
Fortunately there was a T employee who opened the machine and retrieved my mangled card. He didn’t seem to believe me when I told him it had $11 on it and we didn’t use it on the way down.
He quickly used his badge to let us through and handed me my soggy, mangled card. I’ll never be able to use it, so The T just made $5.50 on me. Hopefully my donation it will help the trains run on time this winter!
As much as people bitch about The T, they often come though for hapless infrequent riders.
Durm kept checking the station map and I kept telling him we were starting at the end of the line and we could only go north from here. We were also going to the 3rd to last stop, so we could just relax and not worry about it.
We had fun talking to the other runners and even regular folks who were just curious about what we had been up to all day.
Run well my Friends!