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Noel’s Boston Marathon Recap

April 27, 2011

I swear that Boston posts are coming to and end…but just bare with me for one last post! Since my friend Noel doesn’t blog, I always end up emailing her incessantly on her post race and training thoughts. The two of us are such similar competitors (our competitive spirit, not so much our times) that I absolutely love hearing her thoughts, so I figured there is no better time to share her post race thoughts, than after her most recent Boston Marathon. Since the majority of the running community shares the same competitive spirit, I figured it might be a good read to reminisce and relive the day. It’s a little long, but I personally think it’s worth it! (Noel, don’t hate me for including the photos!)

Noel’s Boston Marathon Recap

Boston 2010

Almost immediately after finishing the Boston Marathon in 2010, I knew I wanted to be back in 2011. Not because I had such a magical race or even because one of my best friends lived in the city. I made the common rookie error of going out too fast in the first several miles of the race and barely had anything left in the tank when I got to the Newton Hills. After finishing, I ended up in the med tent for the first time in my career due to dehydration and low blood sugar. Marathoners are notorious for being gluttons for punishment, so it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that the reason I wanted to be back for Boston in 2011 was for revenge.

Boston 2011 Preparations & Training

First, I set my sights on the Chicago Marathon in the Fall. Training was going pretty well, and I was finally able to work in some speed intervals. Then that nasty plantar fasciitis (which I really never let heal) came back to haunt me, and it was worse than before. There were mornings I would wake up and have to walk on the outside of my foot to get around in only minor pain. My decision to completely rest my foot and not run in Chicago was particularly hard because I had already raised about $2000 for The American Cancer Society in honor of my granddad who passed away the prior Spring.  But  in September, I took 6 long weeks off from running (and even the elliptical machine) to rid myself of this nagging injury. When I started back up in mid-October, I decided to toss away my heavy, padded shoes and orthotics and introduced light trainers into my 2-3 mile short runs, focusing on forefoot landings as opposed to the heavy heel pounding I was used to. By January I was up to a 15 mile long run…

Then Minnesota winter kicked in, I got the flu on 3 different occasions, and my travel schedule took over. Suffice it to say, going into this year’s Boston, I wasn’t trained for revenge. My longest run since Boston 2010 was 16 miles, and my heaviest week of training was 33 miles. So I decided, this year, just to take it all in, aim for a negative split (or just finishing) and to savor each step of the race because with the new time standards, I may never be back.

Boston Marathon Race Weekend

Race weekend was jam packed with activities. I hit up the expo on Friday and sat in on a seminar with the experts on how to run your best Boston. I wish I would’ve gone to this last year too! That night, I met up with Kim and our friend Kate who cooked us a fabulous dinner. On Saturday, I went with Kim to her runner meet up where I was motivated by other runners and even won a pair of New Balances! My mom flew in that afternoon, and the carbo loading began w/ a dinner at Papa Razzi. I did my pre-race shake out run on Sunday AM (and saw Kim at the starting line for the 5k!), and I was surprised at how great I felt. We attended a brunch for ACS on Sunday, where I was inspired by the other runners and got chills when I realized I could finally honor my Granddad the next day. The rest of the day was spent on my feet as my mom and I shopped on Newbury Street and met up with Kim, Kate, and Foxy for a final carbo loading session. I fell asleep immediately on Sunday night, probably because I thought the next day would just be a fun jog into Boston!

Marathon Monday

My wake up call was at 5:45 race morning, and I walked over to meet Kim’s friend Katy and the other ACS runners for a ride to Hopkinton. This was perhaps the most clutch move of the weekend because I got to chill w/ positive people in a warm car until about 45 mins prior to my wave taking off. So, thank you to Katy and the other ACS folks!! When I got to Athletes Village, I had enough time to go to the bathroom (twice actually) and then headed to the last corral in Wave 2. I was supposed to be in the 6th corral, but I didn’t want to be in everyone’s way! I stripped down to my hot pink hat and shirt (honoring my granddad) and polka dot arm warmers and off we went!

As you read this, keep in mind I had no clue what my actual pace was the whole race. I was going purely off feel for the first time in my life. I didn’t wear a garmin. The first 5k was very memorable. I made it a goal not to pass anyone on the steep downhills (which I didn’t) and to not waste energy bending down to high five the kids (I waved instead). I figured I was holding a 9:30 pace or so and was OK with it because I thought I could do that for 20 or so miles. I was so casual at the start of the race that I even went to the porta potty about 2.5 miles in. When I hit the 5k mark at over 28 mins, I thought I could push it 15 secs/mile faster, so I did and slowly started passing people. Two things stand out in the early part of the race for me: 1) the biker bar obviously and 2) the hills seemed much tamer than they did when I ran after training in Florida the previous year.

As I approached the 10k and figured out my split, I knew I had gotten faster, but I actually felt really good (aside from my feet already starting to get tired since 6 miles is basically a normal length of a run for me at this point.) So I stepped it up again – maybe another 10 or 15 secs faster. A few things happened between miles 6 and 12 that I found particularly memorable. The first was when we went through one of the smaller towns (I’m thinking it was Natick), and there were 2 very large girls (together they were about 4 of me) standing outside a car blasting “Return of the Mack”. I almost stopped to hang out w/ them and listen to that song (or others like it) for the rest of the day, but I remembered I wasn’t carrying my cell phone to let Kim and my mom know what happened to me. Then I had 2 inspirational moments. I ran by a girl who was running in a cast which I now realize is crazy, but it motivated me at the time. But the turning point in the race came at about mile 10 when a man ran past me, tapped me on the shoulder, and said “Do it for Jack” after reading the back of my shirt dedicated to my Granddad. I took another Gu and picked up the pace, this time for real and for good.

We went through Wellesley, and I actually took the time to take in the screams and read the raunchy signs this year since I was still feeling amazing. I high fived a girl from Minnesota even though I’ve only lived there for like 8 months. After that excitement, all I could think about was Kim and her friend Kate jumping in w/ me between miles 18 and 19. So I kept running what I thought was the same speed, maybe around 8:30 min pace. I got through the Newton hills with the help of some Gu, but there was no sign of Kim. Finally at mile 21 I saw her, and I literally exclaimed “FINALLY!!!!” I was so in the zone at this point that I didn’t realize I had already gotten over Heartbreak Hill and that I really was in the home stretch. Kim and Kate acted as my roadcrew and were very attentive when I yelled “Gatorade!” When Kim started spouting out my pace as well under 8 min/ miles, I tried to slow down, but that really hurt, so I made the decision that I was going to finish it out fast and told myself it would just feel better that way. The last 4 or 5 miles were faster than ANYTHING I had done in training over the Winter. I was used to 10 min mile pace on the treadmill while watching Oprah in the hotel gym. The rest of the race is somewhat blurry, but I remember the slight downhills being sons of bitches and then turning onto Boylston (passing a man dressed as a caveman who was grunting) in an all out sprint. I reached the finish line at 3:38.00 and pumped my fists as if I had just set an American Record. I had not, but my time was less than 3 mins away from my PR, I had negative split the race by over 8 mins, and I only walked by the med tent. Goals more than realized!!

My time probably won’t be good enough to get into Boston for 2012, but I already have Twin Cities lined up for the Fall (and look forward to running again for ACS) and am scoping out the Spring schedule. Going into Boston Marathon weekend, I thought about retiring from marathons, but when you run the Boston Marathon well, they are hard to give up!

Have you ever thought about giving up on running? What made you come back?!


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4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 27, 2011 4:38 pm

    Noel, its time to start your own blog. We all love you in person and your personality and amazing spirit shines through in this post. I love every single part of it. You are such an inspiration and I hope to run negative spilts in a marathon someday in my life. Thank you for writing this. I love it!

  2. April 27, 2011 10:16 pm

    Wahoooo! Congrats on such a great achievement and showing Boston who’s boss!

  3. April 28, 2011 6:34 am

    This post truly brings out the magic of the marathon. It’s a crazy race and anything can happen. Noel – your experience was incredible and will inspire so many other runners! I love your positivity and your approach to the race. It’s my dream to run a marathon like this someday – taking it all in, savoring my surroundings, and running strong. Congrats!!

  4. April 29, 2011 7:03 am

    Congrats how awesome and inspiring ! Thanks for sharing!

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