On Sunday I ran my 3rd half marathon – Boston’s Run to Remember. I have a lot of history with this race. It was not only my 1st half marathon, but my first race ever! At the time I was 29, working as a financial analyst, and mom only to a black lab dog. After work my husband and I would head to the gym and I would run on the treadmill – set to a steady 10:00 min/mile for every run – building up from being able to run 3 miles (which was a huge accomplishment for me in and of itself) to then 5, 7, and maxing at 10 miles before the race. On race day my husband ran the race with me and I was so proud to cross that finish line in 2:01:17.
I ran the 5 mile option in 2012 after my first daughter had been born and last year I dropped from the half marathon to the 5 miler because I wasn’t ready to run 13.1 miles. There was also a year in between that I signed up for the half and couldn’t run at all because of conflicting plans.
I love this race. Running through the normally car congested streets of Boston, past so many landmarks from my post-college life never gets old. If you follow me on Instagram you already know how this story ends, but for everyone else I’ll skip right to the ending – I ran a new PR of 1:42:33 ! This beats my previous PR of 1:50:00 by over 7 minutes and is nearly a full 20 minutes faster than my first half marathon! This time was beyond my A goal and even my A++ dream goal and I still don’t think I’ve come down from my post runner’s high. Okay, on to the details.
With a 7am start time my husband and I had debated him coming in to spectate (since my mom was staying with us) and if he would bring our oldest daughter, A. After having a big Saturday of celebrating her birthday with our families we decided to let her sleep in and I would go to the race alone. Well, A had other plans. I woke up about 3am and couldn’t fall back asleep so I got out of bed at 4am. I was downstairs making coffee when I heard pitter pattering around. Figuring it was my mom I went to the living room and what to my wondering eyes should appear, but my sweet little almost 6 year old asking if she could work on her new Lego set 🙂 I tried to put her back to sleep, but at this point she was giddy with excitement at being up and we figured if she was going to be awake they may as well come in to Boston!
After a weeklong heat wave peeking at 90 degrees the day before and predictions of an unseasonably warm and humid race, the weather mercifully dropped to 60 and overcast for the whole entire race. When we got into Boston it felt cool and breezy – perfect! Being ridiculously early had it’s perks – we had no traffic on the way in, found free on street parking, bib pick-up was a breeze, and I was able to hit of the real bathrooms with no lines. My husband and A left to go grab breakfast about an hour before the race started and I used that time to do some MYRTLs, dynamic stretches, hit the bathrooms once more, and think about my goals for the race. 1:45 had been my A goal, but after a few weeks of lackluster runs, IT band problems, and worry over the heat I had all but written it off. When the weather turned out to be so nice I decided to go for it. Not only that, but before the race I visualized my A++ goal that I hadn’t talked about to anyone, even my husband. I visualized myself crossing the finish line at 1:43:22.
The race is self-seeding with pace markers along two sides of the street and I lined up at the 8 min/mile mark. The first mile of the race is crazy crowded, but I made a promise to myself to not bob and weave around people no matter what. There was a guy I saw who was literally weaving from the far left to the far right back to the far left again less than half a mile in. Not only did it seem like a colossal waste of energy, but a bit dangerous since it is so packed that it would be easy to trip up another runner with those types of moves. I settled in and at just over mile 1 knew that it was going to be a good day. I felt great and felt like I could definitely meet my 1:45 goal. I got a little carried away the next two miles and just before mile 3 spotted my husband and A for the first time. This was where the 5 mile and half marathon portion split and I was worried that I was going to miss them since they were on the 5 mile side of the road. I was yelling and waving and was able to get their attention (sorry to the people around me for acting like a maniac!) and then I felt super out of breath. Between going too fast and the yelling I was tired and worried I’d blown my race in the first 3 miles!
Splits: (1) 8:02 (2) 7:37 (3) 7:36
I knew I needed to slow down and did – this started the theme for the next 7 miles of being passed early and often. We continued through Boston for about another half mile and then crossed a bridge over the Charles River into Cambridge. My plan was to only look at my watch at the mile markers and run by feel, which I did, but I was worried that I was running much slower than I felt since it felt like sooo many people were passing me.
This part of the race runs along the Charles River and has an out-and-back to the right and then another out-and-back to the left. I liked being able to see the other runners as they were passing by and could look ahead to see where the water stops would be on the next part of the course. While the weather was cool, it was still a bit humid and I was glad I carried my own water (which I drank all of) to supplement the water and Gatorade stations. There seemed to be plenty of water stops and, other than the 1st one, I took at least one cup from each stop. My fueling strategy was to take Honey Stinger Chews at mile 4-5, a GU at 9-10, and then another later in the race if I needed it.
Since the race is held in honor of fallen law enforcement and first responders, and there were recently two very sad deaths of a state police trooper and an officer here in Massachusetts, there were two big tributes to law enforcement between miles 5 and 7. At one point a dozen police cruisers from different towns were lined up with their lights flashing and officers were standing in front of them giving out high fives. Nearly every runner, including me, crossed over to give them a high 5 and thank them for their service. It was one of the coolest parts of the race.
The miles continued to click by and and my plan was to stay steady until mile 10, then if I could pick it up I would. When I passed the 7 mile marker I looked at my watch to see I was averaging about 7:47 pace and thought how this was the furthest I’d kept that pace for. That put a little bit of panic in me since this was slightly faster than my tempo miles and I had a moment of “oh shit! This isn’t a tempo run, this is 13.1 miles!” I put the thought out of my head and focused on feeling good and feeling like I could keep this pace for the rest of the race. My energy started to dip a little at mile 9, but at this point we headed back across the bridge and I knew I would see my husband and A soon. The quick energy from my GU also helped give me a boost
Splits: (4) 7:50 (5) 7:43 (6) 7:48 (7) 7:55 (8) 7:49 (9) 8:02 (10) 7:49
At this point I started trying to do the math in my head of what time I was looking at. Now, I’m terrible at mental math on any occasion. Mental math while running was a bit tricky plus adding in that my watch was beeping slightly before the mile markers. So I would count from the time my watch beeped until I hit the next mile marker to figure out what my real pace vs. Garmin pace was. I determined that I was dead on for 1:45 and started to get excited. Shortly after mile 10 I saw my family again and shouted this info at my husband with a huge smile on my face. I took another GU here and finally started passing people instead of being passed. Looking at my splits it doesn’t look like I was picking up the pace until mile 12, but at the time I really felt like I was starting to speed up considerably at mile 11 (I also took my last GU here). The last 2 miles snake through Downtown Crossing and the Financial District with tons of turns. With each step I felt like I was getting stronger and going faster. I was passing more and more runners and still felt like my breathing was in control and I wasn’t working too hard.
I was still trying to do the math calculations and realized I could come in under 1:45 if I could keep up the pace, but I couldn’t figure out exactly what pace that needed to be. I switched my watch to lap view and saw a 6:xx mile pace which freaked me out so I changed it back to average pace and decided to just run as fast as I could. The last half mile stretch shoots up a small bridge and then back down with a straight shot to the finish. Last year I made the mistake of starting my finishing kick in the 5 mile race as soon as I crested the hill, but the finish line is deceptively far from that point. I kept picking up the pace and waited until the finish line – and clock – were in sight to sprint. And I mean full out sprint – as much as I could sprint at this point. Now right before I was about to cross the finish line I started gagging a little and thought I was going to throw up before even finishing! I crossed over, stopped my Garmin, and pulled to the side where I did dry heave. Luckily I had nothing in my stomach other than some GU and gatorade or I would have actually thrown up which I really wanted to avoid. Despite being on the verge of puking I managed to stop my watch and when I looked I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw 1:42:xx!
Splits: (11) 7:46 (12) 7:28 (13) (7:21) (.1) 6:56
Overall: 1:42:33 (7:50 min/mi)
After recovering from my near puke I actually felt great. I walked through the finishing shoot where we were ushered back in to the World Trade Center. I collected my medal, grabbed some chocolate milk, water, chips, and a Yasso Greek Frozen Yogurt bar they were handing out (this may have been my favorite post race food ever!), and headed over to where my husband was picking me up. I couldn’t wait to tell him I had run a 1:42 and I REALLY couldn’t wait to get my official results. After getting home I saw that they had live results on ChronoTrack and confirmed that I really did run 1:42 – 1:42:33 to be exact. Sooo close to the number I visualized before the race and better than I ever expected!