Wow, what an experience.  Running the Boston Marathon was truly an urban adventure run. I met my brother, Bob, before the start at the Athlete “village.”  I had arrived about 45 minutes earlier and found a nice place on the side of the high school, out of the wind, with nice warm sunshine.  When Bob arrived, he joined me but as usual, was unprepared for the cold. California kid, you know. A kind guy gave him a cool full body paper suit that kept him nicely warm.  

I had my Dirty Girl Gaiters on (black with skulls).  Bob was the only one to comment on them.  I said it was my fashion statement.  Soon it was time for me to go to the start line for Wave 1.  Bob was in Wave 2, a half hour later.   The parade of 14,000 Wave 1 runners going up the road 0.7 mile toward the start was quite that sight to see!   My wife texted me a good luck message from home.  That was nice.

I only had one goal.  Break my marathon Personal Reocrd (PR) of 3:24:49.  Someone questioned whether that was a wise goal because Boston was quite a bit tougher than the downhill Ogden course where I had PRed.  I hoped if I could keep away the cramps, that I could succeed.

Walk from athlete village (the highschool) to the start line

Walk from athlete village (the highschool) to the start line

My number was 10113, which means that with my qualifying time, I was seeded as 10,113th fastest among them 26,735 entrants (23,126 starterd).  I hoped to finished well ahead of 10,000th place.   We were put in the “corals”, 1,000 in each pen.   With 20 more minutes to wait I had a conversation with another runner who noticed my Zane Grey 50 shirt.  

Runners behind me lined up for the start

Runners behind me lined up for the start

We chatted about ultrarunning and others joined in, astonished that I ran 100-mile races.   I made sure they knew I thought marathons were very tough.  Just too fast for my tastes.

runners near the start

runners near the start

After the national anthem, there was an impressive fly-over of two jets.  I let out a cheer. That was very cool.  I could feel the energy coming as I got ready to run.   The gun went off, and the race was on.   It took me 8-9 minutes to reach the start line when my chip on my shoe was trigger my start time.  We first walked slowly.  I pushed ahead to join in with the 9,000 range bibs and soon found Kelli and Scott from Riverton.   It was fun to chat with them.   As we neared the start line, I bid goodbye and got focused.

Away we went, trying to run with a crowd of runners.   It was tough, because I really wanted to start faster.   I soon discovered that if I ran far to the left, there was kind of a passing lane if I jumped off the road and ran on a shoulder of grass or dirt.   I could really accelerate on the dirt.   The only problem of running there is that other runners immediately started tossing clothes and other items.  Some almost hit me in the face.  

Looking ahead, was a spectacle to see!   I have never seen anything like it, nor will I probably see it again.  There was a massive sea of thousands of runners totally filling the road far ahead, moving and bouncing.  I noticed another runner taking the dirt route and when I passed him, he asked me if I was an ultrarunner.   He was Roger, with a full beard, from Colorado and had run Leadville, Wasatch, and others races I have run.  I introduced myself and he was excited to meet me because he is a faithful reader of my race report blog. Very cool, it felt like I had more family out on the course with me. We had fun talking, but soon I decided to continue to pick up the pace.

My pace was good.   Mile 1: 6:53 (amazing considering the huge crowd), Mile 2 and 3, about 6:51 each.   I reached the 5K mark at 21:11.  A nice fast start.   I looked around at the bibs and I was now running mostly with 8-9000 range bibs.  I didn’t see any other bibs near my range.   It was still very packed on the two-lane road.   A girl running behind me clipped my heel and she fell down.  I felt very bad, but she said she was Ok.  I hope here race wasn’t ruined.

The temperature was ideal and I was dressed perfect in short sleeves and shorts.  The crowds along the road were cheering like crazy.  It was amazing.  I high-fived many of the kids initially, but then tried to get focused.  

River of cups -- AP photo

River of cups -- AP photo

I carried a hand-held water bottle filled with Ensure, so I didn’t need to stop at any of the early aid stations that were 2-miles apart.  They were a real hassle to get through.  Runners would slow down and I would try to stay in the center, but then would have to hop over tons of cups.  It was almost like a river crossing at some of those stations, as Gatorade and water flowed from runners tossing full cups.

The route is very pleasant at first going through rural communities, rolling up and down.   The hills weren’t very noticeable at first, but when the downhills did come, I really cranked up the pace.  By the 10k mark, I was running in the 6-7000 range bibs.   I had probably passed at least 3,000 runners already.   I reached 10K at 43:12.  Wow!   That was only 4 seconds off my 10K PR.  I guess I was flying.   My miles 4 and 5 were about 7:03 and mile 6 was 7:00.

My strategy was to try to get up with the 6000 range bibs, hang with their pace and when I started slowing down, they could help me keep my pace up.   The spectator crowds got thicker and nosier.  They were very entertaining to watch along the way.  However, I still had to concentrate very hard to keep passing other runners.  By the 10-mile mark, I was pretty much keeping pace with the other runners around me.  I saw the same runners over and over again.  They would slow down at the aid stations and would catch up with me later.   One guy I saw for miles had a sign on the back of his shirt.  His name was Dan and he was running his 99th marathon.   He had a good steady pace.

Passing runners was still a major chore.  At times it required zig-zagging and I knew I was adding additional distance, but I just couldn’t get around them by going straight.  It reminding me of the 400+ river crossings I made last weekend during my Paria River adventure.

My mile 7 was 7:12, mile 8 was 7:17, mile 9 was 7:16, and mile 10 was 7:37.  The village of Natick was fascinating to run through this its huge historic churches.   The crowds were still cheering like crazy, more than 100,000 lining the entire course.  

A runner gets a kiss - AP photo

A runner gets a kiss - AP photo

As I neared Wellesley College, I could hear a high-pitched roar.   This is an all-girl’s college.  They were out in force and screaming like crazy.  There were dozens of signs asking for kisses from the runners.  I wondered how many would stop.  The screams became so intense that I had to plug in my ear phones tighter to try to drain out the roar with my music.

My mile 11 was 7:31, mile 12: 7:14 and mile 13: 7:38.  I reached the half-marathon mark at 1:34:15.  Wow, I was still cruising.  For the first time I noticed other runners walking.  Miles 14 and 15 were about 7:51.  I was becoming a little bit lazy.  I noticed that I was now being passed by dozens of runners who were still running about a 7:30 pace.   With the downhill during mile 16, I was able to kick it into gear again better, with 7:30, but the next uphill mile was my first over-8 minute, with 8:22.  I was at the 2:05 mark, still in good shape.

So far, I wasn’t having any physical problems.  Usually during marathons my calfs start cramping by mile 13, but not this time.  I had taken an S-cap at the start and another one at the half-way point and that seemed to help.  Also, during the past month or so, I have really worked the calfs hard.

Mile 18 was a real problem, 8:41.   It had a good uphill and I just couldn’t find the speed.  Runners streamed past me.  I never walked but I just couldn’t move my feet fast.  The hips were starting to complain.  My energy felt good, but the feet just wouldn’t move.   I was using the aid stations better.  At first I tried to drink from cups but ended up splashing all over myself, so instead I would take 2-3 cups and fill up my water bottle.  That was much better and let my bypass more stations.

Mile 19 was still slow, 8:26.  I was trying very hard to keep it going.  Now the final hills arrived.  Miles 20 and 21 were the “big” climbs including up Heartbreak hill.  My miles were about 8:53.  Going up Heartbreak Hill, I was a little concerned because I started to get a bit dizzy.  I looked down, just focused on my steps and tried to get more blood in my head. Finally at the top, runners around me asked if we had reached the top of Heartbreak, I told them, yes.

Now, there was just 5.2 miles to go.  Could I hang on?   With the downhill, I was again able to keep pace with the runners around me.  I was very impressed with the speed and strength of all these runners.  Truly I was running with many of the best marathoners in the country.   I did notice that almost everyone around me looked much younger and slimmer than me.  That made me feel good, I was keeping up with lots of young runners. Mile 22 was a bit better, 8:12.  It was now getting tough to keep the legs moving fast even going downhill.  Mile 23 was 8:41.  I reached mile 24 at 3:05:34.   I had really hoped to reach mile 24 at the 3-hour mark. I was five minutes late. Somehow I needed to dig deep and find some speed for the last 2.2 miles.

The noise was now deafening.   Sometimes I enjoyed hearing the roar, but other times, kicked in the music and even sang out loud, trying to find a faster rhythm.  I was now in the city of Boston.  I knew the finish was getting closer and closer.  Hang on!  Hang on!   Mile 25 was 8:26.   Yikes, it was 3:14:00.   I was in serious danger of not breaking my PR.

It felt like I was moving fast.   I was passing runner after runner, some moving pretty slowly.  But I really wasn’t running very fast, still at about an 8:30 pace.    After the final corner, the finish line came into view.   I again looked at my watch and did my best version of a “sprint.”  The crowd roared.  I removed the ear phones to soak up the experience.  

Nearing the finish - note the cool gaiters

Nearing the finish - note the cool gaiters

Finally the finish line arrived.  I crossed in 3:24:15.   I had broken my PR by 34 seconds.  I certainly didn’t crush it, but I was pleased.  I looked around me and did see some 10,000-range bib numbers around me.  Some had caught up.  But there were also plenty of numbers much lower than me.   I had finished in 5357th place so I must have passed nearly 5,000 very talented runners along the way.  I also finished in 345th place in my age group (1,894 starters).  I was also in 39th place among all the runners from Utah (242 starters). My half marathon pace was at a speedy 7:11 pace, but my second marathon was a slow 8:40 pace.  I know I can do better.

Bob and Davy Crockett – Boston Marathon finishers

I was pretty hungry at the finish, a sign that I wasn’t eating enough.  That may have been the slowness issue during the second half.   I obtained my pre-race drop bag, and waited around the family area for Bob to arrive.   He had finished in 3:57:51, somewhat disappointed, but I think he did super to break 4 hours at Boston.

Oddly, I was full of energy at the finish.   I had never cramped up.  As I tested my legs, they were hardly sore at all.  I wasn’t walking funny like most of the other runners.  I thought I had not left much energy out on the course, but perhaps I did.  Oh well, I would have one more marathon test this year, with Ogden next month. 

Running the Boston marathon was truly an experience of a lifetime, one that everyone should try to experience.  The hype, the history, the crowds, the noise, the competition, all makes it amazing.   Will I run it again?  Well, my time was a Boston-qualifier time for 2011 by about 12 minutes.  No, I probably will not do it again.   There are bigger fish to fry on the ultrarunning circuit.  I’ve had the experience and it was amazing.   I go away with a smile on my face, energized by the experience and ready to hit the trails again.