Boston Marathon

Finally, I had the time to sat down and work on this long overdue entry.

15 April 2013, Boston Marathon

I had the most wonderful racing experience at this marathon.
After days of wet and cold weather, with temperature dipping as low as 4 Degree Celsius in the morning, the weather in Boston finally changed for better on race day. It was still cold in the morning though, about 9 Degree Celsius. I was glad I brought along a t-shirt, a long-sleeve shirt, a cap, running gloves and an elastic headband to keep warm. Still, I was shivering after Joe dropped Stella, Yvonne and I off at one of the shuttle bus pick-up points to board the shuttle bus to the race village.

It was a short bus ride and soon we arrived at the race village. This was the place where all the participants gathered to deposit their baggage in their assigned buses. We were pleasantly surprised to bump into Gen at the race village as the whole area was so huge that it seemed quite impossible to spot familiar faces in the crowd unless prior arrangement were made.

We took some photos, deposited our bags in our respective buses and visited the portable toilets. It was especially chilly when the wind blew. We were all glad we got a poncho to protect us from the cold wind. Soon, we heard the announcement for Wave 1 participants to proceed to the race pen. (This year’s cut off time to be in Wave 1 was 3hr 19mins. I was in Wave 2 as my best time was only 3hr 28min.) Yvonne and I bid goodbye to Gen and Stella and wish them all the best for the race as they made their way towards the race pen.

After they left, Yvonne and I queued for the portable toilets again while waiting for our turn to proceed to the race pen. The portable toilets, by the way, were very different from Singapore’s. There is only one big hole to do the business. No flush system. So imagine the (huge) amount of dump (and probably stench if you are unlucky) when you entered the toilet. There was no sink but there was a bottle of cleaning lotion to to sanitize your hands.

At about 10 minutes to 10.20 am, I was getting a bit anxious why there was no announcement to inform Wave 2 participants to enter the race pen. Did we miss it? I told Yvonne we should get moving since Wave 2 was going to be flagged off anytime. There were already many participants walking towards the race pen and I realised the colour of their number bids belongs to Wave 3. Yvonne and I jogged along, weaving in and out of the crowd, getting more anxious as seconds crept by. Finally, we arrived at the pens where there were many participants waiting patiently inside. As Yvonne and I were in different Corrals (She 9, me 3), we waved goodbyes and scrambled to our respective pens. It was 10.15 am. Five more minutes before flag off. Weather was perfect for run. It was beginning to get warm. I removed my poncho, long sleeve-shirt and t-shirt and threw them into the bags offered by the volunteers. It was nice to know these clothes would be given away to charity. I took a packet of gel and waited patiently for the race to start.

10.20 am and the horn sounded. I jogged along with the rest of the participants towards the start line. A couple of minutes later, I passed the starting line and started the time on my Garmin. My race against time and a test of my limits has began.

Runners were packed together for the first few km of the race and I simply followed their pace. It was a downhill right from the start, so everyone started running at a relatively fast pace of about 4:45″/km. I was glad I have some of the runners to “block” me from going too fast. I took in the surroundings, enjoying the moment as I ran. There were already many supporters lining up at the sides, cheering the runners on. I could feel the race atmosphere instantly which was something I never experience before so early in a race.

After about 2 km, I was itching to go faster because the current pace was still slower than my target pace. I tried to overtake some runners by looking out for empty spaces where I could cut in. When I saw two females running on the right hand side, overtaking other runners, I decided it was time to follow them.

By 5km, the runners had staggered and I lost the two female runners. We ran past pretty houses and many families were outside their houses, eagerly handling out oranges and water to runners. Many supporters were holding decorated boards written with inspiring quotes, cheering enthusiastically. Children who joined their parents kept their hands high up for high-five from the participants. Their eyes shone in delight when we slowed down and returned a high five. They were so adorable and I could not help but gave high five to some of them too.

The low humidity and cool weather aided me in my run and I completed the first 5 km in 22:58 mins, still feeling fresh. I was wearing this 3:15 hr pace band which I gotten from the race expo the day before. I decided to stick closely to the target time for each mile as this pace band was took into account of Boston’s hilly terrains.

Hydration stations were evenly spread out every mile. I was most impressed with the friendly and cheerful volunteers who were very well-organised in distributing cups of water and Gatorade to runners. There was no bottle-neck as the water station were long and volunteers were already well positioned with a smile on their faces, ready to offer hydration and words of encouragement to runners.

Soon, I was close to the 10km mark. Time check about 45:34 min. I reached for my first packet of gel and to my horror, I realised the first packet of gel has dropped somewhere. Fortunately, the rest of the gels were still intact. I had no choice but to take the 2nd packet of gel meant for 18km mark. I took half of it only though, and finished the remaining half at 12km mark so I could delay the next packet of gel. I also took my first hammer endurolyte at 12km mark. Fumbled for a while as it was quite difficult holding onto the tiny capsule with gloves.

I was greeted by the screams of the students from Wellesley College as I approached the halfway mark of the marathon. I was amused to see many beautiful women from different cities, holding up signboards with wordings like “Free kiss!”, “Kiss me! I’m single”, “Kiss Me! I’m Korean!” Many participants did stop and kiss them. Lucky men!

I was pleasantly surprised when I saw a huge blue mat with yellow border and many Boston Marathon logos on the road ahead. It was then I realised that was the photo-taking area. There were even signages informing runners to look up and smile at the camera. Elated that I had already completed 50% of the race, I put on my brightest smile and posed at the camera that was positioned high up on a bridge. Time check at 21km, 1:36:45, still on target for a 3:15 hr marathon, if everything goes well for the second half.

Not long after, I reached the checkpoint at 25km mark just under 1hr 55 min. By then, I was beginning to feel the fatigue and I wasn’t sure if I could sustain my race pace anymore. The checkpoints, however were great motivators to keep me going because I knew Jackie was staying awake tracking my run online.

Right after the 25km mark, there was a sudden decent. After that, it was a series of up and down slopes. I came to know later that this part of the course which stretches from 16 miles at Washington Street to 21 miles at Commonwealth Avenue was also known as Newton Hills.

Even though I had done some hill training to prepare for the marathon, I realised I was still not ready to cope with the series of hilly terrains. I had underestimated the second half of the race course. The only motivation that kept me going were the supporters who were still cheering wildly and of course the next checkpoint at 30km where Jackie would still be keeping track of my time. In the end, I passed the 30km mark in about 2hr 18 min, a few minutes behind target. And I knew the chance for a 3:15 hr marathon was slipping away. My only consolation was that I might still be able to finish the marathon in under 3hr 18 min if I could manage a 5″min/km pace for the last 12 km.

By the time I reached 32km, the last of the four Newton hills and where the famous “Heartbreak Hill” begins, my legs were already very tired. I struggled to reach the top of the hill and was relieved when I finally saw the down slopes at 34km. With about 8km more to finish the race, I dare not increase my pace too suddenly for fear of cramping up. I was also exhausted and feeling colder than before. (Strange, as the temperature has risen and it was getting very sunny.)

I tried not to think about the finishing time but think of how hard I have trained for this marathon. I have came a long way and it would all be wasted if I gave up now. I decided to take on mile by mile, coaxing myself to hang on to the pace till the next mile marker.

24 miles… 25 miles.. and finally after 26 miles, I was turning into Boylston Street. The spectators were roaring and rooting for us in Copley Square, the cheers getting louder each second. I could see the huge finishing sign from a distance, and I tried to increase my pace. It seemed like an eternity when I finally crossed the finishing line.

Completed the Boston Marathon in official net time of 3hr 17min 09sec, shaving about 11 mins from my previous PB achieved at KL Marathon. Yay! My very first sub 3:20 hr marathon. *absolutely delighted* =D

The finishing line. So near, yet so far.

The finishing line. So near, yet so far.

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