Boston Marathon Recap

I am now a two-time Boston Marathon finisher and I’m still coming down from the high of an incredible weekend. Take away the actual race day and it would have been an amazing trip already. I had a blast in 2019 but had a challenging race due to the weather conditions. I really wanted a second chance to try to redeem myself with a better race. I was thrilled that I could go back and run again in 2022. After this year’s experience I understand why so many people return year after year. I would love to go back any time I can! It was such a great weekend that this recap is basically a short novel. I apologize in advance for the length and understand if you just scroll through for the photos!

Aside from not being able to celebrate Easter with my mom, I was happy the race fell during Easter weekend this year because it meant I already had Good Friday and Easter Monday off of work. I only used one vacation day for the trip to travel home the day after the race. My flight left Detroit at 7:30 on Friday morning and after a quick Uber ride from the airport I made it to my hotel by 9:30. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have to stash my bags – they actually let me check in that early. Since I was going to pay a fortune for the hotel I suppose it was only fair! I was a couple blocks south of Boston Common which was a great location for walking to almost everything.

My mission for Friday morning was to stop at Marathon Sports on my way to the expo which opened at 11:00. When I saw the trees blooming in the Public Garden I had to take a brief detour. It was a beautiful day in the 50s and 60s with barely a cloud in the sky and I hadn’t seen anything blooming in Michigan yet. It actually looked like spring in Boston!

In 2019 I realized a good trick was to go to Marathon Sports where they have most of the same Adidas items the expo has minus the congestion and ridiculous lines. I stopped there first this time and bought a 2022 Boston Marathon hat. I went to the expo right when it opened and was surprised to walk almost a quarter mile around the Hynes Convention Center to find the end of the line to get inside. Although I’d had some moments when I wondered how it might work traveling solo for this race, I quickly realized that it was actually pretty great. Nearly half an hour of waiting? No big deal to me – it was a gorgeous day to wait outside and I was able to text some friends in the meantime. I didn’t have to worry about anyone complaining and I could just enjoy myself.

I collected my bib quickly then found my name on the wall of participants.

I glanced at the official merch area and confirmed that most of it was the same stuff I found at Marathon Sports. I could barely move in that area and I tried to get out as soon as I could! Fortunately the rest of the expo was more spacious.

I waited until the week of the race to order my celebration jacket. I wanted to be sure I’d actually make it to the race and earn that jacket. It was waiting for me at home after the race.

I purchased a shirt at one booth and wandered around collecting some free snacks and drinks. When I made it to the back end of the expo and heard people clapping, I realized Meb Keflezighi was speaking! I had no idea he’d be there so I settled on the bleachers to hear him speak. In the running world he’s a superstar and one of my very favorites. Hearing him talk about winning Boston the year after the bombings is still really moving nine years later. So many people lined up for a picture that I figured I’d try to catch him later at another panel.

I made a few stops on Newbury Street including a visit to the Brooks Hyperion House. Brooks didn’t have a booth at the expo but I knew they had rented a house and was happy to see that they had a lot of cool gear there. I left with a hat, shirt, and some free stickers.

Between the hat from Marathon Sports, the shirt from the expo, the stuff from Brooks, and the official race shirt, I figured I had more than enough gear.

I had also been very tempted by a limited edition Boston shoe from Brooks. After running the marathon I couldn’t resist temptation anymore and ordered them.

I went to check out Fan Fest at Copley Square Park where Meb was scheduled to speak at 4:00. It was my second time seeing him speak in one day but I’ll listen to him any chance I can get. He’s inspirational, an example of the power of positive thinking, and a role model who I admire very much.

Meb and Des Linden are two of my biggest running heroes and I was off to see her next. What a day! With a little internet sleuthing in the weeks prior to the race I had discovered that Des would be a part of a panel at the Brooks house and I grabbed a free ticket to ensure my admission as soon as they became available.

Des spoke with Melanie Allen of Brooks Running, Ted Metellus, director of the New York City Marathon, and journalist Shira Springer. They talked about subjects such as getting more people interested in running and increasing engagement with professional runners. It was a great discussion in an intimate setting. I was able to speak to Des for a minute afterward and she’s the best. It made me smile to hear a young girl outside exclaim, “This is the coolest day of my life!” I kind of felt the same way myself!

I think I walked a good eight miles on Friday by the time I grabbed some dinner and went back to the hotel. I knew I’d do a lot the first couple days and planned to back off and spend less time on my feet by Sunday.

I started Saturday with a 3-mile run. The big B.A.A. 5K took place around Boston Common that morning and I tried to plan a route that wouldn’t run into that course. I took in the race atmosphere for a few minutes when I finished my run.

The rest of Saturday was all about spending time with friends. Although it was a bit of a walk to the Fenway Park area it was another nice day. A few of us were going to the baseball game at 4:10 and met at Time Out Market to hang out for a couple hours beforehand. It was so great to see everyone and the time flew by much too quickly.

As we got ready to go to the game my friend Tara said she had a video to show me on her phone. She surprised me with a compilation of video messages from an amazing group of friends. There were some very sincere messages, some presented by adorable pets, and some that were absolutely hilarious. The video wrapped up with Tara “running” across the Boston finish line, where she had made a special stop the day before just to film it. I was overwhelmed by all of the love and couldn’t believe they did that for me. I let them know I would watch the video multiple times leading up to the race and that it meant the world to me.

We got to see a great Red Sox win and the ballpark’s organist even played a request for me. My friend Kristine said he took requests through Twitter. It was pretty awesome when he came through with some Tom Petty for me!

On top of all of that fun, I was shocked when I looked over my shoulder and saw my friend Kurt sitting a few feet away. We hadn’t coordinated at all and I couldn’t believe the chances!

Then a few of us grabbed dinner after the game. Only two days into the trip and it had already been a blast.

No shakeout run for me on Sunday because I didn’t want to take any risk of tweaking anything the day before the race. I figured rest would serve me better. Still, I had a couple events on my agenda.

I went to the Brooks Hyperion House for another panel at 11 am. The panel was hosted by Jeff Dengate, Runner-in-Chief at Runner’s World Magazine. I wanted to see him speak as well as Kevin Hanson, one of the brothers who owns the local Hansons Running Shops and coaches the Hansons-Brooks team of athletes in my area back at home. They were joined by Brooks athletes CJ Albertson and Brian Reynolds, plus Greg Meyer, who won Boston in 1983 and is also from Michigan. A lot of the discussion centered around preparing for the course and race day, favorite memories from past races, and some other fun stuff mixed in.

I see Kevin Hanson frequently when he supports his athletes as they train at Stony Creek Metropark, a place where I trained nearly all winter long. It was fun to chat with him for a few minutes and also nice to meet Jeff Dengate.

I grabbed lunch and spent some time off my feet since I knew I’d be standing for a while at Fan Fest for another panel that would start around 1:30. I’m glad I arrived early because five women from the 1972 inaugural women’s field were on the stage. Women have only been officially allowed to run the Boston Marathon for 50 years and those women were true trailblazers. They had fascinating stories and were so inspirational that I teared up a few times.

Another inspirational panel of women spoke next. They were members of the Honorary Women’s Team who were there to honor the women who ran 50 years ago. I was there to see Melissa Stockwell, a Paralympic triathlete who I’ve followed for years. She was joined by Verna Volker, who is working to bring visibility to Native women runners, Sarah Fuller, who was the first woman to play in and score in a Power 5 football game, and Jocelyn Rivas, who was the youngest woman to run 100 marathons. I’m glad my interest in Melissa exposed me to these other incredible women who all had awesome stories.

After a couple of nice days it had gotten pretty chilly and I was ready to get back to the hotel to warm up and get off my feet. Around 5:00 I went to the Panera near my hotel for a pre-race meal of mac and cheese, a turkey sandwich, and a bag of chips. I like to have a meal that is pretty tame but hopefully also filling enough.

After being so cold while walking around during the day I spent too much time worrying about how much I should wear for the race the next day. Fortunately a couple of runner friends talked some sense into me and helped reinforce what I already knew – that I didn’t want to get too warm. The nervousness and questioning always seems to hit the night before a race even when I know better. I finally got everything together and got close to seven hours of fairly decent sleep.

All of this excitement and I’m only getting to Marathon Monday now!

I ate one Picky Bar before heading out of the hotel around 6:40 am. I took warm post-race clothes to the gear check area then started a long walk to the Hilton near the convention center. Like I did in 2019, I reserved a spot on a bus that was chartered by a local running store. Having a chartered bus meant I could stay warm and comfortable on the bus rather than get dumped out at Athletes’ Village. Buses for my wave would start loading at 7:00. I thought that meant they’d gradually fill buses and surely I didn’t need to be on that first one. I got there about ten after and wandered around trying to figure out where to find the buses. After 10-15 minutes I finally accepted the fact that I must have been too late and totally missed the buses. Kind of crappy since I had paid for it but I guess it was my fault for not getting there earlier.

I didn’t even know how the normal buses worked so I had to pull up the participant’s guide on my phone to figure that out. The buses for my wave would leave at 8:15. I had nearly an hour until then and another mile to walk back. I didn’t get too bummed because I figured I was going to get to take in the full experience of Athletes’ Village and maybe that would be good. Being on my feet so much before running a marathon was the thing that had me concerned the most.

I headed to Boston Common for the bus loading area and found a big mob of people waiting. There were so many people we couldn’t even get into Boston Common. I guess it was a good thing I was early for THIS bus! While I waited I ate a Honey Stinger Waffle. I made sure to eat several times in the four hours between leaving the hotel and running the race. Sometime after 8:00 the crowd moved enough to get into the Common. More waiting until my wave was allowed to go to the buses. Then more waiting to get on a bus. I had waiting-themed song lyrics running through my head. “So tired, tired of waiting.” “The waiting is the hardest part.” SO much waiting which is one of the tough parts about this race. I just played on my phone, took in the atmosphere, and had to be patient. Eventually I got on a bus and it was nice and warm. It took at least 45 minutes to get bused out to Hopkinton and in that time I had another Picky Bar.

The chartered bus was extremely helpful in 2019 because it was a rainy morning. I got to stay dry on the bus and not worry about mud at Athletes’ Village. Fortunately the weather was pretty much perfect this year – 40s to 50s and clear. In addition to the sun I had my Salvation Army layer of clothes that kept me warm until I shed them before the race. I found a wooden fence to sit on and killed some time by rewatching the good luck video my awesome friends had made. At 10:00 I had my last Picky Bar.

At 10:20 my wave (#3) was allowed to start the .7-mile walk from Athletes’ Village to the start. More mobs of people moving slowly! Another bathroom stop along the way had me pressing my luck for my 10:50 starting time. I could start any time after my corral went off but I could be grouped with slower people. I was supposed to be in corral two and by the time I got up to the start they were on corral three. No big deal really and they let me right in.

After all of that waiting I was finally off! I’ve had it drilled into my head not to start too fast at this race. The first four miles are downhill and it’s easy to fly. Starting too fast could wreck the quads and make things bad for climbing the hills later in the race. In 2019 I didn’t even hit my goal pace going down the hills, let alone go out too fast. The weather was the main factor that time. I was slower than my goal pace this time too because of congestion. Maybe it would have helped if I had started with my proper corral? The course was so crowded I was slower than I planned to be. Getting stuck behind people got a little frustrating. I weaved around so much trying to find open spots that I knew I was bound to add extra distance to the 26.2 miles. It took several miles before it really opened up enough to move more freely.

I ran 3:52:15 in 2019 and my top goal this time was to redeem myself and run a better race. My body wasn’t acclimated to the heat and humidity we had that day and it kind of wrecked me. My goal is usually around 3:30 and I have only achieved it once in my previous eight marathons. With cooler temps and such a nice day it seemed like that goal could be achievable. Another top goal was to enjoy the crowds and the experience. I decided I should keep my phone in my pocket and take some photos and videos of the experience, which I never do during races. I knew how electric the crowd would be and the photographer in me wanted to capture some of that. As long as I achieved those top two goals, of course I also wanted to capitalize on all of my hard training and run the strongest race I could.

After the 2019 race I learned that Spencer the dog is an icon along the course. He was named the official dog of the 126th Boston Marathon this year! I didn’t see him in 2019 so I was determined to see him this time. I read that he would be on the right side of the road around 2.5 miles into the race. I’m usually pretty serious about my races and never really stop for photo opportunities. I made an exception for Spencer though! I moved off to the side of the road when I saw him and realized a few people were waiting to pose for pictures with him. I didn’t want to stop too long so I snapped a couple quick pictures then got moving again. Maybe I sacrificed 10-20 seconds which wasn’t too much in the big picture and seeing him made me smile!

After the race I actually came across a video posted by Spencer’s owner that caught me taking photos. Too funny!

I stuck to the right side of the road because my friend Mandy was spectating with friends somewhere within the next mile. It helped that they weren’t in a big crowd so I could spot them, say hi, and get a quick high five from her husband. Seeing them made me smile and gave me a boost for a little while.

I got another boost 10 miles into the race when I heard my name. I looked over and yelled, “Bruce! You’re awesome!” Another high five from someone I knew from back at home. I had no idea he’d be there! I was glad I was on the right edge of the road at the right time to catch him. That surprise made me smile for a bit too.

Since I had prepaid for the expensive photo package I made a point of trying to mug for the race photographers whenever I saw them. I look kind of silly in some of them but I was trying to have fun!

There are a few lulls in the crowd here and there along the course but never for very long. One of my favorite things about this race is the energy of the crowd. They are INCREDIBLE. To have people screaming and cheering you on for nearly 26 miles? What an amazing feeling. They made me smile for most of the race and lifted me up so much. The Wellesley girls were a highlight last time and I made sure to shoot some video this time. Their screaming can be heard before they’re even visible.

There are always funny signs along the course and one of my favorites said, “Running is a mental sport – you crazy.” People often have “power up” signs that you’re supposed to swat for a boost of power. In what I assume was a twist on that, I cracked up when I saw someone holding a big Will Smith head. After the Oscars debacle it was HIS turn to get slapped and plenty of runners knew exactly what they were supposed to do!

People blared music like AC/DC which got me pumped, especially as I watched a runner in front of me slap the hand of a guy wearing the band’s shirt at that spot. 

Having fun was such an overriding theme for me at this race. People say that after all of the hard work you’ve put in to get there the race is a celebration. I kept that in mind and numerous times I giddily thought to myself, “You’re running BOSTON right now!” I know it’s the ultimate goal for many and I am extremely grateful that I have been able to run this legendary race twice. I had a very unique feeling while I was out there. As I counted down how many miles I had left to go, I not only thought about how much closer I was to the finish but also thought about how much time I had left with this amazing experience. I didn’t want it to end! 

One way I boosted my mental game was to think of all of the support I had. I am fully aware that this running stuff I do is pretty crazy and most people have no desire to torture themselves that way. Yet I received SO much support from family and friends that it was humbling. I started to list off everyone in my head individually and think about how they had taken the time to let me know they were pulling for me. I was just out there doing this running thing and it blew my mind to get so much love from so many people. I kept that in mind no matter how I was feeling.

Fortunately, I felt pretty good most of the time. It was sunny and even during the very early miles I wondered if I was getting too warm. Sometimes the crowd gave me chills though! Although it had been really windy the prior few days we lucked out and it wasn’t too crazy on race day. I kept some wise words in mind from one of the panels I had attended – if we faced a headwind, just think about how it would help cool us down. That was a good perspective and it was true. The race day conditions were about as ideal as I could have hoped for.

There are some rolling hills throughout the course but the four hills from miles 16-21 are the REAL hills. They feel especially significant because they come later in the race when the legs are tired. The first one or two I thought, “Eh, not so bad, I’ve got this. I did all of those hill repeats in training to prepare for this.” Heartbreak Hill is the final one and climbs for half a mile straight. That took some work, for sure. My pace clearly slowed for the segment with all of those hills. I held up though and did a great job battling them.

It’s such a huge relief to see signs that let runners know when they’ve made it to the top of Heartbreak Hill. It’s all downhill from there! There are a few minor rolling spots along the way that feel much more significant on tired legs but it’s mostly smooth sailing after that point. 

I was able to maintain a very positive mindset the whole time. Running really IS a mental sport and even when I started to feel the bottom of my feet a bit more and became aware of my hamstrings working harder with those hills, I reminded myself that I was still holding up and continued to enjoy the electric atmosphere.

I followed my usual routine of grabbing a few sips of water at nearly every aid station while also supplementing with my own bottle of Nuun electrolyte drink. I ate Clif Blok chews with extra sodium every mile or two after the first 6-7 miles of the race. My stomach cooperated and although I had a moment here and there when I felt iffy, those moments passed and I still had energy to pick up my pace after I recovered from the hills.

Soon enough I had my first glimpse of the Citgo sign off in the distance. A while later it would pop up again and seem huge. It’s one of those significant markers on the course that makes you feel like you’re getting close. The crowd was on fire and if I held my phone up to capture video it got them even more fired up. It’s such an amazing feeling that makes me tear up even now thinking about it.

Eventually I saw signs and paint on the ground notifying us that we had one mile to go. I was going to give it everything I had left! Then came the famous “right on Hereford, left on Boylston.” Time to fly down the long straightaway to the finish line! Then it was a mix between a huge smile and being on the verge of choking up from the emotions.

Next came the honor of crossing that finish line.

Stopping afterward is brutal. Running for over 3.5 hours straight then coming to a total stop? That’s a shock to the system! Aside from some groaning and swearing I was fine though. No cramps or need for a wheelchair. As I watched other people get emotional it nearly got me too but somehow I avoided all-out tears.

I felt my phone going nuts. Again, it was amazing to receive SO much support! I glanced at the notifications on my screen and one popped up from my friend Mary Beth: “3:35:35! Amazing job!!!” I didn’t even know my time yet and that’s how I found out. Wait – I think I ran that EXACT same time in the 2019 Chicago Marathon. A check later confirmed that. How does that even happen?! Although the time might push it close to the limits of actually making the final cut, it was another Boston Qualifying time by 4:25! To BQ at Boston felt like the ultimate achievement. Clearly I shattered my first goal of running better than I did the first time I ran Boston. I ran a really solid time, finished strong, and most of all, enjoyed the whole experience. I felt pretty great!

I hit some photo stops after I received my medal and got a heat sheet, which I really needed as I began to cool down. I received a bag with treats then I really had to go to gear check to collect my warm clothes.

I was overwhelmed by all of the messages and decided to call my mom to fill her in first rather than try to respond to all the texts. Then I answered a few but knew I needed to get some food. I got some chocolate milk at 7-11 first and downed that right away. That’s my go-to recovery drink for carbs/protein. Then I went to Panera for a smoothie, muffin, and chocolate croissant to take back to my hotel. I was anxious to get back since I was getting really cold and my fingers were freezing.

I ate those treats then started digging into the post-race bag of goodies like Gatorade, some bars, chips, etc.

I turned on Debatable, my favorite music talk radio show on SiriusXM as I ate. Thanks to my great friends I got an on-air shoutout for finishing the race! My friends (and the hosts of the show) are the best. I spent forever going through messages before I finally showered and went to Ben and Jerry’s. Then I got pizza and cheese bread from Blaze Pizza. Things stiffened up if I sat down so walking around town felt better.

I went to bed much later than I should have because I still had to pack and get ready to leave early the next morning. I knew I probably wouldn’t sleep well anyway. Wow, was I right. Aching set in and I tossed and turned.

Despite feeling very tired the next day I also felt very accomplished. I was thrilled that I had “redeemed” myself and had run a much better race my second time in Boston. I was very happy to run such a good time on a challenging course. All of my hard training through another Michigan winter paid off. Most of all, I had a BLAST. I got to see some extremely inspiring speeches from some of my favorite athletes, I had so much fun hanging out with great friends, and I successfully executed my ninth marathon with a smile on my face most of the way.

For anyone who actually read all of this, thank you for your time. This marathon was such a special experience I wanted to remember everything about it. I didn’t want to skimp and leave anything out!

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and on Twitter @reidphotography

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