Boston Marathon Recap

Post-race jubilation

April 17th was my third round of the Boston Marathon and it was just as much of a thrill the third time around. As running superstar Des Linden said during one panel I attended, Boston is the center of the running universe that weekend. Once again, I was in runner’s paradise and loved nearly every minute of it…except maybe some of those minutes spent on the bus anxiously waiting for the start!

My 2023 Boston Marathon journey began very early on Friday morning with a flight that left Detroit a little after 7am. When I got to the hotel, I was relieved that I could check into my room before 10am just like last year. It was an absolutely gorgeous day in Boston that got up to around 80° – almost TOO hot for walking around!

Things were blooming and beautiful at the Public Garden

I stopped by Marathon Sports on Boylston to browse their gear before heading to the expo. They had a lot of cool stuff but I didn’t get anything yet. They gave me a pamphlet that listed locations for “pop-up shops” for brands such Asics, Brooks, Rabbit, Puma, and more. After I got to the expo and saw the lack of exhibits, I realized it was extremely helpful to know where I could actually go to find marathon-related merchandise.

I went to the expo shortly after it opened and it began with a slow crawl through a series of many lines in the convention center. Fortunately the line for my race bib was short. I couldn’t help but be wowed when I saw that they had packets for over 31,800 people.

Bib pickup

There were plenty of spots for photo opportunities so I had to take advantage of some of those.

Gotta pose with the bib!
Running hero Des Linden

As usual, the first area of the expo with the official Adidas gear was crazy. I glanced around briefly before I had to escape the mob of people. The rest of the expo was spacious and didn’t have a whole lot to offer. There were a bunch of exhibits but barely any of them had merch! The expo had a ton of awesome stuff in 2019. Understandably, it was scaled back in 2022 for post-COVID times. I was really disappointed to find even less stuff to browse this year.

There was a stage with a variety of panels throughout the whole weekend and the amazing Joan Benoit Samuelson was there as I walked through the expo. I stopped to listen to her for a bit until I thought about how much time I might be on my feet that day and figured it might be wise to keep moving.

Wise words from Joan Benoit Samuelson – a Boston and Olympic champion
The official race shirt that was provided with my bib

The Adidas area had the official jackets for sale but I’ve opted to hold off on that purchase for now. I won’t wear it much as the temperatures warm up and I’ve learned that I can snag one for half off if I wait until the summer. I will likely think about getting one then.

The 2023 Boston Marathon celebration jacket

I went to Newbury Street next to browse some of the pop-up shops. Nothing really stood out for me until I got to the Brooks Hyperion House. They had a bunch of cool stuff last year so I was excited to check it out.

The Brooks Running pop-up shop

Brooks is my go-to brand for running shoes and other gear. Their slogan is to “run happy” and they truly embody it. They put so much care into their shop with so many fun little details. They had snacks and a bunch of cool freebies like posters, stickers, pins, and even special Des and Hyperion House cookies!

As soon as you walk in, you can tell that the Brooks Hyperion House is a fun place to be
Free cookies and lots of other fun stuff
Des is the perfect spokeswoman for Brooks

I knew I wanted to buy a special Des Linden “Keep Showing Up” shirt, plus I walked away with a couple of free bags and lots of other goodies.

So much fun stuff from Brooks

I settled at the hotel for a brief snack break then went back out to Fan Fest to see Meb Keflezighi speak. He’s one of my very favorites and I love hearing him speak.

Meb speaking at Fan Fest

Then I went back to Marathon Sports and decided to get a quarter zip jacket to help me stay warm at the baseball game that night. As I left the store, I ran into my friend Steve from back home. We couldn’t believe the chances of running into each other like that with SO many people around! He was on his way to take some selfies at the finish line so I joined him.

With my fellow Rochester-area running buddy Steve

After that I went back to the Brooks house for a special live recording of the “Nobody Asked Us” podcast with running legends Des Linden and Kara Goucher. When I saw Kara’s social media post about her Boston appearances, I jumped immediately to grab a ticket for the podcast knowing that they’d disappear quickly. I was thrilled that I got a ticket, but as I waited in line to get in, I realized it didn’t actually guarantee that I would get a seat. The house is SO small and had very limited space. I ended up at the top of the stairs where I could see if I crouched down, but I figured that might be a bad position to hold for a hour with a marathon coming up. I mostly listened to the discussion and was totally fine with that because it was a great one.

Des Linden and Kara Goucher

I had plans to go to the Red Sox game next, and since I’d walk right past the convention center, I made another quick stop at the expo. As I went to enter, Steve was on his way out. We ran into each other totally by chance TWICE that afternoon. Too funny.

I discovered that the expo was way more mellow half an hour before it closed. I was able to get a hat in the Adidas area with barely any wait. I made time for one more photo stop with my new hat and jacket.

Plenty of cool backdrops for photos at the expo

It’s been a fun tradition to catch a game at Fenway Park each time I’ve been in town for the marathon. I enjoyed the game with my Boston-area friend Kristine and her son Jake last year and was thrilled that we were able to meet up again this year. As a bonus surprise, I got to see Meb a second time – throwing the first pitch!

Meb Keflezighi throwing out the first pitch
Hanging with my friend Kristine
With Kristine and Jake

After it had been so hot during the day, it got pretty cold during the game. All the more excuse for the cool Run BOS jacket I bought.

I had squeezed a lot of action into my first day and was pretty wiped out by the time I got back to the hotel. I had been up since 3am! I had signed up to do a shakeout run from the Brooks house with Des Linden on Saturday morning, but that 8am start didn’t seem like the best idea. I had gotten very poor sleep for most of the week and decided it would be much smarter to skip the run in favor of getting some sleep. I can’t do it ALL.

I went out for my own run around 10am on Saturday morning which allowed the crowds to clear following the big 5K race based out of Boston Common. It was a beautiful start to the day and I used my run to do some sightseeing.

I ran out to the harbor first
The Paul Revere statue with Old North Church in the distance
The General Hooker statue in front of the Massachusetts State House
A view of Beacon Street

That afternoon I returned to Fan Fest at Copley Square to see a panel with Des Linden and Edna Kiplagat which had a massive turnout. It was a great talk and I had to sneak out a few minutes early so I could catch the train to Cambridge for another event. I definitely packed in as much fun as I could!

Quite a crowd at Fan Fest
Edna Kiplagat and Des Linden

The T was very crowded and it took a bit for me to figure out how to go where I wanted to go, but eventually I made it to Lamplighter Brewing Co. – CX in Cambridge for a special Oiselle event. Oiselle is a running brand by and for women athletes that really concentrates on creating a supportive environment for women. It was another event that featured Kara Goucher, plus Lauren Fleshman was also there – another successful runner who helped create Picky Bars. I swear by the bars and am a Picky “AmBADASSador” so I jumped at the chance to see Lauren too. I shared info about the event with Steve and was glad that he made it and we got to hang out again.

Both Kara and Lauren are sponsored by Oiselle and have recently released memoirs about their careers in running. They had a great discussion that touched on their stories and how they’ve both stood up for what is right. Sally Bergesen, the founder of Oiselle, was also a wonderful part of the panel.

The Oiselle panel
Sally Bergesen, Lauren Fleshman, Kara Goucher, and Atsuko Tamura

We had a chance to mingle after the panel and I only wish I had more room in my suitcase so I could have brought my books for Lauren and Kara to sign! It was wonderful getting a chance to meet each of them. I brought the Picky Bar that sports Lauren’s name (Lauren’s Mega Nuts) and she didn’t mind my cheesy request to pose with the bar at all. Kara was so kind and amazing as well.

Such a pleasure to meet Lauren Fleshman
The wonderful Kara Goucher

I had a quick chat with Sally Bergesen as well and told her how much I appreciate what she has created. Aside from the great apparel Oiselle has to offer, the welcoming and supportive community for women is a whole other aspect that has been a great thing for the sport of running.

Oiselle’s Sally Bergesen

When I went to catch the T back to Boston, a woman asked me if I could help her figure it out. Her name was April and she knew I had come from the Oiselle event like she and her mom had. The way that community works basically meant we instantly became friends! I offered a quick charge from my external charger since her phone had died. That was enough for her to get back into her Uber app where she had ordered a driver right before her phone died. She offered me a ride back with them and I’m so glad I took her up on it. We shared stories about running and I was so excited to learn that it was her first time running Boston. She is from Florida and has run the Disney races that I desperately want to do some day. We exchanged info to follow each other on the race tracker and shared Instagram handles as well so we can keep in touch. Just another example of Oiselle bringing women together!

It was my plan to do all of the fun stuff on Friday and Saturday then get off my feet and chill on Sunday. There were several more panels that I could have attended but I limited myself to one that featured coach Kevin Hanson and six of his athletes who spoke at the Brooks Hyperion House. I shop at the Hansons Running stores and their partnership with Brooks is the whole reason I first tried Brooks shoes. I wanted to be there to support the local runners who I see all the time on the trail and at the metropark, and Steve was also there because he felt the same way.

Five of the six athletes would be racing Boston for the first time. We got to hear about how they had spent several days training on the course and what their expectations and concerns were. It was a great discussion and a nice chance to catch up with Kevin as well.

More fun at the Brooks house
The Hansons panel
Olivia Pratt, Jessie Cardin, Anne-Marie Blaney, JP Flavin, Wilkerson Given, Jack Mastandrea, and Kevin Hanson

It’s easy to stay distracted while having fun running around to panels, the expo, and other various events on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, things suddenly became a bit more real and the worries seeped in. Am I feeling that tweaky spot inside of my knee enough to be concerned? Which shoes should I wear in the rain? Do my “super shoes” have less traction and should I worry about sliding in them? 50s are great for racing, but could I get too cold in the rain if there’s some wind? Should I wear a light rain jacket? Should I wear gloves? Fortunately I have some great friends who are runners who could help talk some sense into me. Plus, Kevin Hanson reminded me that when it had been rainy for the miserable 2018 race that had so much carnage, it had also been much colder and windier. I told myself not to overdress and to skip the jacket. My super shoes should be fine. It would all be fine! I organized my gear for the race and determined that it was done, no more debating. That helped ease some nerves.

My “flat Janet”

I got a big lunch after the Hansons panel then only went back out to get a sandwich from Panera later in the afternoon. I made it to bed around 9:30 and actually got some fairly decent sleep.

Marathon Monday had arrived and I got up around 5am. It would be a long morning leading up to my start time at 10:50.

I left the hotel just after 6am to drop warm clothes at the gear check area. I was prepared with a raincoat from the Salvation Army but at least the rain hadn’t started yet. I had more walking to do to so I could catch my bus from the Back Bay area. A running store in Michigan charters buses which is an especially great perk when the weather is iffy. I missed the bus last year so I made SURE I was early this year. My timing was perfect because I ran into my friend Jeff’s girlfriend Jenni and we were able to sit together on the bus. It was great getting to catch up and have good company for killing some of the time.

Hanging with Jenni on the bus

As we arrived in Hopkinton we came to a stop but it wasn’t at Athletes’ Village as planned. The road was blocked and we weren’t moving anywhere. For a while I wasn’t concerned since I still had three hours before I’d start anyway. After waiting at least 20 minutes without going anywhere we finally got an update. We were actually CLOSER to the start where we got stuck. It was 0.3 miles to the start from there versus having to walk 0.7 miles from Athletes’ Village. We could just stay on the bus there and security would let us through without any issues. We’d miss out on the Athletes’ Village experience but I knew I wasn’t missing anything but crowds, porta potties, and the long walk to the start. This actually worked in our favor.

The reason our bus got stuck

Then it was just a matter of watching the clock. I groaned when some time passed and I realized I still had two and a half hours to go. Then an hour and a half. That downtime before the start of the race is almost painful. It was nice chatting with other people on the bus and realizing we all had our own current injury woes to share. I ate a couple Picky Bars and drank water to make sure I’d be fueled enough for the race. I also stood in the aisle at times to make sure I didn’t stiffen up from sitting so long…especially with my bad hamstring. It was nice to have a warm and dry place to wait but the bus was getting to be TOO warm for me. It began to bother my head and I was afraid I’d develop a headache. When I had nearly an hour to go until the start, I decided it might be a better option to head out into the rain than to grow more uncomfortable on the bus. I wished Jenni good luck and ventured out.

We were parked very close to the “last stop” collection of porta potties near the starting corrals so I headed there. I still had time to kill and worried about my shoes getting too wet from the rain, but fortunately it let up a little bit before the start of the race.

TONS of porta potties

I was in corral number two of the third wave and had plenty of time to make my way up there and shed my Salvation Army rain coat and track pants as we neared the 10:50 start.

Staying dry as long as I could!

The moment finally came and we were off! Slowly. When people talk about race strategy for Boston they always reinforce how important it is to hold back for the first few miles and not run down those hills too fast. If you do, they could beat up your quads and you’ll pay for it later when the uphill climbs hit. However, now that I’ve done this race three times I’ve found that it’s always so congested that I couldn’t run fast even if I wanted to. I’ve learned not to worry about slow starts at big marathons. It evens out eventually and maybe it’s a good thing to stay under control at the beginning.

Lots of people filling the road, plus a sign recognizing the 10-year anniversary since the bombings

I typically try to train for a 3:30 marathon which means running an average of an 8:00 pace. I’ve only pulled that off successfully at one marathon so far, which was in Indianapolis in 2021 where I ran just under 3:29. Otherwise, it seems like I often tend to finish around the 3:34-3:35 range. My training went well until sometime in March when I developed a pain on the inside of my right knee. That was on top of the left hamstring issue I’ve continued to run through since October. The knee issue caused me to miss three of my long runs, including two critical 20-milers. It took some time to regain some of the fitness I had lost in the couple of weeks I took off and I knew I ought to adjust my goals for this race. Instead of running an 8:00 pace I kind of arbitrarily decided an 8:15 pace might work. After a slower 8:33 first mile, I actually ended up running right around 8:15 for the next couple miles. I basically ran at a pace that felt comfortable and sustainable so maybe I really was on track with that estimated goal.

It was around 50° and felt perfect for running when it wasn’t raining. I didn’t mind some light rain but eventually it picked up. Prior to that, I pulled my phone out a few times to capture some photos and videos of the electric atmosphere. Despite having some kind of general goal to guide me in how to pace my run, one of my ultimate goals at Boston is always to celebrate the experience. It’s our day to feel like rockstars and the spectators that line the course definitely make you feel like one. I knew that my friend Jeff was going to be spectating somewhere after the 10K point and I was super happy when I spotted him and got to say hi.

Even in the rain, the people show up

The “scream tunnel” at Wellesley College is always a huge highlight of the race. The women are SO enthusiastic that I can’t help but pick up my pace. They’re located around the halfway point of the race and are such a welcome boost of energy.

The Wellesley girls are always a bright spot of the race with their signs and screams

My pace varied a little bit from mile to mile, but other than a couple miles in the low 8:20s, I was in the 8:10s for the first half of the race. Most importantly, my watch showed that I was averaging 8:16 overall. I was keeping things under control and although I may have been a second slower than the random pace I had chosen to aim for, I was clearly running a smart race so far.

I was especially relieved that my problematic hamstring didn’t flare up AT ALL. I’d been to six physical therapy sessions prior to the race and maybe it had already started to help! I had a few stiff spots, but the areas I had worried about didn’t give me any issues. However, I did experience some flashing before my eyes for a mile or two before I’d even reached the halfway point. I knew that it was a sign that a migraine could be coming. I went through a period years ago when I had some migraines. Then they just stopped and I haven’t had one for years. I was a bit concerned about how it might affect my race. I knew it wasn’t a good thing to see stars while I ran. I really hoped I wouldn’t faint! I hoped I wouldn’t have to try to finish a marathon with a pounding headache. As some wise people have said though, run the mile you’re in. Things come and go during a marathon. You might think you’re going to have to make a bathroom stop one minute, but five minutes later you feel fine. I was very lucky that when the flashing finally stopped, a migraine did not follow.

Throwing my hands up for the photographers

When the rain did pick up for a little while, all I could do was laugh it off. I thought of a quote from Jeff Dengate from Runner’s World magazine: “Rain or sweat, you’re gonna get wet.” I always look for some kind of perspective to keep me positive while I run. I’ve done plenty of training in the rain and it really was no big deal. I was a little concerned that I might get cold, and my hands did get a little rubbery in the later miles, but I was fine otherwise. I had wondered if my shoes would provide enough traction in the rain and fortunately they worked well enough. I just had to avoid any paint on the road which got especially slippery, but that’s the case no matter what kind of shoes I would have chosen. I heard some people mention a headwind after the race and I honestly didn’t even think about wind as a factor at all during the race. Running in wet shoes isn’t totally ideal, but the conditions seemed to work well enough for me. Cool rain is better than heat or humidity for me!

That smile is genuine and pretty much how I felt during the whole race
It was a bit damp out there!

I don’t listen to music while I race but I often have songs run through my head. One song that came to mind was “I’m Good” from the band The Mowgli’s since it had come up on a playlist when I got ready that morning. “I’m good, I’m good, I’m good, I’m good. Living life just like I should. Wouldn’t change it if I could, I’m good, I’m good, I’m good, I’m good.” Throughout the race I kept telling myself, “I’m good!” Mantras really help my mental game during something as grueling as a marathon. 

I wore a Picky Bars AmBADASSador shirt for the race and that also gave me a boost. Now and then I’d think about that word on my chest and it was empowering to remind myself that I was a badass for doing this.

Those wet roads didn’t bother me!

I added a third mantra to the mix when I pulled my phone out to shoot video. I saw a text notification from my friend Carmen that said, “You are crushing it!!!” It made me smile and I kept telling myself that for the rest of the race. Big thanks to Carmen for giving me another way to stay positive!

When I got to the stretch of Newton Hills between 16-21 miles I thought about something one of the Hansons’ athletes (JP Flavin) had said the previous day. He said he knows he can run up and down hills and wasn’t scared of them. I thought of Ghostbusters and my mantra became, “I ain’t afraid of no hills!” It worked! I reminded myself of all of the hills I ran around home in preparation for the race. Of course I still slowed down as I climbed, and I learned from family and friends that the race tracker made it look like my pace had dropped dramatically enough to concern them! The mile to mile splits weren’t as dramatic on my watch though and honestly, the downhill stretches that followed were significant enough to help me regain momentum. The hills didn’t feel that bad to me and once I made it to the top of Heartbreak Hill, I reminded myself again that I was crushing it. I went from an 8:41 mile at 21 back down to an 8:05 mile for 22. The fact that I was still going that strong that late in the race made me feel great.

The Citgo sign is significant because it’s around that point when we only have a mile to go!

I was successful in my goal of enjoying the experience. I know what a special experience it is to run THE Boston Marathon and I was extremely grateful the whole time. I loved the crowds and just kept smiling throughout the miles.

Working hard but loving every bit of it

I reached the underpass where we go downhill, but of course have to climb back uphill after that. Although people like to say that the race is all downhill after the Newton Hills, there are a few little sneaky ones to battle. I reached the famous “right on Hereford, left on Boylston” point of the race just before the end and realized why some people refer to it as “Mount Hereford.” It’s not a significant climb but you definitely feel it when it comes that late in the race.

Making that final left turn onto Boylston
The crowd provides a great finishing boost along Boylston

It was time to give all that I had for that final stretch on Boylston. My watch told me I averaged 8:16 for much of the race and that average came down to 8:15 eventually. I believe I actually ran a negative split in Boston – definitely the sign of a solid race!

Flying along Boylston

I brought my pace down to 8:01 for the 26th mile! Since it’s hard to run tangents on a course that is so crowded, my watch told me that I ran 26.43 miles rather than 26.2. I picked up the pace to an average of 7:37 for nearly half a mile at the end. According to my Garmin stats, that was good for an average of 8:13 overall! Officially, it was a little slower (an 8:18 average), but I was pretty proud that I finished so strong.

Finishing strong

I was thrilled when I crossed the finish line because I knew I had run another BQ – a Boston qualifier!

Just after I crossed the finish line
A slew of Boston finishers
I need to run a 3:40 to qualify for Boston, so this means I did it!
My Garmin stats
My Garmin splits

I held it together during the race, but a minute after I finished the race the emotions hit and I shed a few tears. Once again, I had completed the Boston Marathon. For my second time, I ran a BQ AT Boston which is the ultimate. I had run a really smart race and felt great the whole time. It was the best feeling.

A little teary-eyed here
The third unicorn that I have earned

I took time to revel in the feelings of my accomplishment while also knowing I better try to warm up SOON. Coming to a complete stop while I was wet and it was 50° could turn ugly fast.

A heat sheet would help warm me up very slightly

I collected some extra layers at gear check but was still shivering and worked my way back to the hotel slowly. I made a quick call to my mom knowing that she had been tracking me. I let her know that I was thrilled with my race, I was okay, but I was cold and had to get moving so I would talk more later. I was humbled by all of the messages of support that I had received and wanted to get back to everyone. I had put myself in the challenging position of trying to check out of the hotel by 4:00 though. I finished the race around 2:30, collected all of the stuff at the finish line, then still had to make the SLOW walk back to the hotel. I thought about how funny it was that I’d been flying along minutes earlier and now I could barely walk!

I made it to the hotel by 3:00, downed some chocolate milk and a couple of protein bars, then had to get in the hot shower. My stomach was fine during the race but not so much afterward. It was pretty angry about what I had done to my body! I scrambled to pack up my wet race gear and everything else and get down to the lobby just in time to save myself from paying for an extra night. I usually leave on Tuesday morning but this time I needed to get back to work the next day. I joked that trying to pull off my quick exit with the flight then drive home, and surviving work the next day on barely any sleep might be more of an endurance event than running the race!

Once again, the entire weekend was an incredible experience. I will have to see if my qualifying time with a 2:42 buffer is enough to actually make it into the race next year. No buffer was necessary the last couple years – anyone who qualified made it in. I might be tempted to try to run a faster marathon before it’s time to register in mid-September, but maybe my time is good enough that I don’t have to worry. I’m already questioning that because I love this race so much that I’d love to return any time I have the opportunity. I’ll try to ride this high for a little while first though because I’m thrilled with how it all played out.

– Janet

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