The 114th Boston Marathon (Race Report)

Subtitle: Thank God for Drunk BC Kids!

I'll do another post later with pictures from the @dailymile meetup and Expo on Saturday. Right now, I just wanted to get this out of my head...

I started training for this day, in earnest, in October. Everything I've done for the last 6 months of my life was leading-up to this moment. From the pre-dawn sub-zero runs where my water bottles froze, to the 18-mile drudge in the middle of a Nor' Easter and even the beautiful 21-mile run on the course from the start until just after Heartbreak Hill when I felt like I could have run the marathon in 3:30! One thing I've learned in my short, six-month running career is that some days you have it, and some days you just don't. No matter what you do or how perfectly you prepare, if it's just not your day, it's just not your day. This was one of those days for me. 

Going into my taper I had a litany of small, nagging injuries that I had hoped would heal-up just fine over the three weeks of my taper. Pretty much everything that was bothering me healed-up, and the compartment syndrome in my posterior tib was doing much better. My sports Chiro was treating me with ultrasound and e-stim, etc. And I was doing my part with the stretches and icing. As my taper went along I felt stronger and stronger. With my strong performance in my final 5k Vdot test, I also earned my first blister on my right foot, but it healed well and looked good the morning of the marathon.

I spoke with Coach Cap on Friday evening and we had a long chat about my nutrition plan and I followed it to a "T." I've never felt that nutrition has been a problem for me going into any of my previous races including the Hyannis Half and the Boston Prep 16, but Coach was able to give me some understanding of the differences in nutritional prep for a marathon as opposed to the other distances. I took it all to heart, followed the plan, and didn't have any of my "usual" GI disturbances and pain during or after the marathon. Amazing! Throughout the race I felt like my energy levels were high and don't think I ever really "crashed" physically. I carried a high level of energy all the way through the race, so what went wrong? I'm still trying figure that out...

I went to bed early on Saturday night (9 pm) and Isabelle actually let us all sleep-in by not waking-up until after 8 am (miracles never cease). Sunday I wanted to get to bed at 8, but no matter what I did, i kept finding one more thing that needed to be done in preparation for Monday, finishing-up with making my Belgian Waffle Batter for my Marathon Monday big breakfast and an e-mail from Coach Cap about my pacing strategy. My goal coming into training for this marathon was simply to finish. As I got further into the training and was able to consistently exceed my own expectations and constantly surprise myself, I figured I could run a sub-4 and was most probably capable of much more. Coach Cap agreed and laid-out a strategy for running a 3:45:00. After reading the pacing strategy, I let it sink-in for a minute and got to bed around 9:30.

I woke at 5am with my alarm, jumped into a nice hot shower, lubed-up with Body Glide and got dressed. I decided to wear my nice warm Smartwool Adrenaline Multi-Sport socks until I put my shoes on, when i would slather my feet in Body Glide Liquified Powder and put on my brand new Smartwool PhD Performance Ultra Lite Running socks that I bought specifically for the marathon (apparently a poor choice, btw). I woke-up Lex and Isabelle and started cooking our waffles. We had a nice big waffle and maple syrup breakfast, gathered our things that we had prepared the prior evening and headed-out the door by 630am, arriving at the Masonic Hall (Children's HQ) just before 7am. I was one of the first to arrive (before any of the busses), so I found myself a nice corner upstairs and set-up camp. I was going to relax with some tunes from my brand new 5th Gen iPod Nano , but apparently the headphone jack was screwed-up and only the external speaker worked (you should've seen the funny looks I got from the few other there who were trying to sleep). [post script: I'm a dumbass. I returned the first one only to find the second one had the same problem- The headphones didn't seem to fit in the jack... Only to realize they actually snap into place tight, D'oh!]

I sat and collected myself sipping on my Accelerade until about 830 when I ate a banana and started getting ready. I mixed-up my Fuel Belt bottles of (2) Accelerade and (2) GU (I mix 2 gels + 6oz. of water in each bottle), made sure my bag was packed properly and took it to the bus. Then I walked around making nervous small-talk with some Children's Team member's I was familiar with, used the totally available private porta-potties (awesome) a few times, did some light stretching and jogging around the parking lot. I walked next door to watch the Elites come out to the start and got some good video of Meb and Ryan as they came out. Watched as the sea of humanity that was the first wave started. Did some dynamic stretching with the Children's team, then made my way to my corral.

Once I was in my corral, I found @runnrgrl my running partner for the day. We realized earlier that we were aiming for the same pace/time goal and decided we'd run together as long as we could. We also bumped into @petfxr in the corral and gave hugs and well-wishes to each other. Once we started, it was literally almost 15 minutes by the time we had actually crossed the starting line. While walking toward the starting line I saw my buddy "Phill, Phill Kennedy" and said "hey" to him as he was outside of the corrals waiting to run "bandit" for the second year in a row. I've never in my life witnessed anything as amazing as nearly 23,000 runner's spread-out down the road in front of me. I was trying to take it all in without getting to wrapped-up in it all. I wanted to run conservatively for the first half of the race and not burn myself out before the "Hills of Newton." I decided ahead of time that I wasn't going to take any of the Gatorade Endurance while on the course as Gatorade ALWAYS gives me heartburn, and I'd been training with Accelerade since the beginning. I also planned on taking at least a sip or two of water from the aid station's only if I was thirsty.

Miles 1-5 Splits (9:12)(9:05)(9:07)(8:43)(9:37)

Everything started-out beautifully. With the crowds on the narrow streets of the first couple of miles, I don't think it was possible for me to run any faster. Then I just settled into what I felt was a comfortable pace for me. In the middle of the 5th mile @runnrgrl had to use the porta-potty, so I slowed-up a little so that she could catch back-up without burning herself out, but I also didn't want to lose too much time that it would be difficult to make-up.

Miles 6-10 Splits (8:44)(8:51)(8:59)(8:56)(9:04)

Drank 4oz of my GU mixture shortly into mile 6. My friend James and his wife Shanna had set themselves u[ around 5.5 miles by the Winter St. Bridge in Framingham. I was really looking forward to seeing them, as I was running to honor the memory of their daughter, but somehow I missed them. This was almost too much for me to deal with emotionally at that point. I really struggled with my emotions over the next few miles as we moved from Framingham into Natick . I even pulled-out my Blackberry and sent them a text to let them know how sorry I was to have missed them. @runnrgrl really helped me by putting things into perspective so I could focus on running my own race. Over the next few miles we had some excellent conversation and realized we actually had a lot in common. It never ceases to amaze me when talking to other runner's that just about everyone has something to share, some motivation, history, or experiences that we all have in common outside of running. Doesn't matter where you go, there's such a camaraderie among runner's. It really is amazing. I was incredibly thankful and blessed to have @runnrgrl there to share with at that point. It was exactly what I needed when I needed it. I drank some of my Accelerade concentrate with a water from the aid station at mile marker 8. I kept up a solid pace that would keep me in the sub-4 hour range, figuring if I didn't tear myself up now I could really burn it up after Heartbreak.

Miles 11-15 Splits (8:59)(8:52)(8:52)(9:04)(9:12)

Drank 4oz of GU in mile 11. Coming through the Wellesley Scream Tunnel was an absolutely amazing experience. The support from those girls was simply inspiring. I actually thought about kissing one of them since they were ALL asking for it (LOL), but considering it would most likely be saved and replayed forever in the age of YouTube, I decided to refrain and opted for some high-fives instead. Coming into Wellesley I was feeling great knowing I was halfway done. Drank more of my Accelerade with some water at the mile 13 aid station. I looked at my Half-Marathon split as I passed-over the mats, noticing I was at 1:58 and change I knew I was in good position to hit the sub-4 or better. Just after mile marker 14 I saw my family on the side of the road and stopped for some hugs-and-kisses from my girls and a high five from my father-in-law then was once again on my way.

Miles 16-20 Splits (8:54)(9:26)(9:29)(9:21)(10:23)

After the mile 16 marker I drank some more GU and had a little extra water from the aid station. I continued to run strong and happy after 17, knowing I was going to see Coach Cap after the turn onto Comm Ave. in front of the fire station. Unfortunately, he didn't recognize me with my freshly shaved head and I didn't notice him until right as I was passing by him. I yelled to him and flashed him a peace sign as I continued to hammer out the hills. The hills slowed me down a bit, but overall I didn't feel bad. Although somewhere around mile 17 I started to feel a blister on my right foot and somewhere around the 30k mark my left calf started to cramp. It was also around the 30k mark that I watched @runnrgrl steadily pulling away from me, and a sense of dread started to move-in... The Children's Coaches came running by and asked if I needed anything, told me I was looking good but said I looked like I was "running a little hot." I just kept plugging away as I remembered my 21-miler on the course and how mile 19 was the most difficult for me then too, but knowing it lasted less than a mile, I drank another GU and just kept grinding it out hoping things would pick up if I pushed through it.

Miles 21-25 Splits (11:08)(11:50)(11:54)(10:48)(11:23)

I saw James and Shanna at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill, this gave me a huge emotional lift, but maybe it was too much as I stopped to give them hugs and completely broke-down. Tears were pouring down my face as I ran away from them toward Heartbreak. That hill was not at all like I remembered it. I didn't think I was going to make it, every step was getting more and more painful. About halfway up, my friend Josh (@bostoncardiovet) jumped-in and ran a bit with me. He asked how I was doing and I told him it was getting rough. He told me I was looking good and gave me some more words of encouragement that helped perk me up a little. Then somewhere just after the 21 Mile marker the wheels came off. My blister was bothering me a little bit, but my left calf completely locked-up and I couldn't even walk. The emotions all came flooding-in as I stood there trying to will myself to move. I thought about all of my training, all of the sacrifices my family had made, all of my donors, Jimmy and Shanna,  and all of the people who would be following my performance online and via text. It was all over. Just as I sent a text to Lex telling her simply "I'm done," a whole group of drunk BC guys came running over to me, hugging me, screaming at me and smacking me on the ass, and believe it or not, they helped get my legs moving again. I think I owe my finish to them! LOL! But I knew my goal of a sub-4 marathon was out-of the question at that point. I went into "Just Finish" mode and walked through the aid stations, drinking Gatorade and Water, pouring water over my head, just trying to get through.

Mile 26.2 (10:09) - 4:14:09 Official Time

As I was coming over the bridge into Kenmore Sq. I saw someone go down on my right, looked at them and thought "Oh they're ok" and kept running. Little did I know that they started CPR on the person immediately after I passed by.  My friend Michael (@milesandtrials) was there in the crowd on top of the bridge and started yelling at me. I waved to him, then saw the sign in front of me that read "One mile left," and just started running as fast and hard as I could. I ran that last mile with every bit of heart that I had left. I was passing people by the handful. I even passed a fellow Children's team member from Shrewsbury, whom I knew was an experienced marathoner, one who had smoked me in the Boston Prep 16. As I passed him I said, "Looks like the Shrewsbury guys are going to finish together today." To which he looked up and said "It was a tough one..." and he faded-back. I lost him after the turn from Heresford onto Boylston St. Only to find out later that he had stopped to grab the jogging stroller with his patient partner in it to take him to the finish.

As I crossed the finish, I can't even explain the sense of relief, and exquisite pain I felt. It was so strange to feel both of those things at the same time. I just knew I had to keep moving or I was going to drop. Both calves were cramping, my quads were on fire and my head was spinning. Somehow I moved through the gauntlet that is the post-race area gathering my blanket, medal, food and water and just continuing the drudge through to the family reunion area. You could've knocked me over with a feather, and some lady very nearly did. Luckily we both grabbed each other and held on for dear life preventing us both from going down. We both let out a huge sigh and said "Phew! That was close! Coulda' got ugly." When I finally got there, I was just so incredibly happy to see my wife and daughter. As I sat down on the granite side of a flower bed outside of the Hancock Tower I couldn't help but remember how, in another life, at almost 300 pounds and completely unhealthy I used to take my smoke breaks in that same spot every day... 

I'm STILL really not a runner, but I am a MARATHONER!


  1. Congrats on a great finish!!! Sorry you didn't break 4 hours, but as you said, sometimes it's your day (and sometimes it's not). Amazing job finishing and I'm hoping to join you in being a marathoner this fall. :)

  2. great post, and a great race! The only marathoners that have never had a marathon where they had to go into "just finish" mode are the ones that haven't run very many, so don't feel bad about that. To run Boston as strong as you did in your first marathon was a great accomplishment! Enjoy the experience, learn and come back for more! Hope you're still wearing that well earned medal.


  3. Congrats! That's a great time for any marathon. Inspiring story.
    -Doc (http://keepmovingdoc.blogspot.com)

  4. I hate to tell you, but you ARE a runner. Just Finish is the toughest race to finish...the last 10K of a marathon is where you discover something about yourself, and you discovered that when the chips are down and the outcome is in question, you finish...YOU FINISH! Nicely done Buddy!

  5. It was a pleasure to meet you, and I have felt like this in some marathons I have run. Well done for gutting it out, finishing strong.be proud!!!!!

  6. You are awesome! Your time is amazing for a first timer! I would love to run a 4:14! I am running my first marathon in Chicago...training starts in June. I can only hope to feel the same way! keep it up!
    -@anivs18 over at http://gettingstrongerburningfat.blogspot.com/

  7. hey there friend,
    monday april 19 was a tremendous day and a great journey. it was an honour to share part of the day with you.you're an incredible inspiration through your will and determination to do great things.thank you.

  8. You are amazing and aninspiration. Great determination to finish strong. Your awesome :) Great post

  9. Congrats on finishing Boston, Doug. You'll have that to look back on and smile for the rest of your life.

    I'm new to your blog and wondering...why do you say you're not a runner? I won't argue with you; I didn't consider myself one until very recently. For me it had nothing to do with ability, but rather how much I enjoyed it.

  10. Thanks Matt! The reason(s) I say I'm really not a runner are outlined (vaguely) in my very early posts. I'm actually working on a more clear and concise "mission statement" post on just that subject. But it has to do with the excuse I used to always give for not running, and the thing I hear the most from other people when they try to tell me why they don't run...

  11. What a great blog post! I loved it. As I read it aloud to my husband I had to stop at one point because I was about to cry (the Heartbreak hill part just before the BC drunks). You raced an incredible race. You gave it your ALL and for that you should be proud. 4:14 is a very respectable marathon time. You'll get that elusive sub-4, I promise.

    p.s. I think we actually met and conversed at the Boston Prep 16 miler!! I remember running with someone sporting a Children's singlet that day (well there were two there).

  12. Thanks so much for the kind words! Funny... When I saw you at the @dailymile meet-up I felt like you were very familiar! Small world, huh? There were in fact two of us there (at the BP 16) that day and we finished the race together. If you want another good cry, scroll down in my blog and read my race report from the BP 16. LOL! I still cry when I read it!

  13. Oh yeah, it's titled "Two Roads Diverged in a Wood..." and it was posted on January 24, 2010. I'm actually pretty proud of that post!

  14. Congrats! It is amazing how in such a long race the little things matter so much.

    You've now officially lived twice the life most people have! Don't stop.

  15. Inspiring! I think most people don't meet their time expectations on the first marathon but to finish is a marvelous feat in itself! You did great and should be very proud!

  16. Wow! I'm just blown away. Knowing you've only been running for 6 months makes this all the more incredible. I'm not gonna lie, I teared up a little at the end reading about your comeback from feeling like giving up. I cried at mile 21 too on my marathon, so much emotion on that last stretch of the race. Love that the drunk BC kids got you going again : )

    I know you didn't reach your goal but I'm blown away at your time! First marathon on a famously difficult course and you finished in 4:14?! That is amazing! You should shoot for the Baystate marathon in Lowell this Oct. I bet you could easily break 4 hours on that course!

  17. You are a rock star! I had a similar test of will in the Marine Corps Marathon last October (http://endlessrunner.wordpress.com/2009/11/02/marine-corps-marathon-2009-defense-wins-championships/, if you really want to read all about it) I will tell you, this has 100% made your a better runner, and the next time you run any type of race (5k to a marathon) you will feel stronger and mentally tough because of this.

    Congrats on a great job on the course, and also raising so much money for a worthy cause. You kick BUTT!!!