Heading into Mile 10 of Monday’s Boston Marathon I knew I was in trouble. Despite starting with a bottle in hand and dumping water on myself at every available opportunity, I was roasting in the middle of the road. If there was a tailwind, I didn’t feel it. My pace was starting to slow, the 71-degree temperature taking its toll and punishing me for my early aggressiveness. My training told me I had close to 2:30 fitness in my legs but truth be told it wasn’t a 2:30 type of day for me given the warm weather conditions. I knew this when I stepped into the corral of course, and should have been more respectful of that fact, but I went out at 2:30 pace anyway—like an idiot. And I paid for it. Mightily. My A, B and C goals went out the window pretty quickly and I went into straight-up survival mode. I spent the entire last 16 miles of the race figuring out how I was going to make it to the finish line. In racing, as in life, you decide how to play the hand you’re dealt. Everyone was dealt theirs from the same deck yesterday. I didn’t play my cards right and got myself into a hole very early on in the race. My two options were to fold or find a way out of it. I chose the latter. Why? There were a number of reasons:
1. It’s Boston. I have too much respect for the event—and its history—to quit without a legitimate reason. Pinning that bib on my singlet is an honor and a privilege that I don’t take for granted. I’ve been fortunate to be able to do it three times now. I thought of the thousands of runners who would have lined up for the chance to trade spots with me and it helped me to appreciate the opportunity I had to be out there.
2. What was my excuse? Many times throughout the course I passed people in wheelchairs, blind runners tethered to guides, athletes with one or less lower limbs, and various other participants who were dealing with a lot more challenging circumstances than warm weather and a too-hot early pace. This helped put my own situation in perspective.
3. I wasn’t the only one struggling. I saw all manner of carnage along the course yesterday. Runners with numbers far lower than my 599 were moving slower than me even when I wasn’t moving that fast myself. Runners were puking along the course, grabbing the backs of their legs to fend off a cramp, or standing on the side of the road contemplating whether or not to continue. It was a rough day for a lot of people. But if they could keep going, I could keep going, even if it meant walking through every aid station from mile 21 to the finish (a first for me), or running a 13-minute positive split to record my slowest marathon (2:47:21) to date. Misery loves company, or something like that.
4. You finish what you start. When things don’t line up perfectly or go your way, you’ve got to complete the job. And while I’m disappointed with my result yesterday, I’m proud of my finish. The lessons I learned along the way will serve me well and foster future growth. I’m holding my head high. Every finish line—races, work deadlines, you name it—should be celebrated.
All in all, no excuses, no regrets. As Bill Rodgers famously said, “The marathon can humble you.” It wasn’t the first bad race I’ve ever had and it sure as hell won’t be the last. I should have taken my own pre-race advice (thankfully most of my athletes did a better job of this than me!) but nothing I can do about that other than to not ignore it next time.
Finally, I’m appreciative of all the interest, support, well wishes and notes of encouragement before, during and after the race. It means a lot, so thank you. I enjoyed meeting so many readers at the shakeout run on Saturday, in the Athletes Village before the race and even along the course. Hats off to everyone who gave it a go and congratulations to all those who finished on a less-than-ideal day for marathoning. It was great to be out there sharing the experience with you.
Boston, I’ll be back.
A version of this post first appeared in the morning shakeout, my weekly email newsletter covering running, media and other topics that interest me. If you’d like for it to land in your inbox first thing on Tuesday mornings, subscribe here.