Latest reviews by Jessie Benson
This past Sunday, I completed my 28th full marathon, the TCS New York City Marathon. It was my 18th state on my quest to run a marathon in all 50 states, and my last of the 6th World Majors. (Chicago: 2011, Berlin: 2013, Tokyo 2015, London 2016, Boston 2017, New York City 2017)
All in all, a really fun day, quite the experience!
The TCS New York City Marathon is the biggest marathon in the world. It has more than 50,000 participants! It’s definitely crowded at parts. In my personal opinion is that it was one of the hardest of the 6 World Major Marathons. I’d say maybe Boston’s Newton hills are harder, but overall, NYC is harder because of the crowds and the number of hills/bridges. But “hard” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it! It’s still an awesome marathon, one that I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to experience.
A few quick highlights in case you don’t make it through this entire recap:
– Running a few miles next to comedian Kevin Hart
– Getting recognized from my blog in the starting corrals
– The overwhelming cheering for me by name (You MUST wear your name on your shirt for this marathon!)
– Finishing under 4 hours, which was my goal for the 6 World Majors (the only one I need to do again is Chicago!)
– Receiving this mammoth medal!
I shared a bit about the expo in this weekly recap post. We attended on Friday afternoon/late evening, and it was not too busy; in fact, I was impressed by how organized it was. We were able to pick up our bibs/packets quite quickly.
For the finisher’s shirt, there were volunteers giving you different sizes to try on, because after you received your shirt, you couldn’t exchange it. I’m glad I tried it on as I had originally asked for a small and switched to a medium.
The official NYC gear by New Balance was amazing- I would have bought even more if I could!
I had already pre-ordered my official finisher’s jacket, but I added a winter thermal running hoodie, some capris, and a knit hat to the mix. Dustin purchased the same hat and another long sleeve running shirt. We both got comfy t-shirts from the “T-shirt deli” as well (so fun!)
Our hotel, the Sheraton Times Square, was about a 15 minute walk to the expo, which was doable, even prior to the marathon when you’re trying to stay off your feet a bit more.
We did a shake-out run at 7 am with the group from Marathon Tours, then I met up with Jess and Kim for a coffee/chat. After that, Dustin and I had some carbs in the form of pizza at B-side in Hell’s Kitchen.
That evening, we attended a pasta dinner with Marathon Tours, which included guest speaker Kathrine Switzer, who is always an inspiration and a joy to hear from. I️ met her two years ago at a Girls on the Run event. This time, her talk focused more on the New York City marathon and what it meant to her to run it. Very inspirational.
(Pictured with Roger Robinson)
Marathon Tours provided grab-and-go breakfasts and a coach bus to the start line, starting at 5:30 am. I ate my standard pre-race meal of a bagel with PB, coffee, some Nuun, and water in the hotel room, but I also brought the grab-and-go box with on the bus as I knew I would need more food before my start time of 9:50 am.
We arrived on Staten Island before 7 am with a lot of time to kill before Wave 1. We had both opted for the post-race poncho rather than a gear check bag, so I did not bring my phone with me. Everything I brought to the start had to be left at the start, so instead I brought along a few magazines to read as I waited.
Unfortunately, Dustin was in the Blue start and I was in the Green, so we had part ways pretty early. I found myself a comfortable place leaning against a fence, staying warm in my throw-away pants and poncho with my magazines.
Awesome pants, right?
I heard that there were therapy dogs at the start, but I didn’t see them- darn!
It was a lot of waiting around. I ate the small bagel from the grab-and-go box, more Gatorade, and a Honey stinger waffle, but I was starting to get hungry before the race even started! These late start times and running over the lunch hour are tough for me; I mean, I started around 10 am and was running until 2 pm. For some reason, I found this more challenging than I had at Boston, where I started just as late.
Finally around 8:20, I went to my corral. Within the corrals, there were plenty of porta-potties and bins to toss your donated/throw-away clothing.
The starting temperature was in the low 50’s, 80% humidity, and overcast. The humidity wasn’t ideal, but the temps and overcast skies were good. Cannons went off for the elites (they kind of scared me!) and then the wheelchair waves started as well.
Finally a contestant from American Idol sang the National Anthem and then there was the blast of the starting cannon for Wave 1:
Guess what? The green wave was on the bottom of the bridge, i.e. the “get peed on” wave! Fortunately I knew to stay in the middle of the bridge, haha!
Mile 1 9:18
It was a tough first mile uphill onto the Verrazano Bridge. I wish I would have been on the top of the bridge instead of the “pee” bottom, as I think the views would have been better, but I could still see out across the water at the skyline. So cool!
I knew that this mile would be slow due to the crowds and the uphill, so I didn’t worry about my time at all here.
Mile 2 7:30
What goes up must come down! After a slow first mile, the downhill second mile felt like a breeze. I knew I was moving fast but it felt really easy.
Mile 3 8:25
Now I settled into my goal pace, somewhere around 8:30’s. This was a fun part of the course in Brooklyn. I haven’t really spent much time in Brooklyn, so I took it all in and tried to look around and smile at all the awesome spectators calling my name. I really loved this part of the course. So fun! Tons of bands, tons of energy.
Mile 4 8:21
The course runs on 4th Avenue for miles 4-8, through Brooklyn…I could not stop smiling. I was having the time of my life!
Mile 5 8:22
Mile 6 8:22
Mile 7 8:44
I took my first GU around this mile and I also had to stop to pee. Fortunately there were no lines; I probably lost about 45 seconds. I really wanted to try to just pee “on the run” like my coach tells me to, but I’m not there yet Next time…
Mile 8 8:15
Mile 9 8:43
I think this is when we were in South Williamsburg, which is an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. There was not a lot of cheering here, but I actually found it to be a very memorable part of the course. Apparently Sunday is a workday for this community and there were a lot of people darting across the course (some dangerously so!) just going about their day as if it was a day like any other, rather than the day that 50,000 runners came through.
Mile 10 8:22
Mile 11 8:36
Mile 12 8:23
I saw my friend Tricia around this part. She was out cheering with a big group. Fun to have familiar faces in the crowd!
Mile 13 8:36
I believe we crossed another bridge here, the Pulaski Bridge into Queens.
Bridges are hard.
Mile 14 8:35
Mile 15 9:23
Oh boy, the toughest bridge (in my opinion)- the Queensboro bridge! This was also when I realized that I was running next to Kevin Hart. Kim sent me this screenshot from her phone, where she was tracking us both on the bridge!
He had a few ‘pacers’ i.e. bodyguards keeping the rest of us ‘regulars’ out of the way. I couldn’t believe that he was wearing long sleeves and pants- wasn’t he HOT? I was wearing a tank and shorts and was sweating quite a bit due to the humidity. I had tossed my arm warmers in mile 2 and felt good in much less clothing than him.
Kevin was also wearing large headphones and wasn’t acknowledging anyone who cheered for him. He was focused, I guess…
On the bridge, Kevin started walking and I pulled ahead. (He ended up finishing in 4:05). I had hoped that I might end up in some of the paparazzi pictures since we were together for several miles. So far, I haven’t seen any with me in the background Let me know if you do!
Mile 16 9:44
Seriously. Hardest bridge.
Mile 17 8:18
Yay downhill! After coming off this bridge, the crowds are nuts! Some people describe coming onto First Avenue as entering a “wall of sound” that you can actually FEEL.
I felt like a superstar with so many people cheering for me. This was also where Kim was cheering and my friend Jehan and her husband. Somehow I missed Kim, but I did see Jehan, even though she was on the other side of the course!
Mile 18 8:32
Mile 19 9:13
I think there was another bridge here, the Willis Avenue Bridge. I was starting to hurt. This wasn’t quite as easy as I had hoped (or as easy as the 3:49 I ran in London).
It was still a marathon, and surprise, surprise, marathons hurt! I couldn’t expect it to be that easy, even if I wasn’t running a PR pace. I was definitely working and counting down the miles.
Still smiling though- smiling makes you a better runner, right?
After this bridge, you enter the Bronx, which is another neighborhood that I had never explored. I tried to look around and take it all in.
Mile 20 9:11
Mile 21 9:13
Through the Bronx to the final bridge, the Madison Avenue Bridge, and then onto 5th avenue. From 110th to 90th, it’s a gradual one mile hill…an evil hill!
At 90th, you enter Central Park..then you leave again
Mile 22 9:07
Mile 23 9:13
Mile 24 9:54
Mile 24 was my slowest mile. I didn’t walk, but I definitely was “jogging”…slowly.
Mile 25 9:04
You get to Columbus Circle and re-enter the park…the finish line is in sight!
Mile 26 9:12
Final 0.2 7:21
Official time: 3:51:56
I crossed the finish line, got my medal, and nearly missed the Abbott 6 Star Finisher’s Booth! Luckily a volunteer spotted me and called me over.
I don’t know if she saw the bib on the back of my shirt or the sticker on the front of my bib, but I’m so glad she caught me. I got my HUGE medal and then was interviewed about my experience. I don’t know what exactly the interview was for (maybe the Abbott news?) but they were looking to talk to the female finishers as they said not a lot of women have finished the 6 Majors. I felt so special!
During the race, I actually got of “congrats” and people chatting about where they were on their 6 star quest. It was a fun idea that Abbott gave us those extra bibs to wear on the back! I also felt so special walking around with that medal after the race- so many people would stop Dustin and me to say congratulations and share where they were on their 6 star quest, often taking pictures of the medal! So fun.
After my interview, I got my heat sheet and recovery bag, which was filled with a Gatorade protein drink (it wasn’t bad) an apple, water, regular Gatorade, a protein bar, and more.
Then I started the very long trek out of the park and to the post-race poncho area…my goodness was this a long walk! My legs weren’t actually feeling that bad and everyone around me was walking so slowly or talking on their phones or taking selfies, I just wanted to get through the crowd and find Dustin at the family meet-up area!
I think I crossed the finish line around 2 pm and I didn’t find Dustin until nearly 3 pm. Then we had to make our way through the crowd back to our hotel (which was CRAZY/chaos). The walk wasn’t really that far, but it felt like an eternity! I’d say the post-race chaos was my least favorite part of this marathon. Or my least favorite part might have been the late start time, as I do think I do better with early marathons, that start anywhere from 6-8 am, since that’s when I generally run anyways. Running over the lunch hour was tough.
But those two things are just part of the experience with New York. It’s really amazing how the organization is able to succesfully pull off such a monumental and LARGE event in such a busy city. So impressive.
Oiselle Roga shorts, Athleta Shadow Stripe Chi tank, Sweaty Betty sports bra, Pro Compression marathon socks, Brooks Ravenna shoes, Lole hat, Garmin 235, and this SPI belt. I also swear by GoodSport to prevent chafing. Rainy and sweaty 26.2 but no chafing! Try it out.
We got back to our hotel, showered, ate some of the snacks from our recovery bag, and then joined up with the Marathon Tours group in the lobby bar for a post-marathon celebratory drink. Everyone we met through Marathon Tours was really nice, and I am really excited to travel with some of them in March when we do the Antarctica Marathon.
I was so ravenous by the time we made it out to dinner…it wasn’t a smart recovery to have a drink first and no food! But after some food, I felt so much better.
After dinner, we stopped by for a cookie at Schmackary’s Cookies (yum!) and then Ubered back to the hotel where we both crashed hard. Marathons will do that to you! It was a long day, but still a memorable one. Fantastic marathon, NYC!
On Monday, we had a delicious brunch at Blue Dog Kitchen in Hell’s Kitchen, then checked out the Marathon Monday events in Central Park, before catching our flight back to Minneapolis. In hindsight, we probably should have added an extra day onto the trip to see a show, go to a museum, or just eat more amazing food. But it was still a great weekend- I mean, we DID see all 5 boroughs and 26.2 miles of NYC. We covered a lot of ground in a short weekend!
Special thanks to Monica and Pete for watching Matilda while we were gone! They are dog parents to Darla, who we have dog-sat in the past. Tilda had quite a fun weekend with them. She came back just as exhausted as we were, ha!
In summary, the NYC marathon is a “can’t-miss.” It truly belongs in the World Majors. Running it feels like you are part of something really special. I’m very grateful for the experience and will cherish the memories of this amazing race.
Official time: 3:51:56
State #18 out of 50
6th World Major!
Last Saturday, I ran my 27th marathon, the 41st running of Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN.
This was my 3rd time running Grandma’s. I ran it in 2015. It was a downpour that year, but the rain kept us cool. I set a 13 minute PR!
In 2016, I ran it again and it was a bust– red flag situation, super hot, not great. I ran a 3:49- a painful 3:49.
Why did I run it again? Well, it’s still a great marathon, it really is. Swearsies. When my sister Erin told me she wanted to run it, I decided to run it with her, as her “pacer”, (but really as her personal ‘motivator’!)
Last year was definitely hotter than this year, but this year wasn’t great for marathoners either.
Whatever happened to all those cold Grandma’s races of the past?? (…global warming?)
There are definitely people who can run well in the heat, but I am not one of them. Neither is my sister, so she was a little psyched out by the forecast. We tried to stay positive as race day approached.
Let me back up…
We arrived in Duluth on Friday around noon and went to Subway for an easy lunch. Then we stopped by the expo, which was not too crowded at that time. I received a hooded sweatshirt for participating in the Grandma’s Challenge (the 5k on Friday night followed by the full marathon on Saturday). Other than the hoodie, however, there was no additional “bling” for doing the challenge.
Other than picking up that and our bibs/packets, it was a quick visit to the expo.
We were back at our hotel by 2 pm, where we relaxed, watched some TV, read books, hydrated, stayed off our feet etc., until it was time to head to the start line for the William A. Irvin 5k!
We were staying at the new Pier B hotel, which was really lovely. We could walk from Pier B to Canal Park, where the 5k start and finish line were located. Dustin and I did about a 1.7 mile jog to warm-up before the 5k; it was a HOT and sunny evening- didn’t bode well for the marathon the next day.
The 5k started at 6 pm. Since I was only doing it as a shake-out run, I had to keep reminding myself to hold back; it was hard not to get caught up in the race vibe! I averaged about 7:45 min/miles which is much faster than a normal shake-out run.
Dustin also ran the 5k; he had been sick with a terrible cold for the past few days; he ended up with 18:56, which was quite a bit off from his PR. Darn colds…
After the race, we changed into dry clothes (we were super sweaty just from the 5k- so hot!) and went to the pasta feed in the DECCA convention center. It was $12/person for pasta with/without meatballs, bread/butter, a salad, and ice cream if you wanted it. It was basic, easy, just what we needed the night before the marathon.
We headed back to the hotel to shower and relax for an early night before the marathon.
It wouldn’t be long before that 4:30 am alarm…
Race morning, I ate a plain bagel with peanut butter and extra salt. I also mixed up a serving of Gen-U-Can in a disposable water bottle. I hadn’t trained with Gen-U-Can since last year’s Grandma’s Marathon, but I knew it was easy enough on my stomach, so figured it wouldn’t hurt me, especially since I wasn’t “racing.” I might start fueling with Gen-U-Can again though, it worked pretty well!
Before the race, I also drank a cup of coffee, Gatorade, water, and ate a few GU chews.
We stayed at the new Pier B hotel. It was a little pricey for Duluth ( marathon sur-charge! $400/night, 2 night minimum), but the location was good and they did a lot of great things for the runners; there was breakfast available in the lobby on race morning (bagels, bananas, water, coffee, tea, peanut butter, hard boiled eggs). There was a shuttle to take us from the hotel to the spot where we caught the buses to the start line, and post-race there were ice packs and snacks in the lobby.
Grandma’s is a point-to-point course from Two Harbors, MN into Duluth, MN, so you can either take school buses or the historical train to the start line. I had wanted to take the train, but someone told Erin that it was really hot on there and you wouldn’t get to the start line until 7:15, so instead we took the bus. (Next time!)
We arrived at the start line VERY early; earlier than I ever had before.
We were probably the first ones to use the porta-potties, so I guess that’s good! We got the freshies.
We settled in to wait on a spot on the grass for awhile. We were happy when it started to rain- I thought that meant it was going to stay cool! I had packed two ponchos in my gear bag so we were just fine. But the rain only stuck around for about 10 minutes before the sun came out and it was hot again.
We lined up in the race corrals around 7:15, for the 7:45 start. The announcer was kind of funny; he kept talking about the runner last year who got hit by a rogue deer that jumped the fences! That runner was back again this year, basically a Duluth celebrity!
I could tell Erin was nervous as we waited in the corrals. There was a woman near us doing jumping jacks…who does a warm-up before a marathon? A warm-up might make sense for the elites, but I never do a warm-up for a marathon…maybe I should? Maybe she’s on to something!
Before we knew it, the gun went off and we were shuffling our way to the starting line. We probably crossed the start line mats 2 -3 minutes after the gun. Not too bad. There are about 8,000 runners in the full, so a nice medium-sized field.
We were off!
Mile 1: 9:42
Mile 2: 9:42
Mile 3: 10:04
The first three miles were pretty uneventful. Erin wore a bracelet she had made with her fueling plan (i.e when to take her Huma gels, Gatorade vs. water, salt tabs, etc). I didn’t have as much of a strict plan, but I think I fueled about every 45 minutes with the GU’s I brought along. I also took the GU they handed out at mile 17, as well as any and all oranges and frozen grapes along the way! Those are always a win for me.
Side note- this race does all it can to combat the hot temps: sponges, ice, aid stations nearly every mile, sprinklers, and more!
Mile 4: 10:17 (bathroom break for both of us)
Mile 5: 9:42
Mile 6: 9:54
Mile 7: 9:48
Mile 8: 9:59
At mile 8, Erin said that it was already starting to feel hard…
It was humid, it was sunny; she said her legs were already hurting. She started in with a lot of negative thoughts: “This is way harder than Twin Cities.”
I know how easy it is to get caught in your head…She was letting the negativity take over.
She started talking about quitting at the half, (where we would first see Dustin. He had brought his bike up and had planned to bike up to the halfway point, then bike back to about mile 19, mile 24, and the finish. He actually ended up biking about 30 miles!)
No, no, no Erin! We weren’t quitting at the half!
I reminded Erin that she didn’t come all this way to Duluth to quit at the half.
I wasn’t there with her to run a half.
I said that we’d dial it back a little bit pace-wise, but we were not going to stop. I knew that she could keep going.
Mile 9: 10:06
I told her that the marathon can be painful, but if you just keep going, the pain will pass; “You’ll feel better I promise!” It goes in waves, just wait for it to pass. Tough it out.
(I’m not sure if she DID feel better, but at least my advice worked and she kept going!)
Mile 10: 9:39- she even picked it up!
Mile 11: 10:10
Mile 12: 10:20
There are definitely people out there that can run well in the heat, but I think its my genetics (and therefore my sister’s genetics) that we can’t. The heat was really tough on Saturday. Mid-70’s and 88% humidity is not ideal for most runners and definitely not for Erin.
And I totally know where she was coming from as I had just been through it two months ago at the Boston Marathon. Heat is HARD. And humidity? Even harder.
I knew what she was going through, but I also kinda knew what to tell her to keep her going…
Mile 13: 10:14
I told Erin that if she were heading out for a long run, she’d probably say “oh, just 13 miles” and that was all she had left! Not too bad….I knew she could run a half marathon. She knew she could run a half marathon.
Mile 14: 9:53
So she pushed on.
We saw Dustin at mile 14; after listening to “How to Talk Minnesotan” (<– so cute) on the drive up, we told him things were going “not too bad!” when in fact Erin probably felt that things were going “not too good….”
Mile 15: 9:50
Mile 16: 10:05
Mile 17: 11:16 <– one of the uglier miles. She was not in a good place here.
But it passed! It usually does.
Mile 18: 9:54
Mile 19: 9:54
Don’t call it a comeback!
Mile 20: 11:11
Mile 21: 12:12
No, seriously; don’t call it a comeback or Erin is going to get really mad at you. There was a lot of walking. And a lot of Jessie really trying to get there to be ‘no more walking…’
Mile 22: 10:35
Mile 23: 10:47
I think this picture tells the story pretty clearly!
Mile 24: 11:01
Mile 25: 10:47
Mile 26: 9:43 – way to dig in Erin!
She started to get REALLY angry around mile 24. She was swearing a bit about the elusive mile 25 marker. Where the f is it?? Now, I should tell you that my sister Erin is generally a very calm, level-headed person. She doesn’t usually swear. She’s a social worker by trade, a great listener, very even-keeled.
The “Mile 24-Erin” was NOT the Erin I knew!
Her anger reached a peak when I told her the finish line was “right around the ship”- (i.e. the giant Willam A. Irvin ship)
“What ship??? Where the f*&^ is the finish line!!!”
She actually yelled some profanity at this point at some innocent spectators who were just cheering her on.
Oh, what a tough beast you are, marathon…such a fickle friend.
Now, we had planned to hug at the finish line for the insta but man, that was the least reciprocated hug I’ve ever been a part of!
I’d say that’s a one-sided hug if I’ve ever seen one.
In her defense, she did say she was starting to get tunnel vision and right after we finished, she went into the med tent, to be treated for the side effects of the heat.
The med tent volunteers were amazing and really helpful. Her case wasn’t anything too severe, but they cooled her down, gave her fluids, & monitored her blood pressure. She was in there for about an hour, so unfortunately she didn’t get to experience the ice bath of Lake Superior!
I found Dustin at the finish, drank a few bottles of cold chocolate milk (I never drink milk, but it was super refreshing at that time). Eventually Erin was given the all-clear in the med tent.
It definitely didn’t seem that way at mile 24/25/26, but Erin says that she was really grateful to me for running with her. She wanted me to share more on what I said to her to keep her going. (These are things I probably say to myself during a marathon!)
This was marathon #27 for me; I am VERY familiar with how crappy one can feel, so the rest of this post will be heavy-handed on the ‘motivational quotes’ but that was pretty much what I did at this marathon. Sure, I “paced” her, but it wasn’t really about keeping a consistent pace vs. keeping her head in the game.
Occasionally she would start to panic a little bit and tell me “I just can’t do it, I need to walk” and I’d tell her to just “relax and breathe, dial it back a little bit but KEEP RUNNING.”
Relax your shoulders. Dial it back. You’ll be okay.
“Don’t think, just run.”
Don’t’ think about OMG SO MANY MILES LEFT. Don’t think; just run.
Other miraculous words of inspiration from me to her?
“You’re running so strong! Look at all these other people who are walking, and you’re still running!”
“You trained so hard, I know you can push through!”
“You are so strong.”
“I’m so proud of you!”
“Before you know it, this race will just be a memory. Make it a good one!”
Of course, as we hobbled back to Pier B post-marathon, it started to downpour on us. And of course, we got really cold.
Where was this rain during the marathon when we needed it?
Post-marathon, we all showered, ordered in some Pizza Luce, and took a little nap…eventually we were ready to head out to celebrate! We had a cocktail at Vikre Distillery and then joined our friends at Grandma’s Saloon- THE Grandma’s for which the marathon is named!
Erin was still feeling a bit rough, even after a casual banana.
Around 9 pm she and I walked back to our hotel, leaving Dustin out to celebrate with the young kids for awhile longer.
Sunday, we had brunch at the Duluth Grill (delicious!) before hitting the road back to Minneapolis. Erin had a flight to catch back to Chicago.
I know that I’m here saying that I’m done with Grandma’s for awhile because of the weather, but other than the heat, it really is a great marathon. I love how the whole town gets into it. The spectators and volunteers were phenomenal- so many people handing out fruit, candy, extra water, sprinklers, amazing! Way to go Duluth.
Some other highlights of the race include:
• The bacon stand around mile 23. Erin even ate a piece! “I need salt!”
• The line of 80’s troll dolls around this same spot- so random!
• The USA-pride shirtless guy who took 3 shots and drank 2 beers..and then puked.
• The older gentlemen running by us who was doing his 100th marathon!
• The grandpa spectating in his lawn chair wearing a vintage 1986 Grandma’s Marathon finisher’s tee!
• The hula dancers around mile 25.
• The Elvis’s
• The man with the “I belive in you” sign. (I hope the northwoods education system hasn’t failed that badly and instead it was an honest mistake..)
• All the other great signs, like “Always give 100%- except when giving blood!”
• The guy blaring “Peace Train” by Cat Stevens wearing a PEA costume with a sign that read “Join the PEAS TRAIN!”
• Seeing so many random people I knew! I ran with J.C. from [solidcore] for awhile. He’s even in this official picture with me!
Brooks Ravennas, Pro Compression socks, this Brooks tank– which was super light and awesome, but my name tape didn’t stick on!, lululemon speed shorts, this Sweaty Betty sports bra, Sweaty Band headband,and my Garmin 235
Marathon 27 was a success in my book, and I think it was a success for my sister too. I really enjoyed running with Erin. She thinks I need to loan out my pacing skills to others, but I’m not sure I would be able to motivate people I don’t know. I’m much more comfortable pushing my sister (and getting yelled at by her;) it would be very different with a stranger!
This past Monday, I ran the 121st Boston Marathon. This was my 26th marathon, 5 out of 6 of the World Majors, and state #17 on my 50-state goal.
It’s taken me a bit longer than usual to write this recap. I think it’s because it’s really hard for me to separate my personal performance from the race as a whole.
I worked hard to get to Boston. It took a lot of sweat and tears to qualify!
Then, I trained hard over 19 weeks for this race.
So I’m disappointed in myself for not racing it properly. I know that I don’t run well in the heat- it’s obvious over my last 25 marathons that I melt any time it’s over 65.
Yet it doesn’t help when I see that many runners still set PR’s at Boston on Monday. It should have been possible. I should have been able to overcome.
So I’ll be honest that I am disappointed in myself. Unfortunately that disappointment colors my memories of the race, as much as I try not to let it.
And I’m trying not to let it, I swear.
I always said that Boston was a ‘victory lap’. I know that I shouldn’t be disappointed. I want to get over it and focus on all the amazing things about this experience.
Plus, I will have more Bostons in my future, ones where I will not disappoint myself.
I know that I said that Boston would be “one and done.” No longer true. After watching the Boston documentary last Wednesday, all I want to do is get back to Hopkinton in 2019…
But I digress.
This is my recap of the 121st Boston Marathon on April 17, 2017.
I recapped our arrival in Boston, the expo, and pre-race activities in this post. So I’ll dive right into Marathon Monday.
Mondays are for marathons, right?
On Monday, April 17, my alarm went off at 5:30 am. Not that I was even asleep before it went off; the night before the marathon is always a fitful sleep, one where I keep waking up and looking at the clock and worrying that I will miss the alarm. After 25 (now 26) marathons and I still get the night-before- anxiety.
I got up and put on the race ‘kit’ I had laid out the night before.
There was no need for the blue/gold striped Boston Strong compression socks or the blue/gold Louva arm sleeves; much too warm for that. Just a pair of light Oiselle Mac Rogas, a royal blue Chi tank from Athleta, Balega socks, Brooks Ravennas, a SPI beltwith 4 GU’s, two BIC bands (one yellow, one sparkly blue), a Sweaty Betty sports bra, and my Garmin 235.
I ate half a bagel with PB and a little extra salt due to the impending heat. I drank some water and Gatorade and put the second half of my bagel and a little individual sized peanut butter in the small bag that we all received at the expo to bring to the start line. For the Boston Marathon, there is no gear check at the start line. You check your gear at the finish line only before you board the bus and anything you bring to the start has to be worn or tossed.
Dustin and I had both picked up some $2 pants from Goodwill to wear to the start line to toss, though we really didn’t need them since it was so warm. I didn’t bring my phone with me, though a few of our running friends had theirs (hence the picture).
Though I had pre-purchased tickets on a coach bus through Bauman’s Running Company in Flint Michigan (thanks to a recommendation by Lee the Running Architect) we actually didn’t end up using them. A heated coach bus would have been really nice in inclement weather, but since it was sunny and hot, we decided to just ride the regular old school buses to the start to be with our friends. Dustin was in Wave 1 (which started at 10 am) we caught a bus at 6:30 am. The gear check and the bus pick-up were literally right outside our hotel, which was another reason we went with that option. Convenient.
We arrived at Athlete’s Village in Hopkinton just before 8 am. I still had nearly THREE hours before I started running. Why oh why can’t this marathon start at a normal time!
We settled into a spot under the tent with our run club friends to wait for our waves to get called.
Around 9 am, Wave 1 was called to the start…Bye Dustin! Then at 9:45, it was Wave 2. And finally at 10:05, wave 3 made its way to the start.
Even after my wave was called, there were still several more steps to go before the race began for me.
First you queue up behind a rope before they escort you about a 1/2 mile to the starting line ‘staging’ area. There were tons more porta-potties in that area. I hung around there for another 30 minutes or so before we were called to the actual starting line. So much queuing and waiting!
I was Wave 3, corral 3, so I followed the volunteers’ signs to the right spot. It was really easy to figure out where to go, though I did come across a girl wearing a red bib (Wave 1) who had missed her wave…Yikes! She was stuck back with us slow pokes in Wave 3.
The starting line was full of excitement…and security. Drones, helicopters, snipers, bomb-sniffing dogs, police, etc. (!!).
Promptly at 10:50, the Wave 3 starting gun went off and I started running.
The first few miles are downhill; it would be easy to go out fast, except it was quite crowded. I didn’t want to waste any effort weaving about the crowds, so I held back.
At this point in the race, I thought I might still be able to run a strong-for-me race. I should have known better, but I still had hope. I didn’t want to throw in the towel before I even started. With a PR of 3:35 or a pace of 8:15 min/mile, I had trained to run around 8:05-8:10 min/mile.
Mile 1: 8:21
Mile 2: 8:06
Mile 3: 8:18
The course continued to drop in elevation. I tried not to go too fast, but also didn’t want to brake so hard that I tore up my quads.
The sun was blaring down on me. So hot. Already.
Mile 4: 8:07
Mile 5: 8:21
Mile 6: 8:18
Around the 10k mark, we hit Framingham. I took my first GU. The course had flattened out but I was really starting to feel the effects of the heat and sun. I was working way too hard for those splits.
My goal marathon pace should NOT feel this hard- it never did during training.
Time to be realistic Jessie. A PR was not happening.
Time to dial it back…
Mile 7: 8:42
Mile 8: 8:36
Mile 9: 8:38
I thought I had decided to pull back early enough that I would be able to have a positive race experience, similar to how I ran the London Marathon.
And for a while, it felt that way- I high-fived every kid I saw. I smiled when people called my name. I was having fun!
I took all the right steps to keep the heat under control. I took oranges from everyone handing them out. I started pouring water on myself to cool my core body temperature.
Yet I still felt so hot. I was working too hard for how much my pace was slowing.
Mile 10: 8:32
Mile 11: 8:49
Mile 12: 8:23
This part of the course includes a bunch of rolling hills as it goes past Lake Cochutuate and then into downtown Natick. The spectators were so fantastic- so many great signs to keep you distracted. I think I took my first Mr. Freeze ice pop from a spectator somewhere around here. And then another GU. My belly was pretty full of sugar water at this point!
Mile 13: 8:45
Mile 14: 8:38
The Wellesley scream tunnel– I heard it long before I saw it. Even though I was feeling crappy these screaming girls and their hilarious signs kept me smiling. I watched dozens of kisses be given and received.
“Kiss me if you’re still ‘with HER.'” I should have…
I remember thinking how cool this was- I was in BOSTON running the Boston Marathon, experiencing the Wellesley scream tunnel, a tradition for so many before me.
It was awesome.
Mile 15: 9:25
Yeah, that high from Wellesley didn’t last I slowed way down here. I was walking through the water stops already and it was hard to wrap my head around the fact that I still had 11 more miles.
Mile 16: 8:35
We headed into Newton Lower Falls. I knew the hills were coming up. I took another GU.
Man, was I hot. I was walking through the water stops, so thankful to finally hit mile 16. I told myself only SINGLE DIGITS LEFT. I took another GU.
Suck it up Jessie. You can do this.
Mile 17: 9:23
Around 17.5, we came up to the Newton Fire Station. For the first time in the entire race, the course took a sharp right turn onto Commonwealth Avenue and approached the first of the notorious Newton Hills.
Mile 18: 9:38
Am I dying…?
Mile 19: 9:18
Didn’t I do ANY hill training?
7 more miles. Just an easy Calhoun/Harriet. Don’t give up now.
Mile 20: 9:42
There were aid stations every mile, which was a lot; I actually felt like I might be drinking too much fluid. I was pouring water on myself to cool down, but also drinking a lot and I started to get a side stitch.
I decided not to drink any more for a few stops, just pour it on myself. I went through every sprinkler and fire hydrant to cool down.
Mile 21: 9:49
Somewhere in here was the most infamous hill. Heartbreak Hill. And it was a doozy.
People say it’s really not that steep, it’s just the placement of it around mile 20. It felt pretty darn bad to me!
I definitely walked here, but it was hard to walk for too long when the crowds kept cheering me on by name. They kept me running as much as possible. They were amazing.
I could feel a nasty blister on my right toe, but I didn’t want to bend over to adjust my sock as I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stand back up again!
Miles 22: 9:04
Newton hills were OVER. Before entering Cleveland Circle at mile 22, the course turned right onto Chestnut Hill, then left onto Beacon Street. I think I took my 4th GU here.
Mile 23: 9:58
I could see the CITGO sign…so far away.
I knew at this point that I could at least salvage a sub-4 hour marathon. I decided no more walking. No more water/Gatorade either. It wouldn’t help at this point. I was too close to the finish line.
I kept repeating, “Don’t think. Just keep running. Don’t think. Just keep running.”
Mile 24: 9:07
The crowds were amazing. Deafening cheers. Chills!
Mile 25: 9:24
Right onto Hereford, left on Boylston. The most famous left turn in running!
I knew I had about 5 minutes to spare to make it under four hours.
My Garmin was showing something like a 20 minute mile pace-what?? I knew that was wrong . Something went wrong with the satellites, as I only ended up with 25.6 miles total (I’m pretty sure this is a certified 26.2..) I must have lost satellite somewhere in there.
The total elapsed time on my watch seemed correct though so I knew that if I at least kept up this jog, I would still come in under 4 hours.
And then finally…the finish line. YAY!!! Nothing beats crossing a marathon finish line.
Official time: 3:54:14
(Garmin said 25.6 miles with the last 0.62 taking me 12 minutes. Yeah, that’s wrong. Can’t always trust your Garmin!)
I still achieved my “secret” goal to run all the World Majors under 4 hours (I have to redo Chicago soon and of course I’ll need to do at least the same time at NYC this November!)
The finish line was incredibly organized. I made my way through the chute, grabbed some more water/Gatorade, my medal, and ran into my friend Lindsey. She had a horrible cold going into the race and it didn’t make for a fun race for her either.
We hobbled on to get our gear bags. I saw Dustin on the sidelines- he had already gone back to the hotel and showered by the time I finished- ha! I motioned to him to ask if it was a thumbs up or thumbs down situation for him. Did he achieve his sub-3 hour goal?
Thumbs down…His experience was very similar to mine. Melted in the heat. Darn. I had hoped at least one of us would have had a strong race.
The blister on my toe combined with pain from the sesamoiditis on the same foot (the injury that I was experiencing much earlier in my training) were both really painful when I finished. I could not WAIT to take off my right shoe and was so thankful that I had put my Birkenstocks in my gear check bag…
Oh, the relief in taking off that one shoe!
I was surprised that that the sesamoiditis reared its ugly head as I thought that issue was in the past! 26.2 miles will do that though. It’s feeling a lot better now; even by the next day it didn’t really hurt.
Lindsey and I made our way to Dustin at the finish line, who snapped a quick photo for us before we parted ways with her.
Let me tell you, I was really glad that our hotel was only steps away.
Speaking of that, one of the highlights of the day actually came when we entered our hotel. The staff were all wearing “Boston Strong” t-shirts over their ‘fancy’ work apparel. When we entered the hotel, they all stood up in a row and gave us a standing ovation, cheering and congratulating us.
Corny, but it brought tears to my eyes It was such a sweet gesture. Way to go Four Seasons Boston. Worth every penny.
That’s when Dustin made up his tagline for the Boston Marathon…. “Boston: A Great Marathon if You Like to Feel Important.”
It’s true that the fans and the town make you feel like a star. Every restaurant we went to had specials for marathoners. We met up with our run club friends at a pub after the race called “Lord Hobo” and they were offering free entrees to finishers. We made our way to Row 34 for dinner and we were given a glass of champagne when we sat down.
That’s just a few of the endless special offers a marathon finisher is given by the welcoming and generous people of Boston.
Even though I’m disappointed in my personal performance, there were so many things I loved about this race. Here are a few:
– Hopkinton. It all starts here. The energy in Athlete’s Village was like no other and everything at the start line was very organized.
-The rows of little kids jumping on trampolines to music and cheering in some random small town along the course
-Wellesley- of course.
-The furniture store around mile 7 that didn’t let any spectators block the windows so runners could see their reflections as they passed. There was a huge sign that said something like “Runners, check yourselves out!” Loved it.
-The amount of support from the spectators- SO MANY sponges, oranges, ice cubes, more water. Incredible.
– Mr. Freeze pops. I had two
– “Right on Hereford, left on Bolyston.” Obviously.
-That feeling of being part of something really special. You do feel important. You dofeel special. You are!
This feeling was all around you- it was all the elite athletes there at the same time, the prestige of this holy grail of marathons that we all worked so hard to get to, the incredibly nice people, the charming town(s), the history of this race; I was not immune to it. Now I get it. I get why this marathon is so special.
And I get it even MORE after I watched the new Boston documentary on Wednesday night (GO SEE IT!)
I want to run Boston again. I want to go back and race it “properly.” I’ll know what to expect and ideally I’ll be better prepared.
I won’t be able to run in in 2018, as I don’t have a marathon planned where I could re-qualify. I do have Grandma’s Marathon this June, but I am running that with my sister with a goal of 4:15-4:20. My next marathon that I race hard won’t be until the New York City Marathon in November, which will be long past the deadline for Boston registration. Additionally we are running the Antarctica Marathon next spring, so doing Boston wouldn’t fit into the schedule anyways, even if I could re-qualify somewhere.
But I WILL be back.
One last thing- thank you to the great people at Pampered Pooch Playground, who took great care of Matilda while we were traveling.
I’m changing Dustin’s tagline “Boston: A Great Marathon if You Want to Feel Important” to “Boston: A Great Marathon. Period. Maybe the Best Marathon.”