Boston Marathon Race Report

on Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 6:49 PM

Just some preliminary things to document. I arrived and picked up my race kit on the Friday which is by far the least crowded day. I waited about 15 minutes to purchase my jacket. By Sunday, it was chaos at the expo with waits of over an hour. Also all the good free stuff gets handed out on Friday. They either run out or are hoarding the stuff come Sunday. They were offering cheap gatorade (endurance, energy, recovery) drinks on Sunday for 2 for $1. Not sure if this was being offered on the Friday, but it was a good deal on the Sunday. They hand out an addidas poster with every participants name in the background.

Pasta dinner is included with the entry fee and is pretty good. Pasta and tomato sauce, mac and cheese, pasta salad and green salad and all the beer and water/juice you can drink. Line-up seemed very long to get in, but it moved fairly quickly. Ate once at about 6:30 and then again at about 7:30 due to a meeting mix-up. Retired for the night at 10:00pm.

Woke up at about 5:00 and ate a bagel. Was at Boston Common to board the buses at 7:00am and had to wait. Quite the long line-up.

Ahead and Behind Me

Eventually made it to the front of the line and boarded the bus at about 7:30. The buses were very well organized. The police would stop traffic to let the buses through. Felt like we were VIP's or as VIP as one could feel like while sitting in a yellow school bus. The trip to Hopkinton took a little over an hour. Arrived at Hopkinton and just kinda followed everyone. I was in awe at everything.

At the Athelete's Village, they were serving bagels, water and coffee. I had lugged along some water and realized i didn't have to. I downed a bottle of gatorade energy about an hour before race start. It's not your standard gatorade It packs quite the calorie punch with over 300 calories in a 12 oz bottle.Wish they sold the stuff in Canada. Headed over to the start line at about 9:45 which requires a fairly long walk. Made my way to the back of wave one and found Alex who had indicated that he would try and run with me for the first few miles, but who would end up staying with me for the entire race.

Back of the first wave. No one behind me.
So the race starts and since there are over 10000 people in front of us, it takes a while to reach the start line. My quest to be the last person to cross the start line in the first wave didn't pan out. I was technically the last person in the wave when the race started, but as i proceeded forward, people who were late kept jumping in behind me. At first, we let them pass, but by the time we reached the start line and were walking really slow, there were still people coming in from behind us. I didn't want to wait too long because we had to keep some distance between us and the wave 2 people. So we crossed the start line and the race begins.
I had picked up one of those Nike pace bands at the expo. This one is similar to the one I've used in the past that I got from the Chicago marathon but is a bit wider. The pace band is course adjusted so it accounts for elevations. I knew that we had to average 9:30 min/mile. The first mile was very slow at about 10 min/mile. This included the stop to get a picture in front of the mile marker. During mile two, i stopped for the first of two bathroom breaks which were unavoidable. It was actually pretty neat running the first little bit because we had the crowd support all to ourselves. I think we spent most of the first couple of miles high-fiving all the kids that were around. Here's a pic during the first few miles. There's no one around except for us and a couple of bandits running. I think most of the people around us at the start were bandits. It's really easy to jump onto the course early on.
So i don't really have split times for each of the markers. Well, I do, but with all the hassles of trying to get my camera phone out and have the picture taken and making sure i put it back in its holdser, I kept forgetting to hit the lap button or i hit it very late. Just going to rely on the timing splits. So hit the first 5k marker at 29:47 which is 9:35 min/mile pace which is pretty good considering the largest elevation drop takes place in the first three miles.
Next 5k is also on target at 29:04 which is at 9:28 pace. The following 5k was fast at 27:47 which was 9:18 pace. I remember commenting that we had almost three minutes banked and that we should probably slow down a bit (or a lot). Between 15km and 20km, we ended up averaging 9:28 pace but this included a lot of walking and another bathroom break. Shortly before the half, we went through the Wellesley scream tunnel. I, being a complete rookie, just ran through it hi-fiving everyone. Alex on the other hand decided to partake in some of the offerings from the Wellesley girls and I ended up having to wait for him a bit at the end. In hindsight, I probably should have taken some time here cause I needed to bleed off the 2 or so minutes of banked time that we had. Oh well, next time. So after Wellesley is the half mark. With the goal of running a personal worse and a negative split, we knew that if I crossed the half mark before a certain time, it would be only possible to do one, but not both. So we ended up walking the last little bit before the timing mat. Between 20k and 21.1, we averaged 11.5 min/mile pace. Crossed the half at 2:05:32.

Between the half and about 35k, we proceeded to ever so slightly increase our pace. Not consciously, but it was tough with all the people passing us not to want to at least keep up them. Our increase in pace included going up through the Newton Hills, including heartbreak. In fact, the mile with heartbreak hill was done at 9:25 pace and this included the time needed to get this picture at the mile 21 marker. Heartbreak wasn't as bad as i had imagined. Mind you, I wasn't really pushing the effort.

So down into Boston we go.

Pass the Citgo sign and with 1 mile to go, I needed to average over an 11 minute mile to get my personal worst time. Very hard to do with people screaming at you to keep going every time you try to stop to walk. I ended up taking pictures as that seemed like a legitimate excuse to slow down or stop.

So shortly before the finish line, I hear my name being yelled and look around to see my dad so i stop to pose for a picture.

Now at this point, we had realized that there was no 26 mile marker and so Alex had taken off to finish strong and he ended up finishing about 1 minute ahead of me. I on the other hand ended up doing a very slow jog from here to the finish line cause I needed to bleed off the remaining banked time I had. This included me standing at the finish line for a brief moment, just before the timing mat. If you want to see the video, you can see it here. Just fast forward to 2:00 and you can see me at the far left of the screen doing a very slow jog, then a walk and then standing around and checking my watch and then finally crossing the finish line. I think the announcer may have said something about me waiting there, but I can't make out what he actually said. I actually thought I had a personal worst time by two seconds or so, but my official time actually matched my personal worst.

So first half done in 2:05:32, second half in 2:04:23 for a little over a minute negative split. Granted, I had to cheat to get the negative split by walking/stopping before the half, but I'll take it.
Had a great time. Never thought I would ever want to do Boston again, nor did i feel like I ever wanted to try and qualify again but I have to admit, it was the best race I've ever done and I want to go back! The crowd support is awesome! The volunteers are awesome! The participants are awesome! Every thing is just really awesome! Only downer for the trip is that I didn't get to see the Red Sox play as the game was rained out and couldn't make the make-up game the following day. I got some pretty good seats at face value only 4 rows from the field, but i guess not everything can be perfect. At least I got in to see Fenway. Maybe next year...

So the question is how do I get back. My qualifying time slows down by 5 minutes next year. While 3:10 took way too much effort and training and I never want to do that again, i think 3:15 is probably acheivable with a moderate level of training. So the goal is to try and qualify in the fall. Next decision though is what race to try at??


Steve said...

Hey, you got a photo with Santa. I remember seeing that dude.

How on earth did you manage to get your photo taken at every mile marker ?

Anyway, wasn't that an awesome race?

PR or PW, you gotta luv it!

Great report Francis, and it was great seeing you there. Maybe we'll bump into each other there next year.

Melanie said...

Excellent race report! Love all the pictures, and I'm sure we'll be reading about your BQ in the fall, and your next Boston race report in about a year! Well done!

jen said...

Great race report and photos! I guarantee those Newton hills are not easy at normal marathon pace :D I love that you enjoyed the course at a slower pace though, that is awesome. Congratulations on your first of many Boston finishes. :)

Perry said...

Great job! Can't wait to get to Boston myself. I just got 5 more minutes so qualifying is 3:20

lee said...

Great race report. I thought the dude in the chicken suit was actually a hallucination of mine in the later miles. Guess not.

Congrats again on your experience.

Marlene said...

Just dropping by to check out your report. Sounds like a great experience! Congratulations and good job achieveing your goals!

Quinto Sol said...

Folks - If Francis missed his PW was because of me... He kept of reminding me that we were going too fast on the second half... AND I took it for granted...

...AND as soon as a guy blew past me, I had to chase him and "beat" him...

BUT really I had a blast running with you and more importantly... I felt honored...

Thanks Francis!!!

yumke said...

I love it! Congrats on Boston and I loved the video.. never seen someone just stand there right before the finish :)

Do the October Toronto Marathon so I can pace off ya.

Reluctant Runner said...

Congratulations! You executed your race plan to perfection. Plus your photos are so wonderful -- you really drank in the experience. Very inspiring.

Patch said...

Hi there, great story. kinda reminds me of mine....I actually turned around at the finish line and ran beck to the corner to see my family again for a photo op (ha, ha) and I definitely achieved a PW of over 5 hours! You can read about my story here :

I was wondering if you've ever run, or know someone that has, the Niagara on the Lake marathon. I like the timing and I was wondering if it was a good course to requalify on...

Arcane said...

No i havent run Niagara on the lake nor do i know anyone that has. You can some limited reviews on marathon guide at

Good luck!