The atmosphere at the start of the Boston Marathon was incredible! The buses were so well organised taking runners out to the start line, it all worked easily. No stress. I was feeling excited at the start line – I was running Boston after all! It’s the most iconic marathon i think in the world and I was there! I was with Mari-Mar, who was running her last major to complete her 6, so i was excited for her too.
Right from the start after I left Mari-Mar to go into our allocated start corals the crowd was abuzz in the 700m walk to the start line. Due to the weather, wave 4 start was brought forward 20mins to start with wave 3 although by the time I got across the actual start line I was only 10mins ahead of wave 4s official allocated start time.
My run went better than I anticipated. My strategy was to run 40mins walk 5mins not being at my optimal fitness currently and this had worked well for me in Cuba last November so adopted again for Boston.
A downhill start was comfortable but I took it very easy. I always think about trying to negative split my runs so you are passing people in the back end rather than being passed. It lifts me mentally, so I’m ok seeing people bolt past me in the early stages and tend to pull them back later in the race.
I loved the crowds along the beautiful country towns streets. Lots of funny signs and people out cheering. Crowds really do lift you and wearing my Travelling Fit run top I heard lots of “go Jilly!”
I got to halfway in 2:29 and was feeling great. It had started to warm up from the cool wet we’d had earlier and the arm warmers i’d pulled off and was carrying eventually got thrown as i couldn’t be bothered to keep carrying, along with my wind cheater I’d been wearing. Gone. Remembering that we turned right after Newton i got excited as we’d basically been running straight since the start and this meant we were getting closer to Boston. This was at the 17th mile or 23km mark so just over halfway. I was feeling good and having consumed my GU gels, decided to drop the 5 min walking and just run as much as i could. Carrying my own tailwind hydration in a hand held bottle meant I could just run through water stations, only using them when I had to top up, which was only once; I am a bit of a camel only needing to sip a little every 20mins which I do religiously. Always have and do the same in training. I consume a gel after 45mins at the start then every hour. I really do feel a pick me up in my stride about 10mins after taking one.
Passing Boston College at Mile 20, I knew Heartbreak Hill was looming.
The course, so far, had been quite undulating even though if you look at the profile it’s a net downhill but it doesn’t feel all downhill! I had heard Heartbreak Hill was nothing like Sydney’s City To Surf Heartbreak Hill which i was relieved about after 32kms in your legs but it was a steep gradient. I started to run up it but resigned to just walk it thinking to conserve energy. There was a sign at the top saying it was done and behind you which i ‘yahooed’ to myself at.
10km to go. Time to see what I had left. Looking at my watch i was calculating I could go under 5hrs if I sustained my pace that I’d been managing and that would get me my negative split. I was feeling great with lots of energy and wanted to go for it.
I hadn’t run a sub 5 hour marathon for over 18 months. I ran 4:10 on the Gold Coast in 2017 but since then a slow 5:18 in Tokyo last year followed by an even slower 5:28 in London the same year then a 5:15 in Cuba in November. I resigned myself that if I could go better than 5:15 I’d be happy. So i kept pushing. Several other Travelling Fit runners had passed me earlier and I had caught 5 of them in this final 10km. I saw Michael from Travelling Fit near the 35km mark, just where he said he’d be, and I think I may have managed my trademark heel kick as i went past him (which he didn’t capture on film lol) and that lifted me too.
Once I get into single digits I know I’m going to finish. Coming into Boston city the crowds got heavier and the threatening clouds that had been coming in and getting darker opened up about 20mins from the finish. It was a much welcomed downpour as the condition had been warm in the middle – i had resorted to pouring water over me at several water stops after halfway.
With 5km to go I said to myself “only a park-run to go” which lifted me again. That.. and I had 37mins to break 5hrs. I was thinking it was possible. I kept trying to push, passing loads of people since the 30km mark had been uplifting and driving me.
With 3.5km to go I had to walk. I just pulled up. I think there was an under tunnel we went through and coming out of that I walked up. I walked for about 3mins and it was at that point I told myself Jill you’ve let your sub 5 go – you obviously don’t want it that much and I was right.
But that was ok. I was going to go quicker than I had in the past 18 months by about 10mins and I was happy with that. I was finishing strong which I like to do and was happy. Turning right into Hereford St told me there was only 1km to the finish line as you then turn left onto Boylston St and it’s a straight 700m to the end.
I said to myself “c’mon Jill – give it your all” and pushed my speed with all I had. I finished in 5:02:15 and was thrilled. I managed my finish line heel kick just before the line and just raised my hands to my head in satisfaction that it was done. I had ran Boston.
The crowd on Boylston St was incredible. I remember thinking about the runners who had been finishing their race 5yrs earlier on that fateful day of the bombing and my heart went out for them. I felt emotional thinking about it but it just made me run faster. This race is epic and special.
The organisation is spot on and all the volunteers were the best I’ve seen in my 38 marathons. I collected my medal and had a photo taken. I had carried my phone on the run but didn’t take any photos. I walked through to get my space blanket they provided and recovery fruit and water. The family meeting spot was about 400m walk. I met my partner Paul easily under ‘H’ and we walked the easy 700m back to the hotel. Job done – No. 4 major done!
Joining the Travelling Fit team was amazing – can’t fault it. This was no. 10 event and I will be back. Berlin and Chicago are booked for later this year and that will see me complete my 6 star events and join a small special group of people in the world who have achieved that, like my buddy Mari-Mar who has always been a running hero of mine.
Thank you Travelling Fit for all your great work and making it so seamless for me to do what I love – run and travel.