Marathon #27: Boston

5 minute read

Marathon #27 is in the books, and it was a good one! This is my second time running the Boston Marathon, my second sub-three hour finish in this race, and my second fastest time ever. Despite being slightly injured and coming in with lower expectations, everything came together for me in this race and I finished with a 2:56:28 time (06:44/mi), putting me at #3,042 place overall (out of 28,580), and #432 in my age group.

Race Results
  • C Goal: Finish
  • B Goal: sub 3:30:00
  • A Goal: sub 3:20:00
  • Stretch Goal: sub 3:15:00

What do I mean by slightly injured anyway? For the six weeks leading up to the marathon, I felt a persistent tightness and pain on the outside of my left foot. When it first started nagging me I feared the worst, so I had Di do a couple of ultrasound scans looking for a stress fracture, and luckily there were none she could find. Wanting to play it safe, I decided to reduce my training levels for Boston and see if it would get better on its own. It did not.

At 3 weeks out, and after skipping many of my long runs in the final stretch of the training cycle, I looked into deferring the race. However, it turns out that Boston only allows deferments if you are currently pregnant, or postpartum. Turns out that I am neither of those things so I was left with a choice of skipping the run, or going into it with no pressure and just finishing. I decided on the latter, and stopped worrying about training, stopped worrying about performance, and stopped worrying about putting up a strong result.

Marathon #26 splits

I am not a doctor, but some googling around has shown me that this could be the peroneus tertius tendon giving me issues here, right at the base. Tendonitis has no magic-bullet cure, with a period of RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) advised. I did a little bit of this, but my foot was not getting any better. It was also not getting any worse!

So, I never really stopped "training" for the marathon, only eased up. I still put up some miles, but ran them all at a slower pace, and skipped the speed workouts. After I decided to go easy on marathon #27, I also skipped the long runs. In the days leading up to the marathon, I still did my full pre-race preparation of tapering down, lots of sleep, lots of fluids, and good fuels. I was hopeful that the foot would start to feel a bit better with the taper, but it persistently nagged, both on and off runs.

Boston Marathon Runners. Photo by Miguel A Amutio on Unsplash

Due to my personal best performance last year at Boston (2:54:21) and other strong races, I was assigned Bib #3739, which had me starting in Wave 1, Corral 4, with a ton of fast people. I positioned myself in the back of the pack, knowing that I would be running slower and fade back a bit throughout the race. We march towards the Hopkinson start line, and the rain started to dump down on all runners.

Enough has been said about the Boston course online that I don't need to share too much of that here, but the initial 3 miles are downhill, and many runners are not able to accurately dial in their full race pace until the next flatter section, miles 4-9. I kept it slower than I normally would have here for the first mile 6:54/mi, but then got caught up in the crowd and didn't really want to block anybody behind me by continuing to run slow. So I picked up the pace a little while downhill. No big deal I told myself, I would slow down once things thinned out on the course.

I finished the first 5k downhill at a 6:38/mi pace, and had thoughts of slowing down. But then I realized that my foot was not nagging me anymore!? Perhaps it was the excitement and nerves, or the wet feet from the rain, or the extra hour of sleep I got, but my foot felt pretty good at this point. I decided to try and keep a pace between 6:41/mi (2:55:00 time) and 6:50/mi (2:59:59 time) for as long as I could, and reassess after the flat stretch.

I finished the next 5k at a 6:32/mi pace and realized that I hadn't been training well enough to do any pace regulation, as I had no idea what my new on-the-fly target pace felt like. The next 5k was ran in 6:44/mi, and the next in 6:37/mi. Somewhere in those flatter miles, I abandoned my goals of a targeted pace and simply ran by feel! The foot still felt ok, so I continued to run at the faster paces, completely expecting to pay for it in the later miles.

By the time I hit the Newton hills, I was running with about a 2:55:00 finish, and decided that I would try to finish in a sub-3 hour time. My foot was just starting to get a little painful, and I had already banked about 5 minutes of time which would allow me to slow down when needed, and even walk for a bit where necessary… just not too much walking!

My slowest mile was on mile 21 (Heartbreak Hill), where the hill, the pain in my foot, a developing side stitch, and The Wall all became a bit overwhelming. I think I walked about 30 seconds of that hill near the middle, but was able to rally eventually and pick up the pace again. I never got back down into the 6:30s/mi pacing, but my banked time allowed me to settle into a 6:50+/mi pace for the rest of the race and still get a sub-3!

Throughout the race, I was able to get many phone calls on my watch from Eli chanting "Go Dada, Go!", and that really helped me get through the last miles. Di and Eli were cheering me on near the finish line, and somehow we missed each other in the final stretch, but the support from them, and the crowd pushed me through with a final time of 2:56:28, well under a 3-hour marathon time, and well exceeding my expectations coming in to the race.

Here is a the full race analysis on Strava if you are curious.

Matt, Di, and Eli celebrate the finish.

I wasn't able to get a tattoo in Boston due to the state holiday (Patriots Day) but will get inked soon and update this post when I do!

So what's next? I am taking some time off for my foot to fully heal. I am hoping that a full week without running will do it, but maybe 2 or 3 may be necessary. Marathon #28 is coming up in the beginning of June, so I don't want to lose too much fitness before then, but I also want to fully heal and put this nagging foot injury behind me.

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