Well Boston marathon is WAY off being a trail race but being THE marathon of all marathons I couldn't resist the temptation to run Bean Town when I herad a few friends were heading over this year. A few friends and a total of 21, 963 other runners, this was not going to be a laid back and low key event. The whole Boston experience is slick , professional and organised to perfection. I arrived a couple of days ahead of time to have a chance to get over the journey and explore a little of the city. This was a great idea as even though we over did it on the sightseeing on the first day (walking is way more exhausting than running!) it meant we had the day before the marathon to chill and enjoy the US womens Olympic Trials. What better way to get into racing spirit other than watching the top US women battle it out for 3 highly coveted places to Beijing - the atmosphere was electric and the crowds have me an idea of what to expect the next day.
Marathon Monday dawned (Boston marathon is always held on Patriot's day - a holiday in Massachuessetts) - though not quite soon enough for us getting up just before 5am - a full 5 hours before the race gun went off. First a shuttle bus to get the the T (as Boston's transit system is called), then a ride on the T to get to the marathon shuttle to transport us to the start. As we all piled on to the school buses we seemed to bear an eary resemblance of prisoners being taken off to be incarcerated! But instead we were deposited near the race start where a whole athlete's village was set up to hold all the runners before being called to the start. We'd lucked out this year and already the sun was begining to come through the clouds and the temperature was rising. One last trip to the portapotty (about half an hour just to get to one!) and we were hearded like cattle into corals of 1000 runners. The corals are based on qualifying time so the better your time, the better your start position.
Despite the crowds I was amazed that it took me less than 10 minuts to get to cross the start line and even my first mile was only about 20 seconds off pace. Soon I settled into a comfortable pace (as this was a training run for Vancouver marathon 2 weeks later) and I began to soak up the whole experience. Supporters lined both sides of the course, usually several rows deep. Kids handed out oranges and popsicles and looked so forlorn at the prospect that you might not high five them, that you just had to. At first I wished I had put my name on my shirt to get more chering as others were getting who had personalised their shirts but after a while i decided that too much sideline support was possible and I just wanted to run without having to feel obliged to smile at each and every stranger that cheered from the sidelines. Just when I thought it could get not get louder I heard a roar in the distance that grew louder and louder - it could only be Wellesley college! Thousands of girls lined the sidewalks quite literally sreaming their heads off! I think it was at about this point I began to wish I had brought my ear plugs!
Boston is a net down hill course and everyine talks of the need to take it easy at the start to avoid trashing your quads, but I think that any trail runnner can safely ignore this advice! Infamous Heartbreak Hill? That mountain that stands at the 21 mile mark? I was half way up it before I even realised it was Heartbreak and I was at the top about 1 minute later. I think 'Heartbreak Molehill' would be a more fitting name for anyone that has run trails!
That said, the last 4 miles were tough. The crowds were loud, the temperarture was peaking and the road was rolling. In addItion as there are mats to track your chip every 5km there is some sort of pressure to keep an even pace rather than just get a good finishing time! It was with welcome relief that I saw the finish banner over Boylston Avenue and made a final push to the end. 3:07:20 after that start I stumbled over the finish, happy to have run a solid race and set a PB.
I would highly recommend Boston as an experience to any runner. To be part of such a huge and prestigious race with the history of Boston is worth it alone. It's not trail running - you should not expect to escape the crowds and find peace and quiet. You should expect a highly organised road race on a course where you feel you have achieved something by just taking part. It's one BIG running celebration and Boston knows how to party!