Athlete Insight - Boston Race Report with Lynne Marsala

As a coach, every once in a while you have to help an athlete make a tough call on whether or not to do a race. We ALWAYS want to err on the side of caution as we believe that the athlete should be in this for the long game - no race is worth ending a career, but every once in  while there is a race, that we know an athlete cannot miss and that we must safely get them to the starting line. In the case of Lynne and her race at Boston we have the long game in mind and I knew that Lynne would be sensible and approach the race as she put it - as a nice sightseeing trip around Boston! We put in a plan that would allow her to earn her finisher's medal, realize a life long goal, and be able to get right back to her journey to Ironman in the fall.



I have four athletic goals. 

1.       Be able to do all three splits and a back flip at age 30

2.       Run a 21 minute 5K.

3.       Run Boston Marathon

4.       Secret goal that will be jinxed if I tell you ;)

I had the opportunity to run the 2017 Boston marathon after qualifying on November 1st, 2015 at the Bass Pro marathon in Springfield Missouri.  Boston is the iconic race that I thought was a far-fetched dream at best as I ran my first marathon in 2010.  Elation is a good description of my feeling as I crossed the finish line in Springfield and knew I had an almost sure chance of qualifying!  Yay!  Have you ever accomplished that BIG dream?  I hope you have and I hope you relished that moment; there’s nothing quite like it. 

Here’s what my long run schedule was like preceding this race.  I have put this in a graph for all the science types.

Do you see the problem here?  Usually people like to do a 16, 18 and a 20-miler to prepare for a marathon, right?  Was I a guinea pig for my coach?  Is she just plain evil?

No.  I had knee surgery to remove torn meniscus the second week of January.  I knew I would have 7 weeks of run training to prepare for Boston.   And coach helped me a ton by encouraging me with some water running and not pushing at ALL if there was knee pain.  Not to mention, how awesome is that surgeon???!!!  Ask me for a referral if you ever need it.

Race weekend:  Go through long lines at packet pick up, walk around, eat seafood, stalk all weather sites, eat more seafood, attend a ball game, and talk to everyone because they are so welcoming and friendly.  Husband Dave was the sherpiest Sherpa and we had a ton of fun.  We learned all about Patriot’s Day by watching a re-enactment of that fateful day in 1775 when Paul Revere first gave instructions to light lanterns in Boston’s Old North Church warning that the British would attack “one if by land, and two if by sea.”  We both love Boston.

Race Day:  Walk to the bus stop in Boston Common to drop off your Gear Check Bag.  This should contain anything you need after your race.  Mine held underwear, compression pants, long sleeve shirt, tissues, and lip balm.  (I did change after the race and it felt great).  I said goodbye to hubby and boarded a bus to Hopkinton where the race starts.  Boston is a net downhill point to point race.  You get to see many towns and landmarks during this race.  It was already 60 degrees at 9am (this is WARM for Boston). On the bus was a crazy nervous woman who forgot her water, was running late, and needed to eat right then!!   You know those people, right?  Don’t let them get to you and make you nervous.  I didn’t this time, but I used to.

I get off the bus in a flurry of people and find port-a-potty.  The line was about 30 mins long and this was perfect because my race started at 10:50am, which was 45 minutes after exiting the bus.  I made two friends in line – they are Emily (Boston native) who was running her 7th Boston and 47th total marathon and Caroline who wanted her hair to be perfect and wondered if the hat she wore messed it up.  My answer was yes and to take it off.  Emily was serious and Caroline was sweet.  We walked to the start line together.  

I ate my gel with some water 15 minutes before race start and I was feeling super!  I made another friend in my corral who hugged me no less than 10 times when she found out I was running my first Boston marathon.  Her goal, and I LOVED it, was to beat her male training partner’s time that day.  My kind of girl!   She wore glitter eye shadow.

Run start moved really nicely.  We were in a slow jog going over the start line.  I held WAY back on my pace until the whole wave passed me.  I was on a mission to really just get to the finish line with no further injuries.  One lady kept telling me at mile 7 – “there’s the med tent.”  She didn’t look so good so I told her I was doing fine and she should stop if she is in pain.  I think that’s called projecting! 

Mile 1 – stop at porta potty to really get into this role of slowness.  Oops, I lost my gel to the poopy bottom.  GROSS.  New race plan forms in my head for nutrition.  I totally got this.

Everything was grand and there were spectators with oranges, twizzlers, icy pops, bananas, beer, and pretty much whatever you may need.  I gave a million high fives along the route.   Crowds of people were lining every inch of that race and it was breathtaking.

People were screaming my name the whole 26 miles and cheering for me.  They knew my name because my Sherpa (remember I said he was amazing) bought me a running shirt that matched my hat and printed my name on it.  I got this idea from an article I read prior to racing and told him about it.  I’m glad I had that! 

Mile 13 was when my stomach started to knot and I knew I needed salt.  I told the woman spectator with the bananas “I love you.” 

Everything was groovy.  I downed water at every station as I took a 30 second walk break (this was part of the plan to reset my legs).  Temperature reached upper 70s now, which I actually enjoy when I am not running as fast as I am capable of for a marathon.  I took the icy pops every couple miles and ran through some sprinklers.  Mile 20 was tough, 21 was heartbreak hill and it felt good to go uphill.  This hill is not big; I think it’s notoriously bad for runners because it is late in the race.  I’m not sure about the hype of the hills because none of them felt bad to me.  My IT band went to shit at mile 22 so I had to start walking and do serious damage control.  I needed to minimize pain and know that a time of 4.5, 5, or 5.5 hours all meant the exact same thing to me.  The finish line was within my reach even if I walked the last 4 miles.  This sucked.  I don’t want to be the one walking at the Running Championship of the World, but I talked myself into it.  I walked a lot and ran a little until the end.  Citgo has a huge sign at mile 25 and has a huge crowd.  A policewoman looked at pitiful me and offered to run with me for a while.  I said in a pleading voice “Ok, only if we go slow.”  She agreed and ran .3 or so miles with me.  How cool is that? I mustered up the energy and fought through pain to run the last half mile over the finish line.  This was no celebration as I was in pain, grumpy, disappointed and just done.  I was happy to have made it to that finish line, but couldn’t muster a sunny disposition. 

The adrenaline rush of competition and going hard and trying to win is what I crave always.  This was a new experience for me, so I am trying to be proud of myself.  Boston was about going slowly and trying to reach the finish line a mere three months after knee surgery and less than two after being released to run.  Each day, I feel more appreciative of the fact that I did make my goal of finishing the Boston marathon.  And in case you were wondering, I have reached my first three athletic goals. Each one of these seemed impossible and I had to work hard physically and mentally for these.  During the race, I did feel very thankful and I felt like Mike Myers on SNL a few times.



Do I want to go race it again?  Nope – it’s a one and done for me. Now onto other adventures!