I rank Boston as the best U.S. marathon (followed by Chicago then Houston) since entrants are required to demonstrate a prior marathon time sufficiently fast to qualify them by their extremely strict requirements. This selectivity - excluding 90% of all marathoners - results in Boston runners being honored by the running community generally, and by race spectators in particular.
The famous "Heartbreak Hill" is merely one of several tough hills found on the Boston course - all inconveniently situated between miles 17 and 21! The course is beautiful, starting in rural Hopkinton, and concluding in downtown Boston - passing extraordinary sights and hundreds of thousands of cheering spectators. It is extremely well organized, and the area truly open their hearts to the runners.
Specific to this run:
I had an absolutely fantastic first Boston marathon experience! After being dropped off by my friend in Hopkinton I was fortunate through his wife to be provided a "VIP" pass which allowed me access to the Hopkinton middle school and most importantly their indoor restrooms - a huge treat versus the alternative of long queues for the outdoor Port-A-Potties!
Other than the head-wind the weather turned out to be very good, as the temperature was in the low to mid 40's and the skies were clear. The only problem was the strong and consistent head-wind of 10 to 15 miles per hour.
While my personal results were a bit disappointing, with less wind and better hill training I'm sure I'll have a better outcome next year. My overall time was 3:50:30 (8:47 pace), worse than I'd hoped via my recent P.R. at 3:32:17 (8:06 pace). Encouragingly, my half marathon time was 1:46:30 (8:07 pace), and my strength was very good. Nevertheless, I'd squandered energy averting and fighting the wind, and with on-set of the hills in Newton my second half deteriorated severely to 2:04:00 (9:28 pace). However, considering my prior Achilles tendonitis that prevented my training adequately on hills, and especially after adjusting for the head-winds* I'm generally satisfied.
Amongst the high points of the Boston Marathon experience were:
- My wife and daughter leaving me recorded motivational messages on my e-mail the evening before the race. I copied these - unlistened to - on my iPod, where they played just just I needed them the most - at the start of the race and while struggling with Heartbreak Hill!;
- The UNBELIEVABLE support and cheering along the course;
- The incredible management of the Boston Marathon by its officials and volunteers. Especially nice was starting with others who ran at my pace, which prevented the normally frenetic running around other slower runners;
- Enjoying dinner Saturday night with several fellow Houston running friends, and seeing most of them Notes:
- *On page 282 of the linked reference a recent study demonstes that a 10 MPH head-wind requires a 5.5% increase in energy utilization. As energy expenditure is linear with running velocity (reference Table 8-6 on page 281), but is ultimately limited by the runner's physical condition, any runner facing a 10 MPH head-wind must slow by 5.5%. Thus, my 3:50 result equates roughly to ~3:38 on a still-wind adjusted basis.