2010 Boston Marathon Race Report

Posted: April 20, 2010 in Pace and Racing
Tags: , , ,

To borrow a local colloquialism – it was a “wicked pissah” yesterday.  The 26.2 mile test that is the marathon can be a humbling experience.  It tests you mentally as well as physically.  It is challenging, exhilarating, can be crushing at times – but more than anything to me it is revealing.  I love it because it gives you an opportunity to look deep inside yourself and really see what’s in there.  What you are made of.  It doesn’t build character as much as it reveals it.

As of this morning, I know more about myself than I did 24 hours ago – and that is a pretty remarkable thing at age 42.

The race experience at Boston is something that I will never forget.  In a word it was incredible.  I woke at our hotel in Copley plaza a full five hours before the starter’s gun went off in Hopkinton at 10:00 a.m.  After dressing in my race gear as well as all of my “keep me warm clothes” I made my way to the school buses lined up to transfer more than 20,000 runners out to the Athlete’s Village.

Standing in line with thousands of runners around me a man I had never met before asked, “are you Joe?”

As it turns out it was my friend from Daily Mile Winston who I had traded messages, encouragement and training tips and strategy for more than four months.  We ended up riding the same bus to Hopkinton chatting about what was to unfold.  What an amazing coincidence and a bit of fate.  It was nice to ride with Winston as when our eyes met, he knew why I was there and who I was running for.  I’ll remember our conversation forever.

At the Athletes village – which I will have some great photos of when I get my disposable camera processed – there were literally 25,000 runners sitting, laying and walking around the local High-School playing fields.  Large white circus tents were set up serving runners breakfast, water, powerbars with constant announcements of the time to the starting gun and instructions for the day.  It was like a Woodstock for runners, I caught myself quite a few times wondering what in the world I was doing there with all of these great runners.  Was I good enough?  Did I belong?

I had my breakfast of a plain bagel and a banana at 7:00 a.m., my final hydration of bottled water at 8:00 a.m. and made my final pit-stop to one of the 407 runner port-a-potties at 9:15.  All according to schedule that had allowed me to run my previous marathons without any “pit-stops” along the way.

Walking from the athlete’s village to the starting line is about 7/10 of a mile.  Along the way you drop off your race bag with your bib number affixed to the side back onto one of the school buses used earlier to transport runners to the start.  My bag would be taken by one of the thousands of volunteers I would see that day, to be retrieved after the race in less than 1 minute.  Amazing organization from the Boston Athletic Association – I can’t do justice in this space just how great a job they do putting on a perfectly organized event.

As I made my way to the 7th starting corral and started to discard my outer sweats, the temperature was a near-perfect 46 degrees, a bit windy, with a beautiful blue sun splashed sky.  I had forgotten sunscreen in my race bag, which was the first error of the day.  There would be more.

An US Air Force Fly over came directly overhead at the end of the Star Spangled Banner and the starter’s Gun went off at precisely 10:00 a.m.  It took me a little under 6:00 minutes to make it across the start line, as I punched Start on my GPS – I glanced down at the Blue, Yellow and White painted logo on the street, thought of my boy Dom in the hospital at Pittsburgh and took my first strides toward Boston.

Runners will tell you that some days “you have it” and some days “you don’t”.  It is the reason that you can run a 10-mile course one day at 7:00 pace and the following week run it at 7:30.  It is the same 10 miles, the same runner, same nutrition, same abilities, but a different result.  Running is very repetitive and it doesn’t take long for a distance runner to know what kind of day they are going to have.  For me I have been blessed to always “have it” on race day.

From the first confident strides I have known it was my day.  I had no reason to believe Monday would be any different.  It was perhaps my best training period, I was healthy, I was confident, I had a race plan and I had a lot of people in my corner.  I was in the Boston Marathon – something that less than 5 years ago was not only unlikely – it in fact had seemed ridiculous.

But as I left Hopkinton and crossed the first mile marker – something was wrong.  Running downhill from the start I should have coasted to an easy first mile.  My legs felt heavy, my knees wouldn’t come up like I wanted them to and I couldn’t find my groove.  I posted a 7:22 first mile which was frankly the exact time I was hoping for, down to the very second.  I muttered a “perfect” to myself as I looked at my watch – but even then – I knew.

The first 5 miles were run at splits of:  7:22, 7:12, 7:13, 7:06 and 7:22.  I fell into an even cadence and would post very consistent, even mile times over miles 6-10 that were exactly on pace.  I was executing my plan, I was not going out too fast only to pay the price on the Newton Hills – but I was working “too hard” at this point to hold such an easy pace over the downhill sections of the course – and I knew it.  At mile 6 I noticed that my left hamstring was tightening but we pressed on with splits of:  7:14, 7:14, 7:16, 7:13 and 7:18.

The crowds to this point had been simply phenomenal.  4,5,6 people deep yelling encouragement, names and bib numbers at the runners – I had traveled from Hopkinton to Ashland to Framingham to Natick.  Next up would be Wellesley and the Wellesley College girls.  The half-way point of the Boston Marathon.  I was holding out hope that I would find my groove and this early feeling of “funkiness” would pass.

The legend of Wellesley did not come close to the experience as a runner.  A beautiful stretch of road leading up to the all-girls College where with classes cancelled for the day the students line the right side of the marathon course holding signs, screaming non-stop and giving out kisses to the runners.

Several runners would actually come to a dead stop and give the girls what they asked for.  The sound even with my ear-buds in was deafening.  Knowing for sure that I would somehow be caught on film for all posterity kissing a co-ed I settled for running by them and high-fiving several dozen on my way by.  I hit the 13.1 Mile timing matt – the half way point at 1:35:45.

On pace for a 3:11:30 marathon – something that realistically would reflect a 3:16:00 – 3:17:00 according to my race plan given the Newton Hills now just 3 miles off.  But even then I knew it wasn’t in the cards.  I was working way too hard to keep my pace and it was going to be a battle from here on out.  Miles 11-15 produced splits of:  7:21, 7:14, 7:21, 7:28, 7:42.

As I reached the 16 mile mark I was greeted by the Welcome to Newton Sign on my left and the four famous “Newton Hills” to conquer over miles 16-21.  It was at this point that I again thought of Dom back in Pittsburgh as I knew he would following along electronically.  It was time to dig deep and give whatever I had left from this point to Boston – I just hoped it would be enough.

The first hill is a solid incline as the road approaches and crosses over the 95/128 freeway.  The spectators begin to narrow the road to see the runners until there is a small gap to run through as you cross the bridge.  I looked left and right and saw slowed cars as far as I could see in both directions watching the Boston Marathoners cross the overpass.  It was the first real test of the race – and it came 2 hours of tough running into my day.

Dawn and our friends Ralph and Michele had told me that they were hoping to make it out to Wellesley to see me.  I had scanned the crowds, but could not see them back near campus.  Little did I know that they actually had made their way to mile 17 and caught me as I crested the first Newton Hill and was trying to get myself together for the sharp right turn at the Newton Fire Station that would take me up the second hill.  I never saw them, but they caught a glimpse of me as I ran past – Dawn was able to snap this picture as I crawled along.

Mile 17 - First Newton Hill in the books

The Newton Fire Station hill is approximately 3/8 of a mile long – as I made the climb I felt my pace really falling off.  I knew that I just had to keep chugging and hopefully when my body made the full transition from my glycogen stores over to fat burning I would feel better.  I popped three Clif Bloks in my mouth, washed them down with water and pressed on.  The next two hills would be the tough ones.

The next hill hits at the 19.25 mile mark – not particularly steep but it stretches on and on and on.  This was the first point where I noticed runners who were walking.  Some were hobbling to the side of the road and off the course.  One was limping badly on their right ankle.  I tried to encourage him as I passed but quickly realized I had my own problems.  I was blowing up in a big way and was going to have to dig deep to get through this hill and then up and over heartbreak hill.

As I crossed the 20-mile mark and again hit my water bottle the crowds nearing Boston College were simply off the hook.  10-12 people deep, drums beating, screaming encouragement non-stop.  It is really something to experience struggling so badly, but having total strangers encouraging you and pushing you forward.

Heartbreak Hill.  Hallowed ground.  I was there, and I was determined not to let it beat me.  I had never walked a single step on a marathon course and no matter how badly I felt, no matter how tight my hamstring was or how much my quads were burning we were going to the top.

As you take the first steps up Heartbreak there is a gentle turn in the road and then an incline that disappears into the tops of the trees ahead.  You cannot see the top of it.  I put my head down, focused on the double yellow line in the middle of the road and pushed on.  4/10 of a mile long it was the most difficult stretch of road I have ever raced.  When you get near the top it is hard to miss.  Literally a clearing seems to open up and you can begin to see daylight.

After a small dip in the road there is another incline and then you are there.  You’ve made it and are now on the backside of the course.  My splits had fallen off badly – some of the slowest miles I had run in more than 4 years.  They were also without question the most difficult.  Splits from mile 16-21:  7:36, 7:59, 8:00, 8:02, 8:17, 8:30.

5 miles to go and if I was going to re-qualify for next-year’s Boston Marathon I would need to get it together.  I needed a time of 3:20:59 to make it and it was going to be pretty difficult to get there.  My fatigued mind told me I needed to run some 8:15’s to get there.  My mind said yes, but my body said no. 

I rallied a bit running a 7:58 over mile 22, but that would be the last sub-8:00 mile of my day.  Over the next 4 miles I was really just trying to keep it together.  From miles 23-25 I posted times of:  8:17, 8:24, 8:26.  As I hit the 25-mile mark I passed the CITGO Sign high atop Fenway Park.  Painted on the street in yellow letters spelled out 1-mile to go.

I was toast and I knew it.  In the past I had always been able to rally and push over the final mile, but my legs just weren’t there for me.  As my requalification time slipped through my fingers over mile 23 and 24 my thoughts shifted to just pushing forward to Hereford Street, making the right turn up the hill that would lead to Boylston Street, the final left turn and 4/10 of a mile to the finish.

The crowds were amazing at this point – literally thousands packed onto the narrow Boston Streets.  My mind must have wandered off for a bit as Hereford Street seemed to appear out of nowhere.  I made the final push up the hill onto Boylston and could see the finish line banners in the distance.

Like marathons past I had a mixture of emotions going through me.  There was a sense of accomplishment of course, but I must admit – quite a bit of disappointment in my performance.  My final time of 3:22:46 brought me in at 7:44 pace.  A scant 107 seconds away from a re-qualifying time.

Having that finisher’s medal placed around my neck however really lifted my spirits.  I was a Boston Finisher.  Something once again that seemed as likely as being a moon-walker just 5 years ago.  After retrieving my race bag, scarfing down a Bagel, Banana, Gatorade, Bottle of Water, Cookie and Power Bar all within 5 minutes I started to make my way over to the Family Reunion Area.  I congratulated runners, commiserated with some and then saw Ralph, Michele and Dawn.

Hugs all around and a few tears frankly.  It was a long day, a full 8 1/2 hours since I woke to make my way to the buses at Boston Common.  I had earned my way into the 114th Boston Marathon with the 7,929th best qualifying time.  I would leave with finishing 5,038th.  Not quite a top 5,000 finish – but close enough.

Tough Day, Tough Course.

12 days from today I’ll get a chance to do this all again – running for my good friend Dom and all of our Run for Dom supporters.  I’ll do my best – of that I promise.

Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can’t Lose.

  1. gaidner says:

    great race report. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you just ran Boston, a marathoner’s dream. Get some good receovery. Next stop, Pittsburg!!

  2. dawn says:

    You did a great job, babe and I am proud of you! Love and kisses-

  3. Kate Handley says:

    Joe, don’t let it get you down. You did a phenomenal job, one that a lot of us aspire to do.

    As I read your post, I could imagine running down that road myself. You painted a beaut fiul visual picture – those that have never seen the course (of course, I have), will be able to imagine in their own minds.

    Chin up! You are going to rock Pittsburgh!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Kate- thanks for the visit and the comment! It really was an amazing experience. I will absolutely be back, smarter and stronger to tame those hills.

      Take good care, Joe

  4. Scott says:

    Awesome, amazing, sick. Great job, much respect for you and all of the other Boston finishers.

  5. tbrush3 says:

    Joe, I really appreciate the way you fought. Running when you have it is one thing but to hang in and fight like you did and still pull off such a good time, major props my friend! As I read your race report I could feel your pain after mile 18. I know that feeling all too well. I feel like I own that feeling.

    Tear it up in Pittsburgh!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Trey- can’t thank you enough for all the support through all the training and racing. I know you could feel every mile reading along.

      I honestly can’t wait to get after it again. My time might be slow at Pittsburgh, but I’m leaving it all out there on the course no questions asked.

      Take good care Trey! Joe

  6. Robert Ranzer says:

    Simply Amazing Joe. Small world isn’t it. Meeting someone in line who you knew online. You remember every part of the race so well. Your friend Dom and yourself are truly inspirational. Way to go. All the best in Pittsburg!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Bob- thanks for all the love and support. It is an amazingly small world and so important to drink it all in as it is a short time we have to leave our mark behind.

      Take good care Bob. Let’s catch up for sure after Pittsburgh is in the books.

      Best, Joe

  7. michael says:

    a great race report…and a great race, sir! four thumbs up. enjoy your glory. you’re a star.

  8. James Coyle says:

    great job, Joe – an amazing time on that course. Well done for pushing through the pain and getting up those hills. Hope you enjoy the recovery time!

    • joerunfordom says:

      James! So good to hear from you as you must be coming up on your race soon as well. Thanks for all the support and kindness over the last few months. You are the best.

      Take care, Joe

  9. David H. says:

    Congrats on this accomplishment. It’s something to be proud of no matter what your time. And the fact that you did it for your friend and bringing awareness to the disease. Can’t wait to see how things go in the next event!

    • joerunfordom says:

      David – thanks so much for the visit and all of the support. It has been a great journey so far – really looking forward to this second race.

      Take good care David! J

  10. Di says:

    What an accomplishment Joe. And the roller coaster of emotions for 26.2 mile I’s sure is special. Great finish! Congrats from one DMers…

  11. connie says:

    So very proud of you . you did a great job
    I’ll see you in Pittsburgh. If I can I’ll be at the 4th mile that I sponsored


    • joerunfordom says:

      Connie- you are awesome. I will be rockin’ mile 4 and on the lookout. We are going to be going to the Dor Stop in Dormont post race with Dom, Val and the whole gang. Please come by if you can!

  12. Vern Myers says:

    Great race report, Joe! You should be so proud! Whether you made your target time or not, you dug deep and ran a great race on a legendary and extremely challenging course! You are a Boston Finisher, and nothing can ever take that away from you! On to Pittsburgh!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Vern! We’ve said it all this week on Daily Mile. Just wanted to wish you luck once again to you on your race on May 2nd. Kind of fitting we’ll be battling the same deamons allbeit 1,500 miles apart.

      Have a strong race Vern! You will rock it!

  13. Sarah says:

    You did it!! What an amazing accomplishment. And even if you didn’t meet your time goal, you are a Boston Finisher and that is something to be proud of!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Sarah- thanks so much. Boston really is all that it is said to be. I’ve never enjoyed feeling so exhausted in my life if that makes any sense at all … Meeting Bill Rogers yesterday to talk about running was really the capper for the weekend.

      When I told him I missed re-qualifying by 107 seconds he quickly told me about his 3 DNF’s (Did Not Finishes) to pick up my spirits.

      Was amazing, and we will be back!

  14. Katie says:

    Nice job! I can’t wait to run Boston someday…

  15. You did awesome Joe! Not only did you get to do Boston, an ultimate dream for runners, but you did it for such a good reason. Recover well so you can do it all again in just 12 short days!

  16. David says:

    congrats Joe–don’t let it get you down (though if you’re as competitive as I am, I totally understand if it takes longer than normal to move past it!)

    and i think this just means you’ll have a new PR in steel city instead!

  17. Joe says:

    Dude – this is so awesome and so wholly inspiring. Your performance is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. You rocked it, Joe – plain and simple! Congrats!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Joe – thanks so much for the pick-me-up, as I move further away from Boston and closer to Pittsburgh I’m starting to realize that my performance while not exactly what I was hoping for was still pretty damn good.

      That’s a tough race Boston and on an off-day I still fared reasonably well. I’ll be back and better than ever the next time.

      On to Pittsburgh! Thanks Joe!

  18. onelittlejill says:

    I followed you throughout the entire day and I was so excited for you. I knew you would be disapointed by missing it so closely but you should be so proud- you totally rocked the race! And in the process you did it for someone! Awesome job- congrats!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Jill- you are the best. Thanks so much for the pick me up! That course is definitely “as advertised”, but I feel like I learned A Ton. I will be back again and take that sucker down next time.

      Thanks again for everything!

  19. joerunfordom says:

    Thanks guys for all of the kind words and encouragement over the last several months and especially the last few days – I’m starting to snap out of it today and really appreciate the experience. Just needed a day or so to think about all the “what ifs” – an awful way to live your life as we all know.

    So today it’s now eyes forward to Pittsburgh in 12 days. Start feeling sorry for that course guys …. we’re going to kick some serious butt on May 2nd.



  20. Becky/Moms for Dom says:

    Awesome job Joe!!! Can’t wait for Pittsburgh! Hope you are recuperaiting well.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Becky! So great to hear fom you. Thanks so much for all you guys are doing. Please tell the gang we are already feeling better and will be ready to rock Pittsburgh on May 2nd.

      Best with the rest of your training and Fundraising! Take good care, Joe

  21. Kim says:

    Great job!!!!

  22. Stephanie says:

    Congratulations Joe!!! You did an amazing job and I really look forward to your Pittsburgh recap! You are so strong and inspirational, keep up the amazing work and dedication. I know you are going to rock Pittsburgh!!!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Stephanie! Thanks so much for all of your support and kind words. I’m really looking forward to Pittsburgh. My body is a little sore, but my mind and heart are just fine. Take care, Joe

  23. Connie W. says:

    Hi Joe,

    The Go Girls are so proud of you. 3:22:46 is an amazing time and we are in awe of your performance and you continued commitment to Dom. Many of us are doing the More Half-Marathon on Sunday. We will think of you and Dom as we stride our way through Central Park.

    Good look on the 2nd. We will be watching. and carrying you through to a new PR!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Connie- that is so exciting that you guys are racing this weekend. I will for sure be watching out to see how you guys do. That is a great race for a great cause. Please pass along my best to the group.

      I’m looking forward to running that next mile for all of you in Pittsburgh!



  24. Cynara Saraiva says:

    Congratulations Joe!!!!

    Now you are one of the Boston Finishers!!!!
    You put you mind and body to this race and you made it happen. We are all proud of you.


  25. Ty says:

    Great race recap and great to finally meet you at the Daily Mile meetup. I hope to see you at Boston again next year. Ty


  26. […] Some races were “small” like the Holland TX 5k back in June; others were “big” like the Boston Marathon in […]

  27. […] year as I was not able to run the race that I wanted.  I read the race report from that day – CLICK HERE – several times a month to remember just what falling short at a big race feels […]

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