Thursday, April 21, 2011

Boston Marathon Review

2011 Boston Marathon Review

Race Review ...

115th Boston Marathon

April 18, 2011
Boston, Massachusetts
10th Marathon Completed
Overall Rating ... 5 out of 5 Sawx
All out on the last .2 miles of the 2011 Boston Marathon
Spoiler Alert...
  • Everything I expected and more, and one of the greatest honors of my life!
  • New Word Record set by Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya - 2:03:02
  • Perfect weather of 50 degrees with 14 mph tailwind
  • Marathon Officials, volunteers, and locals treated runners like "royalty"
  • Best organized race and packet pick-up from start to finish
  • Marathon finishers listed with times in the Boston Globe
  • BQ'd again for 2012 Boston Marathon with 3:20:35 PR  
Finisher Medal ...

Our 1st Trip To Boston...
I had only been to the East Coast once before, and making a second trip to run in the 115th Boston Marathon was pretty special.  Michael and I had a great time all weekend, leaving on Friday and flying back to KC on Tuesday.  We didn't get in as much sight-seeing as we would have liked due to "saving my legs", the weather, and limited time - but we still saw and experienced much of the wonderful uniqueness of Boston.
On the plane to Boston

We flew out of KCI at about 6:30AM on Friday morning, stopped at Baltimore for 2 hours, and then finally got to Boston at about 1:00PM.  It was a long trip, but I got to spend it with a beautiful girl, so it wasn't all bad!

I didn't notice any "obvious" runners on the flight from KC to Baltimore, but at Baltimore the excitement started to build as the terminal was filled with Boston Marathon jackets past and present.  There were a lot of runners headed to Beantown.

Total geeky tourist
Getting around in Boston was pretty easy via the "T".  The biggest problem for two "country-bumpkins" from the Midwest was figuring out where the subway terminals were located. But once we actually got on the subway, it wasn't too bad.  We were also impressed with how safe and clean Boston was in general.  For the most part, the people were pretty friendly when we had questions as well.

We stayed at the Hilton in the Financial District, which was pretty dead on the weekend.  Most of the restaurants were only open from 8-5, Monday-Friday, so most of our meals were purchased and consumed somewhere other than the immediate area.

Michael & me in front of the Green Monsta
As most of you know who follow this blog, I am THE WORLD's BIGGEST BASEBALL GEEK!!! In addition to running a marathon in every state, I want to watch a game in every Major League ballpark.  So how in the world could we pass up a trip to Fenway Park to watch the Red Sox while in Boston???

The game was awesome, but it was pretty chilly ... about 38 degrees with 20mph winds whistling through the Grandstands.  But hey, we were at Fenway, so who cares, right!  Plus, there was a pretty cool "tribute" to the Boston Marathon on the big screens in the outfield before the game!

Michael and me at Cantina Italiana
There were thousands of great places to eat, but we probably enjoyed the North End Italian district the most.  We had great Italian food for a couple of meals and even made a couple of stops at Mike's Pastry Shop ... all were delicious!

If you asked me if we both had a few too many Cannoli's during our time in Boston, my answer would be, "Why yes, we did!"  But they were unbelievable!  And I'm a sucker for a pastry.  Other than that, I controlled my pre-race diet fairly well!

Rubbing John Harvard's pee-stained foot!

We also made a trip to Harvard Square where I rubbed the foot of the John Harvard statue for "good luck".  Of course there are all kinds of local rumors about the Harvard kids peeing on the boot at night as a practical joke on tourists - but that's okay, it still brought me good luck ... urine included!

I was a little worried with all the walking we did that I would exert too much energy and have dead legs for the marathon.  But I think keeping moving was a good thing ... it kept my legs from becoming too sluggish.   We really weren't on much of a schedule, so when I got a little tired, we just stopped for a while.  On Sunday before the marathon, I shut it down about mid-day and Michael went out and did her own site-seeing.  I basically just sat in the hotel room and took a nap ... not really that fun, but necessary!

At the finish line
Marathon Expo...
Would you expect the Expo for the Boston Marathon to be anything less than great???  It didn't disappoint!  We got there early on Saturday to try to beat some of the crowd, and for the most part it wasn't bad.  But mid-day, it really started getting crowded ... like "shoulder-to-shoulder inching your way through the crowd" crowded!

"Excuse me, do you have #8596?"
I was like a little kid on Christmas at that place.  Getting my official race number and packet was unbelievable.  You again realized you were at something big, because everyone was snapping pictures of simple little things like the volunteer handing you your race number.  I was no different, and Michael was like my own personal paparazzi!  Pretty cool. 

It really struck me throughout the whole weekend how well the whole marathon was organized from packet pick-up to "family meeting areas" after the race.  It really made for a stress free event and you never really felt like were going to miss something.

My wallet ... not so fond of Boston
Shopping through the "very reasonably priced" (sarcasm) marathon apparel was pretty awesome as well.  I mean, I had to get my official Adidas Boston Marathon jacket, right?  The jacket is the only criticism of the whole weekend (as silly as that sounds).  I wasn't a huge fan of the green and black appearance, but that aside - the logo was screen printed on.  In all of the past years it was embroidered.  Not a big deal, but it would have been nice to have the stitching - but hey, it's still a jacket, right!

We also picked up a few other shirts and stuff while we were there.  This was by far the largest Expo I had ever been to.  There were three auditoriums full of vendors.  We took our time and looked through everything there.  We also stopped to watch a video of the marathon course, with a narrative from past racers.  I think it did a great job in helping me visualize it since we didn't have a chance to drive it.

Just a few blocks down the street from the Expo was the finish line where there were of course tons of people taking pictures.  We took pictures there as well, partly because it was the FRIGGIN' FINISH LINE for the BOSTON MARATHON, but also because I wanted to make sure and touch it in case I broke my leg or something weird!

We got a lot of really cool stuff in our bag including the yellow technical t-shirt and a really cool Boston Marathon cow bell!  You used the green bag for your gear bag at the beginning of the race ... and this was the biggest gear bag ever!  It really helped out because we had to bundle up at Hopkinton!

The Starting Line at Hopkinton...
Yup ... a few nerves!
We had to meet the shuttle buses at about 6:00AM on Monday morning.  I first woke up at 3:00AM, but then fell back asleep for a 20 minute "nap".  I was too nervous and excited to sleep!  Michael was so cool about it too.  I know I had to disturb her, but I tried to keep it quiet and fumbled around in the dark for a while before she woke up to join me.  I tried to relax knowing that I had about a full day before the 10AM start, but I was like a bull in a China closet.

Getting to the shuttle buses was only about a five minute walk from my hotel.  It was so cool to see all of the athletes making their way to the transportation.  All of the runners were like ants hurrying to a sugar cube from every street corner, in every direction!

All aboard the Party Bus!!!

There were literally thousands of people boarding the buses at the Boston Commons.  Again, it was very well organized and everyone was very courteous and waited their turn to board the buses!  At some marathons, you run into the occasional jerk who thinks he is going to win the race or something, but at Boston, it was like everyone was there just enjoying life.  I know I was!

The ride from Boston Commons to Hopkinton (where the race begins) took about 45 minutes along the Massachusetts Turnpike.  I watched as we passed all of the local Township signs of the communities we would be running through in a few short hours.  Newton, Wellesley, Natick, Framingham, Ashland, and of course Hopkinton! 

Greetings from Athletes' Village
At Hopkinton, a sign greeted us that read "Boston Marathon Athlete Villages'".  It was really cool, and it had sort of an "elite" feel, like you were part of something exclusive or something.  They only allowed runners past this point.  It was really windy and cool at Hopkinton and everyone was trying to relax and find a little shelter from the breeze. 

For the first hour in the staging area, I leaned against a recycle bin.  I later moved to stack of Gatorade cases where I used an empty bottle as a make-shift chair.  I met a guy named Jim from Chicago who was also running his first Boston Marathon.  We discussed training and qualifying and it really helped pass the time.

Trying to stay warm and wind-free ... unsuccessfully
There was very detailed instruction about how to proceed to the starting line being repeated over the loud speaker.  It was very helpful and I think calmed nerves.  If the rest of the runners were like me, the time seemed to crawl by ... I mean, let's get the baby started already!

To pass some time, most of the runners were snapping shots at the famous Hopkinton sign.  I of course being the ultimate tourist had to join in!  I started to take another "self-portrait" in front of the sign, but I found another runner with an iPhone and we traded taking shots of each other!  It seemed like everywhere you turned, everyone was in a great mood and willing to help out.
Hopkinton ... "It all starts here!"

Finally, the Boston Marathon...
I wish I could give you a blow-by-blow, mile-by-mile report of the race ... but honestly most of it was a blur!  All I know is I ran the exact race that I had planned with almost the perfect pace plan for me.
Pushing through the last .2 miles to the finish and my Boston Marathon PR ... 3:20:35, my second BQ
I had always heard about the crowds and their incredible support, but I had no idea they would be as unbelievable as they were.  There were people literally every step of the way.  When you ran into a new Township, there would be a whole new mob of people cheering, clapping, and clanking cowbells.  I think my favorite portions of the race were the start at Hopkinton, Wellesly, Boston College, and the last three miles in Boston - I can't begin to describe how amazing the people were!
Running down Commonwealth Ave.

The first few hundred yards at Hopkinton curve gradually downhill.  So as you view from the back of the pack, you see thousands of runners and hundreds of supporters lined up on an embankment on the right side of the street.  It's literally like you are running into a wall of cheering people. 

As you entered the Wellesley College area at about mile 16, the screams from the girls were ear shattering.  You could hear them coming from about 300 yards away, and for about a quarter mile after you passed.   There were a ton of "kiss me" signs as advertised too!  "Kiss me I'm Jewish!",  "Kiss me I'm a runner too!",  "Kiss me I like old slow runners!", they were hilarious. 

The girls at Wellesley did a good job of pumping you up a little for the four mile stretch of hills awaiting you from 17-21. Looking at the elevation before the race, I didn't think they would be that big of a deal, but they weren't easy ... I can tell you that!  Actually I've ran tougher hills in other races, but they are placed late in the race and you've already hammered your quads quite a bit on the excessive downhill to start the race.  And about the downhill - I would call it "sneaky difficult"!  You never really feel like you are braking too  much with your quads to slow  your speed, but I really felt mine tighten up around mile 18, so I knew they had received a workout.

Me & all of Mexico celebrate tonight!
 The Boston College kids were typical crazy college kids, but not "crazy" in a disrespectful way, but "crazy" in their support and encouragement.  My knuckles hurt from all of the fist-bumps I received.  And after you passed them, it wasn't much further until the run down Commonwealth Avenue, and finally the 26 mile turn onto Boylston!

When I turned on the final .2 mile stretch on Boylston, I knew I was close to my PR.  It was a little slower than I had anticipated since the hills slowed  me a little more than planned, but I knew if I pushed it I could still get it.  So I started to sprint and push like I did when I qualified for Boston.

Within about 50 yards to the finish line it finally hit me that I had just completed the Boston Marathon.  Something very few will ever have the opportunity to do ... and a huge wave of emotion overtook me.  No, I didn't cry - I know that surprises everyone.  But I was just on an unbelievable high!  I ran a Boston Qualifying PR at 3:20:35 on a bright, sunny perfect day in Boston, Massachusetts ... does it get any better?  I can tell you wholeheartedly though that the time didn't matter.  I just very fortunate to be there and had the time of my life!

Cold & sweaty ... but with THE medal!
Michael was waiting in the family meeting area and we took a ton of pictures.  There were tons of people everywhere enjoying their moment.  My legs were tired, but more than that I kept fighting back the urge to hurl.  I've never puked on a run at any point in my life, but I was close after that one.  It think it was all the emotion.

As we made our way through the crowds, we heard people talking about the world record that was set that day.  I of course like many "remembers the past a little differently" runners will tell my grand kids that I pushed Geoffrey Mutai the whole way toward his 2:03:02 World Record!  (But really, I don't think he even knows that I exist.)

We also happened to run into EMZ of If I Can't Convince You -- I'll At Least Confuse You, who we had met a couple of nights before.  Emily and her family were really cool people and down to earth!  It was great to meet them and she even let me get a quick snapshot!  She's the only celebrity I met while in Boston, so I  had to seize the opportunity!  She ran a great race as well! 

Me and the famous EMZ - a really cool gal!

I could go on for days and days about our trip to Boston and there is so much I left out.  I'm sure I'll add bits and pieces in the following days.  But suffice to say that it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life!  Will I run it again ... I don't know.  Hopefully I can keep qualifying.  I really want to!  But Boston is a very expensive trip from Kansas City, MO ... so we'll see!

On the plane ride home, I noticed a woman reading a Boston Globe.  I had also purchased one as a keep-sake, but hadn't had time to thumb through it yet. I noticed she kept squinting her eyes to read some fine print.  I finally realized that all of the finishers for the 115th Boston Marathon were printed inside the Boston Globe!  I MADE THE BOSTON GLOBE!!!  Not a big deal for some of you, but let me remind you that I'm pretty "small-town"!
We were a little sad to leave Boston, but we have incredible memories.  I'll share more later, but for now, I can't imagine any race ever coming close to the historic Boston Marathon ... and I was completely honored to be a part of it!
... be great today!


  1. Congrats! V few PR at Boston, the course is the devil. Well done!

  2. Congrats on your PR in Boston! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  3. Great write up. But I am did you get Red Sox tickets? That isn't easy to do. Sounds like you had a great time and what a great race you ran! Yeah!

  4. Loved reading this. Congrats on your PR and on having such a great race!

  5. Great recap. I tracked you all morning and was so excited for you. Glad you enjoyed your experience.

  6. Great report. BTW, as a baseball geek, the only thing I've found wrong with Fenway is that it is filled with Red Sox fans.

  7. Congratulations! I think I remember you predicting a PR? You almost make me want to try a marathon.

  8. Awesome details here, Jim! I am very excited for your PR. Also ...yay for seeing the sox game!!

    Did you have to ride the T after the race? OMgoodness......too many stairs!

  9. A great review Jim. It looks like you thoroughly enjoyed yourself. Good for you!

  10. Congrats Jim, on an awesome PR....I will never BQ so greatly appreciate being able to live vicariously through you...what an incredible experience. I'm so happy for you :)

  11. Ah Jim, you know I am a big fan. I was waiting for this race report. My favorite so far for sure. I am so happy for you and for Michael! how great that she got to be there with you. What I like the most is how grateful you are that you got to run Boston. I love that, even though it really is because you deserved it by having a BQ you still think of this as an honor and I think it's fantastic. Everything in this post is positive. That is nice. You may have not cried but it got me teary reading this! Yes I am a cry baby. And then you BQ again and then you get a PR and the pretty gal is there at the end, I mean come on! And THE EMZ is in the story! That is stuff for a Hollywood movie forget Lifetime!!! Sandy Bullock for Michael's part? Right? And for you? A stud athlete...Matthew M? Congratulations Again!

  12. Who kept putting pictures of Jim Harbaugh in your post? Oh that's right, that's you. Dude, EMZ is way cuter than you.

    Fenway is very high up on my Bucket List. Right behind Kauffman Stadium.

    Again, great job. You killed it. See you next year.

  13. Wow...just wow!!! You were great Monday! (and every other day too I'm sure) but wow...just wow...

  14. Great race report! I cannot believe that we were staying in the same hotel.

  15. Great race report, Jim! The experience of a lifetime and I love all the detail you included. Do you mind if I include a link to your BQ story at Top of Utah on my blog's "Inspiring BQ Stories" page?

    Keep basking in the glory! What a great year to be part of it all!

  16. Sounds like a perfect day in Boston!

  17. Loved the entire report - turly a memory forever embedded in your "happy place" :). Congrats again!!!!!

  18. Sounds picture perfect. So happy for you.

  19. Loved it! I was so excited when you posted this, I've been waiting :-). It just sounds like such an amazing experience. I'm glad you got to enjoy some of the city, too. You look strong in the pictures during your last bit of the race, nice job. So memorable and amazing. Congratulations again!!!

  20. Terzah - CERTAINLY, I would be honored, thanks!

  21. Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! Truly the perfect Boston experience. Congrats again!

  22. I loved reading your race recap. BQ-ing in Boston? That is so, so cool!!!!

    Congrats on a fantastic race!!

  23. Congrats! I say that but it doesnt seem like a big enough word for such a huge accomplishment! You've earned and achieved something that no one one can take away! High five and fist bump!!

    Great report Jim! Glad you and Michael had a great time!

  24. wow, i have cold chills!!! glad the race went well for you, you rocked it!!!!

  25. This mid-westerner couldn't be more proud of your "small town" self! Congrats on so many levels and for so many things. The finish, the qualifying time, the Globe notice. You (and your wife) have so much to be proud of! Relish the high for as long as you can! :)

  26. What a great report! I love that they put the finishers in the paper. You should have that framed.

  27. Another congrats Jim! Great recap- love all the pics (and the caption from your finish line photo!) PS- see you in Fargo in a couple weeks!

  28. Loved the review, pictures were great! Man reading about that experience sorta kinda makes me want to do it one day. First step - complete one marathon. Second step - shave probably an hour off of said marathon's time, hmm....

  29. Loved the review and the pictures. Thanks for sharing.

  30. Simply awesome!! Congrats again!! And a BQ at Boston, that has to be the icing on the cake

  31. Sounds like it was an awesome trip! And sounds like you had a great time in Boston too! Sounds like you did almost exactly the same things that I did when I visited Boston in 2002 - Red Sox game, Harvard University, North End for italian food, etc. The Red Sox stadium is my favorite ballpark I've ever been to, it is so tiny.

    Sounds like the race went perfect - congrats on your PR! a 20 mph tailwind and 50 degrees literally sounds like perfect conditions. Great that you met EMZ too! I think she finished right behind you in 3:23 or something.

    My favorite picture you posted is probably of the Hopkington sign, just kind of proves that you made it. Enjoy the afterglow!

  32. How awesome! It sounds like it was everything we all dream about it :) What a great re-cap and photos. Congratulations to you (and the country of Mexico, of course) on your PR and new BQ. ;)

  33. The details in your race report are just so vivid it's almost like I was there....oh wait I was :) So glad to be able to share that experience with you babe!! Truly awesome!

  34. I LOVED the "nerves" picture because it gave me the chills. That picture spoke a 1000 words, for sure!

    You made me cry when you talked about not crying at the finish and all the emotion. WOW!!! WOW!!! WOW!!! What a great race report - and what a great race - and what a great guy you are!! You should be so proud!

  35. You did a fantastic job!! I am so glad you had such a GREAT day! Congrats again, on both a great race and a great trip!

  36. A huge congrats to you! That's fantastic! What a great experience you had. And I am laughing at Chris K's comment--you do resemble Harbaugh!

  37. Hi! Just dropping by to congratulate you on Boston! Your report was truly inspirational. Congratulations to you =)

  38. Wow, congratulations on a great marathon!! It sounds like the whole experience and another BQ will rank really high in your books. Thanks for sharing the journey on your blog.

  39. Greetings!!
    I really enjoyed your blog!!! Especially this post about Boston!!! What an amazing journey to do 50 marathons in 50 states!!! Of course so is the journey to see all 30 baseball stadiums!!! Last year my dad completed the task... and now I think he is wanting to go back and see all the new stadiums!!
    Good Luck with your running!!!


Thanks for stopping by ... your comment's always welcome!