The 126th Boston Marathon, April 18th 2022.
Report by Mark Murphy, Eagle AC.
My Boston Marathon story began in January, when I decided to focus all of my training on the 126th Boston Marathon 2022.
Training for the Boston Marathon
I wanted to build my weekly mileage steadily from January. That meant avoiding shorter races, the only races I entered in the run up were Dungarvan 10 and Mallow 10. The idea for those 2 races was, to run them as my long run with a 10 mile easy warm up, then for the race itself, run it at marathon effort at first, and aim of hopefully discovering my marathon pace. The idea was to gain confidence running at that marathon pace over long periods of time.
January block of training went well, I was building mileage every week, without pushing the pace too hard. I managed to get my first 20 miler done on the last Sunday of January which was nice.
The first Sunday in February was Dungarvan 10, so I got to put my first 5 weeks of training to the test. I started with 10 easy and then tried to run the race at marathon effort. I was disappointed with it, as I lost discipline in the first 3 miles of the race. I went off too quickly, settled down around 5 miles and held on after that. Not ideal and exactly what I wanted to avoid doing, but lesson learnt, a slap on the wrist and move on.
I steadily increased my mileage in February, also increasing my long interval speed sessions. By the end of February I had built a nice base with a consistent block of training. I was getting in the speed on the track and hitting 20 to 22 miles on my Sunday run every week, and up to 70 miles average weekly mileage.
I continued this progression into March. My main focus at this stage was to make every run count, that meant to work hard in Tuesday track sessions while making sure the easy recovery runs were very easy. I also started to add marathon effort miles to my Sunday long run.
Then came Mallow 10 on March 21st. My hope for this was that I would have more discipline than i did in Dungarvan, and comfort and confidence at my marathon pace and effort. Mallow went well on both counts and that was a nice confidence boost. I hit 80 miles that week, which I think was my first time ever.
At this stage I was feeling very confident in my training and thankful that it all went so well to this point. I am now 4 weeks out from Boston.
The following week went just as well. I ran 80 miles again including a 24 miler on the Sunday with 12 MP building on my 10 at Mallow the previous week. When I finished that 24 miler though I had a bit of a disaster. As soon as I finished I felt a sore throat, and although the session went well, I was concerned . When I got home I did an antigen test, and yes; I tested positive for COVID! “I’m 3 weeks out from Boston”
This was not a part of the plan.
This was a blow, I was really drained for a few days. It was very annoying, when on the previous Sunday I was running a 24 miler and bursting with confidence, but on Wednesday I was panting walking up a flight of stairs. I had to rest for a few days and my confidence took a big hit. On Friday I tried to do a bit of a progression run, but I was wasting my time. It was very windy and my energy levels were reduced, my confidence was knocked further. By Sunday I was feeling a bit better but obviously not where I was.
I was 2 weeks out at this stage, and very worried that my dream of breaking 3hrs in Boston was gone. I tried a small bit of speed work, it was difficult because I was supposed to be tapering but I had to do something to try and build my confidence back up.
I knew I had the training done; but I had run Boston in 2019 in good shape and blew up after 10 miles. So for me Boston was all about confidence in running at marathon pace and the discipline to stick to it early on.
On the Wednesday before the race I tried 4 miles at marathon pace, this felt good, I even had to slow down a few times. This was great, but still only 4 miles. I flew to Boston on Thursday, not as confident as I had been 3 weeks earlier but kept trying to tell myself to trust the training. Mallow, 4 weeks earlier at this stage felt like months ago. I knew at this stage that the race was going to be a mental battle as much as anything else.
Making it to the Start Line.
Once I arrived in Boston straight away you can see and feel that this race really is a big deal. It’s on the news and weather updates constantly, people are genuinely excited to talk to you about it and wish you well. I went for a walk to Boylston Street to have a look at the finish line and the excitement was palpable. Deep down, I was still wishing I was at the same level of confidence as I was 3 weeks earlier.
The race day has arrived, ‘Marathon Monday’. I am dropped to Hopkinton where I get on a yellow school bus filled with other excited Marathoners; some are quite and some are looking to chat. I was quite, trying to focus on the race and going over it in my head. I had run this 3 years earlier but it’s a blur, as I blew up and it was very humid, so don’t remember much. What I do know, is that it’s a quick start, the first 3 miles are pretty much rolling hills, but much more down than up. I have decided at this stage that my marathon pace is going to be 6:40 minute miles. I said I would go ‘all in’, trust the training and muscle memory etc.
I am in the holding area before the race starts, on a lovely sunny morning, but a bit chilly so I’m glad a brought a tracksuit to donate. You wait in this area for an hour or 2 before the race, so it’s best to put a bit of thought into it. I arrived at 7:30am, the race start is at 10am. I am in wave 1 & coral 5, due to be called to the start line at 9:15am. Sure enough we are called on the button. This race is conducted to military precision, really well organised. So we start to move to the start line, it’s about a mile walk and the place is buzzing. The whole town of Hopkinton is closed off. There are people in their gardens and driveways, in party mood and cheering us on. Again it hits you, this is a big deal. Not only is this the Boston Marathon but it is the first one in 3 years, people are excited to see a crowd and to be in a crowd. I am getting a bit of a spring in my step. I arrive in my starting pen, and cannot believe I have made it, after all the ups and downs over the last 2 years, and there have been a lot of downs.
The announcer asks us to please face our nearest American flag for the national anthem. It is sang with passion and emotion and you can’t help but get caught up in it. As soon as she is finished there is a fly over – WOW, This is really is a special race!
The Boston Marathon
We are off! I know it’s going to be a slow start because of the crowd of runners, so I tell myself to take it handy, don’t worry to much about pace in the first mile, it’s pretty much down hill anyway so the pace well sort itself out, which it did.
The first 5 miles I was telling myself to hold back, don’t over run it, keep the head. I said if I felt good at 6:40 pace in the first 5, I would do another, be honest with myself and don’t push it. I know from experience if you are struggling at 10 miles your walking at 20.
After 5 miles I have all of the downhill sections done, I know it’s going to level out. This can cause havoc with your calves if you have over run it. I am feeling good tough. The crowd is unreal, never a quite spot, and I can see why people over run it, and get carried away. With this in mind I notice that a couple of my miles were quick, and I tell myself to “cop on and keep the head”. I am heading for 10 miles feeling good, but there is a long way to go. I am happy with my pace at this stage and consistently in or around 6:40 pace. If anything I am still holding back, so there is belief creeping in. Heading towards Wellesley college, know as the scream tunnel and about a half mile away I can hear it, it’s like running towards a stadium. The hairs are standing on the back of my neck, I am getting emotional, hard not to, it’s going well, I go through the scream tunnel and it’s electric. That was definitely a quick mile. So again I chat to myself, calm down, don’t over run.
I get to half way in 1hr 27 min and I know I have now banked a nice cushion, but the hills are coming, miles 16 to 21 are the tough ones. They are known as the Newton hills. I hit 16 miles, and see the sign that I am entering Newton. I make the conscious decision to just keep going on the hills, try and run strong but forget about 6:40 pace for a bit. The first hill is OK, not too bad, I am now heading for 17 miles and feeling good in Newton. Once again I get emotional as the crowds are just awesome, the support is amazing.
I am constantly talking to my Dad who I lost nearly exactly 12 months to the day and he was always very supportive, also to Béibhinn my goddaughter who died 19 months ago at 9 years of age and was the reason I started running in the first place. Now I am trying to control my emotions, maintain the pace and get through the toughest part of the course.
I am at 18 miles, I have passed a couple of the hills at this stage and my calves are starting to burn. I do have heartbreak hill ahead, but I’m now counting down, single figures left. I am also happy, that although the pace has dropped in places I do still feel in control. I hit the 20 mile mark and heartbreak hill. There is no doubt about it, it’s tough, and longer than I thought. There are people stopping and walking everywhere, the crowd is amazing as usual, urging you up. I say to myself, “it’s only a hill, get over it”, but my pace has dropped right back, and I get worried for a second, as I am really feeling it. But then, I see the top and an end to it, that gives me encouragement to push on over it. I reach the top and 21 miles, delighted with myself. I lost a bit on that mile, so I try straight away to find my 6:40 pace again, and I do. By mile 22 the pace is back, but I am now really having to fight. My calves and thighs are burning, but it’s only 4 miles, no chance than I am stopping. I would love to push, on but decided to hold what I have, and through miles 23 to 25, I am just holding on. Then in the distance I see the famous Citgo sign by Fenway Park. I know this marks 1 mile to the finish, I am nearly in disbelief, this is the last mile of the Boston Marathon. It’s difficult to know exactly what my time is because I am reading about 0.2 of a mile out on the course markers, but I know it’s good. I turn onto Boylston, an absolutely amazing atmosphere, and yet another WOW moment. I can see the finish line, my legs are cramping but I don’t care. Nothing is stopping me at this stage.
I cross the finish line, what a relief. The most emotional I have ever been crossing a finish line, thinking about my Dad and Béibhinn. Mission accomplished 2:56:17. Absolutely delighted!
An Amazing Experience.
Boston Marathon to me was an amazing experience. I have not run New York or London, but I don’t imagine a city or a community could be as excited or passionate about their marathon anywhere else, as they are in Boston. The Boston Marathon is the oldest annual city marathon in the world, and this year marked 50 years since the first ladies competed at Boston. There is the obvious passion and desire to maintain it’s importance as an event, while remembering the victims of the Boston Bombing in 2013.
For me it was a massive event, really special. Will I run it again?? Probably!