I have heard from so many runners that were disappointed with their Boston Marathon experience. Most of them felt the extreme heat deprived them of the opportunity to truly test themselves after 5 months of training. I have run the Rockford, Illinois marathon 3 times on July 4th (2:45:27, 2:39:34 and 2:33:13) and the temperature was always in the 80’s and 90’s. Running in extreme heat can quickly become more of a struggle to the finish line than achieving a time goal. So I can appreciate their sentiment but it breaks my heart their Marathon Coalition experience may have been diminished on the most important day of their journey.
I realize just finishing or barely surviving a marathon isn’t nearly as gratifying as achieving a particular time goal. And being obsessed with just making it to the next aid station or water hose can certainly deprive one of taking in the complete Boston experience, but keeping the proper perspective is extremely important. Training for 5 months prepared the Marathon Coalition runners to make it to the finish line when others were dropping out as early as 2 miles into the marathon.
The marathon is far more than the trek from Hopkinton to Boston. Runners had to spend considerable time in the athlete’s village and the starting corrals exposed to the sun. The first mile at Boston is very different than the first mile of other marathons. Add in the extreme downhills in the beginning combined with near record heat and you might as well be at mile 10 of another marathon. I would argue that making it to the finish line of this year’s Boston Marathon is an astonishing achievement.
I am confident once the initial disappointment subsides along with the soreness from the legs, runners will begin to realize and appreciate the magnitude of their achievement. Training for 5 months prepared them to withstand significant challenges that caused a record number of runners to drop out of the marathon. The runners that finished the marathon will have bragging rights forever.
Monday should have been a confidence building experience. If you can survive those conditions you should be able to handle anything else that you’ll experience in running and in life! While I realize the script on Monday likely was quite different than most runners expected, anyone that finished the 2016 Boston Marathon should be extremely proud and satisfied!
Here is a wonderful response from Marathon Coalition runner Stacey Best:
“Rick, you’re right the five months of training prepared us to more than survive the marathon. When I had the strength to finally look at my 5k splits, I noticed that they demonstrated that I was well trained. I ran negative the first half- I recall thinking that I had to be VERY conservative, but I did continue to run faster hoping that I would be able to open up and finally start really running. At the half, I realized with the congestion and starts and stops through the aid stations, it was just about conserving and finishing. My second half splits, though disappointing as stand alone statistics were consistent to the finish. The wheels did not fall off the wagon. That was largely because of our training.
Every athlete, but I think a runner even more so, wants to know what they are capable of in a perfect environment. The reality that we must face is that no such thing exists. There is always something that can and will impact our performance, as least as we recall it. That is, until we feel that magical moment of attaining a performance we could have barely imagined. Here, we all KNEW we would finish Boston no matter the circumstances. You trained us well and to believe that, so finishing was taken for granted. We toed the line because we understood that REAL runners face adversity and you made us REAL runners. But alas, we are human and so we can’t help but to wonder what if…
When I say to people that this was my “first Boston” it suggests that there may be others and maybe therein there is some comfort. But, the prospect of a one-and-done makes Monday tougher to take. I feel like a rock star because I toed the line rather than listen to the winds and waves of doubt, and I toed it with the realization that I would not likely see the race or time I believe possible for me. To me that’s courage. And no one can say I don’t have any. Thanks Rick for providing the support to get me there.”