I started near the back of the first corral because I didn't want to take off too quickly in the excitement of my first Boston marathon. The temperature at the start was just about ideal - in the low to mid 40's, but it was windy at times. The forecast had called for about 10 mph winds at the start and increasing to 15+ by the finish and unfortunately we were running into a headwind the entire race.
I've never run a race where it has still been so crowded after the first couple of miles. The first 4 miles have quite a bit of downhill so I just relaxed and ran nice and easy and hit my first 5K in 19:46. There were water stops every mile but I decided to try to grab something to drink every 2 or 3 miles. The second 5k was rather uneventful as well. The pace felt very easy, but I knew that it should. I went through the 10k in 39:27 for a 5k split of 19:41. Somewhere between mile 6 and 8, my right hamstring started becoming sore. If it were a normal training run I would have stopped and stretched it out, but I didn't want to lose any time and it wasn't bothering me enough that I felt like it was slowing me down. There was still a solid line of runners basically as far ahead as I could see. Every town we went through was packed with cheering crowds which was pretty cool. I hit 15k in 59:16 for a 5k split of 19:35. I still felt like I was running easy and relaxed and my heartrate was only in the mid 170's which was a good sign. Six miles into the Houston marathon, my HR had been over 180 which was too high that early in the race. I didn't want to get over 180 until somewhere in the 2nd half of the race. I would pass a couple people here or there, but for the most part I was still running with the same basic group of people. It was kind of amusing looking ahead and watching the shape of the pack as everybody was trying to stay in the pack and let the people ahead block the wind. As we approached the water stops, there would be almost a synchronized movement as the pack shifted over to one side of the road to grab water. Mile 12 was one of the cooler places on the course. I'd heard about the Wellesley girls who would line the course and cheer, but experiencing it was unlike anything else. As we approached it, you could just hear the screaming girls in the distance. They had to be lined up for close to half mile along the course screaming their heads off and cheering. I high fived a few as I ran by with my gross sweaty gloves, but they seemed to love it. Several girls had signs that said, "Kiss me, I'm a senior!" and one guy actually stopped to kiss one. I went through 20k in 1:19:01 for a 19:45 5k...right on pace. Shortly after that I hit the halfway point at 1:23:15. It was a little slower than I had planned, but I was happy with where I was at. I definitely wasn't going out too quick and I felt like I could really pick up the pace. I'd rather be a minute slow but feeling strong than a minute quick and worried about how I'd be able to finish.
Once I hit the halfway point, I mentally divided up the race into 3 sections. The next 3 - 4 miles would be easy relatively flat miles, then I had about 5 miles of the Newton hills and then 5 more easy miles to cruise into the finish. The flat miles went by pretty easily and I was feeling really good going into the hills. I hit 25K at 1:38:23 for a 19:22 5K split I had a tube of icy hot with me because of my hamstring so I put some on my quads and hamstrings in mile 16 just before the start of the hills. Unfortunately I accidentally dropped the tube when I was trying to stick it back in my pocket so I wouldn't have it it I wanted more for the last few miles of the race. I started picking up my effort at this point since I was feeling good. I knew my wife had ridden the green line subway out to near mile 17 to see me. As I got near mile 17, the crowds were really big and I didn't know if I'd see her or not, but fortunately she got a really good spot and stepped out a bit to get a couple of pictures of me and I gave her a thumbs up as I went by. At this point I thought that I had a really good shot of hitting 2:45 because I was feeling so strong. The hills were tough, but nothing that I wasn't ready for. I ran relaxed up the hills and then really pushed myself after I crested the hill and I started passing quite a few people. I hit 30k at 1:58:05 for a 19:42 split. I was still right on the pace I wanted to be at and feeling great. As I went through the hills and kept passing people, I felt stronger and stronger. By the time I got to heartbreak hill I was cranking as hard as I could go since I knew the end was in sight. One guy passed me going up heartbreak hill, but I probably passed at least 30 other people. I was exactly where I wanted to be pace-wise at the end of heartbreak hill and I started the decent. Unfortunately my quads decided to start screaming in agony on the downhill. I think I needed to run just under 6:00 pace for the last 5+ miles into the finish and I had thought I would be able to do it, but I was hovering right around 6:00 pace on the downhill and my legs didn't feel like they could go any quicker. If I couldn't do 5:40 pace going down the hill at that point, I knew that 2:45 wasn't going to happen. I hit the 35k at 2:18:04 for a 19:59 split. I stayed under 20 minutes going through some of the toughest hills, but my legs were just toast. At 35k I was right around 21.75 miles and I had 4.5 to go. If I ran 6:00 pace, I would have covered the last 4.5 miles in 27 minutes which would have been right at 2:45.
When you look at the elevation map for the last 5 miles, it looks relatively flat, but any little hill in the last few miles feels like a mountain. It's like the end of the Houston marathon is downhill from Memorial Park to downtown, but the hills on Allen Parkway are brutal and that's how the finish felt. Every step I took was painful, but i was determined to keep pushing and get in under 2:50 without completely blowing up the last four miles. I passed a couple of guys who were walking in with 2 - 3 miles to go but I was determined not to join them. At this point I was really wishing I still had my icy-hot with me to put on my quads to try to make the pain subside a bit. With about 2 miles to go, I stopped briefly at a medical station to ask them if they had any bengay or icy hot. One guy had a spray bottle of some sort of numbing spray and he sprayed it on my quads and hamstrings. I probably lost about 25 seconds while I stopped, but I don't know if I made up any of the time, but it definitely soothed the legs a little bit. I hit 40k at 2:39:11 which was a 21:07 split. The last few miles of the course were just completely packed with cheering crowds that were 5 or 6 deep in some places. I don't really remember a whole lot of the last few miles other than the cheering crowds and the pain in my legs. When I hit mile 25, I could see the giant Citgo sign marking 1 mile to go just ahead and I was pushing as hard as I could go into the finish. Once we finally turned onto Boylston I could see the finish line ahead in the distance and I sprinted (term used loosely) into the finish as hard as I could go.
I crossed the finish line in 2:48:29 and was thrilled with my finish. My quads were in pain for the next couple of days after the race and walking all of Boston and up and down the stairs at all the subway stations probably didn't help much. Boston is a really cool city. We had never been there before and spent the rest of the week hanging out being tourists and we caught a Red Sox game while we were out there. I'll try to get some pictures from the race posted in the next couple of days.