Tuesday, April 21

3:15:28... the time it took to capture the elusive unicorn

My morning started at 4:17 a.m. with a complimentary breakfast of oatmeal, a banana and rather watery coffee. My level of excitement reminded me of the feeling I had on Christmas morning when I was 6, 31 years later that feeling still takes me away to a happy place. After receiving good luck kisses from the girls, I left our room at 5:50 and slowly walked the mile or so down the street to Boston Common to join the throng of participants lining up for buses that would take us to the start in Hopkinton.

The ride out was uneventful, and if nothing else reminded me of catching the school bus in Kindergarten, exhilarating and yet terrifying. Hicham met me at the PowerBar tent and with a large grin on our faces we found some dry grass under a large marquee to wait out the next two hours. After four months of training which included three races, numerous workouts and several strategy sessions, everything I had been focusing on was about to arrive.

The beginning was surprisingly anticlimactic, and after being warned about the course dropping almost 150+ ft in first 800m, I was happy to see the opening mile pass in 6:22. The second mile was a tad fast (5:58), but I managed to reign things in and the following four miles passed in steady succession of 6:06, 6:15, 6:15 and 6:16. With a goal 6:15 mi/pace I was happy with my pacing, but as much as I tried to settle into a rhythm I found it a constant struggle. It was during mile-5 that I realized it just wasn’t going to be my day. My right quad was already straining and with an unsettled stomach I succumbed to the inevitable and waited for the bleed.

The first time I walked as at mile 11; and every mile afterwards.

Having run a few descent marathons coupled with my experience in London ’07, it wasn’t a stretch for me to recognize the signs. Thinking back it was almost a relief as rather than battle the disappointment I was able to focus soaking up as much of the atmosphere as I could. This isn’t to say that I didn’t have any energy. I split the half in 1:23:48, not much more than 1’ shy of my goal, but I knew if I continued at this rate I was in for a train wreck. My 5k splits tell the tale:

18:59, 19:28, 19:55, 20:58, 22:01, 24:15, 26:52 and 29:35

With my pace slowing I was surprised at just how much of a struggle I found the Newton Hills. The series of 4-miles passed in a string of painful miles 7:34, 8:24, 7:43 and 8:40. Admittedly, what really surprised me was the energy and vigour with which everyone around me appeared to charge hills. Were they idiots, how could hundreds of people run with such reckless abandonment? The contrast between me and ‘them’ was stark and all I could do was hope to be pulled along in the kaleidoscope of runners. One of these people was Thomas. With a goal of finishing under 3 hours I was waiting for him to catch me and shortly before mile 25 I saw him trucking along in his bright orange singlet. We smiled at each other and exchanged horror stories before I let him slip away into the crowd.

To help paint a picture of the volume of people that passed me, I eventually crossed the line in 3:15:28 with my friend Hicham finishing 10’ earlier in 3:04:07; in that period, 1929 people finished.

As for Boston, the crowds were amazing (the Wellesley Girls are really loud) and the course challenging. If and when I decide to come back I’ve already made note of several things I would implement into my training, one of them being specific hill workouts. I’m grateful for the opportunity I was able to experience and the friendships I solidified along the way, Hicham, Mike, Thomas and Mark... congratulations and cheers! And last but not least, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the missus and Isla for their continued love and support, thank you!

P.s. Vancouver Canucks sweep the St. Louis Blues in 4!


Monday: Boston Marathon, 3:15:28, 7:28 mi/pace, 3718
Tuesday: day off (scheduled)


Grellan said...

Well done Michael on having the presence of mind to ease back when you felt the wheels coming off. That's the attraction of the marathon - you just never know what it's going to throw at you on the day (it's a love/hate relationship).

It looks like a lot of runners suffered from the halfway mark for whatever reason (headwind?) The important thing is that you were able to soak up the unique atmosphere that is Boston. Rest well.


I hope you don't mind me saying; It amazes me how erratic your Marathon times are! You've got loads of ability, that 2.40 p.b. time is impressive, I know you trained bloody hard! so what went wrong!
check out this link it might help;

Eric said...

Congrats on Boston! Props to you for making the best of things on a tough day. From what I have read, the weather was not very good at all. Recover well. Cheers!

Mark said...

first Boston at sub-7:30 pace, sweet! beats my first, that was an 8:00/mile.

Hope you had a safe trip home and am looking forward to some PRs from you this year.

Thomas said...

It was a very, very tough day out there, and, as I've learned as well, the first Boston is a massive learning experience. Nothing could have prepared us for that course.

But it was great finally meeting up, though I did not expect that to happen again during the actual marathon. Niamh is already talking about coming along next time. I don't think I'm done with that beast just yet.

All the best, and I'm sure the sub-2:40 will come, but on an easier (fairer?) course.

Walter said...

Well done Mike:) You have done what thousands if not millions dream about!!! I was happy to read that you soaked-up the atmosphere and enjoyed your experience.
See ya soon:)

Mike said...

Great job to push through to the finish feeling the way you did. Tough 2nd half.

You definitely got yourself into excellent shape. After some rest, I'm sure you're going to have a great year.

Rest up and enjoy the downtime.

Shaner said...

Hey Mike, too bad the race didn't go as you would have liked, but you gutted it out and enjoyed it as much as possible. One day, I hope to get down there and see what all the excitement is about!

Chris said...


Good on ya! Getting out there and making the best of a rough day...next time!

You know what you are capable of and you will do it.


Rob Mackay said...

Mike - we know you are much faster. Only a matter of time and place.

Lucky that you got to Boston - most just sit and think about it...

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike. I saw you a couple of times in the race. One time at around 10 k when you commented that things were not going well. the next was at the 15 mile mark. I had to make a 2 minute pit stop at a very inconvient time. I managed to finish in 2:53:39 which I was ok with under the circumstances. this is my third boston and I learn more about the nuances of the course each year. It is the grandaddy of all of the marathons and congrats for having done it. I am sure you will be back and will reach your goals in the future. Wayne cC

Cliff said...


Marathon is always a mystery. We never know what it really gonna be like until after the first half. I am glad you are able to meet up with Thomas and other runners.

Until the next one. Take it nice and easy. :)

Anonymous said...