I don’t typically do the same race over and over again.
There is a lot to be said for testing yourself against an exact course (apples to apples), I just haven’t done it in my 50 state effort for efficiency purposes.
2019 marked my 4th Boston Marathon; I also ran in 2009, 2012, 2018. I just love this race.
You have to qualify to run in Boston and the times are pretty aggressive; so sure, there’s a feeling that the race itself is special because you earned your way in.
I love the history of the race, from Katharine Switzer to Duel in the Sun legends Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley and more recently Des Linden. Bonus points: I get to see and stay with my friends from college, Heather and Jack.
I am social, so I enjoy what feels to some like a “hurry up and wait” day. I like riding the school buses from Boston Common to Hopkinton High School and waiting in Athletes Village with strangers (most of whom I find are just waiting to be friends!).
I love slapping outstretched hands in Ashland. I always seek out the smallest kids. I enjoy the spectators lining the streets, all celebrating Patriots Day and going all out. I swear there’s a bar in Natick that plays “Sweet Caroline” on speakers nonstop all day because it’s been on all 4 years at that point. If someone can confirm this, I’d be eager to know- it’s too predictable to be coincidence at this point!
My favorite part of the course comes just before the half, “scream tunnel” at Wellesley College. You can legit hear these girls from a full mile away. They are SO LOUD you can’t help but get butterflies & feel the tingles a full mile after.
I even enjoy the hills of Newton. I don’t have a runner’s build and spend a lot of time in the bottom of a squat, so they are a welcome challenge. I want my legs to feel like rubber bands at the end of Heartbreak Hill- it’s a feeling I earned!
There are too many places on the course to cite confetti popping, music playing, spectators lined 10 deep- it really is amazing. I don’t “need” these things to race but I sure do enjoy them.
The runners are great, too. You’d think it’d be a bunch of elitist types, but I find folks are generally proud to be there and eager to connect.
To be fair, with the exception of 2009, I’ve been in the 3rd wave so maybe that has something to do with it. Nothing like beating your qualification time by a full 5 minutes and still being seeded in “party pace”- really speaks to the depth of talent in the sport of running right now.
Did the bipolar weather bother me this year? Sure. When I saw it was going to be like last year about a week out, I panicked a bit but the decided not to even look at it until I arrived. Can’t control the weather, right?
That sort of backfired on me when all I packed were Light n Tight leggings and it was 63 (& very humid!) at the start. Nonetheless, the same hot pink pants that served me well in my 100K trail race powered me through here. They truly are, as the name would suggest, LIGHT so I was actually more comfortable than you’d think.
Pssst- I’m also beginning to think these hot pink leggings give me some sort of extra confidence, so there’s that to consider...maybe they are my new race uniform!
I remembered from my hot weather experience in 2012 to put ice cubes under my hat to stay cool. That was a great strategy from about mile 14 to the finish. I also made sure I stayed hydrated and balanced water with electrolytes during the race and never had any dicey episodes heat can sometimes cause.
I also chose the All Star Bra and, once again, had zero chafing. That’s now 2 marathons and a 12 hour ultramarathon I’ve had completely clear skin under my arms, at bra line, etc- it’s no longer coincidental. I will sing the praises of this piece until the unicorns come home (see what I did there?!).
I’m proud of my 3:34:48, which is the fastest time I’ve ever secured in Boston. Far from a PR, it reflects the work I put into my training and qualifies me for next year!
Why did I want to run Weymouth Woods 100K? 62.1 miles?
Sure, it had something to do with Trey being gone. Airfare expenses for our family need to be for him to come here and see the kids, not to some out of state 50 marathon effort.
Yeah, it had something to do with the "food holidays" too. I avoided my typical 5 pound gain with the volume in miles this training effort required.
Mostly though? God put this on my heart because He wanted to teach me through it...and He did.
Photo credit: Timothy Hale
Lesson 1: Break large goals into manageable pieces The course was fourteen 4.5 mile loops. I know the photo above is somewhere in the first 4.5 miles (because I took the vest off after that), but if you'd have asked me that day I'd have said loop 1. I can wrap my head around 14 laps. 62 miles? No way- too big.
You know what they say- how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!
Lesson 2: Run your own race Our Fayetteville Running Club President David would have likely come out anyway to support and even though he only committed to one loop, he accompanied me on my 3rd, 5th, and 7th loop. He even went to my van to retrieve my favorite lipgloss.
Side note: that was an emergency. I put what I thought was a full tube of lipgloss in my pocket prior to the race and - tragedy of tragedies- realized somewhere single digit miles in that it only had a few applications left! The horror! Asking a man in his late 40s to "go to the minivan and find the bright pink bag with the sparkly pink tube of gloss inside" was a bit emasculating, but he did it!
Photo Credit: Timothy Hale
A pacer is a good idea for something like this because it's their job to go YOUR pace. Finding a friend on course? Look, I've done it before in an ultra but I don't recommend it. Why? You need to listen to your own body. The whole "run with friends" thing is great in theory but consider the fact that someone is pushing themselves harder than they should. I know there's a performance case to be made for it, but if you are about survival and simply crossing the finish line (as I was), I say run your own race.
Lesson 3: Focus on what you can control It was for this reason I didn't post to any of my social media accounts. My little ZYIA Active business is booming and blessedly has over 5000 connections on Instagram. I made a conscious decision to remove any external pressures about finishing, which included posting to social media. I make a lot of stupid decisions daily, but I'm proud of this one. In addition to external pressures, the list of things I was able to control was short:
1. My attitude
I prayed a lot. I believe in a sovereign God who already orchestrated the result of this race. Let me be clear: the power over the outcome or my attitude did not come from within me. Girl, I don't need to wash my face.
I prayed for calm when I tripped (twice) over a root. I asked God for clarity when I needed to decide whether to walk latter miles in pitch dark with only a headlamp available. I prayed for strength when I felt low.
I didn't look at my watch until I was 30 miles in. I wanted a good cushion of mileage under my legs and to listen to my body until that point. What was my pace? Don't know. What mile was I on? Didn't care. This was another conscious choice that affected my attitude.
2. My nutrition
Digestion is a delicate piece when your effort extends past the 8-10 hour mark like this. I knew from previous 50 Milers that I'd need to get in whole foods (quick burning carbohydrates- I love me some Mark Sission but I am not a fat adapted athlete!) in early and often to sustain me calorically in the later miles when I could no longer digest. This race was over the top in terms of what they provided both at the halfway point in the loop as well as drop bag area. I honestly didn't use any of the fuel I packed other than my Red H favorites (Go Juice, Formula H) I had been training with.
As someone who typically fasts until noon, I waited about 2 hours before putting anything in my body other than caffeine. Was this a gamble? For sure. I had tested the theory on a couple of other marathon race days though and my instinct was correct. Did I take in a lot of ginger ale around laps 10-12? Yep. Was it minimal discomfort for a 12 hour effort? Yep.
3. What I wore
I mean, you knew I was going here. The Chill Long Sleeve was perfect for what ended up being a late 40s/early 50s day with a bit of sporadic light showers. It's breathable, comfy, and dries quickly.
There was a happy ending to my limited release (now gone) pink pants saga when another ZYIA Active rep sold her size sample to me, which alleviated any anxiety on course. It was important to me to wear something that made me feel powerful and, as silly as it sounds, these were the leggings I pictured wearing when I signed up for the race.
I can't say enough great things about the All Star Bra for running. Click here to see in app photos of my braline and underarms after 62 miles with no BodyGlide or Vaseline. Honestly, I was so concerned about my feet I forgot (remember? Stupid daily decisions!) and since there was no discomfort, it never occurred to me to apply mid-race.
Things I could not control on race day: weather, trail conditions. About 10 days out, it looked like we'd be running through downpours. Looked a little better a week out with only 70% chance of rain all day, and finally race eve we knew we'd only have a few light, quick showers.
The problem with that? Trail conditions. It was not as muddy as I anticipated but there were definitely some wet spots that made a typically dry course boast "water crossings" on race day. My friends in the Pacific Northwest taught me this fact: there's no bad weather- just bad gear. I was prepared even though I didn't need extra shoes, socks, or yak trax.
Here's the coolest part, y'all: I crossed the line in 12:40 and came in 2nd female overall. I was blessed to share some miles with the winner, Amanda, and she was kind enough to share early advice with me. She's a very talented veteran runner with many ultras (to include 100 milers!) under her belt and I'm thrilled for her victory.
Speaking of victories, this was one for me as well. It's the farthest distance I've ever raced and I had fun out there. Sure, I can barely walk now but I mean it- it was fun. Giving God all of the glory for a great race and the lessons learned.
The training for my 47th marathon state was a self experiment to answer this question. Rather than a 16-18 week traditional training, here’s what I did:
300 swings + 5K/day for 30 days
10 weeks formal marathon training
Rather than building a base of training volume with a bunch of miles that would later break me down or put me at risk for overuse, I did what I believe to be the minimum effective dose for building an endurance engine to then layer running specific training on top of: 300 swings and 5K worth of running daily.
The swings were anyhow- sometimes within one block of time (often 10 OTM for 30 minutes) and sometimes Pavel Tsatsouline “grease the groove” style (10 here, 20 there all day until I reached 300).
It is worth noting I am experienced in the kettlebell swing. This is not a new movement for me. I’ve been doing them for almost 8 years consistently at CrossFit (though we disagree on American versus Russian style swings) and my own strength programming. My Husband is both RKC and StrongFirst certified also so I benefit from his coaching on technique and healthy form. You cannot learn to swing a kettlebell through a YouTube or IGTV video, y’all...you just can’t.
The 5K was also anyhow- sometimes a race, often without a watch, sometimes 800m x 6 or some other speed work that equaled 3.1 miles.
Within the formal running training, I programmed for myself and pulled best practices from:
Hansen’s Method - don’t go over 16 miles in a single effort
CrossFit Endurance - long runs every other week
Hal Higdon - 10% volume increase each week, 2 week taper
Furman FIRST - key runs + total mileage
Each concept or take away is what I used in my own hybrid plan. It is worth noting that I have completed all of these plans, some multiple times, as written.
How did it go? By the numbers, remarkably well! I ran a very evenly paced 3:31:46 (8:05/mile) on a course that was 22 miles of double track trail.
That performance earned me 3rd female overall; anytime I can podium above age groups I am really pleased.
Outside the numbers? Even better. I stepped up to the starting line feeling healthy, rested, and eager to go long. You’d think this feeling would be a given for a marathoner, but oftentimes traditional training schedules have us riddled with injuries, mentally drained, and ready to hang up our racing hats for months after.
...not me! I feel so great, I’m already registered for my next race (100K trail) and mapping out the associated training in a similar pattern.
Will this work for everyone? No. You have to be an experienced runner and well versed in the kettlebell swing. I feel strongly about this specific movement because it not only builds an aerobic engine but also injury proofs your body.
Speaking of injury proofing, I’ll add that I did a strength progression (5x5 push/pull/squat) throughout both the 30 day cycle and the 10 weeks of formal training. This is non negotiable. Strong first.
In a closing you can now expect from me moving forward, I want to mention what I wore: ZYIA All Star Bra + ZYIA Copper Charged Tank + Lululemon Run Speeds.
All Star Bra($49): look, it doesn’t get any better than this. High neck with breathable mesh detail, ultimate support with zip up back. I don’t think I’ve ever run a marathon- this was lifetime number 54- without having some sort of chafing under my arms or at my bra line until this weekend. I didn’t even lube anything up! It’s almost a little suspicious.
Copper Charged Tank ($31): this performed exactly like the Lululemon Silverescent Racerback tank has in the past. No chafing, light material, breathable, stylish. The only difference between the two is $27 and ZYIA uses copper instead of silver. We are a one income household with 4 kids, so methinks I’m sticking with ZYIA.
Lululemon Run Speeds ($64): these are my gold standard and I don’t see that changing. I prefer the 2.5” inseam with the block-it pocket. They are flattering, perform well, and I appreciate the two internal front pockets as well as the lined pocket in the back (where I keep gum and ibuprofen so they don’t get sweat soaked).
Great training, great race, great gear. I’m thrilled and only have 4 states to go until I’m at all 50 plus DC. Somebody pinch me!