April is the month of the Boston Marathon, the Granddaddy of all marathons. To help celebrate this iconic event, we asked HMRRC runners to share their memories of running in the world’s oldest annual marathon. Enjoy!!
My first Boston Marathon was in 1974. Neil Cusack from Ireland bested a field that crested 1000 starters for the first time, winning in 2:14. My friend David Brooks (Brooksie) drove me to the starting line and watched the 12 noon start. He then drove to Framingham where he saw me again. At the base of the Newton Hills Brooksie stepped out into the street again to give me a drink. Crowds lined the road forming a human chute through the center of each town. As I came past Boston College, there was Brooksie. With no official aid stations it was the crowd that cared for the runners handing them drinks and snacks. There were no official mile marks, only traditional check points at town centers with a sign that might read 6 7/8 miles or 10 3/4 miles. Pacing was a guessing game. The wrist stop watch hadn't been invented so I guess it didn't matter. For all but the front-runners the course was open to traffic soon after Heart Break Hill.
I struggled along through Cleveland Circle, dodging cars, stumbling towards the then visible finish line in the distance, the Prudential Building. I remember vividly coming off of Hereford Street and running that final stretch down Boylston Street. Crowds were much smaller at the finish line 44 years ago but compared to anything else in distance running, it felt and sounded like the Olympic Coliseum. At the finish line stood a couple of guys with clipboards writing down numbers and times. I finished feeling weak, light headed, and began to stagger. Suddenly there was my friend Brooksie (again) to catch me and carry me into the basement of the Prudential Center. After a painful hour regaining my composure we went to get the traditional post race meal, a bowl of beef stew.
Eleven more times I would run Boston, all of them faster, but that very first journey will always be the most memorable. It seems as if it was another lifetime ago.
It certainly would be my 2010 2:46, where I finished American masters. The Boston Globe, or one of the papers, shot a picture of me that captured my emotion. 1st American in the masters and 2nd master overall. Officials grabbed me from the finish line and escorted me to the Plaza.
They took me to a private area where the major news networks were interviewing the winner's and top Americans. While I waited for an interview, they took me for a massage. Next to me was the female champion who still had her gold wreath on her head. My family couldn't get to me because it was guarded. Mary Akor was kind enough to use her credentials to get my family in. Then she offered her room for me to shower for the awards. Mary stayed in touch with me after. It was a once in a lifetime event.
Best memory about Boston: Diana and I ran Boston in 2010 for the first time. Diana had worked very hard to make the qualification standard. It was her big goal to be able to qualify. So it was very exciting for us to share the experience of running Boston for the first time and it was the culmination of a lot of hard work and training to be able to participate. However, it wasn't the highlight of the week. We were engaged in September prior and planned to have our wedding on the Saturday after Boston in Cartagena Colombia. A very exciting week to run Boston for the first time and then be married only a few days later. We shared the experience with several running friends who did both; run/spectate Boston and travel to Cartagena for our wedding.
I ran the Boston Marathon six times but my favorite and most memorable experience was 1992. Within the first mile of the race I passed old Johnny Kelley who was running his 61st and final Boston Marathon. I went on to finish the race in 3:29 and after a shower at the hotel I took my family back to Boylston Street to eat dinner. We got to the street just in time to watch Kelley make the turn off Hereford onto Boylston Street and saw him finish for the final time in 5:57 at the age of 84.
Boston is the only marathon that I have run that I get chafing on my hamstrings from my calves rubbing against them. Probably due to the downhill first half of the race, but very strange nonetheless. I was very happy with my performance. Just missed my PR but it was hotter last year than 2013 when I ran before. I am hoping to run 2:20 this year. It's the most challenging course I have run. There are definitely tougher ones though. It is probably the toughest world major unless there is a strong tailwind because of all the hills. (Scott’s modesty prevents him from saying that he came in 22nd in 2017 with a time of 2:22:32 making his dad, Mark Mindel, our new book critic, very happy!!)
Boston Marathon ... this is the entire reason that I started running .... Boston was always my goal and dream. Every runner always dreams of the magic of Boston, of running the streets and sharing the history of all things Boston. Starting off running marathons over 4 hours..it was a progression and took 16 attempts to finally get that elusive BQ ! Boston was and is EVERYTHING !
Ed who has run Boston 10 times between 1981 - 1997, and also attended as a spectator on numerous years, provided these interesting historical facts.
Boston Marathon Memories from the early 1980’s
1) You needed a sub 2:50 to qualify as an open male.
2) The race started at Noon. Finishers=5,500+/- Entry fee? Around $10, maybe $12?
3) You could drive your car into Hopkinton on race day morning and pick-up your bib number at the start.
4) No “GU” or Gatorade provided at the water stops.
5) You finished on Boylston Street in front of the Prudential Insurance Company building.
6) Showers provided in the parking at the “Pru” Center. Big blue tarps around the exterior of the lot to afford some semblance of privacy.
7) After the shower you would grab a bowl of beef stew (salty as I recall) before jumping in your car and heading home.
8) Oh, no t-shirt either. I can’t recall when t-shirts started but not in 1980 or 81.
I have run 4 Boston’s - 2008, 2013, 2014, 2015. I was supposed to run in 2012 but ended up getting a freak virus where I was hospitalized with a 104-105 fever the night before. It ended up working out OK as I recovered and ran a then PR at the Providence Marathon in early May.
At Boston, I never felt overwhelmed. I just took everything in stride and went in with realistic goals. I started conservative and maintained an even pace during my first in 2008 and Ran a then PR in 2:27:37 for 136th place. Running a steady pace was great because I passed a lot of runners in the second half that went out too fast. I’ve never been fast enough to start in the elite corral at Boston. You typically have to be faster than 2:25 for that. I have always started in the first corral and made it a point to get to my corral early and prepared so I could get as close as possible to the start. I actually watched Patriots Day for the first time last week. It was a good movie. I think they tried very hard to make the scenes as realistic as possible. It brought back a lot of good and bad memories from that day. It was my first sub 2:30 marathon. I got to enjoy that for about an hour and a half and then saw the bombs go off on TV. The feeling of doom that followed is indescribable. It was a little weird watching t the film and thinking of what I was doing at each point in the day compared to different people. It also brought back a lot of memories from the week after when people would ask what it was like to be there in person. I felt very lucky I finished when I did and that myself and my immediate family and friends were unharmed. It’s hard to believe that was five years ago already.
"Yes, I have run the Boston marathon, finishing once in '2013' and dropping out twice because of weather and injury. Oddly it’s the only race I've ever dropped out of. You need to study the logistics and make sure you waste the least amount of energy before the race as you are sitting around a field for a few hours before the start. Most local events allow you to just walk to the start a few minutes beforehand, but at Boston the goal has to be in saving energy and preparing for the hours before the start. Also note you may have to walk 2 to 3 miles after running 26 miles to claim your dry clothing and return to your hotel or nearest train stop. Not a fun part of the event if the weather is unfavorable! There's something comforting having run our club marathon a few times and having family able to pick me up at the finish and just hop into the car for a short drive home. Not as easy with the bigger marathons. But Boston is a must run event for any serious marathoner, just
Brad Lewis – Ran 5 times
This is a picture of my wife and me in 2014 after Boston. Boston is hard for a spectator to get more than a couple photo areas. It gets more dense as you get into the city. Matter of fact... It is really hard meeting up with your family at the end. That is why we have always treated ourselves after the race to a nice meal at a local restaurant. The last few years has been Post 390.
This year I'll be running with my brother in law as well as the Willow Street team. My brother in law works at John Hancock and has the 11 am start. When I hit the finish line he might have an hour and a half to go. So my family will be cheering for him while I'm at post 390 getting water, beer food and anything else on the menu. If anyone has done a marathon they know how tired you can feel at the end. It's nice to have a place to rest after such a long and grueling race.
Boston Weather – My first Boston was 87 degrees at the finish, 2012. That was incredibly difficult. The next two years (my fastest years were only 55 and 62 with a bit of sun). I would say 2013 at 55 degrees was fantastic. Boston can have extremes though. In 2015 it was downright miserable for me. It was 46 at the finish with rain. That would have been perfect except the difficulty getting your gear bags and warm clothes. The last year I ran was 2016 and it was 61 at the finish and 70 at the start. I was not overwhelmed by the heat, but it would have been much nicer to get 60 at the start as well. The weather for Boston is capable of being all over the place.
Terrain – Boston is a downhill start. You can enjoy the ride and let it overwhelm you or you can hold back and prepare for newton. It is easy to get caught up in the moment. The marathon is a race of endurance, not of speed. I’ve done Boston both ways, with splitting the halves negative and with hitting the wall. I think it really depends on these beginning miles (as well as your training). There are some memorable spots before you get to the newton hills for sure. Wellesley is just the loudest section of running I’ve ever been through. The girls are all out cheering for the marathoners. The hills of Newton are not that large when you compare to what you’d find in Troy or Slingerlands area. The problem is the timing of them. They are at miles 17-21 roughly. If you feel tired, you’ll be tempted to walk. If you are cramping, you’ll be walking and stratching. If you have saved something in the tank or ran smart, you will pass literally hundreds of people in this stretch. There are still some small uphills after the newton hills, but at miles 24,25,26 you are getting so close to the finish!!! You pass the Fenway Park along the way. My Favorite part of the race is taking a right on Hereford Street and then an immediate left on Boyleston Street. The finish line is in front of you and I’m sure the crowd is much louder than the girls at Wellesley, but you are so tired and focused on the finish that you are on auto pilot and so excited to finish the race that you don’t notice! It’s amazing to see people lined 10 deep for the last quarter mile just cheering you in!!
I ran the Boston Marathon last year and am planning on running it again this year (very slow haha). So this is my story. I went to Boston College (2011-2015). For those 4 years, Marathon Monday was one of the best days of the year. There was so much excitement for the runners. My friends and I stood at Mile 21 for those 4 years and cheered people on for hours and then I decided that once I graduated I was going to run it while still in shape. I trained for the summer of 2015 and ran the Mohawk Hudson Marathon that fall and the first 20 miles were great, I was averaging around 6:20 miles and then I hit a wall and ended up finishing in 3:12. After that I took about 7 months off from running. Then I started getting back into it but my training before Boston was many once or twice a week of running and I did one long run of 12 miles so I was not prepared to run a marathon. Some of my friends were very concerned for me before it, so I had decided I was going to prove them wrong and show them I can make it so I did. I was so excited to be a part of the Boston Marathon. Everyone cheering, kids trying to get high fives, people handing out food and water along the way, and people playing music. It's such an amazing atmosphere. I ended up going out and running a decent pace for the first few downhill miles and then around mile eleven I was thinking to myself that I had no clue how I'm going to make it. It was probably one of the most painful races I have ever done but it was great having the support of so many people. When I made it to around mile 21, I saw all my friends and family and I was so happy I got a big burst of energy. I ended up stopping and walked 21 times. Each time I stopped there was always someone there telling me that I could make it whether it was someone in the crowd or a police officer en route. However, I still managed to qualify for this year. No matter what, the Boston Marathon is an amazing event whether you are watching it or running it. It really brings the whole community together.
It was very exciting to qualify. I know I went around saying I was a BBB meaning Boston Bound Body and the crowd support was amazing. Boston is always a great city to visit. As to Heartbreak Hill, I was running with a guy and I asked when are we going to hit Heartbreak Hill and he said we already crested it, but my quads knew it on the downhill afterwards.
I was sitting at my dining room table working from home and texts started coming through asking me if I was in Boston and what was going on. I turned on the TV and saw. I started texting everyone I knew was there to make sure they were OK. Being a runner who was at the marathon the year prior this tragedy really affected me. Still to this day at any big race the possibility of this occurring again definitely crosses my mind.
The day before the race in 2015 we got to meet Meb. He spent a few minutes with us asking about the boys and their running! This was just as Alex (far right) was just getting into it. Now both boys run for Shen. Meb told me he was at race weight, which happened to be a few pounds lighter than me that day! Then in line for the porta potty on race morning I ran into a former student from CU Boulder! Running is truly a small world.
"It was by far the hardest thing I've ever done. By mile 5, I was already overheating, but I didn't come that far to back down. I wanted to quit at pretty much every mile marker from mile 17 and on, but pushed through. Even though non-qualifying for 2018 broke my heart, it's still the race I'm most proud of. I will hopefully make another run because I want to break 3 hours in a major marathon.