Tom O'Grady – Top Time in Boston Marathon for Albany Area

Christine Bishop: Wow, First in the area for Boston Marathon. Congrats. Would love to hear about your Boston experience and achievement of once again being first in the local area for The Pace Setter.

Tom: The Boston Marathon is one of the biggest stages for marathon running so it is always a unique experience. What made the race different this year was that it essentially went back to how it was before the COVID-19 pandemic — it was held in April, it was an in-person event, and it was a standard Boston Marathon field size. In 2020 the event was canceled and then a virtual version was held in September, and then last fall it was held in October with many more COVID-19 related restrictions. My expectations before this year’s race were lower than they normally may have been. I have only run a few races since the pandemic so I went into the race this year more unsure of where my fitness was than I normally would. I ran the New Bedford Half Marathon in March, so I had an idea of where I was fitness-wise. My wife gave birth to our fourth child in February, so I also had several down weeks in my training when I was hoping to have had some higher mileage and harder workout weeks.

The weather this year, in my opinion, was about as good as you could ask for. It was in the high 40s to low 50s. There was sun and a headwind, but I didn’t notice the headwind until late in the race. The weather was among the best I’ve experienced on race day and the top men’s and women’s times were very fast. The race went well for me. I got into a rhythm early on and felt very good so despite my pre-race plans, I decided to go with the pace and attack a faster time than I had planned. This is normally a disastrous decision to make in Boston because of the course layout. By the time the Newton Hills came around, I was starting to hurt but managed to keep it together enough to run within the goal timeframe I had set before the race. I was probably a little sorer for the next several days after the race because of my pacing than if I had taken a more even approach to pace. Overall, I was very happy with the race and how it went compared to the training I was able to do in preparation. Before any disappointment set in, I reminded myself that any day you cross the finish line in Boston is a good day.

Chris: Can you tell me which years you have run the Boston Marathon and how you placed overall and in the area?

Tom: I’ve run the Boston Marathon a total of eight times. I checked my athlete portal on the BAA website and my times and places overall are as follows.

2008–2:37:37–136th out of 21,948

2013–2:29:27–77th out of 17,600

2014–2:28:39–77th out of 31,925

2015–2:34:14–136th out of 26,598

2019–2:33:44–166th out of 26,657

2020–2:38:53 (virtual) — 37th out of 16,120

2021–2:40:44–312th out of 15,386

2022–2:38:58–421st out of 24,819

As far as local runners go, I know that in 2008 I was the second local runner and Shaun Evans was the top local runner, and in 2015 Jaime Julia was the top local runner and I was the second local runner. In some of the years such as 2013 and 2014, there were individuals with local connections such as Scott Mindel who ran faster than I did.

Chris: Can you compare it with the other Boston Marathons you ran? Was it still electric?

Tom: Every Boston Marathon is unique, and all of them are special. I would say that the feeling was back to normal. There was anticipation at the athlete village before the race, trying to conserve your energy. There was anticipation before the start of the race as you waited in the corral to get started. There is a lot of waiting before the start of the race from the bus into Hopkinton, to the athlete village, to the corral. It’s really important to manage your energy or it’s possible to feel wiped out before the race even starts.

Once the race started it seemed like this year was very fast. I’m used to having a lot of people run out at the start but there were a lot of fast runners this year and it took me longer than normal to reel people in. I ran a little slower this year, so it never really thinned out. There were a lot of people to run with, which made it good to tackle the wind and get you through the tougher points of the race. The crowds were large again and there is nothing quite like making those final turns on the course to Boylston Street towards the finish.

When I ran my first Boston Marathon in 2008, it was a different experience. I had run the race and the marathon distance only once before at the time. I also had a lot fewer responsibilities as far as my professional and family life. Each year has offered its kind of unique challenges and experiences. In 2013 and 2014 I came prepared to attack the course to run personal bests, which I did each year. Those are experiences I’ll never forget. Boston has served as a kind of yearly benchmark. We’ve always gone to cheer or watched the race in the years I haven’t run.

Chris: Did you run as you planned, did any odd thing happen, did you go with anyone, were you surprised by how well you did?

Tom: I ended up running right within the range I had predicted I would. Based on my training I had thought I was in 2:35–2:39 shape, and I ended up running 2:38:58 — so I was within my prediction by 2-seconds! I think with a more even approach to pacing I could have run 2:36/2:37 but early on when I started running 5:50’s I decided to go after 2:32/2:33. I managed to hang on until about 25K but then my legs started getting heavy. So, I ran about what I planned for a finish time.

The race was very competitive — I ran 2:38:58 and came in 421st place, which is the highest place I’ve ever had. (His lowest place was 37th) I wouldn’t say anything odd happened except for the fact that it certainly felt odd for race to be “normal.” I went to the race with my family. I’ve now been able to greet each of my four children at the family area post-Boston with our newest addition being the youngest we’ve brought. I was not surprised with how I ran or my time, but I guess I was surprised that I was the top finisher in the area. Like I’ve said before, the Capital Region has historically been home to a lot of very good runners. Based on how competitive the times were this year and the weather, I did not have any expectations about what place I would come in overall or locally and was pleasantly surprised.

                           Last year with seven medals

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