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Boston, baby!

23 April 2019

I ran the 2019 Boston marathon! I haven’t written a race report in a while, but I’m making an exception for this one.

Why is Boston so special? Because you have to work hard to make it to the start, work harder to make it to the finish, and when those Bostonians say “Good Job!” as they hang the unicorn medal around your neck, they really make you believe it.

If you don’t believe me, watch this excellent film. Be careful though, it might make you want to sign up.

Getting to the start

As a Brit, Boston was a race I was aware of, but not one I thought I’d ever run. I’m not a huge fan of aeroplanes or big city marathons, so the thought that I would fly somewhere ‘just’ to run a marathon was nuts. But then, in 2017, a couple of my running clubmates ran Boston, and I realised what a big deal it was. Given that most people struggle to run fast enough to qualify, and I could, why wouldn’t I?

After many years of not caring about this race, I suddenly cared a lot. We planned a big trip around it, seeing friends in Connecticut and in New York. We saved for 18 months – booking the hotel room as soon as I nailed my qualifying time at Edinburgh (after a failed attempt in London) in 2018.

No pressure, then


With all the expectations I had of the race, the holiday and the $$$$$$$ we were spending on hotel rooms, I had one job: get to the start line uninjured. I abandoned the high mileage Hansons plan which did so well for me in 2016 but resulted in injury in 2018. I used one of the free Boston plans (level 3) and something crazy happened – I actually enjoyed the training! It was varied, interesting, and most of the interval training was 10k or half marathon pace, not 5k. Win win win.

I arrived in the US ready for the taper, and… well… let’s just say I enjoyed it.

The most well-organised race I’ve ever run

So, my holiday was great! But what about the race? I trained for a 3:25, and ran a 3:32. It was amazing and awful – sometimes at the same time. But definitely mostly amazing.

Things I loved:

  • So many fast women! I started in the blue wave, with a qualifying time of 3:32, and I was mostly surrounded by female runners for the whole race. This was brilliant and in my experience very unusual! There was not a whole lot of chatting going on (we were working too hard for that), but it was truly awesome and inspiring to run alongside so many speedy women.
  • A race run by runners, for runners. It felt like a local race, scaled up, but not commercialised. Everything you wanted was where you needed it when you needed it. Coffee? Bagel? Toilet? Toilet again just before the start? They even gave you a bottle of water BEFORE your medal at the end. Extra points for this.
  • The volunteers – there were almost half as many volunteers as runners and it showed. They were SO GREAT at every water station and at the finish they made me feel like a rockstar.
  • The City – this is a big deal for Boston. There were signs everywhere from the minute you arrive. The crowds during the race were smaller than London, but three times as enthusiastic. One guy locked eyes with me and shouted ” I BELIEVE IN YOU”. I believed in him.

Things I didn’t:

  • The weather. It is so changeable there you could get anything, and we did. Torrential rain stopped before I started, but the humidity stayed. It was already warm and once the sun came out at 10 miles I knew my pace was toast.
  • My bloody shorts. It was the third day of my period, and I should have known better than to wear blue shorts. My biggest worry was that spectators would think that I’d shat myself. “It’s blood!” I considered shouting, “I just have my period!” Seriously, I am ashamed to say it did knock my confidence and I was really self conscious for most of the race. Plus towards the end the dried blood made for some pretty bad chafing. Sorry if this grosses you out (actually, no I’m not), but for all you bleeders, know that it happened and I got through it. No-one died of shock or made a rude comment and I am a WARRIOR.

The things I will remember

  • The rolling ribbon of runners stretching out in front of me as far as I could see, seemingly stationary in the far distance.
  • The smell of weed as we passed the groups of college kids.
  • The fight not to pass out running up (and down) the Newton Hills.
  • The taste of Gatorade. So much Gatorade.
  • That I did not walk.
  • That the sun went in as soon as I finished.
  • The feeling of joy when Dan and Martha met me afterwards.
  • The taste of the Harpoon IPA afterwards.

“Welcome to Boston!”

3 Comments leave one →
  1. jeanhannah permalink
    23 April 2019 10:52 pm

    ❤️💪 brilliant as ever. Hope Dan is feeling better! Xxx

    • 24 April 2019 11:09 am

      Thanks Jean! He is, thank the lord. Once he had improved Martha then had an allergic reaction to something just to continue the holiday theme (rainbow bagel? Hotel carpet? The subway?) – funtimes!

  2. 24 April 2019 5:19 pm

    Gina, Superb story, you committed, you trained, you made the journey, you persevered, you obviously enjoyed it, but most of all You Did It! Well Done You, Cheers!!!

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