Why I loved running the Boston Marathon in the wind, rain and freakin’ cold

How do you know a runner ‘crushed’ a marathon in the worst weather conditions imaginable? They tell you.

I mean, who doesn’t love a good ‘Hi, I’m a runner and I ran a marathon’ story. I got one for the ages. Yep, I’m that runner.

Last Monday (April 16) I ran in the 122nd Boston Marathon. You’ve probably heard about the weather – temperatures below freezing, heavy rains, ice pellets, 40/mph winds – it was a bit of a topic with some calling it the worst conditions ever for Boston.

I’m sure there’s been worse weather – I think we all agree sweltering heat is harder to run in and there have been a few of those years in Boston. I always find it hard to run against the wind. I learned I don’t care much for ice pellets pelting my bare arms either.

What to wear for the race was up for discussion all weekend – my buddy Jay West and I considered all of our gear over and over: long sleeve vs. short sleeve, shorts or tights, and on and on. In the end I stuck with my plan – singlet and shorts. Jay did too.

I thought it was a smart play but I was probably just being stubborn or stupid – I really didn’t want to run in anything else. Running in a long sleeve or jacket didn’t seem like such good idea, especially since my clothes were going to get soaked and feel heavy and clingy anyway – I hate that.

I pretty much convinced myself that once I started running I would be warm enough. Was it mind-over-matter or was I just lucky because it seemed to work.

I had a winter hat I could part with if I needed to but I did scramble Sunday night to find little mitties I could wear at the start – didn’t want to throw away my good running gloves. Of course, it’s April so you can’t find these things anywhere. Lucky for me the dollar store had gardening gloves – good enough. I ended up wearing them the whole way.

Also bought my first set of compression arm sleeves at Walmart, also with the intention of pitching them when I warmed up. Loved the way they felt and kept them on. (May give compression calf sleeves or socks a try next.)

We stayed in Marlborough and my wife was driving us to Hopkinton so I got up around 7 a.m. My start line garb was plaid pajama pants, a cotton long-sleeve, an old hoodie, a rain poncho with hood, winter running hat, the gardening gloves, and white plastic garbage bags wrapped around my feet and shoes and tied up with rubber bands.

It was a muddy mess at the village before the race. The tents were packed when we got there. We brought a tarp and managed to grab a spot to sit. Someone asked me about the bags on my feet – gave him some for his own feet.

It was quite the fashion show with runners throwing on whatever they could find to stay as warm and dry. Some brought extra shoes; some didn’t have anything extra; others showed up in bathrobes and shower caps; some of the ‘outfits’ were as ridiculous as they were functional.

I peeled off my extras in the corral, spent a few minutes shivering before the start and easily got into a grove when we got going. The first 10k was great – it was raining and windy the whole way but in the beginning wasn’t at it worst. Saw my family at the Framingham train station and enjoyed my ‘6 Mile Moment.’ It was just a few minutes later that the real soaking started. The wind became fierce, the rain was coming down sideways. It was crazy.

I was ready for it – I had trained well throughout the winter. In the week leading up to the race, when it was becoming clear the weather was going to be sucky in Boston, I started a lot of self-talk about being flexible, that conditions were not ideal to hit an ambitious but realistic goal. It helped – when the weather got crazy I ran it by feel, by holding a consistent effort vs. holding a pace. I was ahead a little at 10k, on goal pace at 16k and 2 minutes off at 20k.

By the time I got to 21k I was feeling the flow. While it never stopped, there were times the rain and wind weren’t as bad. But it was pretty miserable out there.

I lost more time in the second half but never felt the bonk coming on, even in the last few clicks. I mean, I felt it in my legs, on man was I feeling it. But I was very aware of what was happening – I remember things, such as the huge Citgo sign, the Brownstone homes, Runbase, all things I missed when I ran Boston in 2014.

The weather was miserable but Boston 2018 was still Boston. People lined the course just to cheer us crazy fools on. You could hear the scream tunnel from half a kilometer away. Runners, spectators, volunteers – we were all out there together.

For me, Boston is really about challenging myself. It’s a fun course to run but it’s tough – a PB in Boston is something to be proud of. What’s important for me is performing my best – I think I pulled that off this year with an asterisk because of the terrible weather. There was no way I was not finishing in such epic conditions – there was a medal in it for me at the finish. And the Strava.

The last word goes to my wife Julie, and my girls (and Carrie and the girls) for braving the bad weather to cheer me on at 6 miles, then get to the finish with warm and dry clothes to change into after it was all said and done. And of course thank you for all the support along the way – really, this started in January – I couldn’t have done it without you.

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cat h. bradley

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