That title is entirely sarcastic, and the list that follows (also sarcastic) explains why I am one of those people who love Boston. The idea for this post stems from attempts to convince myself that I don’t like Boston, that I don’t want to run it again, that it isn’t all that great. And the reason I attempted to convince myself of those things was because my worst marathon performances since 2009 have all happened at Boston. The only two times I have run a marathon and not qualified for Boston were AT Boston. The only time I have walked during a marathon was the 2017 Boston Marathon. And with all of these seeming “failures” I tried to convince myself I don’t need this race. But as I did that, I only found myself smiling and realized I was denying my true feelings about Boston.
When I was 19, I ran Boston as my second marathon after having qualified as what I would call a fluke, at 18. I was humbled by that race as I was utterly unprepared and didn’t know enough about proper training or have the discipline to do it. I struggled to a 3:31 thanks to some good weather (50 and overcast), but I also made friends, people who took me under their wing on the bus to Hopkinton and kept me company in the Athlete’s village since I had no idea what was going on. Fast forward 6 years, and I vowed I would have a better Boston planning to run with my sister-in-law and training in Afghanistan to qualify at the Prague marathon. I was determined to have a great finish, maybe even a PR. But, I over-trained and made it to the start line with IT band tendinitis, so I had to throw away that plan for a PR and hope to finish. Then this year, I was careful about training and made it to the start line healthy, planning for something more like a 3:28, and the heat ended up taking a serious toll on me.
Regardless of those 3:40+ finishes in 2015 and 2017, both times I crossed the finish line hand-in-hand with people I love. This year, it was my husband Jeremy, who ran a 2:52 to get into Boston and as he has said “May never work hard enough to qualify again.” We ran every step of this year’s race together, we struggled together, cramped in the heat together, and both stopped and walked for our first time together. And crossing that finish line together was even that much sweeter because we had to work hard to even get the opportunity to do it. Finally, I have so many great memories with my family who have flown to Boston for the race. My parents have been there with me each of the three times I’ve run. The last two times my aunt, who is an LMT, came all the way from Washington State and worked some massage magic pre- and post-race. Plus, they enjoyed drinking beer and touring the city as much as spectating, so it truly is fun for the whole family.
The truth is, Boston has a special place in my heart and no matter how much I try to convince myself, I will always love and cherish this race. The following are all the reasons I hate(love) the Boston Marathon. I think they are many reasons those who chase Boston continue the chase, and the reason those who have run multiple times love to come back. They are the reasons I know I will return. Not any time soon, I plan take a step back and experience races in other places like Big Sur, NYC, and the World Majors in London and Berlin, so maybe in the next few years….but who knows? The allure tends to sneak up on you!
1) That dang energized crowd and unending support. From the start line to the finish line there are people lining the course, screaming and cheering. The spirit of the city and the towns along the course are captured in the crowd. From handing out oranges and gummy bears to holding hilarious signs, the crowd is spectacular. This year even more so, with towns turning on their fire hydrants and bringing out garden hoses, those who live along the course bringing ice, freeze pops, and wet towels to help us cool down. I don’t know if I would have made it without the extra help from the spectators. When I run past the Wellesley girls, I forget I’m even running. Their scream tunnel and kisses may be my favorite part of the course aside from the finish line. When we stopped to walk, fans supported and encouraged us with warmth and kindness. I have never experienced anything like it at another race. Chicago would be a distant second.
2) Ughhhh visiting the historic and lively city of Boston. From the Freedom Trail including Paul Revere’s house, John Hancock’s grave, and Bunker Hill to the preservation of the oldest places in the city intertwined with skyscrapers and modern design, Boston has such an energy and positive vibe. The trip to the marathon includes a history lesson that deserves to be embraced. On top of that you have multiple famed colleges, good food, and great breweries. Of course all of these things could be enjoyed at any time, but there is something special about sharing it with fellow runners.
3) That stupid really cool Boston Marathon jacket. Well, the first time I ran I was 19 and didn’t know the jacket was a big deal, so I bought a hoodie. Yes, a hoodie. But I made sure I corrected that mistake the next two times. That jacket is a badge of pride but also a symbol of camaraderie. You see it, and know that person is a fellow marathoner. It is a point to congratulate someone on their accomplishment and maybe make a new friend. And they don’t just sit in the closest, I actually wear mine for cold windy runs because it is an excellent wind breaker!
4) Gahhh crossing a finish line surrounded by cheering people. There is no feeling like it! Making the turn onto Hereford and then on to Boylston, it is a tunnel of screaming and cheering. Amazing fans who have probably been standing there for hours and they don’t lose energy or enthusiasm. I cried all three times I got to that point (I am a very sensitive emotional person) because I was overwhelmed by the energy and significance of that moment.
5) Who wants to be inspired by countless runners who’ve overcoming adversity or physical challenges. There are always inspiring people at any race, especially those I’ve run affiliated with the military. I am moved by the strength of the human spirit and it is on display in full force at Boston too. From blind runners that come from around the world, to veterans and amputees, to the survivors of the Boston Marathon Bombings of 2013. There are people that overcame so much more than any of us with two fully functioning legs and all of our senses. Those people don’t want attention, and definitely not pity. But I think it is only fair to at least acknowledge their accomplishment and how they inspire the rest of us.
6) Nobody wants to hang out with fellow runners in a place called the Athlete’s Village. Port-o-john’s beyond your wildest dreams, free bagels and water, sunscreen galore, and bags everywhere to donate throw-away clothes. The Athlete’s village is quite a site and an experience. Good luck finding a place in the shade, but if there is enough room for a butt, you will be welcomed to sit. It is unique to this marathon, compared to others I’ve run. Likely because of the point to point course, but a ton of fun and the best chance to just “run into” someone you know! — like I did with my friend and teammate Hannah!
7) A course that has water and Gatorade every…single…mile.Plentiful hydration stations? Who wants that?! Ha, no more words needed.
8) A Unicorn on the medal?! When I was six, I wanted to grow up to be a veterinarian or a unicorn. I will gladly receive anything that has that magical mystical creature as part of its branding. Yup.
9) You pretty much have to drink Sam Adams. That should actually say everyone. Its only the original American craft beer that now boasts an array of styles and flavors that should leave no one unsatisfied. Plus, they brew the 26.2 beer FOR THE MARATHON. I have toured Sam Adams 2 of my 3 times in Boston for the marathon. I’ve also met Jim Koch and he is an awesome guy who happens to be from the same county in Ohio where I spent my teenage years. So I might be a bit biased, but Sam Adams is pretty damn good beer. “For the love of beer. For the love of Boston”
10) Who can handle being surrounded by authentic Italian food? I mean when you need to carb load…the entire North End of Boston is filled with delicious authentic Italian restaurants. But even more important..Mike’s Pastry and the cannoli. OMG I dream of the cannoli. My family included. We make a specific trip to Mike’s Pastry to load up on cannolis so they are waiting in the fridge when we get back from the race. I eat a cannoli before I shower, eat dinner, or drink a beer.
11) Just can’t stand meeting really awesome people from all over the world. This year Japan, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Germany, Denmark, and Australia were just a few of the countries I saw represented while I was running. I will never forget 2009 when I got passed on Heartbreak hill by a 70+ Japanese woman with a flag around her shoulders. What a bad a**!
12) So over legit swag bags and post race goodies. That Adidas long sleeve shirt that you are allowed to exchange with ease, and this year a Sam Adams bottle opener (that was my favorite), plus the car window sticker and then all the free stuff that you throw in your bag as you walk through the expo (so many Kind and Clif bars this year). And the poster, with your name on it. Not that I have ever hung one, but I still have all of them…because my name is on them! Then, post-race you are handed a bag FILLED with snacks. Although this year our hungry family ate the Hawaiian rolls and other snacks before we got to them 😉 Spectating is hard work.
13) Nobody wants to have to qualify to cross the finish line with someone they love. The last point here focuses on the fact that you can cross the finish line of any other race in the world with someone you know or care about, but with Boston, you have to work for it. You have to both (or all depending on how many) qualify in the same time window, get into the race, and make it to the start line healthy. It is a bit more of logistical challenge. And plenty of people cross the finish line alone, actually most people. That is the norm so this sentiment is really for anyone who has experienced the joy of running with someone they know or love. It is pretty damn cool. This year I started the race with my husband and my cousin and words cannot express how special that was to me, or them. It may never happen again and is something I will cherish my entire life.
Do you guys have any other reasons you hate(love) running the Boston Marathon? Like getting to take a trip with your family or the awesome expo and chance to meet elite runners? Let me know!
Also – I wholeheartedly acknowledge that not everyone seeks to qualify for Boston, or even runs marathons. This is not meant to alienate, but hopefully helps you understand some of us oddballs. And, if nothing else, maybe you want to take a trip to Boston now??