So let me get this straight, when you have a disappointing marathon you want to run another one and when you have a great marathon you want to run another one. Seems like a scam!!!

If you didn’t know it I’m an obsessive. Once I become interested in something I have to know everything about it. The history, the how, the people, EVERYTHING. So as soon as I joined the club and signed up to run my first marathon in 2017 it didn’t take long for me to hear about Boston and the mythos surrounding it. It became a major goal to qualify and run it.
The Boston Marathon is the oldest annual marathon in the world with its first running in 1897, and is also one of the marathon majors. (Six of the world’s best marathons or a marketing ploy depending on your point of view) It’s held on Patriots Day (third Monday in April) with 30,000 runners participating. It has become known as the “runner’s” (or again depending on your point of view pretentious) marathon due to having to run a qualifying time relative to your age to earn a place. Also with it being run over such a long period it has a great history with many notable duels over the years such as Salazar and Beardsley, Boston Billy Rodgers and our own John Treacy who finished 3rd in 1988 in 2.09.
There are also the trailblazers such as Katherine Switzer. Women were forbidden to run the marathon distance as “logic” stated a women would die if they tried to run 26.2 miles. By signing her entry form “K. V. Switzer,” Kathrine became the first woman to receive a number in the Boston Marathon in 1967 and completed the race despite officials trying to throw her off the course. This year marks the 50th anniversary when women were officially allowed to enter the race.
On a more tragic note there is also the bombing at the finish line in 2013 when 3 people were killed and 264 injured.

I ran my qualifying time in Dublin in 2018 and couldn’t sign up quick enough for the 2020 edition. We really really don’t need to go into what happened next but suffice to say it didn’t happen and so I find myself writing this report for 2022.
We arrived on Saturday in Boston and as soon as you arrive you can tell this marathon is a bit special. There are runners everywhere. I’m always conscious that a lot of hype and hyperbole surround these events but the marathon in Boston dominates the whole city and weekend. I was lucky enough to do the London and New York Marathons in 2019 and they are amazing events. However with the two cities being so vast the marathons can be swallowed up. For instance, as soon as you leave the finish line in NYC you wouldn’t even know the race was happening. If you go back to my London race report you can see that I ended up in vicious duel with Elmo. There was not one person in Boston wearing fancy dress. This was serious.

The people and the city are so proud of the marathon and as soon as you put your celebration jacket on you get treated like a bit of a rock star. Everyone on the street is congratulating you and you are exchanging excited nods to the other participants. When you go out to eat, you can guarantee that the person at the table next to you has done or is doing the marathon and you end up having conversations with complete strangers from different countries.

On Saturday we arrived and went to pick up my number at the expo. I don’t like sticking around in expos as they are usually crowded and don’t really interest me. This one was no different and once I had bought the obligatory celebration jacket I didn’t hang around. We did a bit of sightseeing and had an early night. The next day I tried to stay off my feet as much as possible and did a couple of tours around the city on buses. (It’s a lovely city)
Then race day arrived. Boston is similar to New York in that it is a point to point course so you have to catch a bus to the start line and hang around a staging area for a while. Fortunately by the time I got on the bus and arrived at the start the race was only 50 minutes away so it wasn’t a long wait. From the athletes village to the start line is about a 10-15 minute walk.

After some flybys and the obligatory national anthem we were off.
If you look at the Boston course profile it looks like it should be fast. It starts at 150 metres above sea level and descends into the city with the finish line 3 metres above sea level. However Boston can be a notoriously difficult and is typically the slowest major marathon. This is generally because of two factors. First is weather. The weather in Boston is notoriously unpredictable in spring. Just ask Diarmuid O’Súlleabháin, formerly of this parish, who ran the event in 2018 with temperatures of around 4°C, driving rain and a headwind. Look it up on YouTube, it’s mental. (He still ran 3 hours) Luckily, my race conditions were pretty much ideal apart from a bit of a headwind which picked up during the race.

The second is the course itself. While downhill is good, Boston has a lot of sharp downhills followed by climbs, which beat up your quads. Then the infamous Newton Hills, a series of 4 climbs, which come just at the wrong time at miles 16-21 when you are traditionally starting to struggle in a marathon. My plan and the general perceived wisdom was not to go too fast in the first half but take some advantage of the downhill before you reach the Newton Hills. I wanted to come through half at 1.28 and make sure I came through the hills with a chance to go sub 3. However I found it difficult to get into a rhythm with the constant ups and downs and came through in 1.29. I managed the Newton Hills pretty well and ran by effort eventually cresting heartbreak hill where it is downhill to the finish. I took off but after an initial burst I struggled to hold the necessary pace. Even though I was slightly off pace I was still passing a lot of runners who had blown up their legs on the downhills. It’s a great feeling passing people in the last miles of the marathon. I eventually got to the famous turn of “right on Hereford, left on Boylston” and gave a bit of what felt like a sprint (it really wasn’t) to come in with a new PB of 3.02. While everyone knows my mission is to break 3, I was over the moon to run a PB at Boston.

Trying to describe the atmosphere during a race is difficult as it can all become a bit of a blur but the crowd support was phenomenal. But more than that, there is a real sense of camaraderie and appreciation between the runners. A lot of people work very hard to get to Boston so the race itself is a real celebration.

I don’t know how to finish this report and I’m leaving out loads of stuff but I had an amazing time and would love to do it again some time. I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to do it. I also want to give a big thank you to my wife and trusted Sherpa, Martina. Running can be quite a selfish pursuit and training takes up a lot of time coupled with taking annual leave days to accompany me on these trips. I really appreciate it. Before you ask I have said this to her but want to commit it to print so I can use it as evidence in any future negotiations in respect of holidays.