Race: Boston Marathon (2018)
Runner: Dan S
Location: Hopkinton, Massachusetts to Boston, Massachusetts
3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?
- It’s Boston. 2018 was a rough year, but the energy associated with this hallowed event is still unique.
- The spectators. There weren’t as many spectators as in other years, but those who braved the elements were great. The Wellesley Scream Tunnel still sets the bar – you could hear the Wellesley fans before you could see them, even with the wind and driving rain.
- The volunteers. Thousands of people came out and gave their time in miserable weather so that we could run this event.
Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
- The weather. This year, persistent rain (heavy at times), wind (direct headwind at times), and cool temperatures (there was literally freezing rain bermed up against the walls of the Athlete’s Village tent in Hopkinton) made for a particularly unpleasant 26.2 miles. The weather was so bad that there weren’t event helicopters or the fighter jet flyover at the start.
- The Hopkinton wait. Athletes get to Hopkinton a significant amount of time before the race start. We timed things to go on the latest of the buses for our start wave and still were in Hopkinton two hours before the start gun. In the 2018 weather, it was not a pleasant wait in Hopkinton.
- The gear check wait. There was a long wait – in the miserable weather, wearing drenched clothes from the run – for runners to pick up their finish line drop bags. Runners’ numbers are associated with their qualifying times, and gear check backs are staged according to bib numbers. As such, many runners who finished in the same time range were trying to get their drop bags from the same bib number tables at the same time after the race.
Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?
There wasn’t anything notably weird about this event.
Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?
This was not a particularly enjoyable marathon. I’m grateful that I did some weather preparation (more below), and finished the marathon without major event (e.g., no injuries, accidents), but that’s about it for highlights of my race (other than the spectators and volunteers).
Lessons Learned – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner or yourself on the next time around
Being a Seattlelite, I am not entirely unfamiliar with running in the cool and rain. Even so, there were some things that I learned (from articles I read leading up to the race, as the miserable weather forecast was more and more likely to be a reality, and one random thing I tried from a previous race) that I think really helped during the race:
- Hand warmers on the head. I put two hand warmers directly on my head (held in place with a wool skull cap, beneath a running hat). I don’t have hair and a lot of thermal loss occurs through my head. I surmise that having heat coming into my head (from the hand warmers), rather than just leaving my head, helped stave off hypothermia.
- A shower cap. I put a shower cap on top of my running hat. The shower cap kept the hat (comparatively) dry, even with the rain, which kept my head drier and kept my head hand-warmers dry (the hand warmers I had are worthless when wet). Again, managing heat loss through my hairless head likely helped stave off hypothermia.
- Throwaway shoes. As noted above, runners spend a fair amount of time in the Athlete’s Village in Hopkinton prior to the start. This year, the field where runners wait for the start was a soggy, often muddy, mess. I wore shoes that I was willing to leave in Hopkinton to the Athlete’s Village, and carried my running shoes with me (in plastic bags). This maneuver allowed me to change out of the muddy, sodden, shoes and socks that I wore around the village and into my running shoes (which obviously got wet themselves, during the run – but at least they were not muddy) when I went from the grass-mud field in the Athlete’s Village to the start corrals.
- Garbage bag poncho. I fashioned a poncho out of a garbage bag that I wore to the start area. It was originally my intent to discard this poncho once I was up and going in the run. I didn’t end up removing the poncho until after mile 25. The poncho kept my core from getting as wet as it would have been without the poncho, but was funky enough (and didn’t cover my arms) that it was comparatively breathable.
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race
I’ve been told not to get carried away on the downs during the first half of the race, come out too fast, and end up suffering more than necessary on the ups later in the course.
Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
This event is definitely organized and well run. While there are some curious organizational aspects of the race (long wait in Hopkinton, wait for drop bags at the end), Boston is the model of a well-organized marathon.
Logistics – Anything special regarding getting to/from the race, hotels around the course, registration…?
Nothing of note to share here. It’s a big deal event, and Boston is busy and expensive during race weekend. I can recommend taking the shuttles to the start (even though I’ve criticized their early arrival times).
Weather and typical race conditions
In 2017, it was sunny and in the 70s. In 2018, not. It’s a spring marathon in the northeastern United States. It may be nice, it may be miserable.
Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?
There are spectator opportunities along essentially the entire course.
How’s the swag?
Standard big city marathon handouts. A shirt, a finisher’s medal, and promotional items from sponsors.
The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?
As noted above, the weather was awful in 2018, and the race itself was not particularly enjoyable. That said, the whole Boston experience is one to take part in, if the opportunity presents. I can highly recommend the event, even when the weather is terrible.