The Set Up
Marcelo has been working to check off the Abbott World Marathon Majors (a series consisting of six of the largest and most renowned marathons in the world that come with a very special medal when you finish) and he was lucky enough to secure a spot in the Boston Marathon through a group affiliation. Ultimately, his goal is to qualify for Boston (and he came oh-so-close last year) but he was not going to turn down the chance to run this year!
Marcelo travels all over the world for work and found training was even harder than usual to fit in this marathon cycle. Not only was it difficult to adjust to very long flights and different time zones, he had to actually find the hours to fit in the training and the roads, trails or treadmills to run on. And for Boston, it was even more important than for some marathons to find hills to run. He needed hills to prepare him for both the ups and even more so the downs of the Boston course.
The forecast even a week out for race day was poor and each day it got worse as race day approached. This created a lot of chatter among runners and coaches. This added to the nerves already present given this is a marathon, and more importantly, this is The Boston Marathon. It’s the granddaddy of marathons for many. Along with all the other runners, Marcelo prepared by shopping for garbage bags, duct tape, a rain jacket, ponchos, and overboots. Evidently the stores nearby ran out of stock of large garbage bags!!
The night before, as he readied for the race, Marcelo decided to forego trying for the 3:30 BQ and would (just!) try to make it to the finish line under 4 hours. He covered his shoes with duct tape. He planned for different clothing scenarios by putting a set of safety pins on his singlet and another set of pins on the bib, so he could start with the number bib on his light rain running jacket and if needed, take it off easily and hook it to the singlet. He wanted to use long tights but as he never runs with tights in the rain, he chose not to do anything different for race day. Good plan! He also sprayed water-repellent for shoes on his hat and shorts.
The next morning, he put very small trash bags over his socks before putting on his shoes. Then he put on his overshoes and a heavy duty rain poncho. He headed out in torrential rain and wind gusts for the 10 minute walk to the buses.
The bus ride was quite long. This is when when every marathoner learns that 26.2 miles is really a long way! During the bus ride, he was watching his phone to see the start of the elite men. When he saw they were running with rain jackets he knew he would be keeping his jacket on.
One of the hard parts of running for a charity at Boston is that you start near the back of the race and thus you are standing and waiting for some time. Imagine around 15,000-20,000 runners starting before you? Marcelo was in the last wave and second to last corral so by the time he reached the start line, his wave had already started. With no stress and no panic he took off his overshoes, threw away the poncho, warming jacket and pants, and started slowly on the run in the heavy rain.
Marcelo’s plan was to try and keep his effort even running as comfortable as possible on the uphills and faster on the downhill but taking care not to burn out before 20 miles at the end of the infamous Heartbreak Hill at Marcelo’s alma mater, Boston College. Even knowing the hills were coming, Marcelo found them harder and longer than expected. Note to coach: More hill training for Marcelo!
The rain was terrible at times but the worst were the wind gusts which literally stopped the runners in their tracks. Marcelo’s feet were cold and wet but the duct tape did help in the puddles. The ultralight running jacket was soaked but it still provided some protection from the elements.
One success for Marcelo was that he was able to run faster downhill after Boston College despite the heavy downpour. Another success for Marcelo was that during the whole run he tried not to focus on the weather and how wet he was and, instead, he enjoyed the cheering crowds and looking around at the places he’d been to as a college student years ago.
As he puts it, he reminded himself:
“I’m not crazy, there are other 30,000 runners doing the same! I was truly inspired by blind runners, runners with prosthetic legs with their brave guides, and the cheering crowds. I even saw a runner doing it barefoot! It’s Boston Strong I said, this is hard but we runners are tougher. We’ve trained for this and we do it because we love it.
When I finally turned into Boylston street, I was just so happy, probably the happiest I’ve been in any marathon. I heard my wife cheer me on on the sidewalk, I turned around to wave and sped in with whatever I had left in my legs to the finish line in 3:42!”
With any event, there are so many things that can go right and wrong and no matter how much we try to prepare it is difficult to be fully ready for everything. With the conditions in Boston, it was impossible to have planned and practiced for what clothing would’ve worked best. Marcelo, thank goodness, has run several other marathons in various conditions and he did practice a variety of scenarios on training runs. For everyone, practicing with various gear and fuel will always pay off and can help embrace the difficulties that inevitably will show up on race day.
One of the coolest lessons from Boston form Marcelo is that he believes that with this marathon, he has achieved a new level of physical and mental endurance. So cool!
“A marathon always takes you beyond your comfort zone and to places you have never imagined possible. With the rain and wind, the marathon seemed to go into slow motion, which made the finish line further away, making everything extra tough. When things got tough, in the long uphills, I just said to myself, one step at a time, don’t stop, don’t stop. I also, looked around a lot and enjoyed watching other runners, the cheering crowds, the beautiful Boston streets. Would I do it again? Oh most definitely! It was the most memorable marathon ever!”
Congratulations Marcelo, the three other CLA team runners, and all who took on Boston 2018. This was a marathon of Grit!
As a coach it is fun to watch each athlete finish an event, achieve a goal and even more so grow as a person and athlete. Marcelo made the best of what was given him race day. He relied on past experience, he remembered what he had learned in training, he practiced his mental skills to keep him going, he was able to re-frame his goal before the start to make the day successful and realistic. Marcelo showed tenacity and strength and this training (just as much as adding in more hills) will serve him well for all the runs and events that are yet to come.
Keep up the good work Marcelo! We can’t wait to see what is next
Keep inspiring us all to have grit and push through even when we don’t know if we can.