It was several years ago that I was first introduced to the idea of running the Boston Marathon not once, but twice in a day. This was well before my first ultra and before my first ever Boston Marathon...but something in me said "I want to do that one day."
April 17, 2017 was that day.
After qualifying at the 2016 Quebec City Marathon, 2017 was set to be my 4th running of the Boston Marathon. Though, at the time when I signed up for it, I didn't realize I would be racing a 24 hour event about 2 weeks prior. I really had no idea what my plan or goal would be for Boston until about a week after the depressing 24 hour race (but yeah, I'm "over" that...). After a week off then a couple of short runs to test the legs out I decided that racing Boston was out of the question. Though, looking back I'm not 100% sure if that was my legs talking or my mind making excuses after the poorly executed 24 hour race. I think I know that deep down, if I had tried to race Boston and failed (i.e. not re-qualified) it would have been an even bigger blow to my confidence and I'm not sure what kind of ripple effect that may have had on my training and racing for the rest of the 2017 season. I do think that part of me was just scared to "go for it" and lay it all out on the line again so soon after suffering such a monumental disappointment.
Either way, here we were, I figured I would just run Boston and have fun with it. Stop and visit some friends along the sidelines on the way and just party it up. I mean, why should all the spectators get to have all the fun? It was then that I had an epiphany. What would be more fun than running Boston once in a day? Yes, that's right. Running the Boston Marathon TWICE in one day! This was it, finally my time to try out the Boston Double (BD).
Now, you may be asking, how does one run the course twice in one day with the race going on. That's a valid question. The premise is that the runner doing the BD would start at the finish line before the race begins and run to the starting line. The roads begin to close as you get closer to the start, but runners with bibs on would be allowed through. The plan was fool proof. Now, I thought, who could I convince to join me on this ridiculous adventure? So, I thought through my mental list of friends who were running and thought..."who is crazy enough to also do this with me" and the answer was obvious. My former "Boston Strongmen" teammate from a couple of years ago when we tackled the 24 hour long World's Toughest Mudder Championship as part of a 4 man team. Jesse is a remarkable human and athlete having finished up a couple of 100 milers in the last year, I knew there was a good chance he would want to double it up with me.
After some brief deliberation, I got the official "count me in" from Jesse. Now I was even more excited having someone to run out to Hopkinton with! Marathon Monday came and the plan was to meet at the finish line a little before 5am so we could get to the start by 9 or so. We were in no hurry and figured the first "warm up" leg of our journey would take us around 4 hours give or take a bit. We wanted to just go easy and have fun with it. I got dropped off at the finish line by Woo about 10 till but when I spoke to Jesse he was still finding parking. I also saw an old friend Stuart who is now working for the BAA, my boy Billy who was fixing to bike the course out and back, and another friend Kyle Robidoux aka, the Blind Beer Runner who I knew from the magic of the interwebs and saw that he was also planning to double it up! Kyle and his crew took off right at 5am as I stood around waiting for Jesse to make it to the finish line. He did, just a few minutes later. We took a couple photos discussed strategy and took off down the road. Right on Hereford then left on Comm Ave.
The first few miles were pretty crowded on the dark roads as trucks were setting up the barricades, portoable toilets, and aid stations, but we just cruised along nonetheless. We stopped for a quick gear adjustment and then broke into a tied closed porto-potty in Cleveland Circle about 5 miles later and then felt pretty smooth from there. As we were running backward through the Newton Hills we ran upon another couple who were running and chatting and found out they were also running the double. They were both experienced ultra runners and had only met a mile or two earlier and were jogging together. Brian, the CEO of Altra shoes, had run the out and back for the 4th year now and knew the ins and outs of doing so. It was definitely helpful for a couple of the spots where we weren't sure if it would be a problem to cross timing mats or go through the course. We also ran a bit with Annie, from CT who was doing her first BD as well.
Heading through Wellesley we found Kyle, his crew, and another awesome ultra runner John. We ran together for a few miles and all chatted about the fun of the day and our running plans. The crew split up during some water stops and bathroom breaks and Jesse and I headed on our way. Going through Natick though we thought it would be a great idea to stop at Dunkin Donuts for a quick coffee and some sugary treats. It was.
From there, we had about 10 miles to go and were feeling good. Though, it was definitely starting to warm up. After leaving Dunks a few miles we caught back up to Brian and John and ran with them for the final miles into Hopkinton. So, side note: anyone who has run Boston knows that the first 4-5 miles are all downhill. What you don't realize running down them is just how much hill is there. Well, you definitely realize this when you're running backward up those hills at the end of marathon #1.
We knew we were getting closer because we saw a few of the mobility impaired runners who had early starts and as we were approaching we had to leave the course to make way for the push-rim division which was about to go off. That was awesome to see, but the security checkpoint and shuffling through the crowd on the sidewalk really rendered my Facebook live video anticlimactic. Whatevs.
Here (right) are the 4 of us, me, Jesse, Brian, and John (left to right) as we finished marathon #1. From here we all pretty much dispersed to go our own ways and get ready for run #2 in a short while. John went off to grab some Subway, Jesse went off to find our friend Sean who he would run the second leg with, Brian went for some food and stretching, and I began looking for some friends I wanted to run the race with. I ran into my friend Olof and another SRR runner, also Greg while I was walking back over to the water table.
My plan was to run with Susannah and my coach Amy if my legs felt good or Linz (if they didn't) for a while until I felt like dropping back and hanging out. So, instead of starting in Wave 1 Corral 3 (my qualifying position) I hung out, tried to find anyone I knew, and decided to start in Wave 2 with Suz. So I went to the bathroom, got some water, and hung out trying to spot Suz or Amy. I headed to the corrals early so I could spot either of them as they entered. I was getting worried though because I couldn't find ANYONE I was thinking I would run with and the race was only a couple minutes from starting. Finally, I heard Suz shouting! Phew. We said hello, quickly discussed a game plan, and then it was GO time. Suz was aiming for around a 3:!5 race which would be approximately 7:20-7:25 pace for the marathon. I knew that my legs wouldn't have 26 miles of 7:20s in them at this point, especially coming off the 123 mile effort a couple weeks earlier and little running in between. I told Suz I'd stick with her as long as I could, try to keep her on pace, help her navigate the aid stations, and make a lane through the crowds.
About 8 miles in I began getting pretty tired of keeping up with Suz (left) and decided when I saw Jen/Kene in Natick (at about mile 10.5) I would hang out for a bit and let her go on her way. About mile 10 I helped Suz through an aid station and then drifted off to the left side of the course where J/K would be waiting with my first cold beer of the day. I was told they would have a nice cold Jack's Abbey IPL, which sounded great after about 35 miles so far. I was looking to the left for black/orange balloons Jen told me they would have. I was beginning to lose hope when I passed 10.5 on my GPS but then ahead in the distance I saw a large bunch of orange balloons! When I arrived I stopped, looked around, but then realized that I knew none of these people.
It was unfortunate, but from there I had to push on, without my first planned beer stop of the day. Deflated, and thirsty, I moved on. At this point, I knew if I wanted a beer anytime before hitting the Somerville Road Runner tent at the 30k I would have to find one on the course. As I was about to leave Natick and get into Wellesley, there was a big group of spectators on the left side of the road BBQ-ing and drinking. One of the spectators was holding a sign something along the lines of "Hey runner #xxxxx, we've got your beer here" so I slowed down and asked if they had one for runner 2652. Turns out, they did! I had also remembered that this crew was getting things set up when we ran by the first time, though they didn't remember me. I stopped for a couple minutes to chat with my new friend Kelli (pictured right), her husband who coincidentally you may recognize with this sign, and crew, did a few selfies, slugged most of a beer, then headed back east. Thanks again for the most refreshing Bud Light ever!
From there, I called a friend in Wellesley to see where they were at and found them shortly after approaching downtown Wellesley. Stopped in for a quick chat and group photo with David, Jess, and the kids. Though, our photographer wasn't able to manage getting everyone in the shot...oh well. Hitting the halfway point I felt great and was having a blast. I knew the next few miles would be a little boring, but I ended up seeing another friend Sarah in kind of a dead zone in Newton (Lower Falls) before crossing the highway. I cruised along at a comfortable and enjoyable pace high-5ing spectators, dumping water on my head, and generally smiling from ear to ear.
Once I made the right on Comm Ave at the fire station I knew I was on my home turf and had run these roads hundreds of times before. It would only be a short while until I would get to the Woo and family and then the SRR tent where my next scheduled beer stop awaited. I rolled up to Chestnut Street, the usual spot where Woo and family would wait and spotted them quickly. I stopped for a couple minutes, took a few photos, said hi to everyone and the dogs, then headed onward.
Next, I came up on the SRR spotter who was relaying back to the tent/aid station who was coming. Then as I arrived at the SRR tent amid huge cheers from my teammates, Anthony handed me a nice cold Coors Light. It was delicious. I hung out a few minutes high-5'd most of the SRR crew there and got a nice group photo as well (good selfie mode Anthony!).
As I was chatting and enjoying my beer, I noticed Coach Amy running up toward me with her hand out. It took me a moment to realize but she wanted some beer! I handed her the magic elixir and decided it was time to go. I ran with Amy for a couple of miles as we shared the beer and chatted a bit about our days until I got up to the Zoom Multisport tent. These guys were ROCKING! Big thanks to Tucker and the crew for getting everyone organized and out to cheer on the runners.
I knew this would be my longest stop of the day. I contemplated hanging out waiting for Lindsey, but I was told she was still about 15-20 minutes behind where I was at. I got my 3rd beer from my favorite CP's, though there is still some uncertainty as to if it was a Mayflower Porter or IPA...? Either way, at this point it was cold and delicious, whatever it was! I chilled here for a bit, took some photos with the crew, cheered on runners (while telling them they "were doing it wrong", and overall just had a great time. After finishing the beer (I think this mile of the race was about 16 minutes or so) I figured I would head a little further up Heartbreak Hill and grab one of my other favorite libations - a DrinkMaple bottle (use code "FriendofSoutiea" for 15% off online)! So cold and refreshing!! Before heading off I took one last photo of the Zoom crew; it's not often that Boston Marathon spectators are the ones cheesing for photos!
Once I got to the top of HBH I set autopilot mode back on and went back to high-5ing everyone I could. I knew my colleagues would also have a beer for me at the corner heading down into Cleveland Circle and that they would be on the left side, so I focused my attention there. As I rounded the corner I heard them shouting and slowed down to say hi and hit my 4th and final beer stop of the day. Sadly, over time the beer got a bit warm so I wasn't able to drink as much as I would have liked to. I probably should have run faster.
From there I knew I was going to be pushing close to 3:30 finish time and I wanted to get under that mark, which would put me at about a 15 minute negative split on the day from marathon to marathon. So, I picked up the pace a bit. It was odd to me though...running through the crowds of people the entire length of Beacon Street almost everyone was silent. Some were watching in anticipation for their runner, others playing on their phones, and some just staring at the runners in silence. This was the first time in 4 years I've felt this type of silence. The numbers were there, but the people just weren't making any noise. In my typical fashion, I wave my arms up and down an an effort to provoke some noise. It worked, briefly. Then I would shout that I couldn't hear them and the noise would come back up for a short time. This went on for about the final 5-6 miles of the race. I was working hard to keep the crowds making noise. It was fun for me, but it was something I hadn't ever experienced at Boston before. It was definitely the quietest crowd I've felt here in my 4 years running.
I cruised down Beacon Street grabbing water cups to dump on my head as the heat was definitely setting in. I came through Kenmore Square into an almost dead silence, riled them up a bit, then hit the "1 mile to go" banner. I looked at my watch and knew I had 3:30 in the bag, close, but definitely there. Shortly after passing Woo near the bridge I made the proverbial right on Hereford and then that final left on Boylston where the best finish line in all of running appeared. Crossed the finish line in 3:28:55 and relaxed a bit. Out of the corner of my eye I saw my friend Kass (the Lone Runner) only a second before she jumped up and gave a big hug as she just had a much better race than she anticipated (she executed a negative split and near perfect pacing for a huge Boston PR!) Then as I was walking through the finishers chute I again saw Stuart who I bumped into several hours earlier before my journey began.
I called Woo and we tried to meet up by fighting through the crowds. Eventually we made our way to each other on Boylston and then shortly after that bumped into Olof (2nd pic below) who also had an awesome race. I don't get to see him often as he and his wife live in NYC, but we bumped into each other several times over the weekend which was awesome! We were going to try to meet up for a beer after his wife Caitlin finished, but unfortunately didn't get the chance to before they had to drive home. I ended up having post race beers with Billy, Suz (who had a steller race too!), Lindsey, and another new friend Olive who came down from Montreal for the race and knew Billy/Suz. It should probably be noted that over an hour after I finished as we were walking to meet the group for some food that the warm/fizzy beer I drank at stop #4 finally got to me. My stomach was beginning to get upset then I pulled over in the Common for a quick throw up of chips/bread/beer. Oh well, whaddayagonnado?
To me, the Boston Marathon is much more than a race. It is a day to celebrate what makes Boston so special and a day to celebrate running and being a runner. I know I'll have to find another marathon to qualify at for 2018, but I think this is the way Boston should be run. Not for time, but for the best damn experience in the world!