Boston Marathon Race Report by Milan, Tennessee native Robin Robbins
Competing in the 2016 Boston Marathon is something I have been working towards for about 5 years. After I ran my first marathon in 2012 and finished in 4 hours I really thought qualifying for Boston may be a possibility. I needed to beat 3:55 and felt like I could do it with better training and preparation. I was able to BQ in 2014 and 2015 in December each year only to get bumped out during September registration because of overcrowding and adjustment of qualifying times the BAA made. The 2014 BQ wound up not good enough by 40 seconds (needed 3:53:58) and the 2015 BQ fell short by 1 second (needed 3:52:22)! So I was resigned to waiting for another chance at qualifying in a few years when I will be approaching my 65th birthday. Then I will get 15 more minutes and hopefully not lose much speed between now and then. So much for the stats, how did I get to Boston this year?
Well go to late February 2016 to begin the rest of the story. I responded to a request from RIF #1 Joshua Holmes wanting to know which Run It Fast members qualified for Boston but got bumped out because of the qualifying adjustment. About 2 weeks later Joshua contacted me about an opportunity to go to Boston and run the 2016 Boston Marathon as part of a team of 10 runners from across the country being sponsored by Hyland’s. Hyland’s is the official leg cramp medicine sponsor for the race.
Hyland’s decided to let runners like me who had qualified, but then got turned down, use their sponsorship entry into the race. It was like winning the lottery! Needless to say I had to rearrange some things so I could travel that weekend and immediately step up my miles to be ready for it on short notice. The race entry also had an obligation to engage in a social media campaign called Hyland’s Find Your Finish Line for 26 days leading up to the race. It was intended to help get not only my thoughts on the race out on social media, but to get the Hyland’s name out there as well. That “homework” plus stepped up training plus tremendous work stress made it a very challenging time leading up to the race.
Friday before the race my wife and I flew to Boston and got settled into our hotel for the days to come. The hotel was conveniently located just a block from Copley Plaza and the nearby finish line. We had several required events to attend and other optional events that the Hyland’s team had organized. I had decided not to join the Saturday morning 4 mile shakeout run. Although I did not run, we went over to a good vantage point on Boylston Street to watch the 5k race that morning. It was windy and blustery and I was glad I was not running that morning! As we were crossing the street about 10 minutes before the runners started coming towards us, Bill Rodgers came from out of nowhere in a hurry crossing in the other direction. He was too quick for a conversation or hello, but it was neat to actually see him scurrying about as we were.
After watching what seemed like a 1000 runners go by, we crossed the street and headed back to the hotel for a meet and greet breakfast for our team. There we met all the other runners (except one who was arriving Sunday) and most of the Hyland’s folks. They gave us our goody bag which was a very nice backpack filled with Hyland products, pullover long sleeve warm up, visor, socks, sunglasses, sunscreen, and other items.
At noon we were required to go to the expo and meet at the Hyland’s booth to meet and have pictures made with Dave McGillivray, the Boston Marathon Race Director. McGillivray has run the Boston Marathon each year since 1973 and since 1988 at night when he completes his duties as race director. Pretty amazing! Go to www.dmsesports.com to learn more about this man. Then I went to the packet pick-up area to get my bib and shirt.
After our time together at the expo we had free time which we used to walk around the Boylston and Newberry Street shops and finish line area until that afternoon when we were meeting up at Fenway Park to watch the Red Sox take on the Toronto Blue Jays. The weather was great and we sat in the sunshine in the outfield bleachers among the “bleacher creatures”. We had a great time there getting to see a homerun hit over the “Green Monster” wall in left field and joining in for the singing of “Sweet Caroline” which has become a tradition there since the early 2000’s. After the game we met some longtime friends of ours for dinner in the Italian part of the market area and then back to the hotel.
Sunday began with a brunch for our group at the townhome of one of the Hyland’s Boston employees, Margot Moore, in the South End which was a short walk south of our hotel. A great time visiting with the team was enjoyed by all. The rest of the day was more free time, so my wife and I took a Duck Tour of Boston. It was very interesting seeing so many historic places by land and by water. I would recommend this to anyone going to visit Boston as a starting point of you exploration of this city. Sunday night we joined Roy Tamez and others for an RIF pre-race dinner at the Anthem Kitchen and Bar in the Faneuil Hall area of the city.
Race day began early with a 5:00 am breakfast at our hotel and then a short walk over to our tour bus ride out to Hopkinton. We made it to the Athletes Village around 7:00 am and rested on the grassy area near our bus. While waiting around I saw some Indiana RIF representatives, Jen Metcalf, Kevin Gerteisen, Kendra Schoffstall, and Angie Pace. Always fun to see other RIFers at the races. We could tell that the heat would be a factor because it was very pleasant even that early in the morning. The temperature rose steadily reaching the high 60’s before we started the race. When it was finally time for my wave to head over to the start line, we left the Athletes Village (Hopkinton High School) and walked almost a mile down to town and the starting line. A retired veteran sang a rousing rendition of the different armed forces fight songs and then the gun was fired and we were off to Boston!
The excitement and adrenaline was flowing and everyone roared out of the corral and down the road which was steadily falling, making it too easy to go too fast. Cheering spectators lined both sides of the road here and all the way to Boston except for a few small spots in between towns. I kept pulling back on my pace until I reached 4 miles and decided to use a quick porta potty break to help slow me down. After that quick stop I was able to hold a steady pace through the towns of Ashland and Framingham until I reached Wellesley.
It was here that I planned another slow down while passing the “scream tunnel” of college girls at Wellesley College. Of course I had to take a short video and a few pictures there as well as giving a few kisses away during my short recovery slow down. This was about the half marathon point in the race and I knew the town of Newton and the famous Newton Hills would be next. I started seeing signs entering Newton at 16 miles. Around mile 17 the Newton Fire station came into sight and the road veered to the right heading straight into the Newton Hills for the next 4 miles. The final hill of course was Heartbreak Hill cresting at mile 21. Boston College students were on both sides of the road there screaming and handing out red roses to the runners. I have to say that I know now why that last hill is called Heartbreak. I was really chugging along slowly when I reached the top and hoping that I could maybe pick up the pace slightly and hold it there until the finish. But that was not going to happen for me. I did manage to pick it up slightly the next mile but then I steadily slowed with each mile going in to the finish.
I fought off a cramp in my left calf using Hyland’s Leg Cramp tablets those last few miles. Thankfully Fenway Park was in sight to my right and then the large Citgo sign signaling only 2 miles to go. When I finally got to the last 2 turns I knew I could finish with the huge crowds cheering for me and all the other runners, Right on Hereford and left on Boyston and then the finish line was in sight. I finished the race in 4:12:11, not my best marathon, but considering I was undertrained, I feel like it was a respectable time and a good ending to a dream come true.
Once across the finish line I received my finisher’s medal, a heat wrap, a bottle of water and then walked a block over to the University Club for our post race celebration. After I got in there and sat down, I got extreme cramps in both calves and even my quads. Immediately I was being treated with Hyland’s leg cramp lotion and tablets to help relieve the pain. After about ten minutes I was able to stand and walk around enough to get a shower and come back to enjoy the party. We all had plenty of food and beverages as we shared stories about our day and celebrated our accomplishment.
I want say that if it had not been for being a part of Run It Fast this would not have been possible. I have to thank Joshua Holmes for making this opportunity available to me as a result of his deep connections to the running community. Thanks to all who followed and supported me along the way and for enduring my 26 days of posts about this adventure. I am pretty sure that there may be other opportunities for RIF members to be a part of something else special that Hyland’s may have coming in the future and I hope someone else from Run It Fast can be a part of it.
– Robin Robbins (2016 Boston Marathon finisher)