BOSTON ATHLETES: THE EPIC BOSTON MARATHON THAT WAS 2018
PART 3: RACE DAY!
When we invited you to share the journey of our two JackRabbit pals, Jorge Almeida and Kelli Christensen, as they prepared to race the Boston Marathon for the first time, little did we know that the Boston Marathon 2018 would turn into one of the most epic days in the history of the race.
For those who were hiding under a rock that Monday in April, the Boston Marathon 2018 was insane! Torrential rain and near freezing temperatures coupled with high winds made for almost comical race conditions as everyone lined up to run the 26.2 miles to Boylston St.
Before we hear from our two runners Jorge and Kelli, let’s celebrate the fact that American Des Linden won the women’s race under amazing conditions and the first US woman to win the race in 33 years. Her win was even more impressive as it also included waiting for fellow US marathoner Shalane Flanagan (winner of the NYC Marathon 2017 in case you forgot) as she took a 31 second trip to a porta potty during the race.
JackRabbit: Once you saw the weather forecast, what were your expectations of the day?
Jorge Almeida: I was definitely expecting a tough race, but I felt prepared prior to the start because I had run a marathon in the rain once before, and this time I felt I had sufficient layers and a handy rain poncho.
Kelli Christensen: The early predictions were rainy and 50’s, so I ordered a rain jacket and figured it wouldn’t impact my performance all that much. In fact, while I was not excited about the rain, I did like the idea of cooler temps. Once we got there, the weather kept changing, but I knew it was my year to run Boston and decided I was going to make the best of it no matter what.
Did at any point you consider not running on Marathon Monday?
This never came across my mind. I had already worked so hard to get there so I was for sure going to go through with it.
The only time I considered not running was standing in the start corral waiting for my wave to start. The wind was whipping, the rain was driving down and I was starting to think I’d never make it a mile, let alone all the way to the finish line. But, once we started running, I stopped thinking about that and just concentrated on completing one mile at a time.
Talk us through the pre-race morning compared to other marathons.
I was more conscious about the need to hydrate because I’ve learned in prior races that just because it’s not hot or you’re not sweating (due to the rain) people tend to forget to hydrate – yet it’s still important! I was also more appreciative of the volunteers and people supporting us at the start because they were out in the bad weather with us!
We took the subway down to Boston Common where they were loading the pre-race shuttles and it had already been raining for quite a while. The first thing I noticed was how many school buses were waiting to take us all to Hopkinton. There were buses as far as the eye could see. We dropped bags at gear check, trying to avoid puddles and mud. The volunteers were amazing and super excited, which helped me keep a positive outlook. The bus drivers were great – they had the heat on high in the buses and it was a welcome reprieve from the dreary morning. The bus ride felt much further than 26 miles. Everyone on our bus was pretty quiet. When we got to the Athlete’s Village, the rain was coming down harder and I noticed small piles of snow everywhere. They had two tents set up, but the ground was soaked and there was wet, slippery mud everywhere. Lines for the bathrooms were long and once you finally got in, it was raining in there too! We worked our way to the middle of the tent and set up a waiting area with garbage bags. It was so unbelievably wet and windy, it seemed impossible that they were actually going to start the race, but then they started calling the waves. There were a lot of serious faces in the tent we were in and I don’t recall much talking. I think everyone was focused and trying to stay strong. I imagine the Village would have been a lot more fun had the weather been nice and dry.
You were running essentially in a shower! What did you wear and really, did any of it keep you warm/dry or protected? Did you care?
I had two layers of long sleeves, a hat to protect my face from the rain, double gloves and the rain poncho. I didn’t feel that cold at the beginning and I was definitely trying to keep as dry as possible (which was a tip I was given) and I even avoided stepping in big puddles of water on the road, but by the time I reached mile 5/6 and the rain got worse, I gave up and didn’t care anymore. I was already drenched and while the rain poncho helped, my sleeves were wet and so were my gloves. At that point, I clenched my gloves and water just dripped and poured out.
I planned to run in capris, a tank top and rain jacket. I also had gloves, sleeves, a visor and sunglasses with clear lenses. I brought toss clothes and wore throw- away shoes anticipating the wet conditions. When we were in the tent, I changed my shoes and socks, and added a garbage bag over my clothes, hoping it would make the walk to the start more comfortable and put a knit hat over my visor to keep my head warm. I anticipated tossing the garbage bag and hat, but ended up keeping them on the entire race. It didn’t take long for everything to become water logged. There were rivers of water running down the streets and even if I managed not to step in a puddle, someone next to me would and my shoes would fill with water. I shed my sleeves and sunglasses at mile 17 and my gloves at mile 20 because they were completely soaked and not helping anyway. I think the garbage bag and the hat helped me keep heat in because while I was definitely cold and wet, it did not really impact my ability to run. I know many runners had to seek medical help for hypothermia, so my outfit may have looked goofy, but it worked for me and made it possible to keep going.
The thing I found the most challenging was getting to my nutrition. It was under water soaked layers and my hands were so cold, I had to completely stop and really work to fish it out of my pocket. I stuck to my plan even though it was challenging and time consuming because I knew if I didn’t, I would jeopardize my ability to finish. The other funny thing that happened was that my number belt became so waterlogged it stretched out completely and was falling down around my knees. Again, because my hands were cold and numb, I had to stop and ask a spectator to help me wring it out and tighten it back up!
What was your energy like and that of your fellow athletes?
Energy was still high at the beginning of the race but as the rain kept pouring I did notice morale went down. It only picked back up at times when we had more support from the crowd.
While the spectators were incredibly loud, I found that everyone running around me was relatively quiet. I think we were all mentally focused on the task at hand. The weather was such that just when you though the worst was over, something would change – the wind would pick up, the rain would come down in sheets or it the rain drops would start freezing. It required all the mental toughness I had just to keep moving forward.
Did you change your nutrition strategy based on the weather conditions on the day?
Not really other than the bigger focus on hydrating in the rain.
No, I followed my plan exactly. The challenge was how much time it took because my hands were so cold.
What were the most memorable aspects of the course?
A pleasant memorable moment was when we hit Wellesley College as the crowd was so loud you could start hearing them a mile before we arrived. Not so memorable was when we hit “Heartbreak Hill” as I now understand why they call it that. My pace dramatically slowed down and I almost got a cramp on that hill.
The spectators were the most memorable thing about the course. I was stunned that so many people were out to spectate in that weather. Every single mile we ran had so many people cheering and shouting words of encouragement. It was incredible. One of the best signs I saw was “Welcome to Boston. Even Mother Nature hates us!” All the landmarks I had read about were amazing to experience in person – the scream tunnel, the Newton Fire Station, the Citgo sign, the left turn on Boyston – so cool. The pleasant surprise to me was the hills weren’t as bad as I was expecting – thanks Coach!!
Did you have to change your overall race strategy at all? How did you adapt?
I came out stronger out of the gates at a faster pace then I initially wanted mostly because I wanted to get done faster and get out of the rain. This ending up having an adverse effect as I ran out of gas towards the end of the race.
Not really. My main goal was to go and enjoy the entire experience. I was well-prepared and I knew if I followed my plan, I was going to be able to finish. I just had to stay mentally strong and not let the weather get to me.
What were your thoughts as you ‘turned right on Hereford and left on Boylston’ and saw the finish line?
“JUST FINISH”. I was excited to be on the iconic street and last stretch but at the same time I was ready to cross the finish line and change into warmer clothes!
It was incredible. Many runners decided that was the time to shed their layers on Hereford, so that street was littered with all kinds of obstacles, but once we turned left on Boylston, it was surreal. There were hundreds of people on both sides of the street and it was so loud!! It was an amazing experience. I crossed the finish line and I will never forgot the first volunteer who congratulated me. It took me a moment to process that it was over and I had really done it.
What did you do post race? We’re assuming it did revolve around getting warm!
Luckily, I had warm clothes waiting for me at the end, so I quickly changed and tried to stretch but was definitely sore. I also tried to drink a lot of liquids.
Post race was rough. I got very cold very quickly and lost all ambition to walk across the park to meet friends. The volunteers put us in silver heat sheets – the fanciest ones I’ve ever seen – they had arm cut outs, hoods and velcro to keep them closed. They put the hoods up so we went from looking like a ragged group of water logged runners to little silver aliens in matching hoods. I collected my dry clothes, eventually reconnected with my boyfriend at the subway station and we made our way back to the hotel. At that point, I had been in the non-stop rain and wind for at least 8 hours and I was so relieved to be inside. I spent a long time in a hot shower, drank a protein shake and napped for a while in the cozy hotel robe. After waking up, I donned my new marathon jacket and we went downstairs at the hotel for burgers and cocktails. Believe it or not, it was still raining!!
Once your immediate needs were met, what were your thoughts about running your first Boston in 2018. Did the race meet all your dreams and expectations?
Overall, I thought the experience was tough (because of the weather) yet still special. My only wish now is that I could’ve experienced the race on a better weather day, therefore, I plan to run it again soon.
Yes, it was an amazing experience from start to finish. I still catch myself smiling that I ran Boston and perservered in such crazy conditions. I’m sure this will be a race that will be talked about for years to come.
You’ve run Boston!!! Now what?
My next marathon is another big one – and another first for me – New York City marathon in November.
This was my big race for the year. I’ve got some shorter events on the calendar, but nothing that will compare to the epic nature of the Boston Marathon.
Any final thoughts on your Boston Marathon experience?
These were the most brutal conditions I’ve ever had to run in but it was totally worth it. I was so humbled by the crowds cheering us on most of the race – they didn’t want to leave us suffering the harsh conditions alone. That meant a lot!
From a girl who could barely run a block without stopping, to crossing the finish line at the Boston Marathon, it’s been quite a journey and I’m so grateful to everyone who supported and believed in me along the way.
SHOP BOSTON GEAR
BREAK RECORDS WITH ADIDAS ADIZERO SUB2