All I said to my coach Terry Casey was that I wanted to run a strong Boston. My big A race for this year is the Berlin marathon. Boston is a tough course and I wasn’t sure how fully trained I would be since I was coming off of a fun marathon at Disney and a month of working crazy hours for NBC Olympics so I wasn’t expecting to PR (3:37:30) or beat Chicago (3:39). So what does a “strong” Boston mean? Well – better than my previous two Bostons which both came in about 3:52 (both times I was injured and took weeks off of training before the race). And one where I felt pretty strong the whole way (in 2016 I went out trying to hit a goal and kept readjusting that down as the miles ticked on and the last several miles were a slog). I didn’t define strict A, B, and C goals – but I probably was thinking of them like:
A – between 3:40 and 3:45 – closer to 3:40 if it was a good day
B – between 3:45 and 3:50
C – PR Boston (sub 3:52)
Leading up the day, it became apparent that the weather was going to be ugly. I ran in 2015 when it was cold and windy and rainy and I’ve run a half marathon in a downpour – so I have some experience with this (not that I wanted more). The weather in Boston is mercurial – and the forecast can change each day as you get closer, but mostly the forecast got worse. Cold, windy, rainy weather is some of the hardest to dress for – you want more clothing for warmth, something to break the wind, but less clothing to get wet and hold cold water against your skin. Thankfully – Kathleen Stabler had suggested that I wear a light running rain jacket and actually loaned me one – total lifesaver. So I had a plan. After some debate with myself about shorts vs. capris – I settled on my race attire: singlet, light running raincoat, shorts, hat with a brim, gloves. I also slathered Aquaphor on my feet – this was a rainy weather tip I picked up a few years back and it has kept me from blistering during rainy races.
Almost more important than that was what to wear before the race. You have to stand around for awhile in the athlete’s village and, I had made the decision that I wanted to go to the busses and village with Derek, which meant I would be out there an extra 45 minutes or so since he was wave 2 and I was wave 3. It’s his first Boston and I wanted to see him off. Plus – having been at the athlete’s village – I knew it would be a muddy field (although I had no idea the extent of the mudpit we would find). Our whole goal was to stay as dry and warm as possible before race start. Looking back on it – I think we did about as well as we could have and this might have made a big difference in our races compared to others.
So what did I wear? On top of my running rain jacket, I wore a throwaway jacket and then a rain poncho on top of that (as a note – whenever I have a jacket or sweatshirt or anything like that that I am thinking of giving to charity, I don’t give it away – I stack it in my closet as a future pre-race throwaway, this really helped for Boston). I had on fuzzy pajama pants to keep my legs warm. I tied plastic grocery bags over my shoes and then put shower caps over those. Since I had an extra shower cap – I put that over my baseball cap to keep it dry. We had hand warmers also (which I put in my gloves as I headed to the start line, but frankly – I don’t think they worked at all, so I ditched them several miles in). It was a serious fashion statement and I did hesitate a moment before we headed out – almost letting my self-consciousness looking completely ridiculous get the best of me. I am glad I didn’t.
Our outfits really did help – I was still warm and dry on the bus. At the athlete’s village, we waded through the mud – and I instantly lost both of the shower caps off of my feet, but was so incredibly grateful that the plastic bags hung on (and I walked so carefully to try not to lose them). We waited an incredibly long time in the line for the portapots – where I got to contemplate how challenging it would be to go pee with all this crap on. And I had a moment of sheer terror while in line – at one point the wind picked up (had to be close to 30 mph at that moment) and the rain picked up and turned to sleet. I think my face turned white (and not because of the cold) – I really wasn’t sure I could do this.
Derek left for the corrals right after that and I was left to meander the sodden fields alone. I contemplated going under a tent – but the closest tent was a mudbath – practically no one was in it. So I huddled behind an information tent. Despite the extra time in the cold, I was glad I went to the start with him because we got this awesome picture together:
When my wave was finally called, I made the 0.7 mile trek towards the corrals. I waited by the final Big Brothers Big Sisters truck until we were released into the corrals and at that point, I took my pajama pants off, the plastic bags off of my feet, and I think I took off my rain poncho and the shower cap on my head too. I just thought all of these would be hard to take off in the corral and I didn’t want to run in them. I still had my throwaway jacket on which I left on until the last few minutes. Despite doing such a good job at keeping my feet dry – my shoes were soaked by the time I got to the corral, it was raining that hard.
I had put on a 3:45 pace bracelet in the morning thinking that, who knows, if things aren’t that bad, maybe I could still try for that. But by the time I started, I was just thinking about finishing. Mostly I used it to make sure I didn’t go out too fast. We had heard several people (Greg McMillan, Meb, etc) talk about how to run this course and how you really need to be patient and try to run an even race. The pace bracelet was tailored to Boston (it adjusts mile splits based on the course) – and it still only had the first two miles at 5 seconds a mile faster than an even pace and I think the third mile at 10 seconds a mile faster – so a little faster than even, but not a screamer. I figured today was as good a day as any to try this conservative approach, since I wasn’t really sure I could run a great time anyway.
Once we got running – things were better. Not even a mile or so in – I was just struck by how much I love this race – because there were people lining the streets in front of their homes cheering their brains out for us. Yes, the crowds were thinner than usual – but they really made up for it in their enthusiasm and loudness! I had made up my mind earlier that week that I needed to embrace it, conditions and all, and seek to enjoy it – I figured if I focused on how miserable things were, that I would certainly have a miserable day. And truly – if I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t have to.
I remember the electrical supply company at mile 7.3 where you can “check out your style and form” in their windows as you run by. I remember running through one town where the rain and winds picked up (I called this the “deluge” – the “deluge” would happen periodically during the race) and a spectator yelled “Bring it!!” So every time the “deluge” happened later, I laughed to myself and said “Bring it!” What else was there to do but laugh?
Around mile 10 – I was just about exactly on my pace according to the bracelet, and I felt that my legs were more tired than I thought that they should at that point. So I wondered if this was going to be a hard day. I wondered – am I not as fit as I thought? Are the conditions making it harder? Is the cold making me feel this way? I didn’t know – but I used my old Grandma’s Marathon trick and just told myself, well, you aren’t hurting now – so just keep going.
I high-fived a bunch of girls at Wellesley, didn’t stop for a kiss though. Took it easy down mile 15 and got ready for the hills. I felt really strong on the hills and powered up them (ok, “powered” for me looks a bit like “slow” for some other Trail Dogs). There were surprisingly fewer people walking the hills than I remembered from previous Bostons. I gained time in the hills and started thinking that I might be in good shape. I’ll admit, I mistakenly thought that maybe hill 3 was actually Heartbreak (and then I actually got onto Heartbreak and realized that sadly I was wrong and I had to get up the hill).
Somewhere in the hills – there was a guy under a tent on the left side who had a microphone and speakers and he was telling all of us that Desi Linden had won! I was overcome with happiness and it gave wings to my feet. So excited to hear that!
Once I crested Heartbreak, I tested my legs on the downhill and found that they were ok – so I figured I could take it in harder. I sped up a bit and knew that I was gaining some time. Interestingly – at this point, I was flying by people. I was so excited to see the Citgo sign, the one mile to go line – I always get verklempt at this point. Kenmore Square is always incredible – so many people screaming for you. Then under Mass Ave, right on Hereford, left on Boylston – the crowds were incredible – you really do feel like you are something amazing. Why would all these crazy people stand out in the freezing, blustery rain to cheer you on? I could not be more grateful to all the volunteers, security people, and spectators. And just at the finish line – the announcer called out my name! Charrissa Lin from Albuquerque!!! Yeessssss!!! Victory.
I am really happy with my results.
Finish time 3:43:40
I ran the second half only 32 seconds slower than the first!
Overall 11685/25746 (45.4%)
In Gender 3759/11604 (Female) (32.4%)
In Division 281/1664 (F45-49 Age Group) (16.9%)
I am blown away by my placement. My bib was 20228 – and I had kinda been feeling self-conscious on the weekend knowing that the vast majority of people there were all faster than me. Top half of the field, at Boston? Top third of my gender? Crazy.
Given the conditions I had told Derek he should just head straight back to the hotel and not worry about waiting for me. So I got my medal, my heat blanket, food, stopped for a few pics and then headed back myself. I am so grateful that our hotel was really close to the exit from the chute. Even so, I got so cold that I thought I might not make it (where is Prince Charming to carry me off when I need him?) When I walked into the hotel they had staff and others lined up on both sides of the entryway and they cheered for every runner who came in – that was awesome! The second I entered my hotel room I stripped off every single piece of clothing I had on – I had no idea how much water my shorts could carry – but they weren’t just wet, they were like a sponge – probably could have wrung a glass of water out of them. A hot shower, some sitting on the bed catching up on runner tracking, social media, and texts. Then off to dinner at the Chart House – it’s become our Boston marathon tradition. I feel fairly certain that I ate enough that night to last a person a week… Afterwards we waddled our way back to the hotel (thankfully it had finally stopped raining) and watched a replay of the marathon coverage to see the elite race.
If I had to race in these conditions again (please God, please don’t let me have to race in these conditions again) – I think we did most things right. I would definitely put Aquaphor on my legs where my shorts hit – as I got some pretty bad chafe marks there (didn’t notice them until the shower – ouch!)