Boston Marathon 2011: My Recap (and My One Regret)

You probably know that I’m not a huge fan of writing race recaps.  Mostly, it’s because writing so many words about myself, my race strategy, my feelings at each mile, and so on seems kind of weird.  And with a marathon being 26.2 miles, recaps are necessarily long, so I always wonder if anyone is even still with me by the end.

boston marathon medal 2011 image 300x225But this is Boston — the race I worked so hard to earn the privilege of running, and the journey toward which you were such a big part of, through your reading and comments on this blog.  Even if I were to decide that a recap would be overly self-indulgent, I’m sure several of you would track me down and come punch me in the head if I didn’t write one.

So here goes.  Hope this captures just a tiny glimmer of what it felt like to actually be there.

The start

From the very beginning, this felt nothing like any other marathon.

The start of the Boston Marathon is in Hopkinton, a tiny little town that this huge marathon obviously outgrew a long time ago.  As media helicopters and planes with banner ads flew over the starting corral, which was situated in a small, two-lane road, it was pretty obvious that tradition is the only thing keeping the start here.

three generations image 225x300

Waiting in the starting corral, it felt different from any other race.  I was lined up with other runners like me who had run qualifying times of 3:10:59 or better — a good hour slower than what the elites run a marathon in, but nothing to shake a stick at.  And yet there were still fourcorrals of runners in front of us before the real elites, like American Ryan Hall and Kenyan winner Geoffrey Mutai, who would just two hours and three minutes later cross the finish line with the fastest marathon time in history. (Since the course is net downhill, though, it won’t count as a world record.)

My loose plan was to run eight-minute miles.  I wanted to enjoy this race without any pressure to run fast to beat a certain time.  So I didn’t set any goal for myself, but I figured I could handle eights for most of the race.  As soon as the gun went off, though, I faced my first test.

What was being tested was of my discipline, and I failed miserably.  Maybe it was the adrenaline from the huge crowd, maybe it was the fact that the course started on a significant downhill, or maybe it was just the fact that this was the Boston Marathon, god dammit!  But right from the get-go, the 3:10 runners around me, the 3:20 runners behind me, and probably even the 3:30 runners behind them, were passing me in droves.

I thought I had learned to ignore that inner speed demon that screams at the start of every race, “You can run faster; today is special!”  But apparently, I hadn’t — I pushed way harder than planned to keep pace with the crowd, because surely they knew something I didn’t. I hit the first mile marker in 7:20 or so, and then ran the second mile at about that same pace, way faster than I came prepared to run.

Looking back, I can’t blame myself.  Here I was running over the same ground that just a few minutes earlier, the fastest runners on the planet had run over, chasing the most prestigious marathon title in the world.  At one point during these first few miles, I felt something that resembled my eyes welling up when I thought about this, but luckily that disaster was averted.

The first half — Ashland, Framingham, Natick, and Wellesley

The next 10 miles or so all blend together in my memory.  I remember more crowds than I had ever seen at any race, and I high-fived easily 100 kids during this stretch, who were themselves counting to see how many runners they could touch.

The course continued, mostly downhill, through several small towns here — Ashland, Framingham, and Natick — and I realized that  the most charming part of this race is how small it would feel but for the huge crowds that sprung up in each town to watch the race and cheer. Loudly.

I was impressed, but when we hit Wellesley around mile 12, I learned what “loud” really meant.  If you’ve ever run a marathon or half and know that feeling of running by a stretch of crowd that’s so energetic and noisy that it sends a chill down your spine, then just multiply that by 100 and you’ll have an idea of what the “Scream Tunnel” in Wellesley felt like.

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The girls of Wellesley College lined up along what seemed like a quarter mile of fence in front of their school, leaning as far out as possible into the road.  Lots of them had signs asking for kisses, and I saw plenty of other runners stop to get a kiss and take a picture.  Mostly though, the girls screamed, which apparently is what they do.  And it was awesome.

 

The hills, including that one you may have heard of…

After I hit the halfway point, I was feeling alright.  My legs were just starting to remind me that I had run too fast in all the excitement of the first few miles, but I had settled down into a more reasonable pace of about 7:45 miles, with 15-30 second walk breaks through each water stop.  (I’ve learned that this is a good strategy for getting through a marathon when you’re not in great shape for it.)

At mile 16, the hills began.  There are four big ones on the course, at 16, 17, 19, and 20, that last one being the famous Heartbreak Hill that you’ve heard so many stories about.

I saw my wife, Erin, with my son on her shoulders, and my dad after the first of these hills, which was nice.  The enormous crowds at Boston make it difficult for spectators to get around, so this was the only time they were able to see me run by, as opposed to other races where they sometimes manage four or five contact points.  (Or like the tiny Wineglass Marathon, my qualifying race, where they could literally drive along some of the course with me, as you can see in the videos from that race.)

erin and holden image 225x300

Then it was on to the next two hills.  Honestly, these weren’t bad at all.  Maybe it’s because I’ve done so much trail running, but I found them pretty easy to handle.  I suspect part of what makes them seem worse than they are is the big departure they represent from the steady downhill of the first 15 miles of the Boston course.

When I hit the 20-mile marker, I knew the big one was coming.  As it turns out, this happens to be where Boston College is.  And where Boston College is, there happens to be beer.  And that beer is what I happened to promise myself I’d drink if it was offered to me.  It was, I took it, and not surprisingly, it tasted a lot like the beer I drank when I was in college (actually at Boston College, for one semester).

Having checked off my goal of drinking a beer during the race — it really was just a small cup — I took on Heartbreak Hill without a problem.  Sure, walking would have felt good, but what kind of story would that make?  So I ran the whole thing, and it really wasn’t so bad at all.  The crowd, again, was a huge help.

The homestretch — 21 to 26.2

I really started to feel it after Heartbreak Hill.  I got to that point in a marathon where you’re counting down every minute until the next mile marker, and each estimate you make turns out to be too optimistic, as your pace gradually slows.  By this point, my eight-minute miles had become nines, or maybe even tens.

Fortunately, as I was getting weaker, the crowd grew stronger.  Much stronger.  We reached a point where there were people everywhere, often five or six deep, and several times I ran along the sideline with my hand out and slapped ten or twenty hands of screaming, likely-inebriated college kids in a row.  I heard more people yell “No Meat Athlete!” and “Go, vegetarian!” than I could count; I’m sure it was dozens or maybe even a hundred people who yelled this stuff.  No exaggeration.  Many, many more yelled “No Meat Athlete” than yelled “Matt,” which Erin had written in permanent marker on my legs.  (Still there, by the way.)

I paid for those early fast miles and my overall lack of preparedness at this point, but the crowd made it so much easier.  It’s something you can hear about again and again, but you won’t understand just how intense the Boston crowd is as you approach the city during these final miles until you experience it for yourself.

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During the last mile, just when the six or so minutes left in the race seemed like an eternity (as they always do during a marathon), I turned left onto Boylston Street and saw the finish line.  From here to the end, it was as incredible a sensation as I’ve ever felt running.  When I think back about these final minutes all I can remember hearing is the white noise of the crowd (even over my own thoughts, apparently, since I can’t remember any of them).

If there was a 26-mile marker, I missed it completely, lost in the enthusiasm of the crowd and the realization that I was finishing the Boston Marathon, this incredible thing that I set out to do very nearly when I signed up for my first marathon nearly 10 years ago, completely oblivious to the amount of work, pain, and eventual reward that was ahead of me.

I crossed the finish line in 3:38:30.  The slowest marathon I’ve run in a while, but I didn’t much care about that.  I had finished the Boston Marathon, and the medal that a volunteer put around my neck a minute or two later confirmed it.  I had run Boston.

My only regret

I made one mistake at the Boston Marathon.  It wasn’t the awful beer I drank before Heartbreak Hill, and it wasn’t that I ran the first few miles too fast (as I try so hard to warn new marathoners not to do).

No, the mistake was more fundamental than that: It was that I didn’t “race” in the world’s greatest race.

What I mean is this.  As soon as I qualified for Boston, I knew that I wasn’t going to set a PR here.  Since the Boston course is hilly, I told myself, I might as well just take it easy and enjoy the race, as a reward for all the work it took to get there.

But it turns out that was the easy road, and I took it.  The excuse that Boston should be a reward missed the point that I now understand — Boston is so special and so famous because it’s a race, because it’s a competition.  A competition with a clock or your personal best, if not actually another runner.  The mystique of Boston comes from the competition.

To come here with none of that competitive fire was my mistake.  After the expo, I read in the race program about the rich history of the race, and I heard some of the backstories about the elites that were running this year and what they had gone through in previous years (Kara Goucher, for example, who made a run at the title in 2009, took last year off to have a baby, and was back this year to try again).

But come race day, I realized I was not competing with myself or anyone else here.  I was more a tourist than a runner.  Which is fine; don’t get me wrong.  I loved every second of this great race, even when it hurt.  But I now see that I missed the opportunity to make the day even more memorable by competing at this prestigious competition.  If not for a PR, then at least for a time I had set as a goal that I wanted to have on my Boston Marathon finisher’s certificate.

My training leading up to this race was virtually nonexistent.  I took February off when I needed a mental break, and I did several 10-milers and a 17-miler after that, but that was really it.  The excuse that I was just here to enjoy the race made it easy to rationalize “taking it easy,” and if I’m lucky enough to make it back, I’ll train like hell for the race itself.

One thing to take from my mistake

This isn’t all bad.  If you haven’t qualified for Boston but have it in the back of your mind as a big, impossible goal, then you can learn something from this.  In such a case, I hope my 3:38 further proves to you that you can get here without being a “natural” runner.

I worked really hard to get my marathon from a 4:53 down to 3:10 to get into Boston, and I did it.  But when I don’t train, I don’t stay at that level, or even close to it.  The lesson: You don’t need to “be” a fast runner at your core to qualify for Boston.  You can make yourself into one, even if just for a little while.  (Of course, you can stay that way if you keep working.)

With the new qualifying standards, I suspect it’ll take a sub-3:00 marathon for me to get back here.  Three hours is something I had thought about before, but couldn’t quite get motivated to do. Having had this experience, and knowing now that I am no longer entitled to run Boston unless I can break three hours, I feel motivated to make it happen for the first time in what feels like forever.  I guess we’ll see what happens. icon smile

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How I Took 104 Minutes Off My Marathon Time to Qualify for Boston



blueprint-cover-791x1024Less than 10 percent of marathoners will ever qualify for Boston. Ten percent is a pretty small number, but you know what’s much smaller? The percentage of marathoners who take over 100 minutes off their time to get there. But that’s exactly what I did: after taking almost 5 hours to finish my first marathon, I ran a 3:09:59 and got into Boston. In this free, 9-page PDF report, I explain the biggest mental keys I used to take so much time off my marathon and get to Boston — and more importantly, how you can apply them to help you run your own BQ. Click here to get instant access to the Blueprint email series and start planning YOUR BQ today.

Comments

  1. WOW, I’m so glad you did this recap! I loved reading every bit of it.You are so inspiring and should be so so proud of your accomplishment!

    Way to represent what Vegetarian athletes are capable of!

    • Thanks Samantha! It’s funny, people tell me all the time how when they wear their No Meat Athlete shirt, it makes them keep running when they want to slow down or walk, because they’re representing vegetarian athletes. I’ve never felt that before, but this race was the first time that I did, and it definitely kept me moving during those painful final miles.

  2. Wow, I cannot imagine a sub-3 hour marathon but if anyone can do it, it is you! Thanks for writing such a great recap. What an awesome thing to have accomplished :)

  3. Such a great recap, and I’m glad you sat down to write it. Reading this makes me realize that I HAVE TO RUN BOSTON someday. Has to happen.

  4. Congratulations Matt- and I love your honesty about your regret in this post. I know they always call Boston a non-PR course, but I think what happened Monday shows that it really can be. It takes the right conditions and the right training, but it CAN be the best marathon you have (or anyone has) ever run.
    Regardless though- can’t wait to follow along to see what you do next :)

    • Yeah, I had just read in the program an article about how people were starting to view the course as a fast one, and even one to PR at. Great timing. I only hope conditions are so favorable when I make it back!

    • kelley says:

      go matt!!
      i LOVE yhe pic of erin and holden..
      i enjoyed your recap..all of it

  5. Congratulations Matt on fulfilling a dream that took a decade to finish. I’m amazed there aren’t more comments here. You rock!

    • Thanks Ben. I can’t believe it really was almost 10 years ago that I started thinking about it.

      Now there are more comments! That’s what happens when I publish in the afternoon, it seems.

  6. I’m a new reader…and a new marathoner, but I really loved your advice at the end of this post. Boston’s been in the back of my mind since i fell in love with distance running, but I am currently by no means “fast.” You’ve given me hope that maybe one day, if I work hard enough I’ll be able to BQ :)
    Thanks and Congrats on running Boston!

    • Hi Britt! Totally, you can shock yourself at how much improvement you can make. You’ve got to be willing to give it time though; I found that in addition to learning what training methods and diet worked best for me, there’s something about your body and brain that just “learns” to run faster with time.

  7. What an experience. “Racing” or not…this must have been life changing! So glad you got to Boston! And what a cute cheering squad you had!

  8. Great recap, Matt! And congrats again on getting to Boston! I’m sure you’ll get the chance to race it next time.

    And, speaking of qualifying standards… I was reading Bart Yasso’s book while on vacation, and the qualifying standard for men under 40 was 2:50 until 1990, so I guess we should just suck up the new qualifying changes, right?

    I’ll be looking forward to hearing about what’s next for you. Exciting stuff, I’m sure.

    • That’s a great way to look at it. :) Actually, I’m not bitter at all that they made it harder to get in. In fact, I really think that’s going to push me to run a sub-3. The only thing I don’t like, still, is that you don’t know if you got in until months later after the faster people are done registering.

  9. This is certainly a well-deserved and wonderfully written recap!! I love reading everyone’s recaps from this year. It reminds me of the great experience I had last year. And you’re right. The crowd support is like no other.

    Congrats on a job well done and glad you got to “enjoy” it. :-)

    • I certainly did “enjoy” it, but that wasn’t because the pace was easy for me! I guess the real trick to taking it easy would be to train to run a much faster race, then actually run one much slower than what you’re capable of. I think I confused “taking it easy” with “letting myself get out of shape,” so it wasn’t easy like I had hoped!

  10. Thank you for sharing your story. If you want it and you put in the work, you will make it back to Boston!

    I’m certainly not a “natural runner” either, since I had never ran a mile in my life before 2008. Next weekend I’m running my second half marathon. Last year, my goal was just to finish (I had surgery about 6 weeks before so I missed some training), and this year I hope to beat my time by 40 minutes. Running has changed my life, and made a lot of my big, impossible goals seem reachable.

    I’ve also been vegan since Dec. 31, 2010, and it has made me stronger and more energetic. I hope it works for you, too. Thank you for sharing your advice and experiences. They keep me going and help me stay on the right track.

    • Being vegan is going great so far! I actually think I’m getting to the point where I feel better than I did when I was vegetarian. I thought traveling up to Boston would be tough, but it really wasn’t. They had lots of good vegan places.

  11. Fantastic experience and superb recap, Matt! I don’t have any aspirations to run a marathon, letalone Boston, but this was a truly inspiring account. Thanks for sharing it.

    Dustin

    • Dustin, if you stick with running for a while, you might surprise yourself. I have a few close friends who have gotten into running and keep signing up for longer races… one even signed up for Marine Corps Marathon, when just last year he told he he was satisfied with halfs.

      Thanks for reading my recap!

  12. Although you didn’t ‘race’ at Boston, i’m sure it’ll be one you never forget. I love the 3 generation shot – your little one is growing so quickly! It seems like just yesterday that you announced you were going to be a dad.

  13. Congratulations, Matt! Leave it to you to find a lesson in everything you do ;)

  14. Way to go! I loved reading literally all of your race recap whether you like posting them or not hahah! It gets me inspired to train and one day run my own marathon!

  15. Even though you didn’t “race” you ran a time many would (and should) be proud of. I think sub 3 is within reach given what you ran and your training beforehand. You just need to put in the work!

  16. Congrats! I’m sure you’ll go sub 3:00 and then you will race Boston!

    I’m hoping to BQ this year if I can stay injury free.

  17. Amazing Matt! you drank the beer – that’s awesome! All the screaming and emotion… thank you for sharing!

  18. Awesome job! Personally, I love reading race reports, and your story is just so inspiring. Thanks for sharing this story and all the stories along the way of what it took to get here.

    As a not-so-fast runner, I appreciate your outlook and perspective that it is possible to work hard and achieve your goals!

  19. Doesn’t sound like a mistake, sounds like it prepared you for the next goal. It’s hard to both enjoy a marathon and race. I let myself *enjoy* chicago this year when the forecast looked dismal. I regretted it but know I wouldn’t have enjoyed it if I pushed more.

  20. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your recap – been looking forward to it!

    I’ve been totally slacking, since my “race season” ended with the Gate River Run, last month. This is the kick in the butt I need to get serious, again.

    Congratulations! How wonderful, to be part of such a historic race day!

  21. I’ve skimmed many a race recap in my day, but not this one! Gave me goosebumps, it was like being there with you! Congrats to you, and happy (early? belated? can’t exactly remember!) birthday to your baby boy!

  22. Great write-up and even greater must have been your joy. Congratulations on running the Boston. You’re of a niche crowd, of which i hope to be a part of someday!

    Cheers,
    Navin

  23. Very well done! Qualifying for, and running, Boston is something you should be proud of. And you weren’t the only one who went out too fast. I have 3 friends that ran it, and with the tailwind at the start, they all said that they went out waaaaay to quick.

    But hey, you ran it, you finished it, you drank beer….Kudos!

  24. Matt, I’ve been dying for your recap to come out, so glad to see it! I kept checking Facebook for updates! ;)

    CONGRATULATIONS! What an amazing memory you’ve made, such an accomplishment and a dream for you! So happy for you and thank you as always for sharing your experience so that we can live vicariously through you!

  25. Matt,
    I also ran Boston this year. This year I raced it.

    I ran it last year, as a ‘tourist’ as you said. In 2010, it was my first Boston. I had worked really hard to get from a 4:19 marathon in 2005 to a BQ of 3:50 in 2009. and I enjoyed every bit of my 2010 Boston marathon. But…I felt as you did that I missed something because I didn’t race the race.

    This year I worked harder, did my speed work, did all my workouts, and came to run a Boston Qualifier at Boston. Being that I have aged up a group, my qualifying time is 4:00. I would have liked to get a 3:55 in order to register just a little bit early. But, I am very happy with the 3:58.04 I ran on Monday. All on a vegetarian diet!!
    It qualifies me, but we will have to see how fast it fills up in September.

    This race is a very special race. The tradition, the crowds, the energy!!! It is an experience I will never forget.

    Congratulations on a 3:38. If you can run that on very little training, you certainly have come a long way from your 4:53 first marathon.

  26. Great recap!

  27. congratulations! That really is an amazing accomplishment! :) So great that your family was there to share the experience with you.
    Thanks for sharing! :)

  28. Congratulations, Matt!! I really enjoyed reading your race recap – it sounds like it was an amazing experience. Anyway, thanks for sharing all the great info on your site, and especially your journey to qualify for Boston. You have completely inspired this BQ dreamer/runner!

  29. I’ve never run in anything, but I enjoyed the race recap too! I followed the race on twitter and it was really exciting! I hope you’ll be back…

  30. Matt,
    I looked yesterday just waiting for this post and was so glad to see it this morning. You have a fantastic website and it has provided much inspiration for me. I am running Chicago this fall in hopes to qualify too. I am sure I will re-read your post many times before that race just to remind me it can be done and where I want to go.
    Love your weekend reading list you are now posting too!

  31. Brock Holmes says:

    Hey Matt,
    Congratulations…Boston….plain and simple. It’s been interesting and fun getting to know you through everything you’ve written….I think most of us feel like we know you, your family, your passions and your experiences.
    Whether it’s Boston again, only racing it, or whatever else the No Meat Athlete decides to write about I think your readers will love hearing about training, food, races, your thoughts on all of it and of course your family life.

    Thanks for sharing….Brock
    (and I still think you should make Toronto a destination)

    • Brock, thanks for writing this. It’s very cool for me to feel like I know so many people who read this site, and I’m glad that you guys get that from me, too. I’m trying recently to get even more of that, by responding to more comments. I’m still at the point that I can respond to every single email I get, but by the time that’s done, it’s time to write a new post and so many comments go unresponded-to. But as I said, I’m workin’ on it!

      I think I should make Toronto a destination too, running or not. I’ve heard some great things about that city. If I do, I’ll let you know.

  32. Thank you so much for this recap, Matt! Reading your website for the past month or so has inspired me to make the jump from half marathons to full marathons. Your Boston experience sounds great, and I’m so happy for you :) Congratulations!

    • John, that’s great to hear! I like full marathons much more than halves. For me, those last 6 miles of a marathon, painful as they are EVERY time, are what it’s all about. Good luck!

  33. Congratulations on your Boston! What a great report, I really did enjoy reading it and I read it to the finish. I have qualified for Boston but haven’t yet run it. Maybe I will next time, you really made the history and the excitement of the race tantalizing.

    To trim off your marathon time from 453 hours to 310 something is amazing, great work!

    My PR at the 100 mile distance came a few months after going vegan. I ran the Lean Horse 100 mile in South Dakota in 22:23:14.

    This year Bighorn 100 in June and Superior Sawtooth 100 in September is in my racing plan.

    I just found your website last week and have made the lentil burgers, flatbread and curry. All are yum!

    Again, congratulations to you :)

    • Hey Julie, great to meet another vegan ultrarunner! I still haven’t tackled the 100 yet; I was hoping to do it in June but it’s just not going to happen yet. As I said in the post, I haven’t put in the miles recently, and I’m not going to go into a 100 unprepared.

      Thanks so much for reading my recap, and congrats on all your 100’s!

  34. Jeanne B says:

    Regrets are just the building blocks for new goals :-) Congrats on Boston Matt!

  35. Congrats on accomplishing your goal of completing Boston.

    Great thoughts about doing it as a ‘tourist’ instead of a competitor … I think that is not only true in racing, but also in life.

    Also, I recently did a half-marathon (after almost dying from severe injuries in an accident) and I did better and felt better than I dreamed possible. I credit it to two things … a consistent training schedule for 4 months and healthier eating! And I credit you with many of my new eating habits. Vegetarian (ok, almost vegetarian, every now and then I’ll eat salmon) and more and more whole foods. So thank you for this site and what you do to share info.

  36. When I tell people about running the last mile of my Boston, I say that it’s the closet I’ll ever come to feeling like a rock star. People screaming and waving at you 5-6 deep on the sidewalk… there’s nothing to compare it to.

    Glad you had a good race. I loved reading the recap.

    • Exactly! In fact, I thought those exact words in my head as I was running that last .2! For a few seconds I was sort of by myself in the middle of the street with these thousands of people cheering, and it was pretty special. I almost wrote that in the post, but thought it would sound corny. :)

      P.S. I took a photo in my NMA shirt by that Boston Marathon pillar at the expo like the one you sent me last year!

  37. You did it just right – every serious marathoner should run Boston twice, first as a tourist and to learn the course, and second as a competitor.

    Nice work, and let me know when you are going to aim for your sub-3. Maybe our schedules will work out and I can help pace you for it.

  38. What a great recap – and I agree with the commenters that say you should be a tourist the first time around, but being in the spectating crowd was amazing – I don’t know how anyone could not want to race the crap out of the course.

    Also, I was in the pack of crazy girls that yelled “Matt!” on Boylston St. The internet makes you look taller, or maybe I was standing on a fence. :)

    Congrats again on your race!

    • Oh cool, I remember you girls! Thanks for the support.

      You’re not the first who said they expected me to be taller when they met me in person. That’s because I wear 6-inch stilts for photos and videos I make at home.

      (And since sarcasm doesn’t translate well on the internet, I must say that I’m kidding.)

  39. First of all that’s ONE SWEET MEDAL!! I want one! Great article and glad it was a great experience for you. I too think I would view it as a victory lap for having busted my ass for the right to be there but you make a great point that this shouldn’t be a free pass to “slack off”. If it’s worth running it’s worth the effort to run it well. I liked your mindset though of the 8 min/mile pace. God luck going sub 3…I’d settle for a sub 3:15 as I’m staring at a 3:18:30 currently and don’t think that’s gonna get it done for 2012!

  40. Awesome race recap! You are a great inspiration! Your article makes me want to read it to my whole family!
    Congrats on Boston!

  41. Congrats and nice write-up. The new qualifying standards make me a little discouraged.

  42. Matt,

    Congratulations on finishing Boston! Great to read your post. I don’t know if I would say it was a mistake to not race Boston. The first time I ran Boston, I attempted to race it and it broke me. It took so much for me to get to Boston, and to finally be there and have such an awful day was very upsetting. It wasn’t until I got to the halfway point that I said to myself “hey jerk, you’re running Boston” and that made it all ok. I came back in 2010 and 2011 to show Boston I was not done. You’ll get it done.

    If you’re interested, I’ll be pacing the 3:00 group at the Baltimore marathon this year. Well, I’ll be pacing the 3:00 group whether or not you’re interested (sorry, had to do it). I realize that Baltimore is not the best course to shoot for time, but it’s a great race. I would do my best to help get you in just under 3 hours.

    • Great perspective. It sounds like a lot of others agree with you, and I feel much better about it thanks to you all.

      I’d like to run Baltimore again, but it won’t be the place I break 3 hours. (Unless I get a lot faster one day, which I won’t rule out.) It’s a hard course! People told me it was similar to Boston, but I found Boston to be much friendlier.

      If I come watch the race though or run it slow or run the half, I’ll try to say hi if I see the 3-hour group.

  43. Congratulations Matt! I really enjoyed reading the recap, thanks for doing it. It’s inspiring to read about someone working hard and achieving their goals.

  44. awesome job Matt! I was bummed I didn’t get to see youover the weekend or during the race, but i did see a girl running with a no meat athlete shirt!!!!
    and your baby is beyond adorable-definitely work deferring boston for!

    • A girl at the race? I was wondering if anyone else would be, but I didn’t see any. I know someone (Dena Harris) did last year!

      Hehe, yes I suppose my son was worth deferring for…

  45. Congrats, Matt!
    I have completed Boston 4 times: #s 98, 99, 100 and 101 back in the ’90s. I was a full-fledged meat eater back then. I am just a “few” years older now, but I have been a no-meat athlete for almost two years, so it will be interesting to see what I am capable of doing. Thanks for the inspiration, Matt- If I qualify I will wear a No Meat Athlete shirt for sure!
    Happy trails!

    • That would be quite a story if you could make it back again, 15 years later. I’ll tell you what, if you do qualify again, let me know and the shirt will be on me. :)

  46. John Warner says:

    CONGRATULATIONS! Posted to my facebook page, great read, thanks for writing this.

  47. Congratulations Matt!

  48. Great, great piece.

    I’ve been running—and writing professionally—since before you were born, and I can’t remember an account that made me feel more that I was actually there. (And I’ve never been, except to raging party in Framingham once).

    One more thing: I liked it that you didn’t amp about your times and that you focused on the experience rather than the outcome. Isn’t that what all of this running stuf is all about?
    Anyhow, congrats. And thanks for the veg tips; I’m just now trying to do the vegetarian thing and your e-mails help a lot.

    d./

    • David, thanks so much for your comment. As I was writing this post, it felt like it was coming out all awkward and clunky. (I suspect that’s because I rarely write anything descriptive like this.) So it’s really gratifying to hear that you, a writer, liked it.

      I can’t really take too much credit for the post’s not being about the outcome — if I’d have run a PR, it would have been ALL about the outcome! Well, hopefully not all. :)

  49. Great story. Thanks for sharing?

  50. Congratulations Matt! I was hoping you would do a recap like this one, thank you! I was following your progress during the race from Spain. Your progress up to this race is really inspiring!

    • Who knew I had fans cheering in Spain? What city? I lived in Toledo for about of month of each year in high school, on an exchange program. I loved it and need to come back!

  51. Wish I would have seen you out there, it would have been a nice reprieve from the “Powered by Beef” that made me gag along the way.

    It was a tough race, I PR’d but it wasn’t the time I was hoping for. We did it though! ;)

  52. Loved your re-cap — thanks so much for writing and posting it, despite your hesitation to. It sounds like such an amazing experience and a wonderful way to end your 7-year long journey. I can’t wait to continue reading and being inspired by you.

    PS. I’m still loving your ebook! :)

    • Thank you, Alison! It really was amazing, and I had no idea how much it’d make me want to come back and do it again. Great to hear you’re enjoying my book!

  53. Jon Weisblatt says:

    Hey Matt,
    great job for “not really racing.” Dam, I trained pretty hard for my Bostons (’06 and ’08) and my best there was about 30 minutes slower than yours , and I didn’t even get to enjoy a beer at BC(probably would have puked it up anyways). You finished the race around the same time as my other favorite blogger Danny Dreyer from Chirunning. Glad you had fun. That to me is a more important lesson. Have fun on the next one. Great job!!!

  54. Christine says:

    Yay! Glad you drank a beer.
    Did you end up wearing new shoes?

  55. Congrats on finishing and thanks for the race report! I’m a Wellesley Alum (and, in fact, lived in a dorm that literally overlooks the marathon course for 3 of my 4 years there), so I loved hearing about the experience of running through the “Scream Tunnel.” Marathon day is literally the biggest party day of the year at Wellesley – so much fun to cheer for all the runners. (Though you better watch out — the Wellesley PC brigade might come after you for calling the students girls instead of women ;-)

  56. Matt,
    i love the commentary on your experience in Boston – it’s very inspirational given i’m contemplating a marathon & going veg.
    i can related to your mistake because i kind of felt i did the same thing relative to my first tri of the season (two weeks ago, South Beach)…sometimes it takes an experience like that to gain the perspective and move forward w/the right training in the next race.
    i can understand you not wanting to race it from a subconscious perspective. i imagine boston is such the pinnacle experience for marathoners that i imagine “racing it” may detract from simply experiencing it….like taking a photo w/the family, receiving kisses from the college girls or downing the beer prior to that hill.
    good luck on the < 3-hour marathon time,
    Shaun

  57. This was an amazing post, very well written.

    Congratulations!

  58. Yay Matt! I’ve been waiting for you to write this recap since the moment you qualified :) So exciting!! I ran Boston last year (I had hoped I’d run it the same year you did…but I guess being there for the birth of your first born takes precedent…) and your recap made me feel very nostalgic! Though, to be honest, I’m not sure I can ever do Boston again. I agree that those last few miles were killer. I bet a lot of people get caught up in the excitement of the first miles, as both you and I did :) Anyway, congrats. You’ve accomplished a major milestone!

  59. I’m so proud of you! It’s wonderful that you were able to enjoy the race so much–don’t beat yourself up about not racing. You wouldn’t have been able to enjoy it half as much, I bet. Another success for vegan runners!

  60. Congratulations, Matt! I am so glad you got to run Boston and that your Dad and Erin and the baby (not really a baby anymore) got to go watch. I only wish I had been there this year, too.

    • The good news, Nicki, is that I’m thinking about Steamtown again. Philly too, though, since Steamtown is just two weeks after the Vermont 50 and trying to run sub-3 then might be asking a bit much. We’ll get to meet again though, I’m sure of it!

  61. Patti Danzig says:

    Congrats Matt! Job well done!
    I subscribe to your blog and faithfully read every email I get with it. I love your humor and your stories and your guest writers. I started crying when I read this because you made it so real that I felt like I was running with you. (something I have not done in a while because I’m injured right now).
    Keep doing what you are doing and for me that means inspiring me to be the best triathlete I can be!

    • Thank you, Patti! I really appreciate your taking the time to read what I (and Susan, and guest posters) write, and your letting me know about it. Get that injury healed!

  62. Thanks for the great re-cap! I am a 63 year old vegan athlete who ran Boston last Monday. I was just able to run again this morning….quads were a bit tight from the down hill. This was my fourth time to run Boston and I re-qualified for next year with a 4:24 race…..It is so awesome to run the marathon and interact with such dedicated and energetic athletes. Keep your face to the sun! Hope to see you there next year!

    • Hi Jean, good to meet you. I actually did meet a few other vegans during the race, due to my shirt (that’s the best part of wearing it). Yep, my quads were dead too; I actually felt one start to cramp during the last two miles or so.

      I haven’t run again but I did lift, including legs, on Thursday. But yeah, that was the first day I could even move. :)

  63. Matt, this was fantastic! I’m so glad you decided to do a race recap. I thought about you (and Boston) while running my second marathon a week and a half ago…a girl ran near me around Mile 20 something with a No Meat Athlete shirt on and I mustered up enough energy to shout, “Hey! I have that shirt, too!” It was pretty cool. Great job in Boston, maybe someday this breast cancer survivor and mom of 3 will get there, too:-)

  64. Great recap, Matt…thank you for being so honest! I never understood the “mystique” of Boston, as you stated…but now I do! Wonderful write-up. You are such an inspiration to long distance runners, new and old! (:

    Robyn

  65. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with enjoying rather than racing – all too often we get so caught up in the racing we forget that it SHOULD be fun.

    You did it – you qualified & you finished – which is no doubt more than i’ll ever do cause I’m a slow runner & I don’t want to spend 6-7 hrs running.

    But I am planning to sign up for my first HM soon.

    Awesome job!

    • Judy, congrats on being ready to sign up for your first half. My advice is DO IT! Signing up will help a lot with making sure you get started on the training and don’t keep putting it off. And never doubt that you’ll want to run longer after that… I know a lot of people who have said exactly the same thing and are now marathoners.

      • Thanks for the kick in the butt – & this site! – registration doesn’t open til the end of this month – and not til June for the second HM I’m planning to do a couple of months after that!

        I did just run my first 10k. :)

  66. Michelle Novak says:

    loved your post. you inspire me to one day make it to Boston! It must have been really cool to hear so many people yelling “No Meat Athlete!” way to go!!

  67. Hey Matt!! I just joined up on your site and I LOVE it!! I do “giveups” every month and meat was March :) I want to get more into the veggie diet but never knew how possible it was for a runner until now! Thank you!! Anyway :) CONGRATS on Boston!! Those last few paragraphs reminded me of myself when I trained for my second Half…didn’t put in the mileage and it proved to me that I really DO have to work hard if I want to be a “true” runner. I need to EARN my medals of honor! It’s cliche, but sometimes it takes big personal races to knock it into our mushy brains. In any case, thanks for the recap…I LOOOVE race recaps, so never think they’re a waste ;)

    • Definitely. After I qualified, and having gotten into ultrarunning where (for me) the point was just to finish, it was very easy to forget that I still have to work hard if I want to be a good runner. This was a wake up call, and I’m glad I got it. Thanks for reading the recap and commenting!

  68. Great recap! Thanks for sharing.

    I ran my first half-marathon in St. Louis on April 10th. After I crossed the finish I ran into a runner wearing one of your “No Meat Athlete” shirts!

    • Very cool. I love hearing stories like those. Believe it or not, I’ve never yet seen someone that I didn’t know in a No Meat Athlete shirt. That will be a fun day.

  69. Congratulations! From a newbie runner’s perspective… you’re an amazing inspiration! xx

  70. Hi Matt- I walked down the street from our house to cheer on the runners with my son on Monday. I happened to see you go by and I yelled “go Matt I stalk your blog!” it made me so happy to see someone who had worked so hard to accomplish something actually in the process of living his dream. It actually brought tears to my eyes, and made me so very happy for the rest of the day! Just wanted to say kudos to you, and thanks for the inspiration!

    • That’s hilarious… did your son think it odd that you stalk a blog? I can’t remember whether I heard that or not. There were a few people who I could tell knew who I was but who I couldn’t completely understand, you might have been one of those. Thanks so much for the support; it was amazing all the yells I (and other runners) got.

  71. Elizabeth Eaton says:

    Great recap and CONGRATULATIONS! I was there as well and am sorry I didn’t see you. Like you, I didn’t prepare – due to anemia issues (nothing to do with being a veggie). I had the 2nd worst marathon time ever and my best experience ever running any race. Your recap really captures the essence of the race that I missed during my first Boston. I’m glad you experienced that side of it the first time around. By the way, for me racing Boston wasn’t all I hoped it would be, but you have inspired me to give it another try. Third time may be a charm. I just hope those super fast people don’t fill up all the slots before me and my 2.5 minutes to spare qualifying time. thank you:)

    • Yeah, sorry we didn’t meet up. :( Interesting to hear that racing at Boston wasn’t all it was cracked up to be; a few others have told me the same since I wrote this. I’ve still got to do it!

  72. Congrats! Love the recap; it’s fascinating to hear runners’ accounts of their experience w/Boston.

    I can’t remember seeing you, but based on your time there’s a good chance we did. My son & I were cheering in those stupid Newton hills, right before Heartbreak.

  73. Wow, Matt! So, so cool! Fantastic recap and I loved reading all the comments.

  74. Becky Richardson says:

    Great Recap Matt. I enjoyed reading every bit of it. Thanks for taking the time to share with us. I could feel the energy just from reading it . What a feeling that must have been.

  75. Awww! You almost made me cry! So glad you did write the recap! Very inspiring to read and I was desperate to hear how it all went, after reading all about the build up. Congratulations! Awesome job.

  76. What a great RR! Many congratulations to you. :) As a runner whose happy pace is 10-11 minute miles I am in awe of your speed.

  77. justin kronenwetter says:

    matt, thanks for sharing the experience.
    fueling strategy and so forth was an interest of mine however it varies greatly from person to person, just always curious to pre-race/post race intake as well.
    i really liked your ‘loose plan’ and although i have not raced a marathon distance, the patience and preplanning seem to detract from the fun..for me at least, so i stick to trail nowadays with loose plans:)
    thanks again for sharing-
    peace

    • Justin, before the race I had a bagel with almond butter, an orange, lots of water, some Vega Sport, and a last minute bag of chips near the start line because I was really craving something salty.

      During, I drank about 6 ounces of Gatorade at almost every water stop, which were at each mile. I had water at a few of them. No solid food or gel during the race.

      After, it was slim pickins. There was very little that was vegan in the post-race bag they give you; I think I just had a banana, maybe some more potato chips, and then lots of bread once I got back in the RV. Later on I ate a huge veggie burrito and an IPA, plus lots of water.

  78. What a great exprience. Going from just under 5 hours for a marathon to almost breaking 3 hours is very motivating to see. You show that with hard work and persistence, it CAN be done!

    • Thanks Juliette, taking that much time off my marathon is something I’m proud of. And I’m really inspired to try to break 3 now, to make the story even better!

  79. Triathlonbabe says:

    You are an inspiring person just for qualifying for the Boston. I appreciate more and more the vegetarian lifestyle knowing that there are so many folks out there that lead this and are still amazing athletes.

    Good luck in your sub 3:00 qualifying time training!

  80. KevHead McHead says:

    Good stuff Tar! Thanks for taking us along for the ride. If you need a break from the hills, Virginia Beach is as flat as it gets.

    • Thanks Kev. I’d like to run the VA Beach half again. I remember having to work really hard to break 2 hours; at the time that was like the hardest thing I’d ever done. I’d love to try a half on a fast course nowadays.

  81. heather macKey says:

    thank you for writing this down. i cried reading this, enjoying your journey.

  82. Great post and congratulations on qualifying and completing Boston. I was referred to your blog from a friend and am really enjoying it so far! I have a goal to qualify for Boston one day (have run two marathons so far with 4:05 my PR). Check out my blog and let me know your thoughts!

    • Thanks Sallyann, and tell your friend thanks for me! I’ve got a good amount of stuff about qualifying for Boston; hopefully you’ll find some inspiration and info that helps you.

  83. Congrats! I ran last year and your recap that brought back so many memories. The real lesson may be one that you didn’t need – to have enjoyed and taken in every moment. That far exceeds whether you raced the course or not.

  84. Congrats Matt well done today I ran my 1st Ultra-marathon I fell over about 7 times in the first 2 laps it was dark and slippery and muddy but I finished 55km in 8hrs and 10mins I landed on my sore Knee and limped to the end almost in tears but I’m sore glad I did it…next year I’ll do better! Go Vegan runners!!!

    • Nice job, Sandy. :) I’ve never fallen in a race, so 7 times seems quit-worthy! Actually, it does seem like it’d be the hardest thing in the world to get up after a fall when you’re tired and keep on running. So I’m impressed.

  85. Congrats on seeing through with your goal. I have been following your website since last summer and I have really enjoyed it. I am working on getting a BQ, will race in Fargo next month. Hearing about your experience has helped give me confidence that you dont have to be a super hero to run fast enough to qualify, you just need to put in a super amount of work.

  86. Congrats on Boston, sounds like the experience was pretty amazing! I’ve really enjoyed reading all my fave running bloggers Boston recaps – it’s nothing if not inspiring and lights a fire in me to make it there one day. (Even though I have yet to complete my first marathon) But then I read how you started at 4:53 (a very likely time for my first attempt this fall) and how you took your time to 3:10 and a BQ and it just goes to show that with hard work and training it can be done. Hopefully it can be done for me – thanks for sharing.

  87. Nathalie says:

    Congratulations on finishing Boston and thanks for sharing with all of us; I do love a good race recap :-)
    It’s great to read how you’ve turned your slight ‘regret’ into a new goal!!! I’m in awe of your finishing time anyway, as I am not yet that advanced a runner and pretty slow…
    Thanks for an inspirational boost- I will sign up for the 2012 London marathon and should I get a place, I will train using your Marathon Roadmap!

  88. a year late, but i just stumbled across your blog while searching boston qualifying races. thanks for making me weep a little and reminding me of why i set this goal in the first place (run boston before my 40th birthday). also thanks for giving me a reference for everyone who says that i am setting myself up for failure by running marathons as a vegan.

Trackbacks

  1. […] did pop over to No Meat Athlete, where Matt posted a great breakdown of his Boston Marathon experience… oh I SO want to […]

  2. […] was reading Matt’s recap of running Boston this year over at No Meat Athlete, and clicked through to read his description of his plan to […]

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