Chasing Dreams: Regina's Boston Marathon Journey

Before I qualified, it was a dream I didn’t dare to have. After, I questioned whether signing up was worth the travel time and cost. But I decided to go and do the thing. Just once. That was 4 Boston Marathons ago.


In the world of marathon running, no city evokes more wonderment. But why? Sure, the exclusivity of acceptance and even the difficulty of the event has its own draw. And the city itself is a mecca for tourism, with its rich history, sports enthusiasm, impeccable cuisine, and oh those cherry blossom trees along the Charles! But it’s the people who REALLY make this the Unicorn of all road marathons. The energy of this city on marathon weekend is next level, and it’s the primary reason why I keep going back every year.


I’ve recently been gravitating more toward the trails and somehow found myself preparing for Boston 2024 as my only road marathon in the last 12 months. It gave me a chuckle to think about, but also made me worry. I made a few adjustments to the training routine, trying not to lose sight of my needs for Cruel Jewel 100, coming up in May. I would in no way be prepared to pull off a course PR (3:09) so decided to aim for 3:20. Plan B would be 3:30 to give me a 10-minute BQ buffer since I have zero other qualifying races to submit for next year.


Race weekend crept up so fast, but I was healthy & satisfied with my training. The Sunday routine followed the typical storyline – group shakeout, packet pickup, and some shopping before scampering back to the hotel to spend entirely too much time laying out the race kit. I’m a chronic explorer, so I’m proud to say I kept my total mileage under 13 for Sunday. #winning. All day, I was more proactive than usual with hydrating. The race day forecast wasn’t looking so hot. In fact, it was looking TOO hot. 


After a few U-turns and an extra trip around the block, our bus delivered us safely to Hopkinton on Monday morning. In a rare display of good time management, I managed to get myself over to the start corral on time! While waiting for the gun, I had a few laughs to myself comparing this to a typical trail race start; this helped me to stay relaxed. Before pushing us out, the announcer graciously informed us that the current temp was a balmy 62. 


Not wanting to carry 10 million gels, I tried something new on race day: use  Tailwind Endurance concentrate in a disposable water bottle to carry for the first half, then switch to gels afterward. It went well and didn’t. The plan was to do a shot of the solution right before each aid station then chase it with on-course water. I had the bottle jerry-rigged to my hand with a headband, so it felt similar to my usual handheld. Problem was, I kept trying to drink it that way too, taking swigs when there were no water-chaser stations in sight and nearly spitting everything back out at the shock of the strong taste. After a few miles I finally got adjusted to the routine. The mix lasted 80 minutes vs 100 I’d hoped for, but in hindsight those 300 calories were right about what I needed for that period.


During marathons I often struggle to stay focused; my natural inclination is to stop and pick the daisies, catch up with friends, and maybe sneak in a nap when no one’s looking. While this is all fine at trail races, you will get trampled down by the mob for attempting these things in a road race, especially when you’re jamming with the sub-3:30 fasties – they can be hella surious, y’all. In spite of the warmth, I maintained a quick pace for the first 15 miles. I knew I couldn’t maintain it in this heat, but at least I banked a few minutes so I didn’t have to stress as much later on. With the hills of Newton also came some angels offering ice popsicles to the suffering throng. I managed to get my paws on 2 during the race and oh was it heavenly! Somewhere in there a beer mysteriously ended up in my hand, making me a crowd favorite for about 2 seconds, and helping me to finally let go of my self-inflicted pressure to go so dang fast. I occupied myself for the rest of the race with some running-maths, taking it as easy as I could without going over that 3:30 Plan B goal. I ran up all the hills - including Heartbreak  - but did walk a few aid stations, perfecting my efficiency in the delicate art of dowsing my head with water. Turning onto the home stretch I dropped the hammer just a tad, coming in 5 seconds under that 3:30 goal. Perfecto!


This was no story of surpassing goals and overcoming the odds, but sometimes just meeting expectations is a valuable achievement. Will I be back next year? Absolutely!! ‘Cause cherry blossoms & lobsta rolls simply cannot be enjoyed virtually. 


Photo and blog provided by Regina Massingill

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