In this episode of the Podcast It's a long road I will describe to you what it is like to run in the Boston Marathon, the oldest annual Marathon in the world and the third for me in the series of 6 World Marathon Majors.
With these and with these the time passed and luckily this time no other unexpected things happened to me before I ran a race. Since October 2021 I ran on Chicago until April, when I was going to run the Boston Marathon, I only ran one race, the Thessaloniki night half-marathon at the beginning of November, where, due to the very good physical condition I had after 2 consecutive Marathons, I also set a personal record with a time of 1:41 if and I could have been 2 minutes less, but due to miscalculations during the race I did not manage to see the three in front in my time. THE preparation my trip to Boston went smoothly and I went into full training at the start of the new year (2022) and after I had done new ergometrics to see where I was so that the training would be even more specific, in proportion to the situation I was in and the goals that I was putting. In Boston I wanted to set a new personal record that meant a time under the 3:55 I had in Chicago.
My training 7 weeks before the Boston Marathon, but taking into account that 2 weeks after Boston I would also participate in the 107.5 km Euchideian race, was as follows:
7 weeks before: time – 6h 40' in total 5 trainings each different with Long Run on Sunday 2h 40' all at an aerobic pace.
6 weeks before: time – 8h 20' in total 6 training sessions each different with Long Run on Sunday 3h 30' all at an aerobic pace.
5 weeks before: time – 5h 40' in total 5 workouts each different with Long Run on Sunday 1h 30' the longest at Tempo pace.
4 weeks before: time – 6h 30' in total 5 trainings each different with Long Run on Sunday 2h 30' all at an aerobic pace.
3 weeks before: time – 5h 30' in total 5 training sessions each different with Long Run on Sunday 1h 30' the longest at Tempo pace.
2 weeks before: time – 6h 05' in total 5 training sessions each different with Long Run on Sunday 1h 50' at a leisurely pace.
During the week of the Marathon I did 2 training sessions of a total duration of 2 hours and a 20 minute leisurely run the day before the race.
Somewhere there, in fact, 2 months before the Boston Marathon, triathlon came to my mind and I started my first training sessions in the pool twice a week. With a coach again to teach me the correct technique, since I may have known how to swim, but I couldn't swim at all say more than 100 meters. A natural consequence since I had no idea what style and technique I should have. Another chapter, I just mention it because it coincided with the duration of my preparation for the Boston Marathon.
Boston is a coastal city in the USA, the capital of the state of Massachusetts and the seat of Suffolk County. It is one of the oldest cities in the United States, a modern metropolis and a major political, economic and cultural center of the country. The city of Boston, which vigorously pioneered the fight for American independence, and changed the historical map at the world level, is known worldwide as the "USA Campus", with the famous universities of Harvard (Harvard University), Tufts University (Tufts University), Technological Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Brandeis University and others.
Boston is known for its medical centers, for the Berklee College of Music, but also as a city with a high sports spirit, something that can be distinguished on a daily basis, since you will observe many people doing some sporting activity in one of the city's many parks or along the Charles River. Many of the city's teams are known around the world, such as the Boston Celtics in basketball, the New England Patriots in American football, and the Red Sox in baseball.
So on April 14, 2022, Thursday, with a flight from Thessaloniki via Istanbul, my wife and I arrived in Boston early in the evening, quite tired from the trip, but at the same time very thirsty to explore, starting the next day, as much as we could from this beautiful city.
The next day we went straight to the EXPO to pick up the entry number, but first as the road took us out, we stopped to admire two of the best and most famous universities in the world, Harvard and MIT, where from some of the world's greatest minds graduate every year.
At the Marathon Expo, despite the large number of visitors, the impeccable guidance of the volunteers helped in the quick receipt of personal information from the athletes and the general service in the exhibition areas. It was an exhibition worthy of the history and prestige of the race, with many exhibitors and many fine racing products. From there and after sitting for two hours we headed to the hotel, after first passing through some very nice parts of the city.
Copley Square, the place where everything was ready to welcome thousands of runners as the end of the race. My emotions at that moment were special and intense, since looking at the finish it was impossible not to think about what it will be like in three days here and if I will manage to finish in this important race. After all, this is the anxiety I have in all the big matches of this series. If all goes well and I manage to finish. Copley Square is the central square of the Back Bay area, surrounded by old and state-of-the-art buildings such as Holy Trinity Church and the Boston Public Library founded in 1848 as the first publicly funded library in the country.
Then we passed by Boston Common, which is located in the heart of the city and is the oldest park in America. In this large green space, which is widely used by the locals throughout the year, there are various monuments and you will see swans in the small lake and squirrels that are perfectly accustomed to the presence of people.
The next day I woke up early in the morning, since together with my wife we were going to participate in the 5 km race that was organized as part of the events of the big race on Monday. We went to the spot early to get our race numbers and then got ready to have another great experience running leisurely through the city. There were a lot of people, everyone's enthusiasm was great and really, without having any anxiety about the time, we enjoyed every minute of the race.
Later in the day, we visited the city's aquarium and followed most of the Freedom Trail, a path that unfolds through two and a half centuries of American history. Boston Common Park is the starting point and following the red line that starts from the park you are led to the sixteen main historical points of the American Revolution, in a route of about four kilometers. Starting out, you'll find yourself in front of the new Massachusetts statehouse with its golden dome, and later you'll encounter the old statehouse where the declaration of independence was printed and read. Along the way you will come across the square of Faneuil Hall along with its market. The route ends at the US Navy's first frigate, the USS Constitution, a famous warship used during the War of 1812.
Sunday, since it was the day before the race, was more leisurely, with a walk around the city and some other attractions such as the Museum of Science. Boston is truly magical, it has something aristocratic, calm and exudes a European air and reminds of Europe, with some areas even strongly reminiscent of London, not by chance, since the first settlers who settled in 1630 were English, that's why it is called "New England". In the evening my last meal was a rich pasta, while in general my diet these days was the same as I always do before a big race. Carbohydrate deprivation for 4 days and carb loading for the last 3 days before the race.
Its launch Marathon for my number it would be at 11.15 and the buses to the starting point would start at 9am. This meant that waking up, having breakfast and the whole preparation would be done leisurely and with great ease of time. We had breakfast with the rest of the group around 7 and of course it included anything that could increase our body's energy levels. We were on time at the bus boarding point and with very good spirits, relaxed chats and plenty of photos we boarded the buses and headed to the start of the race.
The Boston Marathon is held on Monday, the 3rd Monday in April on Patriot's Day. It is the oldest annual marathon in the world and ranks as one of the most famous competitive running events in the world.
Inspired by the Athens Olympic games of 1896, it was held for the first time, a year after 1897 and is the oldest Marathon organization road in the world with the exception of the Olympic games. This Marathon attracts 1 million spectators every year, while the route is characterized as fairytale both for its beauty and for its "wildness". Its route starts from the city of Hopkinton in southern Middlesex County and ends at Copley Square next to the Boston Public Library in central Boston. The main difficulties are the hilly terrain of Massachusetts and the large variations in weather conditions from year to year. Luckily for us that day the weather was great and the most ideal for running a Marathon.
The Americans also call him "The Spirit of Boston". Marathon day is literally a celebration for the whole city and region and unique for those who live it. The whole atmosphere created by the residents of the areas it passes through and who have become one with the institution, is exhilarating, the events are warm and noisy and if nothing else they give the extra boost to each athlete. There have been families for many years that have their own spot where they gather to watch the game. Bostonians seem to recognize that each participant has their own story and make runners feel like they are there for each individual.
It is held every year without fail, except in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The participation record is held by the 100th event, in 1996, with 38,708 entries, 36,748 who started the race and 35,868 who finished. John McDermott, then 22 years old, of Irish origin, is mentioned as the first winner in the history of the Boston Marathon. He recorded a time of 2 hours 55 minutes and 10 seconds, but the course was shorter, 39.4 kilometers, in a race held on April 19, 1897, with 18 runners.
The darkest page in the event's history was written on April 15, 2013, when a bomb attack took place at the finish line, killing three spectators and injuring 183, many of whom were amputees.
This Marathon has a special importance for all Greeks since it has been won twice by Greek athletes. In 1920, Panagiotis Triboulidis at the age of 29, wins the 24th Boston Marathon with a time of 2:29:31, after a sensational race with the American Arthur Roth, whom he eventually beat by a minute. Triboulidis then ran as an American, so officially the first athlete to win it outside America-Canada was another Greek athlete from Cyprus, Stylianos Kyriakidis. He was also the first to use a hand timer.
Stelios Kyriakidis (Paphos State 4 May 1910 – Filothei Attica 10 December 1987) was a semi-endurance and endurance runner and a member of the Greek national athletics team. He was a Panhellenic champion, a Balkan champion, a winner in the Pan-Cypriot games and took part in two Olympiads (Berlin 1936, London 1948). In Berlin, in fact, in the Marathon competition and although he finished eleventh, he "broke" the haunting record of Spyros Louis, which the Marousiotis Olympian held for almost 40 years. He became known for his great victory in the Boston Marathon in 1946, which at that time was one of the greatest successes of Greek sports.
The time he did (2:29:27) was the best in Europe and for 22 years the best in Greece, but his words "I came to run for seven million hungry Greeks" were of particular importance. Also, at the end of the match, when he was asked: "What would you like us to do for you?" - while he was offered money to become a professional athlete and had offers from Hollywood to become an actor - he answered: "For me nothing. Only for Greece...", insisting: "Please, don't forget my country". In that fight, Kyriakidis, taking advantage of his victory, managed to collect 250,000 dollars and two ships with basic necessities (food, clothes and medicine) for Greece, the famous "Kyriakidis Package". In fact, the number he wore in this match was 77, which was later to be the age at which he died.
Another important event that marked the Boston Marathon was that in 1967, in violation of the regulations of course, a woman ran for the first time in a Marathon race. It was Kathrine Switzer and her participation changed a lot in this particular event, in which other women have since taken part. Until then women could only take part in races up to 1500 meters and in order to be accepted for participation she hid her gender by stating only the initials of her name during registration. She was running with her boyfriend and her later husband and coach, who even intervened and stopped her being removed from the race when one of the organizers, realizing that it was a woman, tried to remove her.
Switzer fifty years later and at the age of 70 ran the Boston Marathon again, with the same number 261, which the organizers later retired as a sign of honor and respect.
The Boston Marathon unlike most is one Marathon with a starting point different from the ending point. It has few bends, at the beginning it is a downhill route, which can be a trap for some, especially beginners. There are many who, from the excitement of the fast and relatively downhill course, feel great and have the feeling, especially in the first half of the course, that they have the individual record in their pocket, but the great test and surprise for most who have not kept their strength comes after 25 km. It is when there are many small ups and downs with continuous changes and especially that of Heartbreak Hill between the 31st and 34th kilometer a 600m hill, whose name is probably not accidental and then all the fatigue that comes in a Marathon after the 30th kilometer. The altitude of the route starts at 140 meters and ends at sea level.
I had done my own study and had all this in mind and of course I had drawn up the plan with which I would proceed. A Marathon, at least for amateur runners, is not a sprint race. There must be a plan that will be followed faithfully throughout the race and of course it will have already been tested in training. I was aiming to average 5:20 pace and finish close to 3:45 which would be a personal best and 10 minutes off my time in Chicago. I was sure I had it, and my preparation was commensurate with that purpose. Again, if I saw after the 35th kilometer and for the last 7 that I have strength, I would increase the pace to 5:00 and until then, since I have not tried anything different in my training either, and I never had as a goal to go to lower times. I would just try to maintain my average based on my planning. My first pacing move, as happens with most would be halfway through the race and at 35 the second assessment. You just have to go with the plan you have in mind in these two points of the race, otherwise anything else you try can turn out to be disastrous, especially on such a course that is not flat. Of course, as I said, I always had in mind the many altitude changes, so in order to maintain the 5.20 average, I would have to balance the speed I would have on the uphills by going a little faster on the downhills.
Most of the runners running with me were more or less the same level as me. I drew up my tactics in advance and followed them to the letter. Self-restraint and maintaining rhythm are the first two important things to do. At the very 2nd kilometer, the statue of Stylianos Kyriakides dominates with Spyros Louis, winner of the Marathon of the first Olympic Games in 1896, with the former running and the latter showing him the way with the name of the statue being "The Spirit of the Marathon ».
So I got my first five in a time of 26:50, that is 5:22 per kilometer. The bad thing about these races is that at the start and for a long time after, because of the many people and the crowding it is difficult to catch the pace you want.
I did the 10 kilometers in a time of 52:48, that is 5:17 per kilometer. Everything is based on planning and I was in no way swayed by the downhill part of the route, especially in the first part, since from the 140 meters at the start, in the half marathon you are at 47 meters. On the contrary, I kept to my pace and somewhere after the 9th kilometer the situation cleared up from the multitude of runners and now you could run and overtake if you wanted more comfortably. Somewhere from there I started to "play" with people. I felt really good in all aspects and if I dropped 2-3 minutes or so on my time I didn't really care. What I cared about was enjoying every minute of the match and interacting as much as I could with the crowd, which I admit was particularly enthusiastic. So without having done any prior planning, I took out my cell phone and in many parts of the route I recorded either directly on my phone, or in Live broadcasts on social networks, the world and its reactions. The spectators even seeing that I was filming them with my mobile phone became even more enthusiastic and demonstrative. Another thing I didn't want. I don't even remember how many Lives I did and how many videos I recorded, while many times I joined the audience and cheered too!
The halfway mark was 1:51:02 which meant a 05:16 pace and my first assessment was that I felt good, I had no issues and everything was going well. This is how I mentally prepared myself for the 2nd and most difficult part of the route in question, where the many changes in altitude began. As for my energy replenishment, here as in Chicago the big advantage was the many gas stations. There were 24 in total, which meant that as soon as one station ended, another started almost immediately, and they all had Gatorade and water. I always grabbed a glass of electrolytes and a glass of water from somewhere. Three hours before the race I drank a bottle of water with electrolytes and another one half to an hour before I started. I drank a total of 6 gels. One before I start the race, a chewable gel at 30, around 35 a caffeinated gel, a magnesium somewhere in the middle and the rest of the gels about half an hour to forty minutes so that I have replenished with about 60 grams of carbohydrates every time.
Approaching the halfway mark, I encountered one of the most famous features of this race, Wellesley. The girls of Wellesley College and other equally enthusiastic spectators line each side of the road, cheering furiously, waving all manner of signs, having created the famous "scream tunnel", their voices being heard for almost a kilometer. Some of the inscriptions even ask for kisses from the runners in various ways and for various reasons.
I passed the 30th kilometer with a time of 2:38:20 pretty steady at 5:17, although my overriding feeling was that I was going pretty fast. After looking at my watch and seeing that Mr rhythm it was steady for me and according to planning I calmed down a bit and was soon preparing for the big pass of HeartBreak Hill, where my pace would inevitably drop. My best pass of the whole route was at the 26th kilometer with 4:54 and the slowest at the 34th kilometer with 6:07, where momentarily and due to the uphill I dropped to 6:35.
The other running statue on the course is that of Kelly at the 31st kilometer, which depicts him running hand in hand in youth and old age, showcasing the timelessness and democracy of the sport. John Kelly is a Boston Marathon legend, having run it a total of 61 times, 2 of which he won, in 1935 and 1945. He finished in the top 10 18 times and was 84 years old when he ran his last Boston Marathon.
From the 30th kilometer onwards when fatigue started to set in, the mind games started. I tried to think in terms of that distance because it was supposed to make me feel better. When you've run 30 kilometers, what's 12 more? A simple daily workout!
However, 600 meters of the remaining few kilometers contained arguably the most difficult part of the entire course: the infamous Heartbreak Hill. There was even a moment about halfway through this climb where my pace slowed awkwardly, where I wasn't sure I was going to make it, after hitting 6:35. But I ignored my watch and my speed and just looked at the top of the hill and that helped me pick up my pace a bit and I found myself passing other runners, most of whom were still running but some of them beaten by the intense uphill and the fatigue of the race they just walked. Soon enough, I made it to the top which was confirmed by the big sign that read 'Congratulations! You beat Heartbreak”.
Tired and sore, I knew that the greatest difficulty of the race had just passed. I made it and passed the crest of Heratbreak Hill and now had 8km of downhill to the finish. Theoretically the most difficult in every Marathon but on the other hand also the most enjoyable since because you are getting closer to the finish line, your psychology and strength increases, but also the people become more and more enthusiastic. 8 last kilometers between me and the most historic finish of my running career. My legs, however, were beginning to feel heavy from the intense altitude fluctuations, as is reasonable. I knew that there was no more difficult part on the route and that I would end up going downhill like this, since from about 75 meters we would end up right at the surface of the sea. At this point in the race, most of the runners I was with had exactly the same goals and were running at the same pace as me, so as I got closer and closer to town I did my best to keep up with them and at my own pace.
The last kilometers, as always happens, were endless and the ones that lasted even longer in my mind. Each of them required a titanic effort and the use of all the remaining energy I had in my body. Although I had already come this far, I began to wonder if the race would ever end. It's those stretches in the last kilometers where many, running out of energy, fall into a wall and so many others either die from the pain on the side of the road, or receive medical help, or walk or give up. Even though I wanted to break my personal record, I had a relatively stronger pace than usual, but I hadn't reached the point of exhaustion where I wanted to give up.
The only image I was trying to keep in my mind was the finish line and nothing else. I tried to isolate and delete from my exhausted mind, all the negative images I saw during the last kilometers such as the sirens of the ambulances, the heavy breathing, the heavy and noisy steps of the other athletes, but also all those who pointed to any reason to suffer from the last kilometers of a Marathon. I just focused on forcing my sore quads and sore legs to keep working hard, moving forward one step at a time and slowly and excruciatingly eating up the miles and miles of whatever I had left.
I did the next 5 kilometers from 35 to 40 in 28 minutes, i.e. in 5:36, reasonable given the big uphill. The last 2 kilometers and knowing that I have already achieved my personal record and what I wanted from the beginning, I once again took out my mobile phone and started to record the last meters of the course.
From the 40th kilometer to the finish I did 12:27, quite a bit slower, but not because of the fatigue, but the fact that in the last meters of the course I stopped almost halfway and asked people on both ends to do ole and raise his hands up, trying to rouse them as much as possible. The crowd, which was now large, responded to my call and made as much noise as possible! They really were all great and so in the best of spirits and with morale at its peak, I trudged along to enjoy as much as possible this finish on flagged Boylston Street where the endorphins and adrenaline had run red.
I finished with a time of 3:46:57 and an average pace of 5:20, quite comfortable I would say, with an overall position of 14776/24819, 9814/14256 in the men and 1787/2295 in my age group (M45-49). The winner of the race was Evans Chebet from Kenya with a time of 2:06:51 and from the women Peres Jepchirchir from Kenya with a time of 2:21:01. A total of 25,230 runners from 113 countries participated and 24,834 runners finished.
I proudly wore the medal around my neck and took the necessary commemorative photos from both the event photographers and my people who were waiting for me at the finish line. I felt tired and especially tight in my quads, but not that energetically exhausted. From there I headed to the hotel and later I made up for the lack of nutrition I had recently in a restaurant close to the hotel.
In Boston we stayed one more day, but the weather was rainy and cold, luckily for us it wasn't like that the day before the race. We spent our time walking around the shops, saw a few more of the sights and in the evening we made our way back, on a journey where due to the time difference you arrive at your destination a day later.
By and large he was one Marathon of a high standard, properly organized from start to finish and I was pleased with him to the last minute. So the goal was achieved and that's how it became three out of six for me.
Thank you so much for listening to me!
Until next time, Be well be healthy and always do what we love and what makes us feel good.