Whether from Hopkinton, Chicago, or your neighborhood all of the 26.2 miles are real. Congrats to all who completed a fall marathon in what turned into a very busy marathon season.
The fall Boston Marathon reminded us of how special the event is – not just for the runners, but all of the volunteers, spectators and family members. It inspires us, uplifts us and unites us.
It was a special weekend! We asked three MVSers who were participating in Boston to share with us their race day experiences. Louise Cummings was running her 8th Boston Marathon; Lam Tien was running his first Boston and 3rd marathon; and Kara Stamm Larcome did the Virtual Boston Marathon – her first marathon.
With Boston being in the Fall, how did your training change?
Louise Cummings: Being a teacher, I find it so much easier and more enjoyable to train for a fall marathon through the summer. Winter training is difficult, which is what usually makes Boston so difficult.
Kara Larcome: Training in the summer is much easier for me - I only work part time in the summer and my daughters' schedules aren't quite as busy as they are during the school year. My training included 3 runs a week so I tried to schedule it around the weather. The flexibility worked out great in June and July, August and September got a bit busier so I missed a few runs but overall I was pleased with how well I was able to stick to my plan.
Lam Tien: I had to make some adjustments to my training plan, training in the winter or the summer is hard either way, but this summer was extremely challenging. There were days that were either brutally hot or raining. With Covid still lingering around, myself along with others were limited to who or what we can train with. So I did the best I could with the resources that I had.
What made you decide to make the leap and tackle your first marathon in 2021? And, why did you choose Boston Virtual?
KL: My dad, Bob Stamm, ran Boston in 2011 right after my daughter Zoe was born. After the race, as we walked to the car I said I was never going to run a marathon, giving birth was my big accomplishment. I started running once I moved to North Andover and did a half in 2017. When COVID hit I thought I'd get back in shape but it wasn't the case. This spring my running buddy Andrea Holmberg threw out the idea of running the Boston Virtual and I figured it might be just what I needed to get focused and back into shape. Virtual was a great low-stakes way to give a marathon a try. I figured if it didn't go well I could just stop. Before I knew it, saying I "only have 10 miles to run today" became so comfortable and I really started to enjoy the long runs. Each time I added on more miles I felt accomplished and strong.
How did you prep for race day? Do you have a prerace ritual?
LC: I make sure to get a great night's sleep at least two nights before the race knowing that it's hard to sleep well the night before the race. I eat a very plain meal of white rice and maybe plain chicken breast for carbs and protein. I ruminate for a long time about what I'm going to wear after checking the weather for the hundredth time then I lay it all out, pin on the bib, and pack my bag.
KL: The great part of doing virtual was planning a route that started from my house. With no drive or waiting around for a start I could do my usual, a bowl of oatmeal, banana, pre-workout drink, stretch a bit and then head out. The difference this time was my family woke up to see Andrea and I off.
LT: The preparation for me was easy because I already knew what I would be wearing on race day. I spent that Saturday doing a shakeout run in the morning, enjoying the expo and getting myself familiar with the route. The day before, I tried to stay off my feet for as much as I could, rest and carbo load (my favorite part of prep) and going to bed early.
With the changes due to COVID – bus from Boston, rolling start and no Athlete’s Village, how was getting to and starting the race?
LC: My first Boston was in 1985, and this was my 8th. I've seen this race change many times from a field of 600 women and a very relaxed start to the 100th in 1996 which had about 45,000 runners I think, which was crazy. Given the smaller field size and the rolling start, the start line was manageable and it was so relaxing to get to the line and start running. This is the 2nd Boston I've run as an MVS member, and I have to say that the best thing is seeing all of the happy MVS faces at the start!
LT: Getting to Hopkinton, (for me) was a bit complicated. My group was loading at around 9:15am, then we left 10 minutes later. We ended up getting lost on the way there (no fault of our bus driver) she was simply following the lead bus, luckily we got back on track and made it to Hopkinton in time. When we arrived, everyone got off the bus, made the 0.7 mile walk to the starting line (longest walk of my life), stretched, used the porta potties, and just go.
What surprised you on along the route? How did you feel throughout the race?
LC: The course felt the same as always in most ways. One major difference was that the road was never congested. The scream tunnel at Wellesley was louder and better than I've ever experienced. I think that the entire course had more spectators and they were even more enthusiastic than ever before because they missed the marathon last year and they were happy to be able to do it again.
KL: I felt great! Since I mapped out the route myself and trained on the course I knew every uphill, downhill and turn. I think this helped me prepare both mentally and physically. After long runs that didn't feel great or where I had a portion that I struggled mentally I could analyze and plan for how to make it better on the next training and on the big day. I think my training paid off. I wasn't fast but I enjoyed every minute of the run!
LT: I was surprised by the many hills at the beginning of the race. I knew there were going to be hills but I didn't expect them at the beginning. From Hopkinton to Natick, I felt great, my body was holding up pretty well throughout that time. It wasn't until I reached Wellesley that I started feeling the effects of the race. My knees, calves, shins, and quads started to hurt and I knew I had to readjust my pace for the rest of the way.
What challenges did you face? Any particularly tough miles or times that didn't go as planned?
LC: I kept reminding myself that I just wanted to soak it all in and really imprint this day in my memory. Many of my Bostons were long ago so that is a blur, and I generally focused on racing. This time, knowing that it will most likely be my last one, I really wanted to take it all in. I have neuromas in my feet and for some reason this time they started to give me shooting nerve pain in both feet at about mile 18. I had to stop at the med tent at the top of heartbreak hill where a wonderful young PT massaged both feet which felt so much better. The pain came back in the 20's so I had to stop and do it again. Anyone who's had Morton's neuroma pain knows what I'm talking about! I was fortunately able to finish strong and the crowd definitely carried me through!
KL: The last 6 miles were definitely tough, especially the uphills but even the long flat stretch from Andover into North Andover along High Street and Waverly Road. My legs were pretty tired so I was doing a mix of running and walking. My brother joined me for this stretch which was so helpful.
LT: From mile 17 to the finish was the toughest. The Newton hills was the last real challenge of the race, it was 3 miles of hills that included Heartbreak Hill. By then, my body was hurting, so I ended up walking up the majority of the way. But the crowds were amazing and they gave me the rush of adrenaline that I needed to get up that hill.
What was your favorite part of the experience or the run itself?
LC: I can't say that I have a favorite because start to finish it is all incredibly awesome. It is THE BOSTON MARATHON! and so many people want to run it so I just feel an enormous sense of gratitude for being one of the lucky participants. The crowd is definitely the most amazing aspect of the race. Norma reminded me to put my name on duct tape on my shirt and I would recommend that everyone does this! People were cheering me on by name the entire race. It definitely helps! The girls at Wellesley are like no other experience and they were in rare form this year. Seeing all of my MVS friends at the start and Tom Licciardello at the finish! Thank you so much to the Super Secret Committee for giving me the chance to run on Monday after having qualified and missing the cutoff. I hope that I represented you well!!
KL: My favorite part was my family and so many friends came out to cheer us on. I knew where some would be but others were at surprise locations. They definitely kept me motivated and smiling! We stopped and chatted and took pictures which added to my time but was well worth it. Shout out to all the Striders who helped us out...
My husband, Jeff, and daughters Zoe and Emmy along with Andrea's husband Tim and daughter Iris were amazingly supportive. They brought us water and snacks all along the route, coordinated our after party and also put up with our training schedule! Janice Phillips, Margi Johnston, and Liz & Meredith MacIver were in the early crew with fantastic signs at miles 6 and 8. Patty & Scott Landers gave us a boost at the NA Common. We had a bathroom pit stop at Crissy Lippman's house at the half. Not only had she decorated her door and bathroom mirror but left us treats including the tastiest apple slices & peanut butter. Josh Giles surprised us around mile 14 and ran us into the common where a huge crowd was waiting including Crissy Lippman and Marcie DiLorenzo. They were cheering on some of the youth MVSers who were completing their 5 mile so it was fun to see all of them pushing for level 3 while we were doing the same. My dad, Bob Stamm, was at several points including mile 23 where he joined in for a walk up Main Street. And the best part of all was doing it with Andrea Holmberg! I'm so glad she convinced me to sign up and grateful for her support and guidance.
LT: Just being able to run the Boston Marathon is an honor itself. The experience was for me, is once in a lifetime opportunity. From the spectators, the volunteers, the medical staff, the Framingham train station, the Wellesley scream tunnel, Heartbreak Hill, the whole route, everything. It was a wonderful day. I started shedding tears when I saw the two most famous directions (right on Hereford, left on Boylston) and when I cross that finish line, every emotion came pouring out because I just ran in one of biggest road races in the world.
I just want to say congratulations to everyone that ran Boston (virtual or in person) you all did a wonderful job. To Tom Licciardello, thank you for the opportunity! For that, I'm forever grateful.
LC: New York November 7!!
KL: An in person marathon! Possibly Boston or New York
LT: Right now, I'm just going to enjoy this and start to think about the next marathon. Who knows, I might be able to do it again in six months.