Boston Marathon 2013 Race Recap

By Carissa

If ever there was a race that was full of possibility and promise it was the 2013 Boston Marathon.  I had trained harder than ever before.  I was ready to race smart and excited about the potential of a new big PR.  I had two of the BEST ROOMMATES ever and we were having such a fun time soaking in our first Boston experience.
Holly, myself and Devon on marathon morning 

Monday morning we rose at five.  I felt good.  I was rested, excited that it was finally race day and not overwhelmed with typical race nerves.  We set about getting ready for the race and headed to the subway without a hitch.  Once we got to the Boston Commons stop I stepped into a Dunkin Donuts to grab a bagel.  (Side note about food: I started my morning with my typical coffee and granola with almond milk.  My plan was to have a bagel and sip some water with Nuun a few hours later to top my stomach off before my 10:20am race start.)  Next, we hopped in line for the bus ride that would take us to Hopkinton where the race begins.
Waiting for the bus at the Boston Commons

An hour later we were getting off our bus.  I happened to recognize a runner a few feet ahead of me.  It was Tia from Arkansas Runner Mom.  When we got inside Holly, Devon and I camped out with Tia and her friend Tish.  It was a crisp sunny morning.  I spent plenty of time standing in line for port-o-potties which RUN OUT OF TOILET PAPER.  It turns out this is to be expected.  At one point the man behind us dug into his bag and pulled out a full roll saying he was prepared for that to happen.  We also used sharpie to write our names down our arms so the crowd could cheer for us by name.
Camped out at Hopkinton
Let's do this!

Before I knew it we were making the longish walk to the starting line.  I felt ready.  If anything, I was too calm.  Maybe it was all of the prayers that were being lifted up on my behalf.  I found Amanda from Runninghood in my starting corral.  We chatted briefly and before I knew it we were starting.  It felt surreal as we slowly made our way toward the starting mat.  The course was packed.  
A map of the course.  Note the changes in elevation.

Keeping to my “start out conservatively” plan (full race day strategy here) I started running without any desire to weave through the crowds.  Passing would have been impossible had I tried anyway.  We were packed in tight!  The first mile beeped on my watch and I was disappointed to see 7:58.  I wanted to run between 7:30 and 7:35 for the first half of the race.  Loosing 30 seconds off my goal right at the start was discouraging but I felt like I had no choice in the matter.  The next few miles went smoothly.  It was still really crowded but the down hill allowed me to hit my paces.  A word about the downhill: it’s tempting to start the race and go out too fast on the downhill.  This is hard on your legs and will come back to haunt you later in the race.  I had been advised again and again to start out slow so I played it safe.

Miles 1-4: 7:58, 7:37, 7:34, 7:26 (Gu)

The next part of the race opened up a bit more and it was up to me to settle into a pace.  I kept my eye out for other runners around me.  I wanted to find someone holding my pace who I could follow.  I never found my person and I was having a hard time maintaining a steady pace.  Beyond my pacing concerns the experience was amazing.  I kept tearing up at the surge of emotions I was feeling to actually be there running the Boston Marathon.  From the start the crowd support is unlike anything I’ve experienced before.  Each mile I ran my heart was filling bit by bit with the support from the crowd.

Miles 5-8: 7:46, 7:22, 7:33, 7:37 (Gu)

The next set of miles is where I saw my race fall apart.  I had been sticking to my plan to Gu every four miles.  On even miles I was alternating water and Gatorade.  During mile nine I felt a wave of dizziness.  My first thought was maybe I need more electrolytes in my system.  I’d better make sure to choose Gatorade at the next aid station.  I didn’t spend too much time dwelling on it at the time but feeling off at mile nine of a marathon is not familiar territory for me.

My next bump in the road came around mile eleven.  My stomach was upset and I needed a bathroom.  Lovely.  I saw a row of four port-o-potties and figured I’d better make a stop.  Then I saw someone waiting because they were all occupied.  As if stopping for the bathroom mid-race wasn’t bad enough now I needed to wait.  I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I kept running.  I took a quick assessment of how my stomach was feeling.  Was it going to get much worse if I kept going?  I didn’t like that gamble.  I turned around and jogged back over to the port-o-potties.  Once inside one I heard my watch beep onto auto pause mode.  At that point I knew I had lost track of my overall time.

I stepped out of the bathroom feeling defeated.  I thought about all of the friends I knew running the race with the intent of soaking in the atmosphere.  I wanted to join them.  Here I was stuck in the middle: not running the race I wanted to run but not running for fun either.  At this point I also knew I wasn’t hitting the paces I wanted to hit AND I wasn’t feeling like I had been holding back.  I also felt bad for all the support I had back home.  I knew they would be following my progress and feel concerned for me to not be hitting my pace goals.  

Feeling sorry for me yet?  I was feeling sorry for myself.  Head down I went back to doing the only thing I knew how: carrying on despite it all.  Running smart, conserving and doing my best based on what my legs were going to give me that day.  

Miles 9-13: 7:38, 7:38 (dizzy), 7:40, 7:44 (auto pause/bathroom stop), 7:49, 7:48 (Gu)

The Wellesley girls must have given me some more spring in my step because my next mile was on track.  If you aren’t familiar with this part of the course the girls of Wellesley College line up with signs and offering kisses to runners.  There signs might say “kiss me I’m British,” “kiss me if you love chemistry,” or “kiss me I’m from California.”  I was entertained by the signs, cheers and runners taking them up on their offers.

Not only was the course stocked with aid stations on both sides every mile but the never ending line of spectators was ready and willing to offer aid also.  Oranges, popsicles, Vasoline, more water, Gu: it was incredible.  I couldn’t help but feel like this was a group effort.  I was the one running but the crowd was willing me onward toward the finish.

This is the point of the race when I stopped looking at my watch and ran based on feel.  I knew I would be facing the Newton hills and Heartbreak hill miles sixteen through twenty-one.  My strategy was to conserve so I didn’t feel horrible for the last 10k of the race.  

When I got to the hills I was tired but I felt capable.  I was passing other runners and thankful for playing it smart in the early miles.  When it was hard I would think about seeing my eight-year-old son at the finish line.  He had been traveling for a week with my mother-in-law and I couldn’t wait to give him a big hug at the finish.  I would tell myself, “Eight more miles until I see Lukas.”  “Seven more miles until I see my boy.”  The anticipation drove me forward.

Miles 14-21 7:35, 7:52, 7:35, 7:59 (Power gel), 7:57, 7:47, 8:00, 8:22 (Gu)
Enjoying the crowd at Boston College

With Heartbreak hill behind me I approached Boston College.  For the first time I held out my hand for high fives from the crowd.  It helped distract me from the inevitable pain of continuing to run.  I was tired but the end was so close.  Excitement from the crowd was mounting.  At the end I kicked it up a notch.  The finish line on Boylston street was the sweetest sight and I was flying into the finish.  The last .47 of the race my watch clocked me going 6:39!  Apparently I had left a little for the end.  Then again maybe I left too much.
My kick at the end

Miles 22-26.47: 7:30, 7:47, 7:54 (Gu), 7:46, 7:30, 6:39 (last .47)
I love how clearly clueless I am about the photo op at the finish

Stats from my watch: 3:24:10, 26.46 miles, 7:43 pace
Stats from B.A.A.: 3:24:58, 26.2 miles, 7:50 pace
The only celebrating I got to do on that day

What happened next was the typical post race routine.  Space blanket, finisher’s medal, food, bag pick up, hugs from my family, it was standard stuff until the bombs exploded as I wrote about here.  I was feeling disappointed about my time but also at peace about my effort.  I don’t know why my legs felt fatigued so quickly for this race but they did.  It’s hard to swallow because I can’t run a marathon every day.  Boston will likely be my only shot this year to race that distance.  However, I think as a runner it is good for me to have races that don’t go as planned.  Failures or bad runs are very much a reality of running and they make the good runs and races all the more rewarding.

It took me a long time to even be in a place to think about and process the race.  Initially all I could think about was the bombs.  April 15th, 2013, was more than the day the Boston marathon was bombed.  It was the day I ran my first Boston and I'm glad I could finally share it with my Sole Sisters.  May we all be BOSTON STRONG in our hearts.


  1. Great post! So proud of you! I held my breath the whole time I was reading it! Thanks for taking us along for the run. ;-) I didn't realize Lukas was with your mom waiting for you. It would be interesting to hear his addendum to your post. He has such a great writing voice too. Congratulations again!

    1. Thanks moriah. Yes, Lukas was there with my mother-in-law although surprisingly he didn't see any of the race. They were touring Boston while I raced. After we parted ways he was pretty close to the bombs so he got swept up in the crowd of people trying to get away from the finish area. :(

  2. Thank you for sharing your first Boston experience Carissa! I didn't realize that you had to stop for the bathroom. Ughhh. I'm so sorry! Still, according to the official time/ Garmin time it looks like you made it a VERY speedy stop. STill, I know that was a frustration. You still ran a very fast Boston and I LOVE your pictures! That one of you giving high fives is my favorite! :-)

    1. Thanks Tia! I think my bathroom stop was partly captured on my watch since I heard it beep once I was actually in the port-o-potty but either way this is the second marathon I've had to make a quick stop. Bummer! I need to break that trend! :)

  3. I am so proud of you Carissa!!!! You ran a smart race and I think that you did fabulous. Loved all of your race pictures, your smile is contagious!

    1. Thanks Tasha. I'm excited for your marathon right around the corner!

  4. I am so proud of you, Carissa! It sounds to me like you raced a really smart race. A few things did not go as planned, but you can't help that. It's part of the learning curve. I am impressed with your race!
    The course is so deceptive. I see the course profile there and it looks like it would be easy, but it is not. How often do we train running 18-20 miles downhill? It is tough on the quads!
    I can only imagine how great it was to find your son at the finish line. I want to run next year, if I can qualify, but will miss my family terribly if i go.
    Thanks for posting your report. I think the next full is going to be another BIG PR. :)

    1. Thanks Raina. You always have an encouraging word to share. I live on a hillside so I am very thankful for the runs I did that wend down, down, down and then up, up, up. If I return next year I'll make sure to keep practicing on those hills. I can't imagine what Boston is like for people who don't train on hills! I hope we will both be running it next year. I didn't find being away from my family to be too hard. It's nice (and refreshing) to have a girl's weekend now and then!