Going With Plan B In Boston

By Tanya

"I am running the Boston marathon! Is this really happening?! This is exactly how I imagined it. I can't even believe this is real right now!"

These were the thoughts swirling through my mind as I started my very first Boston Marathon. All the years of work, training and planning had come down to this very moment and it was so surreal.

"Everything seems to be going as I imagined; maybe I can actually fulfill my plan of getting a Boston qualifying time again at Boston!"

That plan of course was Plan A. You see I am a Plan A type person, as most of those who qualify for the Boston Marathon are. We meticulously plan our training, our nutrition, our fueling, our qualifying race, even sometimes our ideal racing weight to get us to our goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I had done it all and it worked for me. Last year I qualified for the Boston Marathon. I proved to myself I had what it takes. This year was no different except for the fact that I felt like my training had improved and I was going into running Boston stronger than last year. I was even fueled by a stronger desire to get another BQ (Boston qualifying time) since two of my best running friends were going to be running their first Boston next year and I wanted to return with them.

Many of my friends had advised "Boston is a tough course to BQ at" and "This is your first Boston, you don't want to push it and not enjoy your experience". Yes, all very sound and wise advice. But this is the BOSTON FREAKIN' MARATHON! It almost feels like you have to be part of an elite club to qualify for Boston and then you are going to be running with the best of the best so you kind of have something to prove.

Nevertheless, I did know that not BQing was a possibility so I did have a Plan B which included finding a marathon six weeks after Boston. Of course I hoped to not have to run another marathon again until Boston 2018, so I neatly tucked Plan B into my mind and continued preparing for my “A” game.

I researched the Boston course for elevation gains and losses. I read the blogs of runners who had run the course to both victory and defeat. I even watched videos of the course preview which drives the entire course so you can virtually see each street, city and turn. I knew the first half of the race is mostly downhill and if you start out too fast you may not have enough left in your legs to make it through the second hilly half. My running partner Paul once again made me a bracelet of the paces per mile I would have to hit based on the Boston course to get my BQ.  I knew my pace at the start would have to be quick yet comfortable. My last long training runs I even started later in the day when I’d be starting the marathon and found courses that would emulate the same elevation losses then gains. I felt ready.

I said all the right things such as “I’m just going to go out there and see what the day brings,” but of course I hoped the day would bring all the right things including a BQ. What the day did bring however, was some unexpected hot weather! I arrived late Saturday night in Boston which only gave me one day before the race to go to the Expo and see all the sights of the finish line.

That day it was 80 degrees. All my preparations and training in 40 degree Oregon weather had not prepared me for this. Just walking to and from the Expo from my hotel left me hot and feeling dehydrated. I tried to drink a lot of water to stay hydrated. I brought long pants and compression socks to run in which just would not work in this weather, so I ended up buying light capri pants and short socks for the race the next day. Never one to give up without a fight I was not ready to concede to Plan B.  That night I made sure to continue to hydrate and memorize my pacing and fueling strategy.

When I entered the Athletes Village on marathon day the weather was 70 degrees. I stayed under the tent for shade and continued to drink water. At 10:50 when I lined up in Hopkinton to start the race it was 74 degrees. I was still determined to give Plan A a shot so I decided to do what I could to keep up my paces for the first half of the race and then evaluate after that.


The best way to describe the first few miles was like a dream come true. Everything I had seen and imagined were exactly so. As warned the runners are packed in so tightly that you are at the mercy of the pace you are seeded in. Fortunately for me the pace was pretty accurate to where I needed to be with the small amount of weaving around people I was able to do.

However by the first aid station at mile 2, I was already feeling really hot and dehydrated. I took two cups of water; one to drink and the other I dumped on top of my head. I continued this trend at every aid station which occurred every mile from then on. I was able to keep up my paces but because there is no shade along the course the temperature continued to climb and I found that the water on my head was not enough to cool me down.

 Around mile 5 I noticed spectators handing out cups of ice. As I went by I would grab some ice and stick in in my bra which seemed to have a pretty good cooling effect. I continued to stay on my paces but it certainly was not feeling comfortable.

 At mile 9 my music from my phone stopped playing. When I reached back to make sure it was still in the back pocket of my shirt I did feel my phone as well as the pool of water my phone was sitting in from all of the water I was pouring on my head. I usually put my phone in a plastic baggie when I run but today I had failed to do it. This started a mini panic attack as I thought there is no way I can afford to buy a new IPhone! I pulled out my phone and as I was running I started asking spectators alongside the road for a baggie.

Fortunately by mile 11 I found a baggie on the ground, was relived to find my phone still worked, and proud that I was still keeping my pace. Unfortunately though the whole ordeal had made me delirious because I thought I was at mile 12 and was really looking forward to making it to the half marathon mark. So when the next mile marker came up and I saw it was just the start of mile 12, I felt a little defeated. It slowed my pace a little but I continued to push it to fulfill my goal of a strong half marathon.

 When I finally crossed the half marathon mark it was 78 degrees, I was dehydrated and there was no way I could keep up my paces through the next hilly half. Needless to say Plan B was now in motion. To me Plan B was enjoy the rest of the experience and save my legs for my next marathon in six week. However, as I ran I found that Plan B started to take on a whole new meaning.

Miles 13-14: “B” Present – I slowed down and took the time to really take in all of the sights and sounds of the Boston Marathon.

Miles 15-16: “B” Silly – I enjoyed giving out high fives to all the cute kids along the course and even did the “Whip Nay Nay” splash dance with some awesome spectators blasting music and water from a hose onto runners. After that I took out my phone and started taking some videos as I was running.

Miles 17-21: “B” Encouraging. (Up the Newtown and Heartbreak Hills) At this point I became so dehydrated I was struggling take in any fuel, even water. My only saving grace was the ice I’d keep in my little cup and I’d take in tiny sips as it would melt. Other runners around me were struggling too. Many were walking and some even stopping and leaving voluntarily or involuntarily by medics off of the course. When I’d come to a struggling runner I’d encourage him or her and see if they wanted to walk/jog a bit with me.

 Miles 22-25: “B” Persistent. By this point I was one of those struggling runners. I was feeling really dizzy and my vision was going in and out. I know I looked like the walking dead from all of the sympathetic looks I was getting from spectators. I started to have doubts and feel like a poser. How could I be a Boston Qualifier when I was struggling to walk a straight line? I was even regretting asking my friend Kelly to write my name on my arm and I would cringe every time a spectator would yell “Keep going Tanya, you can do it.”. I don’t remember too much through this point. I really wanted to jog but all I could muster was to put on foot in front of the other and keep moving forward.

 Mile 26: “B” Inspired. When I looked up and saw the CITGO sign signifying the last mile of the marathon I got a little boost. I once again took a video and started noticing other runners. It was then that I noticed two runners, one blind and one with a prosthetic leg pushing forward towards the finish. Their strength carried me through that mile.

 Mile 26.2 “B” Grateful. I pulled my phone out and took a video as I rounded the last corner onto the final stretch at Boylston street. The crowd was amazing and so was the feeling when I saw the finish sign in the distance. I put my phone away, put my arms in the air and sprinted across the finish line grateful to be a Boston Marathon Finisher. After I crossed the finish line and got my medal I took one last video. In the video I say how grateful I am to have made it to the finish, how grateful I am to my family for helping me achieve this dream and have this experience and how grateful I am to spot a Wendy's restaurant across the street!

Needless to say my first Boston Marathon experience was amazing! It may not have been exactly as I had imagined or planned the whole way through, but isn't that the way life is? We can dream and work and create our Plan A but maybe sometimes the bigger blessing is in the Plan B.

Mile     Pace

1          8:18

2          8:10

3          8:05

4          8:04

5          8:20

6          8:11

7          8:20

8          8:35

9          8:39

10        8:31

11        8:45

12        8:36

13        8:51

14        9:11

15        9:20

16        9:44

17        11:03

18        12:47

19        11:28

20        15:03

21        15:53

22        13:50

23        17:17

24        15:12

25        15:31

26        15:41

26.2     9.20

Total Time: 4:45:35

1 comment:

  1. this was great to read about, Tanya! running is such an isolating space, or at least it can be, and it's great to get to share some of your experience. super proud of you for making it to Boston and finishing the race!