There are bigger and faster marathons in the world. But there remains something religious about Boston; the qualifying, tradition, storied history and screaming locals. It’s the marathoner’s holy grail and an experience of a lifetime!
What’s so special about Boston?
- It’s the world’s oldest annual marathon first run in April 1897, having been inspired by the revival of the marathon in the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.
- It has a long and storied history including the famed story of Kathrine Switzer, the first female to finish this race officially in 1967 against all odds. Her bib number 261 forever a symbol of fearlessness.
- In most cases you have to qualify. The Boston qualifying standard drives many people throughout their careers as a mark of achievement. There are also spots for charity and travel partners (around 20% of the field). It’s long been a coveted goal amongst distance runners to earn their place in this historic event.
- When it comes to on-site media coverage for a single-day sports event, only the Superbowl gets more attention.
The race starts in the rural New England town of Hopkinton. It weaves its way through Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline and ends in Boston. Whilst it’s a net downhill course in my opinion it is really an undulating from the start.
One of the most endearing aspects of this race is the small towns it winds through. The people come out in force and embrace this annual tradition with BBQs, drinks, posters and support for the runners. Whilst it’s a major marathon it has a small town feel and you are welcomed and supported throughout the whole event.
There are two stand out sections of the course. The Wellesley scream tunnel situated outside an all girls college where hundreds of screaming college students hold kiss me signs and scream the town down. Let me tell you the male runners take absolute advantage of the free kisses!
The second famed section of the course is the Newton Hills the last of which is Heartbreak Hill. These hills are long sections of uphill running from 18-30km. To be honest I felt the whole course was undulating and so I didn’t notice the hills as much as I expected to except of course for the famed heartbreak hill. At this stage every spectator is yelling out that it’s all downhill from the top (not technically correct a few more undulations left).
I had a wonderful time in Boston seeing RMA from all over the world, doing a city tour and going to a Red Sox game. Unfortunately I never quite got into the time zone. The day of the race I had about an hour sleep the night before and I was just exhausted. I was so tired I felt nauseous just leaving the hotel.
It was torrentially raining with lightning and thunder as I walked towards the buses where I met my friend Jen. The buses leaked water so we were rained on all the way to the start.
The athletes village was wet and muddy. We didn’t have a lot of time so a quick toilet and change of shoes and clothing and we were off. From the first step I knew my game plan was just to get to the finish line and soak up the event. I wanted to smile the whole time and I wanted to remember every detail. I knew I was running slow so I stopped looking at my pace and just checked occasionally the kms.
There was so much support and love for Aussie runners which is something I have experienced everywhere in the world. My heart fills with pride to wear our flag on my cheek and as is my tradition with all international events, I wear a flag of the country I’m running in on the other cheek. We are one international running community and I’m proud to be part of that.
As I took the famous left on to Boylston St and saw the finish line on April 15 my heart was full. For many years I dreamed that one day I could run down this famous street and cross that finish line.
I’m no one special. I’m a mum of three, a wife, a lawyer. I started running 6 years ago after having my third child. I’m not particularly fast and I’m certainly not the type of runner that stands out in a crowd. I want each of you to understand that because it’s important for me to explain that if I can YOU can too! Dream big and be fearless in your pursuits. Open your hearts to the support of our running community. Build deep friendships and embrace being part of our community of strong Mums that can and will. That’s what gets you to Boston.
Chasing the Unicorn
Jack Fleming, the BAA’s chief operating officer sums it up best:
“The unicorn is a mythological figure that is meant to be pursued, but, in that pursuit, you never catch it. So it inspires you to continue to try — to race harder in the case of running — and though it may be elusive, it really is the pursuit of the unicorn that makes you better and better and better.”