SiS Ambassador Marcus Brown tells us of the trials and tribulations of marathon running and why Boston 2018 was particularly hard. Having now conquered all the major marathons what will he do next?
“Yes it was nearly 90°F in the 2012 marathon…but it wasn’t anything like the Boston 2018, which legit had the worst weather for thirty years…”
Is an argument I’m sure many of the finishers will be using for the next twenty plus years!
There’s always that moment you internally roll your eyes listening to a runner droning on about how difficult their race was. Blah blah…
And you think, this is totally first world problems, as no one has made you do it. Despite nodding in agreement, you have the smallest smidgen of sympathy for them
Well I dislike that person too! But unfortunately I’m going to be that person for this article but do bear with me!
The organisers were on the front foot informing the runners of the weather conditions, the risk of hypothermia and the need to dress appropriately. When you see the elites covered with a hat, gloves, windbreakers etc. then you know that today is not a day to run in a race singlet!
I, like all runners, prayed for better conditions, and watched the daily weather reports hoping, but that miracle never came. As soon as I left the hotel I was immediately welcomed by the direct headwinds, sub zero temperatures and torrential rain.
I wore my bib number on my spibelt just in case the weather improved and I could take off my windbreaker, but that moment never came, and neither did it for Desiree Linden, the women’s winner.
Wrapped up in my outer foil layer I headed down to Boston Common to take the bust to the start in Hopkinton.
At this point my lightweight ASICS DS23 trainers were already soaking wet, and felt like two concrete weights on my feet. Usually on the way to a race I go through ,my pre-marathon checks to to get focused
Whilst shivering on a cold bus, I just had to keep my spirits up, by telling bad jokes and being upbeat, whilst internally preparing myself to get through today’s slog fest. All whilst knowing that precious energy for the race was being burned up keeping me warm pre-race through shivering.
Once I got off the bus, the areas with the tents looked like a scene at Glastonbury, mud everywhere, and disposable ponchos for as far as the eye could see.
since Chicago, I had put in months of solid training. I had dropped my PB times with sub 20min 5k, sub 40min 10k and sub 90min half marathon times.
My goal was to really reduce my marathon time with my A,B,C targets.
But the weeks leading up to the race I had a knee injury which I hadn’t fully shaken off. My knee was strapped up with KT tape and I felt ok to go and see what I could do, knowing it could go at any time.
My jaw was chattering, I was shivering and my shoes were soaked. In the crowded walk to the start line in Hopkinton the following truths became apparent.
- • Today wasn’t about thriving, but it was about surviving.
- • Today was about getting to Boylston Street as quickly as possible before the hypothermia set in.
I had a pre-race plan, of how I was going to treat the course. But from the early miles, that went out of the window.
Before halfway I couldn’t run fully due to my knee injury, but I wasn’t going to quit. With my stride starting to fail me and the weather continuing to be unrelenting I had to go into a dark place mentally to run that race.
I remember watching a video of the former US Navy Seal David Goggins.
One of the many things he’s said, that got me through when he had to qualify for the Badwater ultra, midpoint through the qualifying race, he was physically in bad shape and had to regroup mentally before finishing. And whilst running he told himself that he was the baddest dude on the planet. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. But it was an example of his mind leading the body in tough moments. What it came down to essentially was choosing faith over fear.
I used that as a mantra, I had to go to a dark place and remind myself that I was crossing the finish no matter what.
I had to block everything out and focus on the essentials. I had to embrace being physically and mentally uncomfortable throughout.
The only way to describe it was, I had accepted it was raining externally, but it wasn’t raining internally in my mind. As such even though the crowd were amazing, I was so focused on putting one foot in front of the other, that I didn’t really pay attention to the crowd support as much as I would had liked.
The Newton Hills. Wow! Mile 18… you definitely made your presence known to my quads… To be honest after the hype I didn’t even realise Heartbreak hill was over until I saw the signs.
After mile 21 I was hoping for downhill to the finish, but it was undulating to the end which was tough going.
I passed the Citgo sign knowing it was a mile to go, at which point my knee was in a lot of pain.
Then taking a right on Hereford and left on Boylston…
I saw my friends Ralph and Bobby cheering me on before I crossed the line and stopped my Suunto watch. I immediately started shivering and hobbling to the medal area to grab my pre made SiS Rego + Recovery shake.
I remember one of the medical assistants asked if I was ok, my immediate reply was straight to the point “No my knee is f**ked but I need to get my medals!”
I then picked up the famous Boston and six star medals for an emotional moment at the end of a journey.
My seventeenth marathon was the hardest marathon of my life. With a challenging rolling course coupled with the fact the weather was the worst seen at this event for over thirty years. Due to direct headwinds, coupled with sub zero temperatures, torrential rain throughout and injury.
Despite this somehow I had PB’d from 3:35 to 3:28.
Being a runner my sense of reality was skewed shortly after crossing the finish line.
I had trained since Chicago seven days a week up to 70 miles a week at my peak, and I was disappointed with my finish time.
It wasn’t until I could see that the finish times for the elites was the slowest since the 70s, plus the amount of elite runner drop outs, coupled with the many others that didn’t DNF due to hypothermia etc.
When the reality of the situation set in, I actually started being kinder to myself. The race conditions slowed everyone’s race times down, but despite this I ran my best time to date.
Without using cliches… Reflecting on the journey and growth from the six star finish, starting in London 2010 with 4:55 and finishing in Boston 2018 with a PB of 3:28 is proud moment, which I’m still trying to get my head around.
This achievement represents something more special than a medal. It shows how limiting self belief can hold us back. After I ran London and Berlin I thought there was no way that someone like me could be a six star finisher.
A friend ran NYC and told me how amazing it was I decided I was going to enter. And the six star journey snowballed from there. This journey has shown me that we can be greater than the limiting self beliefs which we are told, or believe about ourselves.
Boston 2018 thank you for the lessons!