The 115th Boston Marathon: April 18, 2011

by Joanne on April 19, 2011

Awake at 4 waiting for the alarm to go off at 5 am. Phase I:  Get on the hotel shuttle to Boston Common where the buses waited to take runners to Athletes Village.  

My starting time was at 10:40 am.  It was difficult knowing what I would do with all my time and I didn’t want to eat a lot.  I never do before a race, but knew I needed something more than just my standard banana with peanut butter and a Snickers Marathon Bar.  I took a bite of a toasted Ezekiel Bagel (gluten free) which I had toasted on Saturday morning.  It was dry, soft and somewhat stale but one of the few things I felt safe eating.  I would eat the banana and Marathon Bar at 8:30 am, 2 hours before the start of the race and nibble at the bagel up to the race (I ended up eating about 1/4 of it).

Ted helped me put on sunscreen.  I rubbed Arnica Gel on both my hamstrings.  My bib number was on, fuel gels (4) of them plus a 5-Hour Energy drink, sports beans, candied ginger slices and my cell phone were packed in my green bag that would eventually be handed over to the buses for the finish of the race. I left for the lobby at 6 am.  *Ted was going to ride his bike as far as he could along the course.

There were a lot of people in the lobby.  We all sat on the floor and talked, finding out about each other and eyeing each others bib numbers to determine who was in what wave, impressed by the lowest bib numbers. One girl, in Wave 2, the 15000 range, had only done up to 14 miles as her long run due to injuries over the winter. She was nervous about the race.  It was her 6th marathon.

Suddenly, everyone got up and we headed out the door, expecting to see the shuttle.  There was no shuttle.  Who made the false call?!  We were perfectly content inside where it was warm.  We waited 15 more minutes outside for the shuttle to Boston Common (Tremont side).

The hotel bus dropped us off a block from the Common.  There were lines of buses and people. 

Boston Marathon Phone Pics2

This was going to take FOR – EV-ER!  I headed for the porta-potty since I had read what a long ride it was to Athletes Village.  Besides, the porta-potty would block the wind.  How long could I manage to stay in there?!

The line for the buses to Athletes Village moved right along, barely allowing us to stand still for very long.  It was cold and windy but I had a fleece shirt on with knit pants and ended up covering my head with my Humane Society blanket (actually Shane’s blanket but he let me borrow it  Winking smile ).  I was on the bus and amazingly calm.  Where were my nerves?! I looked out over the sea of people.  Some had first wave bibs on but didn’t seem panicked.  They had been through this before.

Boston Marathon Phone Pics

It was a long ride to the Village. The buses got on route 90, we passed the Sheraton in Framingham. I thought “My Gosh! I’m on the road back to Utica!”.  It seemed such a long way.  Luckily it was only a fleeting thought of running all the way back.  Heak! What was I doing?!!

The bus was alive with conversation.  Once again, we all exchanged stories and got to know details about our race history, training, trials, tribulations. So far, the morning was just flying by.

Athletes Village, 8:40 am.

Boston Marathon Phone Pics3

A mass of people milling around everywhere. 

Boston Marathon Phone Pics5

It was wide open, still windy, but sunny.  There were tents but they didn’t block the wind.  Power Bars were available as were bagels, coffee and water.  A small tent offered last minute Vaseline to prevent potential chafing.

I had a seat cushion with me to sit on while waiting for my wave to be called but I was restless so I got up and in line for the porta-potty.  That porta-potty line seems to be my “go-to” place on race day.  The first wave was being called “Red Bib colors”.   Music played as the loud speaker announced the time, lost people, found items, and so on.  He reported a “bunny-ear” sighting.  His jokes made me laugh. 

It was 9:30 and I found a dry spot to sit down with my cushion, huddled under my blanket with socks on my hands.  I put my cell phone in my fuel belt (which was only a one pocket belt that held my sports beans and candied ginger, no liquid holder, but a small “purse” for my phone), my gel pack in my shirt pockets as well as the 5 Hour energy.  At 10 AM Wave 3 was called.  There were still white bibs (Wave 2) walking around.  I was in no rush to hand over my warm clothes to the buses but it had to be done.  It very easy finding the bus with my bib number category.  A girl hung out the window ready to take my bag.  All that was left was to get to the starting line, a .7 mile walk.  I took my time, wishing I had kept the blanket wrapped around my legs to keep me warm.  I could have handed it off to the people taking discarded clothing. 

By the time I was in the coral, there were only 4 minutes until the start. I thought how quickly the morning was flying by.  The organization was outstanding. Not a glitch so far.  Garmin on.  GO!

10:40 AM and my feet were already running.  There wasn’t the usual start-stop routine in big races.  It was immediate running.  The first 5K was a struggle even though I was running fast.  My legs were heavy and the usual thoughts of “why am I doing this?”  entered my mind.  Someone said:  “.2 miles done, 26 to go.” 

My Boston Marathon Experience:

Crowds were already lining the street. I kept hearing people call out the name “AMY”.  This went on for miles.  It finally dawned on me that Amy wasn’t just a really, really popular girl, she had her name on her shirt and everyone was reading out her name, cheering her on.  There was also a “Fiona” and a “Kerry”, “Dana Farber”  Winking smile, “Wal-Mart” .. other names and charities being called out.  The first 5K past quickly.  I glanced at my Garmin and had just completed the fastest 5K of my life, 24:56.

The course was rolling.  There were the down hills but I found it more rolling than down hill.  My legs were ok with it.  I stayed slightly left or right of the middle of the road.  I had read so much about the course, I looked for different landmarks along the way. At mile 2 was TJ’s Food and Spirits.  I tossed my long sleeve shirt since my body had finally warmed up.

I completely missed Framingham. My focus at that point was to run across a series of railroad tracks, knowing that this was the area where the course would flatten out and I should try to run at pace or at least find a comfortable, even stride.  

I looked for the Lake and knew I was in Natick, more rolling terrain, although nothing extreme.  My first Clif Mocha Gel at mile 5 1/2.

Wellesley followed Natick but my mind kept jumping ahead.  I was actually looking FORWARD to reaching the challenging Newton Hills. It was all I could think about.  As each mile past, I got more excited to see how my body would take those hills.  But back to Wellesley…  I took my 5 hour energy drink.

Yes the girls were screaming. It was a fun portion of the course.  I kept to the left to watch the guys enjoy the kisses.   There was a young college guy holding a sign that was amusing “WITH THAT MUCH STAMINA, I WANT TO MEET YOU!”.  

*Ted was on his bike and made it to Wellesley before having to turn back to make it to the finish line to meet me.  These are the photos he took along the route.

The military marching in full pack and leading the way.


In the lead at this point, until this gal tripped and sprained her ankle, then her dream was over.


The elite women


Cresting the hill


Ryan Hall leads the pack at this point


Mile 19 and hoofin’ it.


He took a photo of the Citco sign although he saw it a lot farther off than I did.


The finish area and the mass of people


Back to my race:

Mile 14 scared me.  My legs began to feel like jelly.  My thought was “Oh no! I’ve gone out too fast and now I’m going to bonk really early.”  Even though I didn’t have a gel scheduled for this point, I thought it would be wise to take one.  I had a Clif fruit gel (no caffeine) as soon as I came to the water/Gatorade station.  My face felt hot so instead of water, I had Gatorade which I splashed all over me. Sticky, sticky, sticky.   *I NEVER stop at aid stations.  I can’t.  I jog through, afraid that if I stop, I won’t get going again. I don’t want to lose that forward momentum.

Mile 16. I think I smiled at this point, knowing I was ready. The first hill is at about 16 1/2 near route 128 although I don’t think it’s considered a “Newton Hill”.  The first long yet not steep Newton Hill is at about 17 1/2 .  I remembered a tip about using my arms to get up those hills, and I did.  Continuing to go up and down and thinking this really isn’t that bad. I’m still running and I have no desire to walk.  But there were quite a lot of people walking.  One guy asked a girl,  “was that Heartbreak? are we over it?”.  She said “No. There’s another section”.  At mile 18 1/2, it was time for the Turbo Clif Shot. That was my 100 mg shot of caffeine.  It would have to take me to the finish.  I knew I could do it. Nothing was hurting. My body was numb. 

It seemed like there were porta-potties and aide stations everywhere. There was no shortage of water or Gatorade, fuel gels, and bars.  Kids were handing out frozen ice sticks, ice cubes, pretzel rods, all sorts of food.  The support was OUTSTANDING! Food, Fuel, and SPIRIT! Everything a runner needs to keep going.

Unfortunately, I had to make a pit stop at mile 22.  I really don’t think it messed up my time too much because after that stop, I pushed on a little faster for a few minutes which I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t stopped. I was relaxed.  Physically, I was tired so I slowed down and sped up, kind of playing  a game with myself.  People were walking.  I couldn’t understand it because we were SO CLOSE… just push through.  The discomfort wasn’t going to last long. Such a short time. Do it!  In fact, “YOU CAN DO IT” was written in the middle of the road in quite a few places up those hills and there after.  The crowd at this point, were yelling “You’ve got this!”  “You’re almost there”.   Great support.

I looked up and WHAM!  There was the Citgo sign.  It came up on me so suddenly.  I had been looking forward to seeing it on the course, knowing that I would almost be home but then COMPLETELY forgotten about it during the race.  There it was. FANTASTIC!   

*By the way, the course is still offering it’s little hills here and there so when everyone says “it’s all down hill and flat from Heartbreak”, don’t believe them.  But then, I might just be hill sensitive.

I was pushed to the right by other runners and took a sharp turn onto Hereford Street. This was it. I knew the corner up ahead was going to make me laugh or cry.  Up hill and to the left onto Boylston Street.  The big blue finish sign with the glowing yellow letters, I could see it.  I wanted to sprint but couldn’t.  I was passing people but not getting there fast enough. 

The turn onto Boylston Street to the finish line was the longest stretch in the entire race.  It seemed to take me forever to reach the finish.  I held my arms up, crossed the line and couldn’t believe it. Was that it? Did I just run the Boston Marathon?  I looked at my Garmin: 

Boston Marathon Phone Pics4

Oh My Gosh!  1 minute off from my goal time!  Can you even believe there was a fleeting NANO-SECOND of disappointment?! Then I came to my senses and knew I had done it.

Exact time and stats…


I PR’d for my 5k. Not so good on the 10K.  PR’d for my half… and finished 23 seconds slower than my BQ.  I’m one happy runner.

The Finish:

You can’t be in a rush after the race. You move slowly to get your space blanket.  Someone puts a sticker on the blanket to hold it together.  You keep walking where you get your medal. You see people sitting and crying.  People in wheel chairs.  The medics calling for more wheel chairs, water.  You’re given a plastic bag with a bagel, potato chips, fruit cup, Gatorade Recovery drink, another bottle of water, and a PowerBar Recovery snack.  Bananas are handed out.  People were eating but all I could think about was getting my bag, getting my Ginger Ale (I felt so nauseous), and getting my sandals on because my feet hurt. 

Funny thing about the marathon and this is why I won’t stop and walk: 

I get tired. I slow down. I speed up as I recover. This happens mile after mile.  Sometimes the desire to quit is so great and I have to remind myself how much I want this.  My go to mantra is “this is just a small amount of time in the rest of the day, you can do this”.  It’s true. The aches or pains are only temporary.  My body goes numb.  I continue running.  As soon as I cross the finish line, within a minute, my legs begin to ache, my feet throb and I feel sick to my stomach.  That didn’t happen when I made a pit stop.  Was it because my brain knew the race wasn’t over? It didn’t allow my body to feel the stress it was under until the job was done.    Our bodies are amazing machines.  And the brain says…”Thanks for coming through for me once again. “

The marathon begins as a mental and physical challenge:  Mental because you’re questioning yourself, thinking “26 plus miles to go. Can I do it?”. Physical because you have to convince your legs and your body that it wants to go that distance. Everything is heavy and you wonder how you will make it.   The race turns into a physical challenge as you get tired, the 18 – 20 mile mark.  Now the mental race begins. Somehow you have to talk yourself into moving forward, reminding yourself of the goal and how badly you want it.  If you enjoy challenging yourself, exceeding limits you wondered if you were capable of, you should run a marathon.  You always have more energy than you think you have.

As I wrote the other day…

The ultimate challenge of body and mind.

Months, weeks, days, hours of preparation, mental and physical.

Enjoying every small success along the way.

When the day finally arrives, you’re prepared.

Push past the doubts, fears.

Have Faith. Confidence. Strength.

Don’t give into peer pressure when others around you walk, quit.

This day is all about you.

Want it badly enough to numb yourself to the onset of aches, pains.

Know that what you are experiencing is just a short period of time in the

rest of your day, in the rest of your life.

You can do it.

Move forward and don’t stop until you reach your goal.

You see it ahead. It’s so close but physically seems so far.

You did it. You can believe it. You left it all out there but now you own it.


Ted and I enjoyed our own little celebration in Little Italy.  We had wine, ate a lot of gourmet Italian and walked towards the water front.  I finally felt like I deserved to wear my jacket.


April 18th, 2011. 115th Boston Marathon.  3 hours, 47 minutes, 14 seconds.

Average (official)pace: 8:40

Mile Stats:

Mile 1: 8:09
Mile 2: 7:55
Mile 3: 7:51
Mile 4: 7:44
Mile 5: 8:10
Mile 6: 8:07
Mile 7: 8:02
Mile 8: 8:06
Mile 9: 8:02
Mile 10: 8:21
Mile 11: 8:25
Mile 12: 8:12
Mile 13: 8:14
Mile 14: 8:26
Mile 15: 8:33
Mile 16: 8:05
Mile 17: 8:37
Mile 18: 7:53
Mile 19: 9:23
Mile 20: 9:02
Mile 21: 9:06
Mile 22: 8:52
Mile 23: 9:12
Mile 24: 9:12
Mile 25: 8:15
Mile 26: 7:43
.2: 9:40
Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  • At 2011.04.19 21:48, kalli said:

    i am in awe joanne! what a great average pace for 26 miles! thank you for such an amazing recap! congrats you rock!

    • At 2011.04.20 17:12, Joanne said:

      Thanks Kalli

      • At 2011.04.19 23:13, Bela said:

        OMG what an amazing race report and it must have been such an amazing experience! Thanks for sharing! Hoping one day I will be able to run Boston!

        • At 2011.04.20 17:13, Joanne said:

          I know you’ll be there one day and clocking a great time.

          • At 2011.04.20 00:21, The Green Girl said:

            That was a really well written race report. I felt like I was right there with you the entire time.


            • At 2011.04.20 17:14, Joanne said:

              It was a great event. There’s even a 5K on Sunday that everyone can participate in.

              • At 2011.04.20 03:28, Nelly said:

                Awesome race recap! The pics are great! That is too bad about the lead woman tripping and spraining her ankle, that would be really tough to take. Glad that the race went well, seems like you really powered through it great! And that is awesome that you went to Little Italy, the italian food is great there.

                • At 2011.04.20 17:15, Joanne said:

                  I know! What a blow when you’re so far out in front then WHAM! you sprain your ankle. That has to be the worst.

                  • At 2011.04.20 08:03, Heather said:

                    Joanne – I’m so proud of you!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Way to go!
                    This recap is amazing – made me a little teary even. Thanks for sharing the story. You’re my hero. 🙂

                    • At 2011.04.20 17:15, Joanne said:

                      When your leg gets better and you get your BQ, we’ll run it together 🙂

                      • At 2011.04.20 10:06, Ann Calbi Alley said:

                        Great re-cap, Joanne! Congratulations! Wonderful time. I ran NYC Marathon in ’89, your re-cap made me smile….that feeling when you see the finish line! 🙂

                        Your big sis….

                        • At 2011.07.10 10:34, Dweezil said:

                          Created the gaertest articles, you have.

                          • At 2011.04.20 12:01, lindsay said:

                            congrats!! it slipped my mind that you were running, sorry! glad you had a great experience 🙂

                            • At 2011.04.20 12:09, Lori said:

                              All that training, all that hamstring stuff – and what a fabulous job you did! Just shave the last potty stop off your time and you beat your record 😉

                              Consider yourself an elite runner forever now!

                              • At 2011.04.20 17:16, Joanne said:

                                You know, my hamstring is 100% fine right now. I think I blew it away somewhere in those 26 miles.

                                • At 2011.04.20 13:44, the dawn said:

                                  wow! what an amazing day it was! so glad that you were able to both enjoy the atmosphere and all that the day is…while also meeting your time goals. that is amazing. and you re-qualified! which is AMAZING!!!! good work!

                                  • At 2011.04.20 15:18, Theresa @ActiveEggplant said:

                                    Awesome recap-way to go! I can’t imagine running another marathon, let alone one of the most prestigious races in the world – Good for you!

                                    • At 2011.04.20 16:04, Emily said:

                                      Wow! How so incredibly awesome! I seriously bow down to marathoners of all abilities. But one who keeps a sub-9 pace?! Good lord!! 🙂

                                      BTW – a blog I follow mentioned the “Amy” yelling as well. So funny!!

                                      I’ll think of you marathoners as I run my first half in a few weeks knowing that you went twice as far and, in a lot of cases, twice as fast. Quite the inspiration you are!!

                                      • At 2011.04.20 16:50, misszippy1 said:

                                        Joanne–Way to go!! What a fantastic race report. You really dug deep to be feeling so bad early on. You are strong!!

                                        • […] Boston Training and..drum roll please, my first marathon can be found HERE. 3:46:51, pace 8:39 BOSTON RESULTS: 3:47:14, Pace: […]

                                          • At 2011.04.20 19:08, Pam said:

                                            Great recap, you should write a book!! I am so proud of you!!
                                            Thank you for sharing your experience, it really brought me to each part of the race with you, how amazing. I was thinking of you every step of the way 🙂

                                            • At 2011.04.20 20:34, tricia said:


                                              • At 2011.04.20 21:38, Doug Welch said:

                                                Wow! Strong work Joanne! Great race!

                                                • At 2011.04.21 20:57, Sara said:

                                                  You did amazing!! Congratulations on such a strong marathon!

                                                  • At 2011.04.21 22:21, Mary said:

                                                    Congratulations. What a great blog! I felt like I was watching you run the race. It almost makes me want to sign up for a marathon. Thanks for sharing.

                                                    • At 2011.04.22 08:50, PATRICK said:

                                                      Congrats on the race…I can’t believe you PR’d for the 5k, and half…and almost hit your BQ time AT BOSTON! That’s incredible. Enjoy your recovery!

                                                      • At 2011.04.22 09:34, Shutupandrun said:

                                                        Amazing job!! And wonderful pictures. Since I didn’t bring my camera with me, I stole some of your Athlete’s village photos. You ran a fast race and I hope it was the Boston you wanted, sounds like it was. Thanks for sharing.

                                                        • At 2011.04.22 21:35, claudia lamascolo said:

                                                          Congrats on this awesome effort wished I could even try to do this!

                                                          • At 2011.04.23 17:42, Eftychia said:

                                                            Run a marathon??? I would be dead in 5′ minutes… Bravo to you!!!!!!!!

                                                            • At 2012.02.15 11:28, Training Schedules: A Look Back said:

                                                              […]  Boston training 2011: This time last year.  Highest mileage for Boston 2011 maxed out at 55 miles.This was the first time I incorporated speed work into my  training. I suffered quite a few aches and pains during the course of 16 weeks.            […]

                                                              Previous post:

                                                              Next post: