The 2018 Boston Marathon will, like the 1976 Boston Marathon, go down as a historical event. The wind, the rain, the sleet, the constant pounding made for one hellacious marathon. But, in discussions with coaches, athletes and observers, I see five important lessons to learn from this years’ Boston marathon.
Yuki Kawauchi battling the elements, photo by PhotoRun.net
1. The more you race Boston, the more you learn about the course.
Desi Linden has run the Boston marathon six times as of April 16, 2018. That experience, that knowledge of how ones’ body responds to the course, the downhills, the uphills and the competition. Desi Linden has seen everthing on the Boston course. Over the weekend, Desi noted, ” I love the Boston marathon. It is THE marathon. I love the course. The Boston marathon is why I am still racing today.” Linden became a student of the Boston marathon. She knew about the races that preceded her. She had lost by two seconds in 2011. Desi Linden knew, in her DNA what writer John Parker called the ” Miles of Trial and the Trials of Miles.”
2. If one is patient, ones time will come.
Yuki Kawauchi is an example of this. Kawauchi ran a very cold marathon in January, and experienced conditions that could rival Boston 2018. He was with the lead pack, and he followed Geoffrey Kirui. When Kirui faltered, over miles 22, 23 and 24, Kawauchi pounced and made history, becoming the first Japanese marathoner to win Boston since Toshihiko Seko in 1987.
Bill Rodgers told the story to @runblogrun of his successful races in Boston. He noted that, until the Newton Hills, he would normally feel pretty poor, then, as he strode up the hills, he felt better and committed to the races. That feeling happened in all four of his wins.
3. Race for place, not for time.
Runners today are obsessed with times and fast times seem to rule. Funny thing is, the best racers are not always the fastest runner. Look at Meb Keflezighi. Meb won Boston and NYC. He also took silver in Athens. He never ran a 2:04 marathon. But, Meb defeated some guys who ran very, very fast. In Boston 2018, look at the top ten, athletes who learned how to stay in control, and move late in the race succeeded. The drop out rates were atrocious, yet some athletes ran fantastic races. The athletes who thrived in the carnage raced for place.
Tyler Pennel, who was fourth in the men’s race, took his coach, Pete Rea of Reebok ZAP Fitness to heart. When Pete told Tyler, the day before to run for place, not for time. Tyler did not wear his race watch, and focused on finishing well. Tyler moved from sixteen or seventeenth at midway to fourth place in the Boston race. He raced the last 10k, instead of struggling to the finish. Racing is a skill that must be honed. From the success of the American men and women in the top ten, it looks like some are taking that mantra to heart.
4. The 2018 Boston challenged marathoners both physically and mentally. Boston Strong versus Mother Nature.
If one goes over the finish rates in World Marathon Majors over the last decade, one finds finish rates of 98 percent and above, in many instances. In 2018 Boston, one saw finish rates of 95 percent, which is amazingly high, considering the day, This field of fit athletes weathered the storm surprisingly well. Marathoners can handle heat, they can also handle cold, and they did amazingly well in the cold and wind on Monday. But, there are limits on human endeavor. Some found theirs on Monday. Retiring from a race before one has hurt oneself is not something bad. One has good race days and bad race days. The prolific and thoughtful writer, Hal Higdon, once wrote for Runner’s World about having a personal best day, but also having a personal worst day. I remember having a few of those. It is a good lesson. When one can not race, finishing, if it is within one’s goals without risking health, is a good alternative.
The finisher rate in Boston proves, once again the Boston has the fittest field of any marathon in the world. It also shows that even the fittest have their limits. The Boston Globe rightly complemented the finish rate of Boston. Mother Nature tried its hardest and 95 percent of the starters finished! What an example of Boston strong.
5. The volunteers, the race management, the EMT, Police and Fire, all did their job.
A huge thanks to the management of the Boston marathon. They did their very best to warn the competitors, and did all that they could to prepare for the conditions. The volunteers, the EMTs, the Police and Fire Department, and yes, the Medical were all there. They provide an extremely important service and the knowledge for the runners that the teams are there, in case they are needed, gives competitors more confidence. The EMTs were busy yesterday as were the medical crews. Hyperthermia was the word of the day and the athletes, elite and non-elite were battling the elements. Thank god, the race management had prepared. A huge congrats to David McGillivray and his team, who did all that they could to prepare for the nightmare conditions.