Baystate Marathon Recap

Crossing the finish line. My new favorite race photo.

Crossing the finish line. My new favorite race photo. This is basically the definition of Joyrunner. 

Yesterday was an incredible and surreal day. To think that I didn’t finish my first marathon, and now five months later I’m qualified for Boston is incredible. I’ll do my best to put it into words.

Race Day

We arrived at the start of the race at 7:00 after getting slightly lost. Our GPS took us a way that was blocked off because of the race. A few tense moments later and we were there. I stopped at the bathroom and we met up with the rest of the crew. My brother (Ian) ran the marathon and my brother-in-law (Santi) and friend (Michael) ran the half.

The temperature for the day looked to be fantastic. It started off in the low-40’s and maybe got up to 50 by the end. The wind was not ideal, but I learned that later on. Soon enough I was in the starting corral and found the 3:25 pace group. Turns out they were actually planning to run 3:23 something-something. It would be 7:45 pace. I thought, “close enough” and huddled behind them along with some other runners.

The squad on race day.

The squad on race day.

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Runners pre-race. I’m impressed that I was able to pull off a decent looking smile. I was so nervous.

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Start of the race. If you zoom in you can make me out. I’m on the far side in black with the pink gloves.

Before I knew it we were off and running. My legs were feeling great. The taper did its trick! The 3:25 group was moving as a big herd. It was comforting to have so many people to run with and I just felt like I was being pulled along. The first half of the race was pretty uneventful besides me almost tripping on a cone. Our group was so big that I couldn’t see directly in front of me. All of a sudden there was a cone right there. Luckily, I had time to hurdle it before moving farther in.

I had chucked my gloves before the hill at mile 4, but kept my arm sleeves on until the bridge. I knew that Aubrey was planning on being there and I didn’t really want to lose my arm sleeves. Luckily, I heard her cheering on the other side of the road from me, wadded up my sleeves, chucked them, and she somehow perfectly caught them! I’m impressed that my aim was that good halfway through a marathon! That put a smile on my face for a bit.

When we reached halfway I was really surprised with our time. I hadn’t been keeping perfect splits and missed some of the mile markers because we were in a big group. I was more focused on not tripping on the person in front of me than taking correct splits. We came through at 1:40-something AKA way too fast! I considered dropping back, but at that point we were running directly into the wind. I figured it would take the same amount of effort to run alone than to keep running at a faster pace.

Things started to get a little harder after halfway. I didn’t feel horrible, but my legs started to feel a bit heavy. At mile 17 when I was going up a slight rolling hill it felt like someone just pulled the plug from me. I just couldn’t keep going at that pace and fell back a bit. That’s when I felt the full effect of the wind. It was going pretty strong. I noticed it a bit when I was in the pack, but it was way worse running alone. Nonetheless, my pace was still okay and we turned across the bridge around mile 18 to head back into town.

Those last 6 miles were pure willpower. For whatever stupid reason my left calf started cramping at mile 20. In a way, I think running VCM was helpful. Although it wasn’t great for my confidence, it definitely increased my pain threshold. For those of you that don’t know, I ran VCM and crumbled under the heat of the day. After an abnormally cold winter and spring I wasn’t ready for 80 degrees come race day. The pain from that day made Baystate feel like a piece of cake! I had calf cramps during VCM and kept stopping to try and stretch them out. Honestly, I don’t think stretching did much for them, so when the same thing happened yesterday I was determined to keep running. My calf would seize up for about a quarter mile then ease up slightly, and then cramp up again about another mile out. It felt like a Charlie horse and continued like that until I crossed the finish line. It was just sheer willpower pushing me through at the end.

I made a promise with myself that I could have a celebratory dance at the finish line… or fall on the ground depending on how I felt AS LONG as I was under 3:30. In order to qualify for Boston in my age-category I had to run a 3:35. However, things have gotten really competitive in the last few years and you aren’t guaranteed a spot if you do run faster. I wanted to be under 3:30 to secure a position for Boston.

When I came around the bend and saw the clock I was ecstatic. Those last few miles were painful, but so worth it. I accomplished my longest-standing running goal: qualify for Boston. The first time I ever saw the race was when I was in 6th grade and I immediately fell in love. I couldn’t help but burst into a huge smile when I crossed the finish line. I was so excited!

My final time was 3:29:08. Like almost all runners, I’m not totally satisfied with my time. There are definitely some things I would’ve changed about my race, but I am pretty pleased with it. After all, I’d be ridiculous to be unhappy after not even finishing my first marathon. It was really nice to see my hard work pay off and run a time that I could be proud of.

In the end, good races were had all around. My brother also finished his first marathon in 3:38. Yay Ian! I’m so impressed with him! My brother-in-law also cut a huge chunk of time off his half marathon PR running a 2:12. Nice job, Santi! Ian’s friend Michael ran his first half marathon in 1:42. I didn’t see him during the race, but people said he made it look pretty easy. I’m so impressed with all of them!

Ian finishing his first marathon!

Ian finishing his first marathon!

Santiago finishing his half marathon strong!

Santiago finishing his half marathon strong!

Michael finishing his first half marathon!

Michael finishing his first half marathon!

Runners post-race

Runners post-race

Thoughts on the Race

Overall, I really enjoyed this race. Baystate is best known for its flat and fast course, which it definitely lived up to. Each year, roughly 25% of the finishers qualify for Boston. There’s a slight hill at mile 4 and 14, but they really didn’t phase me. In fact, the first time running up it I didn’t even notice the first half of the hill! Then there’s a couple of rollers around mile 6 and 16 and a dip at 24.5. Other than that, though, it really is flat. The course goes through the towns of Lowell and Tyngsboro and over a few bridges, which were very pretty.

There were aid stations about every 2 miles with water/Gatorade and gels at 7 and 17, which was great. The volunteers were fantastic – very positive. The race itself isn’t too expensive either. My family gave registration to me as a birthday gift, but if you register before September 1st it’s only $75, which is not too bad compared to most marathons nowadays. I even got this awesome finisher’s medal.

Bling Bling!

Bling Bling!

A Big Thanks!

First off, I owe my coach a huge thank you for helping me through this training cycle. After my disaster of a race in Maine there’s just no way I would’ve had the confidence to try another marathon on my own. Having someone that knows me well as an athlete and a person helped so much. Thank you, Sarah! I’m also so thankful for my race day supporters; mom, dad, Justine, Aubrey, and Caitlin. Thank you for holding my sweats and helping to calm down my nerves. I seriously couldn’t have done it without you guys! Also, thank you to all my running friends for helping to support me through these past few months; Rachel, Katie, everyone else from UVM Running Club, Dana, Ellie, Hanna, Cindy, Emily, Madeline, Julie, Elodie, and lots more! Thank you Baystate for putting on a great event! Lastly, thank you to all my readers! You guys were so supportive after my Maine race and have continued to be awesome. I love coming on here and reading all of your nice comments. I have the best supporters and I love every one of you!

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30 thoughts on “Baystate Marathon Recap

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  3. Awesome post! I got so pumped to run the marathon again reading it, the emotions before, during and after really set the marathon apart from other races, more than just the distance, I think. Not totally satisfied is a good thing in my mind, it means you’re still hungry to get better! As long as you do take some joy in what you have accomplished too, and it definitely seems that you are; with the positivity all over this post! Congrats on the PR and BQ, you’ll have no trouble getting in, see you in Hopkinton in 2016!

    • Thanks so much, Dan! Yes, the marathon really is a special event. I find there to be so much more emotion involved compared to shorter distances. Even the half marathon is such a different race. See you in Hopkinton in 2016! Can’t believe I’m actually saying that. 🙂

  4. Congratulations on your BQ Laurel! I was running with the 3:25 pace group as well; I was the guy wearing the day-glo green singlet, who’s doing the Manchester City Marathon relay in a week and a half. I hope my legs are recovered by then.

    Nice smile in your finish line photo! You seemed to have a very cheery disposition while I was running near you in the 3:25 group; thanks, it helps lighten the mood for those people around you, which isn’t always easy when trying to run a PR in a marathon. This was my third marathon, my first BQ, and a PR by almost 30 minutes.

    It’s funny reading about things from the race. I remember when you threw your arm sleeves and thinking to myself, “Wow, nice throw!”

    • Hi Pete! Glad you had an awesome race!!!! Congrats on the BQ! That’s awesome that you got such a big PR. This too was my third marathon (didn’t finish my first) and a huge PR. I guess third time is the charm, huh? Glad you thought I had a cheery disposition – pretty sure that was before I started hurting. 😉 You seemed really friendly yourself! It’s fun chatting with people in races. The marathon is so different in that way. You don’t get breathing super super hard unlike other shorter races, so it’s actually possible to talk a bit. From 20-26 I definitely wasn’t too cheery, but that’s to be expected in a marathon. Haha, I didn’t know any other runners noticed my arm sleeve throw. That’s funny! Good luck in the Manchester City Marathon! I’m sure you’ll do awesome! 🙂

  5. Congrats Laurel, I’m so glad you had such a great race!! I was so bummed for you after all the work you put in for Maine and know you weren’t thrilled with VCM – but it seems those races made everything that much sweeter this past weekend! And WOW first marathon to BQ in 5 months…you are stunning!

  6. Super congrats to you, Laurel!!! I’m so glad the race went so well for you this time around 🙂 Getting to Boston is becoming very competitive now, but I’m sure you have a great cushion for it.

  7. Awesome!!!! Congrats so much! Ha, don’t beat yourself up too much, everyone starts to struggle in a marathon – especially that last 10k. Way to push through it! And BQ – color me impressed!

  8. PRs for everyone!!!

    Congratulations Laurel, I’m so proud of you!!! You looked so strong at the halfway mark, I knew you were going to crush it. Several spectators commented on our incredibly elegant arm warmer handoff after you tossed them to me, too!

    Now if only we could get your brother to train seriously instead of relying on his innate talent to carry him through…

    • Thanks so much, Aubrey! That was an awesome handoff! haha, glad some other people appreciated it. Looking back that could’ve ended much worse (ex: me throwing it into some other runner!). Glad it all worked out! I know, if Ian can run a 3:38 debut off of very little training then he could really do some serious damage if he really trained. Next time!

  9. I’m so proud of you, Laurel!!! I didn’t realize that your leg cramps felt like Charlie horses – those are sooooooooo painful!!!! I’m in awe that you ran through those!! You can do anything! Love you!

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