One mans road to Boston

Posted by Ciaran Tobin on 17 April 2019

Boston Marathon 2019

An experience not to be forgotten but let me start by saying not one thing I say will be an excuse as to why I didn't have such a great run as I am so proud to have qualified and actually ran the Boston marathon 2019.

Two years ago just after I'd joined Trim AC I got inspired to run Boston when Breda Harris was training for the 2017 race and Andrew Revington had regaled me with his experience of running 2016 and that's where the journey started. Bear in mind I had only run one marathon in Dublin 2016 and in a time of 4 hours 20 minutes and my qualifying time for my age was 3 hours and 30 minutes I knew I had some hard work ahead which I dedicated myself to and got so much help and encouragement from my clubmates who are too many to mention but every single one inspired me. Ran 3:38 in Limerick that April and then went on to run 3:26 in Dublin 2017 but I kind of knew that wouldn't be enough either so aimed at Manchester April 2018 for a time closer to 3:20 to be guaranteed a place. I ran 3:20:35 and I was then a Boston qualifier.

After Lanzarote marathon December 2018 I went straight into an 18 week 55 to 70 mile advanced marathon plan which was tough but also quite enjoyable, I'd like to thank Ann for putting up with all the midweek long runs and my early Sunday long runs too. She is my rock. So roll on to the end of week 17, 1 week out from Boston, back from long run and only out of the shower I got a call from my brother that my mother had had a stroke and was on the way to Beaumont hospital. So straight into the car from Trim and myself and Ann didn't know what to expect when we got there and Boston was put on hold. Mother made good improvement in the next couple of days and when we could understand her she asked me when I was going so decided on Tuesday we would go ahead. My family were amazing and kept me updated and she has been making great progress. I told her in hospital I'd bring her the medal back and she just smiled which melted my heart.

Last Thursday we arrived Boston and neither of us had been to the states before and it was daunting to say the least. Got our bearings and did the usual shopping and sightseeing and I even got some short runs in. So then we arrive at race day.

5am alarm call for a 10:25am race start is not ideal preparation and then add into that my hotel did not make any arrangements for early breakfast so it was back to the room for some pineapple chunks and a yoghurt washed down by a little water and then head to Boston common for the bus to Hopkinton. I had arranged the evening before to meet 2 clubmates Eddie & Niall to travel on the bus together but sadly we never met up as I had to take shelter as the heavens opened up at about 645am and my feet got soaked while waiting in line for my bus. Even though I hadn't drank too much I needed to pee before the bus departed and knew it would be a tough journey to the athletes village. I got there and through prior arrangement with Andrew Revington a friend of his who lives in Hopkinton opened her house to us and I headed straight there. I'd never met her before and as soon as I got in the door I just asked for the toilet and spent about 5 minutes in there, I just couldn't stop. When I came back out Cheryl took my running shoes, put paper in them and put my socks in the dryer so it was so good to have dry feet again. For this I will be eternally grateful and will one day repay that same hospitality if she would ever come the other way. Thanks Cheryl, you're an amazing lady.

I walked to the start corral with one of her friends and we separated and got to our relative starting points. Gun went off at 10:25 for wave 2 and away we went, it took me a few minutes to cross the line and I was now a Boston marathon starter. The start is incredible and like nothing you could ever imagine as the first half mile was straight downhill and in places would be similar to the Howth side of Howth head, I was on the brakes hard and I was still running at 7 minute 30 per mile pace which was what I'd aimed at and felt ok but after that what was supposed to be downhill turned into some serious rolling hills. Miles 5 to 10 were supposed to be flat but I don't remember too many flat parts but going through some of the towns along the way was great fun. The crowds along the course were like nothing I'd ever experienced and it just spurred you on no matter how bad you were feeling. The highlight of the whole race for me was the Wellesley scream tunnel where all the college girls come out to the course and scream with signs looking for kisses and plenty stopped but I was going well then and just breezed past, I did find myself getting very emotional there with the noise and energy coming from the crowd. I got to halfway and had a feeling I was in for a rough one as the sun came out quite strong and I passed that point on 3:22 pace and I'd every intention to push on from there but by mile 14 I had a feeling the humidity was taking a toll so I decided to hell with a time, preserve my health and enjoy the experience as I was starting to slow, well enjoy was not what I did for the next 12 miles. Pace slowed right off and I was soon running over 9 minute pace so self preservation was the order of the day from that point on. From there on it was like armageddon along the course as runners slowed to walking pace but I continued until I felt my quads tighten at 18 miles and managed to get to just before 19 and decided to take my first walk break and then took the phone out and rang Ann as I was seriously thinking of quitting. It was so lovely to hear her voice and a memory I have of that call was her saying to me that she was proud of me no matter what and that I didn't sound out of breath, I really wasnt but the legs had taken a hammering so said goodbye and away I went again, so from there on I called on my mothers help and my late father to get me to the finish and plodded on, more walk breaks were taken and just a half mile back from heartbreak hill my left hamstring locked up with cramp and I feared the worst right then. Leant against a fence which two locals held for me and stretched it out and eventually it loosened and I continued on.


Heartbreak was soon conquered without stopping although not as fast as I had envisioned getting up it so then it was on the downhill stretch into Boston and more crowds cheering you on to the finish. Ann had told me where she was during the phone call and I missed her, she was calling me but the noise was too much to hear anyone calling your name. When I past by in that last mile she said I just looked so frail as I was hunched over running and she could tell I wasnt enjoying it. Roll on to that last turn onto Boylston street and whatever it was I was able to turn the legs over and move a bit faster and the crowds just pushed me to that finish line. I got there in 3:51 and although it was not what I'd hoped for I was now Boston strong and a major marathon finisher, that's something that not everyone can say. The emotions just flooded out then and despite the hurt I'd been feeling it all seemed to go away as I walked through the finish tunnel and collected my medal. It's now official. That medal will now take pride of place in my collection and it will help me when times are tough again. Despite asking myself at different times during the run if I'd even run again I am so proud to have dug in and finished when all wasnt going too well.

To all my friends and family and especially my running friends(some I've never even met) I am so humbled with all the messages of support and encouragement before and after yesterday's race. Thank you all, you are all amazing people. To my daughter Cloe, I hope I make you proud and Ann's 2 children Jamie and Emma who were also in touch all the time thank you.


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