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Weather conditions were completely miserable at the 2018 Boston Marathon. This included constant rain, cold, and winds hitting the runners at 25 mph! In this episode we give you an overview of this year’s race, plus we’ll tell you how to stay strong during tough marathon conditions.
The 2018 Boston Marathon
The 122nd edition of the Boston Marathon was held on Monday April 16th 2018 (Patriot’s Day) and was the coldest on record in 30 years. Along with the cold came headwinds of up to 30mph, constant rain, temps in the 30’s, puddles on the course, stores selling out of jackets/rain gear, and hundreds of runners treated for hypothermia and other cold weather conditions. A total of 23 elites dropped out including top runners such as Deena Kastor, Galen Rupp, Philemon Rono, Lemi Berhanu, Lelisa Desisa, and Caroline Rotich.
Shalane Flannigan said it was the most brutal conditions she’s run in. She and Molly Huddle went in as top contenders but struggled with the cold and were just thankful to finish. At one point her teeth were chattering so hard that she bit her tongue. At around the 12 mile point Shalane had to make a bathroom stop and Des Linden slowed down to help pull Flanagan back into the lead pack. After the race Shalane speculated that this might be her final Boston attempt.
Looking at the pictures from the starting line you know when the elites are running in jackets that it’s cold out there.
- The medical team of 1,800 people along the course were extremely busy.
- 25 elites needed medical attention.
- 81 people were taken to the hospital.
- 2500 people were treated at the finish line.
- A number of hotel rooms near the finish line were reserved for runners needing to warm up.
- A church near Wellesley (around half way along the course) opened its doors for runners to warm up.
I’ve also heard reports of people along the course opening up their homes to runners and even giving them jackets to wear. There have been other years with tough race weather conditions like in 2012 when the heat peaked at 89 degrees, in 2007 a Nor’easter brought heavy winds and rain early in the morning, and in 1976 temps topped out at 100 degrees and there weren’t nearly enough aid stations causing 40% of the field to drop out.
But these challenges really allowed us a glimpse into the perseverance and toughness of marathoners and made it an exciting day (especially for those of us watching from the comfort of indoors). It became a race where the very toughest who weren’t brought down by the conditions would finish.
One of the most exciting outcomes of Boston this year was Desiree Linden age 34 who broke a 33 year drought where an American woman hasn’t won in Boston. She took home the victory with a time of 2:39:54. Over the past 11 years Desi Linden has started 15 marathons, finished 14 of them, is a two time Olympian and has come in second three times (one time by only two seconds at Boston 2011). But until this year she had never broken the tape. Her story is one of perseverance. After graduating from Arizona State University she had no major sponsors and talked her way onto the Hansen-Brooks training group in Michigan. Last year after finishing 4th in Boston she took the summer off from running and didn’t do a fall marathon.
At a press conference post-race she said, “This is hands down the biggest day of my running career. If it hadn’t been difficult, I don’t think it would mean as much.” Early in the race, Linden said she felt horrible and was considering dropping out. She chatted with Flanagan, who won New York and was one of the favorites, and offered to help block the wind or do anything she could to ease Flanagan’s path. Linden drifted back from the pack while Flanagan made a pit stop, and together they ran back to catch the leaders. Taking the focus off of her own pain and offering an assist to the other Americans got Linden out of her own bad patch. (3) So even though it was a bad day for elites overall (especially the East African runners) it was a good day for Americans with seven women finishing in the top 10.
Sara Sellers (USA) (2:44:05)-
The 2nd place woman left the world wondering where she had come from. Sara Sellers is a 26 year old nurse anesthetist from Arizona running her 2nd marathon. She competed well in college at Weber State University but took time off to heal from injury. When she began training again she ran around her work hours, often at 4am or 8pm and didn’t put in as high mileage as many of the elites (although 100 per week is still a lot). Her first marathon was in Sept. 2017 in Huntsville, UT where she got first place and set a course record. With her Boston race she also qualified for the US Olympic Trials and came away with $75,000 of prize money. “I think I’m going to wake up and this will be a dream,” Sellers said. “It was a like a hurricane out there.”
The top spot on the men’s podium was also a surprise and went to Japanese runner Yuki Kawauchi (the first Japanese man to win Boston since 1987). Yuki Kawauchi started to be well known in his home country after running the 2011 Tokyo Marathon in 2:08:37. The 31 year old is often called the “citizen runner” since he works full-time as an administrator in a high school and runs in his spare time. Despite his busy schedule he has run 79 sub-2:20 marathons including his 2:08 PR and 25 sub-2:12 marathons.(5)
He’s also set records while running in a three piece suit and panda costume. Clearly this is an accomplished runner who doesn’t take himself too seriously. He trains differently than most top athletes by only running once a day and making up the most of his mileage on his days off from his job. He’s aiming to run 100 marathons under 2hr 20 before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. So far in 2018 has run four marathons, winning all of them.
Because of his job he’s not allowed to take sponsorship money but will come away from Boston with $150k in prize money. During the marathon he started out strong with a 4:37 first mile and then dropped back into the pack. Kawauchi, who was running alone in second place, saw Kirui with less than one mile to go. He surged once more, this time dropping Kirui for good. He said that with 100 meters to go that he didn’t know he was truly winning. After the race he said,“ I’ve been running for 26 years & this is by far the best day of my life. I never gave up. I knew he was up there. I could see him. I ran my own race and I ran him down.” The American men also had a good day with 6 in the top 10.
In the wheelchair race the first place man was returning champion Marcel Hug with a time of 1:46:26. First place woman was Tatyana McFadden with a time of 2:04:39. She trailed the leader for a large portion of the race but eventually passed her competition. When asked after the race how she was able to win from behind she said that she trusted her training and her coach and just did her own race at her own pace. This was her 5th Boston victory.
Another inspiring story was 85 year old Katherine Beiers who was one of the last runners to make their way through Newton. Big kudos to all listeners who ran Boston this year and to all the volunteers and spectators out there who braved the conditions.
How to stay strong during tough marathon conditions
- Be as physically prepared as possible for the weather conditions. It’s wise to dress in layers for extreme weather conditions. That way you can discard items if necessary or hang on to layers for later on. It’s important to stay dry as long as possible when it’s raining and cold. Items like a warm hat, gloves, poncho or rain jacket can go a long way to helping you be able to finish.
- Mentally prepare by thinking back to other times that you’ve overcome hardship whether it be during training, other races, or in life. Draw on the experiences and mantras of other people who have overcome tough life events or races (like Lisa Smith Batchen during Badwater). Some of the key factors in those who finished Boston this year was having an attitude of mental toughness and being prepared. Another strategy is to think about the experience in the third person. Channel your best narrator (possibly in Morgan Freeman’s voice) and think, “Angie is cold and tired but she’s continuing to move forward and is determined to finish.” By stepping outside your current misery you can plan the race recap that you’ll tell later (and obviously in your version you finished strong).
- Break the race into segments and conquer one at a time. For Coach Dominique one segment was getting to the place on the course where she’d see her husband. Then she took it a mile at a time as she counted down the single digits. You can also great it down by 10k segments or even getting to the next aid station.
- Realize that this is a shared experience of suffering and you can encourage and draw inspiration from those around you. Smiling and offering a word of encouragement or help can go a long way to boosting your attitude and performance (like Desi Linden did to her teammates).
- Be prepared to let go of time goals in extreme cold, wind and heat, especially if you didn’t train in those kind of conditions. Your body is going to be spending extra energy on keeping your temperature balanced and it will take more out of you to run at your normal pace. Reframe your goals by deciding to be proud of yourself no matter your finish time and go on to cross that line strong. I’ve read so many Boston recaps from this year where the runners said that they certainly didn’t finish with the time they previously wanted but that they were happy and proud of themselves for finishing without drowning. Having multi-layered goals can be a great strategy during tough marathon conditions.
- Appreciate how ludicrous it all is and keep your sense of humor. After all long distance running is something that we do for fun. The ability to laugh at the irony of the situation might be your secret weapon on a day like Boston 2018.
Most runners can handle rain or wind or cold temps on their own, or even a combination of any two of those. But when you put all three together, things get miserable pretty fast. Everyone was soaked and shivering before the race even began. Good thing misery loves company; there was plenty of both. We had rain and a 25 mph headwind every step of the way. What stuck out most for me this year was the spectators and the volunteers. Crowds were understandably lighter, maybe down 25% or so from normal, but the ones who did show up were hardcore marathon aficionados. They had to have been just as uncomfortable as the runners, maybe more so. But they were loud, they were super encouraging and I didn’t see a single one of them who wasn’t smiling. In fact, most of the runners (at least the ones not going hypothermic) were smiling . . . it was all just so ludicrous that you couldn’t help but laugh. -Eric Strand
Also Mentioned in This Episode
Coach Dominique Hamel -ran this year’s Boston Marathon after qualifying at the Steamtown Marathon.
Mental Toughness Episode -Mastering the Endurance Mindset
Karia Modjadidi Episode -Marathon Success Story + What it Takes to Qualify for Boston
Healthiq.com -Marathon Training Academy is sponsored by *Health IQ*, an insurance company that helps health conscious people get special rates on life insurance. Go to healthiq.com/mta to support the show and learn more.
Sun Basket -makes it easy and convenient to commit to healthy eating. Get $35 off your first order through our link.