Acceptance – Boston Marathon 2016

Four weeks after Boston 2016 and I’m finally coming to acceptance that my days of finish times on the brighter side of 4:30 may be in the past. Having pondered and ruminated over disappointing Boston results, I’m ready to close the book on it. My conclusion is that the overused analogy “life is a marathon” is spot on. As with so many plans we make for our lives, many of them far more important, beautiful or devastating than marathon training, the results are sometimes not what we have worked for.

I had set a modest goal of sub-4:30. This was the first marathon training cycle where I managed to get in each and every scheduled run and speedwork session. I also did a couple of successful shorter races during the training. Those optimistic online calculators indicated that my 4:30 plan was conservative.

During the huge pre-race events that are part of the Boston experience, I managed to stay low key with only one quick whirl through the expo on Saturday. Sunday, I took up an offer from some non-marathoning friends and joined them at the Boston Film Festival. Sitting in a cushy theatre for several hours was a great way to avoid the temptation of spending too much time on my feet.

The Athletes Village looking a bit like a beach party as my speedy friend Holly and I wait for our waves to be called.


Race morning, I timed my arrival at Boston Common to catch one of the later buses to Hopkinton. 

Not to worry about getting chilled while waiting in the village, the temperature was already at 70 degrees when I arrived.

I usually swing over to the water tables every 2 or 3 miles, not this year. From mile 2, I was a regular visitor. Generally, I don’t imbibe in gatorade until I have passed the 20-mile mark. Not this year. From about mile 7 on, I could feel my quads tighten in a way I don’t usually experience until the last couple miles. Pitifully, I trudged up the Newton hills with no pretense that I was still running this course.

Trudging past friends along the course. Credit: Jessica Billings-White

About mile 16, there was a short-lived revival in energy level. Around Brookline, our overheated bodies met with the shock of a chilling wind in our faces. Where spectators at Hopkinton and the first several towns were in shirt sleeves and tank tops, as we journeyed toward the finish, those cheering along the way were in jackets and hats.

Finishing at 4:36, with cold fingers attempting to hold my banana and water, the wind took my much needed heat sheet.


I continued through the gauntlet to exit at Arlington and saw my friends waiting just outside the barricade. They ushered me the short blocks back to my hotel and waited patiently while I luxuriated in a long hot shower. 

Off to a delicious dinner and conversation and time to begin the process from second guessing to acceptance.


  1. Take it from someone who trains and runs in Texas, heat and sunshine can have a huge impact on your running pace. Don’t sell yourself too short. I bet if the temps at Boston had been cooler for the entire race you would have gotten your sub 4:30. Congrats on running Boston!

  2. I last ran Boston in 2004. It was 87 at gun time (noon). The gun went off and I didn’t take a step for another 22 minutes. Plus, I had to take a 7:30 a.m bus to Hopkinton and hang around for over 4 hours. I had to drop out at 10 miles due to blisters caused by sweat. While the starting time has been adjusted, it’s still too late in the morning to start a marathon. At 70 degrees, you were screwed even before you took your first step. Considering the conditions, I think you finished quite well. I truely believe there are plenty of sub 4:30s left in you. You just need a cool, overcast day.

    • Yes, I should have mentioned the blisters which don’t usually occur for me. About mile 9 I could feel a hot spot building. It didn’t get too painful to run, but I had several blisters to deal with post-marathon. Other runners had the same experience. In wave 4, I went of at 11:15.Thanks for the good words. I will let you know when (if) I hit that sub 4:30 in the future.

  3. Mary Lou, You are my hero too! After reading your article, It felt like I wrote it! I was very disappointed but the disappointment was due to things out of our control– late start time, very warm temperatures, wind, blisters, etc. i decided to quit running marathons after such a huge disappointment. I thought I’d give it one more try. i waited until Last Monday to sign up for York’s Marathon– the course is flat, not crowded, quiet, and temps were perfect with a much needed strong breeze. I used everything Fred taught us and I promised myself not to stop during the run. I now know that hilly marathons aren’t for me ( unless they are downhill). I know you can do a sub4:30!! Boston is a tough course! Thanks for all you do for our running community. Happy running!!

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