How to run a marathon in 89 degrees

These signs were in every city along the route

What a day Boston 2012 was! Even with all the dire warnings about the heat, I don’t think it was anything anyone could really get their heads around until they were out there.  I know that certainly applies to me.

Off to war, er, the marathon

So here’s how it went down: My original plan, before the heat warnings, was an 8-min. pace for a 3:30. Once we learned how hot it would be, my plan became adjusting that to a 9-min. pace. I started with two other friends and what did we do? Went out at about an 8:20-something pace. For my friends, that seemed to be working. For me it was fine for a couple of miles, but by four or five, I was worried. My heart rate was up, I was hot, and worst of all, my legs were already tired. How is that possible? I don’t know, but it was freaking me out.

I dropped back from my friends at that point and slowed down the pace. This felt better, but I can’t say that there was ever a point during this race where I felt good. But I did manage to do some things right, which is what got me through it. For one, I took on water and gatorade and every single aid station. For two, I realized that I needed to adjust my gel intake from a mile schedule to a time schedule. I also decided not to look at my splits–I’ve done that before in marathons when I started slowing and it’s really demoralizing. Not knowing how slow I was actually moving was a great move for getting through.

Let me tell you–there was no shade to be found out there. Not a single cloud in the sky, not a leaf on a tree to provide cover. The sun was for me, the toughest part. And the highest recorded temperature was 89 at 12:30 in the afternoon, a couple of hours before I even finished. You could feel it, trust me!

It was around mile 10 that I got it into my head that I was going to finish, no matter what. And from there I just did the “survival shuffle.” There were times I wanted to walk (ok, many times!) but knew it would hurt more. So on I went and finished with a personal worst of 4:19. You’d think that would really sting, but honestly, it doesn’t. I am happy I found the fortitude to finish.

The B.A.A. did a great job managing the heat. Out of the 27,000 slated to start, 4,500 took deferrals, bringing it down to 22,500. Of that number, only 120 ended up in the hospital. I personally only saw a handful of people have real trouble out there. I did see tons of walking–in the last few miles, probably as many people walking as running. But all in all, I think people managed the heat really well. There were misting tents out there, the water/gatorade was plentiful, and the crowds offered tons of extra help in that regard also.

I’m really happy today. This has been a fantastic weekend with my amazing friends–I am so lucky to have this group. We have laughed non-stop and enjoyed every bit of it (except that 26.2 mile part). I wouldn’t trade it for a minute, even with the craptastic conditions. Congrats to all who finished yesterday–it was a badge well earned.

Wearing my colors loudly and obnoxiously

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  1. says

    YAY!!!! I am so happy you ran Boston and that’s an awesome attitude to have :) you ran it and I hate the sun too – it really drains you I couldn’t run a marathon so I find any time impressive 😀 CONGRATS!
    Ali Mc recently posted..More xrays & long waitsMy Profile

  2. says

    hahaha, Personal Worst. Honestly never thought what I would call a bad race, and thanks to you, we have coined a new term!

    Yeah, it was obvious that no one was going to have an easy day or a PR out there. Rough day all around.

    SOOOO HAPPY!!! You finished! Just think back to all the turmoil and issues you had leading up to this race for a year and a half, seemed SO FAR away but now its done and over :)

    FYI, there were not 4,500 deferrals. only 427 people were eligible for the deferral due to there being TWO required steps for a proper deferral. So there will be 4,073 PISSED OFF people out there today :)

    Honestly elated for you right now! Great job, and FYI, Boston is the victory lap. Everyone there is fast, they had to qualify. Nothing to prove on race day except that you had fun :)
    Matt Oravec recently posted..17HMR Bullet HolderMy Profile

  3. says

    Nicely done! I was following you on the map online, cheering you on! I bet the heat was tough, but so are you! Congratulations!

    I just read on RW that only 400 or so actually met the deferment criteria (picked up bib and DNS).
    Carrie recently posted..More Thoughts on My 21K.My Profile

  4. says

    Wow. 89 degrees? And no shade anywhere? That sounds absolutely miserable. I’m so impressed that you pushed through and finished as well as you did. I don’t know what I would have done, but there were no great options. Glad you could do it and have a great weekend with friends. And I love that you’re still smiling!
    Laura recently posted..Sprint for spring 5k reportMy Profile

  5. says

    Congrats Amanda,

    Ya know, with all the adversity you had to overcome to even get to this race the fact that it was on a smoker of a day with craptastic conditions is rather poetic!

    Amazing job with the race and an even more amazing job getting to the starting line!
    Jeff Irvin recently posted..Random Observations and Stuff …My Profile

  6. says

    So glad to hear that you finished in one piece! Out of all of the things we can control while racing, the weather isn’t one of them. I’m sure it wasn’t easy and provided quite the test of character, but you made it!!! There will always be other races right?

    Hope you’re treating yourself to a well deserved day of pampering!
    Britt @ Chicago Runner Girl recently posted..Week 11 Training RecapMy Profile

  7. Lisa says

    A HUGE congratulations to you, Amanda!! So impressed that you ran such a smart race that got you safely to the finish line. You should be incredibly proud!

  8. says

    Ahhh, Amanda. finishing this race is certainly an honor in itself!! So HARD. I barely broke 4 hours and was wanting a sub 3:20 originally. I was so scared out there. So crazy. Sad I missed you.

  9. says

    I think your time is incredible…. I have been following finishing times and 4:19 is a really fantastic pace! The difficult part of Boston is qualifying and, from what I have been told the race is an experience. I think it’s cool that you raced this “historic hot” Boston. That in itself makes it really interesting and a story to be told. You earned and wear that medal beautifully. SO excited for you…it is emotional no matter the time.. you are a Boston finisher.. it brings tears to my eyes. Congratulations
    LisaM@RunWiki recently posted..Three Little BirdsMy Profile

  10. says

    Way to go Amanda. Way to make change to get you through to the finish line. Everybody that ran Boston are amazing people. I can only imagine what the heat was doing to you all. So happy for you to run Boston again.

  11. Mick says

    Congratulations, Amanda! I was getting worried about you when I was checking results when I was in the Edinburgh airport. I saw finishing times for others in the group but not yours. You’re strong to find the will to finish in those conditions. We do have a great group of mutual friends. Great to hear you all had a fantastic time.

  12. says

    Sweety you did it! Congratulations! You couldn’t have worse weather conditions and you pulled through.

    I thought about you yesterday because you had the same weather as I did on my first half marathon attempt. But where I had to drop out after 8K you ran 42 freaking K’s!

    Be proud of yourself, I know I am.
    Fran recently posted..Monday April 16, 2012: The mishmash editionMy Profile

  13. Rachel says

    Nice work on a heinous day!! Since I live 2 miles from the start-I had a great time stopping and visiting with many people I knew along the way(it got tiring around mile 16 tho). Bummed that all that great training for a PR went down the tubes-but glad that I survived!! Now I need to find a Fall marathon-any thoughts??

  14. says

    Wahoooo! Congratulations on your finish and it a pretty darn good time in those condiditons. So happy for you that you were able to make the adjustments you need to, in order to get it done.
    I watched the first 2 – 3/4 hours on the tv coverage we did get, till the first male finished and could really see how warm it was getting already by then with NO shade.
    That is such a great pic of you with your medal!
    Elle recently posted..A Year Later….My Profile

  15. says

    Holy crap.
    What a crazy day.
    Well earned—no doubt.
    Loved seeing all your photos on FB. Looked like a blast.
    Awesome job!!!

  16. says

    Congrats on an amazing race! Your beginning sounds identical to mine. I wanted 8’s but knew that wasn’t happening so ran with someone and we did 8:30’s. I managed those for 8ish miles but my legs felt tired the whole time. My heart rate was way too high and I knew I was in for a long day. That medal kept me moving forward, even if it was walking. I am very proud of my 4:29. :)
    Robin recently posted..Boston Marathon Finisher!My Profile

  17. says

    Congrats, Amanda! way to run it smart and strong!!! Sounds like it was brutal. amazing that only 120 ended up in the hospital. I think that is a testament to experienced, smart running and great course organization/support. Way to go!!! Boston 2012 in the books!! Congrats, again.

  18. says

    Remember that temp reading was taken in the shade. You experienced much warmer in the sun.
    Congrats girl! Be very proud of pushing through brutal conditions. I’m thrilled to hear relatively few people had trouble. Chalk that up to experienced runners and the wisdom of the BAA.
    Marcia recently posted..Why Hot Marathons Are A GiftMy Profile

  19. says

    Wow. Congrats on the finish and double congrats on being SMART about listening to your body and adjusting on race day. We runners are stubborn and you made a decision (early) that most of us have trouble making at all.
    PavementRunner recently posted..US Half Photo GalleryMy Profile

  20. says

    I agree, BAA did a great job. Sure, there were people slowing and stopping and some injuries, but overall most people finished safely. What astonished me was the number of walkers SO early in the race! In many races I won’t see anyone walk, or if I do someone will walk a water stop at mile 24. Yesterday with all these fit athletes I was seeing people walk or drop out before the first half. Congrats on finishing and staying alive 😉
    Gracie recently posted..Boston bits and piecesMy Profile

  21. says

    It was my PW also as far as time goes, BUT, it was a great day! I knew leaving athlete’s village that time was not even going to be a consideration for me. I just ran along, stopped at all the water stops and walked when I thought my heart rate was too high. There was a lot of fallen soldiers along the route. I was happy to cross with a smile on my face, with strength in my own two legs and to still be standing today! Congratulations on enjoying the experience. Sorry our paths didn’t cross, but it was fun knowing that you were “there”.
    Michelle recently posted..And just like that……My Profile

  22. says

    Congrats Amanda!!! I was thinking about you all day yesterday, and tracking your times. You ran smart, and despite the insane heat and conditions, you still ran a super speedy time. So happy for you :) You’re a beast!
    Erin recently posted..“The heat? It was hot.”My Profile

  23. says

    What an experience, eh? We certainly have a story to tell. Despite all the warnings, it was impossible to be prepared for how that would feel. Way to push through with everything you had! Congratulations!!! Sorry that we did not get to connect. I hope you enjoyed the entire weekend!
    Marlene recently posted..That’s a wrap!My Profile

  24. says

    Congrats!!! The irony in your “personal worst” statement is that, while it sounds like your slowest (if I’m interpreting correctly), it was probably the one most of us will refer to as the one we most gutted out! So from that angle, I think it’s a different kind of PR :)

    Great job gutting through it. I was there too, as you know, and the sunshine today actually aggravated me. I usually love the sun, but today, I didn’t want any part of it!!! That too will pass, but when it does, I’ll still have my medal. And so will you!
    Lisa recently posted..Boston 2012 (aka Run for the Hoses)My Profile

  25. says

    You are my hero, not only for your great training prior to the marathon, not only for finishing it but for being so smart about the race. I am very very happy for you!
    You ARE a true runner!

  26. says

    Congrats! I was so worried for everyone out there yesterday! You did great though! I am glad you finished and there were no problems, heath wise! All in all, it sounds like a really fun trip.
    Kyria recently posted..Looking ForwardMy Profile

  27. says

    a badge well earned –> so very, very true! i finished in 4:33…super slow but i finished strong and happy. it was an amazing experience. i can’t wait to do it again and race it!

    i wore my jacket out last night too despite it still being 80 degrees!
    Kristy@RunTheLongRoad recently posted..Boston Marathon RecapMy Profile

  28. says

    SO stinkin proud of you!!! A marathon is a tough race for sure, on a good day! But add in heat and the 20 degree rule of thumb…eek. You just sealed your status as rockstar for life! Congratulations!!!
    That Pink Girl recently posted..Solo in my loloMy Profile

  29. says

    just think of the improvment you can have for your next marathon…

    I’ve also run a race, where I changed my turn from running a good time to: I don’t care… I just want my medal!

    well done
    Coach Dion recently posted..RUNNING SOMEWHEREMy Profile

  30. says

    Congratulations on finishing and also on running a smart race! Eighty-nine degrees is just insanely hot and I’m so happy to hear that you never got into trouble. The best part of all is that in the future, when people are like, “Remember that Boston, when it was so hot? How crazy was that?” And you can be all, “Yep, I ran that one, bitches!” :)
    Caitlin recently posted..Programming note: Fit and Feminist is now on Facebook!My Profile

  31. says

    Congrats on finishing! Just finishing was winning! I had a personal worst too, but it didn’t feel like it was terrible. I was just so thrilled to have gotten my dream!

    Not sure if any of the earlier comments addressed this, but according to an article I read yesterday, the deferral # wasn’t really that high. It was under 500. They had about 4500 bibs that were not picked up, so those folks were not eligible for deferral. I am not sure how that percentage compares to previous years, but they did say that in every race, there is always an amount of people that can’t race due to circumstances. I think a friend of a friend defered. She was out there, but didn’t start. Don’t know her well enough to inquire more.
    Melissa C recently posted..2012 Boston Marathon Race Recap- The Race (or Part 2)My Profile

  32. says

    Congrats!! When it comes to the heat you don’t want to mess around. Take it form this AZ girl.
    I watch my running times slow every summer and there is nothing I can do about it. The heat is a pace killer. If you don’t listen though you can get sooo sick.
    Way to stay smart but still tough it out.
    You have got to be proud of racing on such a tough day.
    Good Job!
    Missy recently posted..I look like Ryan Hall when I run…..I thinkMy Profile

  33. says

    You are amazing! Heat like that is no joke, especially this early in the season when the vast majority of us are not at all acclimated to it. Congratulations on toughing it out and finishing in such adverse conditions!
    Raquelita recently posted..Gone MarkingMy Profile

  34. says

    Congratulations on a race that I’m sure you will always remember! Don’t forget that your time was still faster than I can ever hope to be, so be proud! I hope you are enjoying your recovery.
    Bethk recently posted..Honeymoon is OverMy Profile