Thursday, 24 December 2015

A Runner’s Look Inside the 2015 Boston Marathon Weekend (part 2)

Boston Marathon Finish Line - Photo Credit Justin Ferguson
Boston Marathon Finish Line - Photo Credit Justin Ferguson
Boston Marathon Expo - Photo Credit Justin Ferguson
Boston Marathon Expo - Photo Credit Justin Ferguson

Boston Marathon Expo - Photo Credit Justin Ferguson
Inside the Boston Marathon Expo - Photo Credit Justin Ferguson

Good morning Boston, it is the day before the most notorious marathon on the planet and I, like, I assume many runners, am excited!  I had experienced the spectacle the year previous and felt better prepared for it this time around.  However, nothing really prepares you for an entire city that is captivated by an event that you are participating in.  With that in mind, there are items on the to do list that must be completed.

Whenever I prepare for a long run (including a race), I am very regimented and focused on completing my tasks.  I had learned the previous year in Boston what could be the outcome by not maintaining strict focus, and despite the overwhelming energy in the city, was committed to not following that same path this time around.

First thing first, start the energy and hydration regime; in this case Cliff Bars, Nature Bars, and Water.  Some may disagree with my methodology, but I tend to overload myself with energy products on the day or two before a long run.  

Next on the schedule was departing for a short 3km run.  I always find these helpful, they get the blood flowing and allow me to become acclimatized to the community, they also take my mind off the race that is to follow the next day.  I never depart trying to set any records on this day but maintain the mindset to take it slow and allow my muscles to get used to the idea of running.  It was a brisk morning in Boston and there were a few other runners out doing similar things.  The run was uneventful and I returned to the hotel feeling ready.  When I returned, the lobby was scattered with other runners and their families, which automatically gave me an energy boost.

Fortunately this hotel had a Starbucks in it, which I took advantage of, grabbing a banana and a porridge.  I also consumed another Cliff Bar, drank some more water, and grabbed a shower.  With these tasks accomplished, I departed in an Uber for the Expo.

When you arrive at the Boston Marathon Expo, the uniqueness that is Boston is not lost, it too is unlike any other expo I have been privy to.  It is extremely well organized, and has clearly marked signs announcing where to go.  When you arrive at the bib pickup, the volunteers are overwhelming, extremely helpful, and efficient.  There is no time wasted and the flow through is seamless.  I arrived at my station, presented my “Runner’s Passport”, was quickly presented my bib package and directed to my shirt pickup location, where again, I was quickly whisked through the process and free to explore the expo or depart.  Having organized events, I have come to appreciate efficient processes that are well planned and have an easy flow, the Boston experience certainly achieved this.

Before I departed the expo, I did permit myself some time to explore it quickly, which included signing the runner’s wall, picking up a few gifts for family and friends, and grabbing a souvenir for myself. I was able to get each of these items from the Official Store.  Getting myself an official hoodie, which marked the second year in a row that I did this and has likely now become a tradition… Again, despite the crowds, the speed at which I was processed was commendable and speaks to the organization of the event and the capabilities that new technology offers.  With these tasks done, I expeditiously explored the rest of the expo and departed onto Boylston Street.

Boylston Street marks the final four blocks of the Marathon.  This was the first time I had been on the stretch since running down it the year previous.  As an aside, the year previous, I had nearly collapsed on Hereford Street, before turning onto Boylston Street and summoning the energy to, in an almost near blackout, run to the finish line.  As I walked down Boylston Street this time, I remember remarking how I did not recognize a single element of the four block stretch from the previous year.  It is truly a beautiful stretch of city street (and in foreshadowing my next post, was tremendous to sprint down as I finished the 119th Boston Marathon the next day).  

As I walked down Boylston Street, I snapped a few photos of the finish line, took a Selfie, grabbed some Powerade (another part of my regiment), and took it all in.  Here I was standing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon for the second year in a row, preparing to run the race that almost every runner dreams of.  If I could, I would describe the thoughts that went through my mind, the whole situation is surreal, and hard to explain.  I literally just found a quiet place to sit and absorbed it all, trying to remember the finish the year before, and more importantly picturing what it could be like the next day.  

After taking a few minutes to absorb it all in - about 25 minutes, I think to be exact.  I ordered an Uber and departed back to the hotel to continue my preparation process for the next day.  

Arriving back at the hotel, I put my bib on my running shirt, ate some more Cliff Bars, drank some more Powerade, prepped a final email to try and raise some last minute funds for my charity, and then relaxed until dinner.

For me, dinner the night before the race is likely one of the two most important elements in preparation for a long run.  As such, I had done a fair amount of research to find a restaurant that had a pasta dish that had the elements I was looking for.  I found this in Mamma Maria with its Frutti di Mare Pasta.  It had an oil based sauce, and tonnes of lean protein with many kinds of seafood.  It also tasted fantastic!  Many people do the pre-marathon meal that the race organizers put on, however, I had done this the year previous and one other time before a race, and for whatever reason it did not suffice.  As I state above, I have a strict regiment I follow the day before a race, including eating a similar type of pasta dish the night before every long run.

With the meal done, I was back in an Uber and on the way back to my hotel, chatting to the friendly driver.  And, as another aside, I always find Uber drivers so friendly and easy to talk to.  

Back at the hotel, I consumed another Cliff Bar, drank some more Powerade, laid out and checked my running gear, and visualized how the morning and race would go.  Having run the race previously, I knew better what to expect this time around - if you have not done Boston before, the morning before the race can be a little overwhelming but that is for the next post.

All in all, a great day, filled with tonnes of excitement, a short run, lots of Cliff Bars, litres of water and Powerade, a fantastic last meal, and wonderful people - now time to try and sleep, which is the other most important element in preparation for a long run.

Justin Ferguson is the Principal of Cosmos Strategies, the Founder of, an avid marathoner, a supporter of charities, including: Wake Up Narcolepsy and Sick Kids Hospital, and a believer that anything is possible.  Follow Justin on Twitter @blueferguson.

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