As the name suggests the Boston marathon is held in Boston (Massachusetts, USA) on the 3rd Monday in April which is a public holiday for Patriots Day. Anyone running in Boston has earned their place there by running a time better than the qualifying standard for their age in a specific qualifying marathon. Qualifying unfortunately does not guarantee entry with the sheer number of qualifiers; hence a time faster than the qualifying time specified is often required.

It is one of the biggest weekends in Boston and ‘Marathon Monday’ is celebrated and embraced by runners, spectators and locals. Banners line the streets and airport signs welcome runners. Boston really is a runners paradise and it was not unusual to see recreational runners pounding the pavement at all times of the day.

The weekend represents all things running as the city fills with runners from all around the globe. All displaying the familiar marathon camaraderie that marathon runners know so well. Beginning with the expo, this is held in the exhibition center down in the seaport region. It operates Friday through to Saturday. Thoroughly organised and guarded by tight security, one of the unfortunate aspects following the 2013 bombing. Collecting numbers is a seamless process and well staffed with volunteers minimising queuing time. The expo was lavish and well equipped with a large collection of exhibitors handing out endless amounts of free merchandise and selling their wears. Not as large as London, but more than sufficient and one can easily lose themselves for at least an hour wandering around.

The Saturday provides an opportunity for marathon runners and families to participate in a 5km event. Some use it as a last shake out, others watch their non marathon family members participate in their own run. 10000 runners gathers plus wheelchair participants and is really an exciting start to the day. The event starts at 0800 and bibs are collected on the day. All participants receive a medal and t-shirt. Registration opens a few months prior, online on the Boston Marathon website.

A carb loading dinner is available for those interested on the Sunday night at the town hall with an entry voucher provided with race bibs.

Marathon Monday begins at Boston Common. A beautiful centrally located park. Depending upon the qualifying time, numbers issued are colour coded and contain wave and corral numbers. Boston Common is filled with rows and rows of yellow old fashioned American school busses. Depending upon bib colour depends upon your scheduled bus boarding time which is designed to minimise time spent waiting at the start. No gear bags are allowed on the busses and gear can be dropped at the finish line on Boylston st prior to heading to Boston Common. Runners are provided with a small clear plastic bag in which to carry snacks and small items they require to the start. Security protect this area and no other bags are permitted beyond the check point and family also have to say their goodbyes here.

The journey to the start line at Hopkington takes a little under an hour. Delivered to the “athletes village” a school oval lined with portable toilets called “portajohns”. Toilet facilities are plentiful to avoid long queues and a large tent provides water and Gatorade to those requiring it. Several volunteers coordinate the start area and all extra clothing discarded at the start is collected and given to charity.

The start is a few minutes walk from the village and each wave in each colour is called through and further seeded into their respective corrals. Plenty of time is allowed for this.

The marathon itself starts with a downhill section and continues to pass by lakes, countryside and smaller townships which increase in size as Boston gets closer. Crowds line the streets and blow every conceivable noisy thing one can imagine. Drink stations are about every 2km, are accessible on both sides of the road and two gel stations are also available.

It’s a traditional road surface and the course undulating. It’s a perfect course for Tasmanian runners. Heart Break hill was slightly comparable to the Tasman Bridge in elevation gained but not as steep offering respite from the flat parts for those that enjoy hills. Approaching the finish the course passes by Fenway Park and turns into Boylston Street. A long straight follows with the finish in clear view getting closer and closer. Spectators scream and it becomes somewhat fuzzy and dull as the fatigue and emotion of the achievement takes its toll. Across the line reality comes flooding back and ears fill with the sounds of cheers and tooting things. Volunteers continue to organise the finish like a well oiled machine, handing out medals, medical assistance, directions and various other items runners gather.

My experience; I qualified in Sydney 2016 which is the first marathon of the qualifying year. I qualified and unlike the year prior was accepted. It was the hardest marathon I have ever run with the 2018 marathon delivering some of the harshest conditions on record. Starting in 3°C temperature with driving monotonous torrential rain, thunder, lightening and a relentless headwind to add a little extra entertainment. It has gone down as one of the most historical Boston Marathons with the worst weather on record.

Traveling to the start in the school bus convoy was passed snow dusted on the nearby ground and rain fell hard. I learned even more about myself and about marathon running in general in this event. Marathon running is serious stuff and you honestly have to be prepared for anything and train in all weather. Thankfully I do. I was happy with my chosen running attire which was far from normal, but it got me safely to the end. Finishing in 0°C with additional wind chill, I did succumb to hypothermia with many others at the end and feel for the many that didn’t finish for the same reasons. The spectators came out and put on a show despite the weather. Boston was brutal and although I questioned during the run why I was doing this, It was a proud moment crossing the line in TRR gear and having my name called out along with “from Tasmania Australia”. Stopping was my downfall along with many others. In hindsight I should have kept running, grabbed my medal and trotted all the way back to the hotel.

But I didn’t and subsequently stopping saw my body temperature plummet, as I was pummeled with rain and wind that bit so cold. I was one of many that had a first time experience with hypothermia. It progresses to being more than cold, consuming you. Speech suffers, shivering stops and everything starts moving and happening so slowly. The medic tent was at capacity and I had to rely on help outside the facility with thunder and lightening overhead. 12 hours after finishing I was feeling like my old self again.

None of this was an exaggeration it has been told exactly as it happened. I am still completely astounded at what the 2018 marathon delivered. It honestly had everything but a tornado! The verdict? I am happy and proud to have qualified, been accepted and run Boston but also to survive!

Written by: Bonnie Davies

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