In her own words, CRR Jo Baird describes what it was like to run the Boston Marathon in 2018.
This year’s Boston Marathon, my third Boston and seventh marathon overall, was by far the most challenging not only physically, but mentally as well. At the start line, as we were lining up in our different corrals in my wave, they announced that these were the worst running conditions the Boston Marathon has ever seen (something I wish that they had told me after the race was over, rather than before).
Either way, the gun went off for the elite men, and being in corral eight in the red wave, I was moving about 3–5 minutes after that. I was still not only surprised by the amount of energy and enthusiasm of the runners but the spectators, despite the weather. The course was almost as full as it was the previous two years, when it was perfect spectating weather (60-70 degrees and sunny, note I did not say perfect running weather, but perfect spectating weather).
During the race, there was steady rain and wind with an occasional gust that took your breath away and an occasional downpour that soaked right through your clothes. It definitely was both a physical and mental test. One thing that really surprised me was the number of veteran runners who did not dress for the part. Many runners still only wore shorts and a singlet, which was no match for these conditions. I saw people drop left and right as I went through the race, which was a little concerning, but it was probably because the wind and cold had gotten to their legs and tightened them up to the point that they either had to stop or the race had simply broken them down. The past two years, I had seen lots of people with injuries drop out or the pressure of the day forced them to stop, but never at a rate like this one. This year, only 95.5% of those that started the race finished, which was much lower than past years.
Personally, I had a surprisingly good race. I started out the first four miles at a 7:04 pace, after I told myself to take it easy on the downhill (I always take it out too fast). I was really surprised because it felt so effortless. I backed off, thinking I was at 7:15 or so, but checked my watch at mile eight and saw that my average had only dropped to 7:06. I decided just to feel it out until I hit Newton, where my pace would drop with the hills. But there were so many runners encouraging each other the whole way. As we got to “Heartbreak Hill,” one guy who had been running around the same pace as I had patted me and said, “We’re in this together.” I had no idea who he was. We hadn’t said anything to each other the whole race, but it meant a lot.
Once I got to the top of the hill, where all the Boston College students were, I felt nothing but love as I looked down into Boston. The last five miles were almost a blur; as you got closer to Boston, you wouldn’t have been able to tell it was a cold rainy day. The crowds were so loud you couldn’t hear yourself think, and I didn’t even feel myself increase my pace. My last mile was 6:56, because, as I turned right onto Hereford and left on Boylston, there was this indescribable feeling of emotions that I felt from conquering that day and being lifted up by my fellow runners and this amazing city.
At the finish line, I was so moved by the whole event. It was a feeling I would never forget, but then my legs automatically tightened, and my hands turned to icicles. I couldn’t even stop my watch because I was so frozen! Overall, it was a race for the books. It was one of those experiences I have no regrets doing but don’t really want to do again.
Baird finished in 3:11:33. Her place among all women runners was 329th out of the 11,604 who finished. In her age group, 18-39, she was 301st out of the 5,783 who finished, and overall she was 3,307th out of the 25,746 who finished.