Hear from 9-time Boston Marathon finisher and Lily Trotters ambassador, Karen Howe, on what it was like to run Boston in 2019. Karen is a busy mom with a demanding career who often wakes up before the sun to get her miles in -- even during the cold winter months in Rochester, NY! A member of the McKirdy trained group of runners, Karen is as dedicated to the sport of running as they come!
How many times have you run the Boston Marathon? 2019 was my 9th Boston Marathon
What was your training like leading up to this year's race? Any hiccups? Anything you would do differently or anything you think worked really well? In June of last year, I started working with a coach: James McKirdy. So I can say this Boston training cycle was like no other. Before this I had never changed up my speeds - I had one speed running. Now I am learning how to become a more well-rounded runner. The only hiccup was Feb/March I did a lot of traveling for work that really wore me down - so there was a point that I had to take a full 3 days off with zero running to catch up on much-needed rest - and then had to ease back into training. I am grateful to have a coach that recognized I was wearing down and could help modify the plan without losing any fitness or worse running into injury. I think what worked really well is the open honest communication with my coach so we could adjust as needed.
What did you do the day leading up to Boston? My typical pre-marathon Sunday is doing as little as possible. I like being a homebody - watching documentaries, movies, and reading. I try to stay off my feet and away from all the excitement. This year was a little different b/c McKirdy had a shakeout run first thing in the morning. That was a fun addition to the day - so I ran a few miles with friends and then was home pretty quickly to assume my position on the couch - ha!
How did you sleep the night before? Do you have any pre-race rituals? I never sleep well before the night of any race. It's like when you have a plane to catch the next morning and are nervous you are going to miss the alarm. I try to go to bed early to factor in that I will be rolling over every couple hours to check the clock. My only pre-race ritual would be my dinner. We cook and the menu is: chicken w/ spaghetti & marinara, fresh garden salad, garlic bread and a glass of red wine.
Tell us about how your day started: what did you eat? Did you have any pre-race jitters? It was an early morning - I was on my bus by 5:30 am so basically just got up, got dressed and loaded on to the bus. (Since I was running for Team MR8 we didn't load at the Boston Commons) The good thing was I was able to fall back asleep on the bus for at least another hour...it was crazy though - thunder, lightning, pouring down rain. We made it to Hopkinton and I was able to eat my bagel with peanut butter and a banana. Fortunately, we were able to just stay on the bus until the start so stayed dry. I always have pre-race jitters. I don't think it is the running that makes me nervous - it is all the logistics. The bit "hurry up to wait" feeling.
What was your goal for the race? My goal for the race was to work each mile I was in. On an "A" day the pacing plan was to accomplish around a 3:02 -- a few miles into it I knew I would have to pace adjust as the day progressed. Because the weather went from thunder and lightning to 90% humidity. The air was thick, and coming off an upstate NY winter training I was not acclimated for any kind of humidity. But, the overall plan was first 10k slow and controlled. Next 10k to pick up the pace but keep it managed. Once I got to the hills it was to work the hills and recover on the downhill then last 10k just run with heart. Around mile 14/15 the full sun came out and it was blazing hot (I have a nice sunburn as a souvenir) at this point I just took the paces down. It was starting to get really tough but I just kept looking at my jersey and to the crowds for inspiration. That second 1/2 is usually my favorite because I love hills - but NOT this year. I was hot and starting to feel defeated. When you are in the moment you don't know that other people around you are also struggling. You go through the emotions of "maybe my fitness is not where Coach and I thought" or "was the first 1/2 too fast and now I'm paying for it" -- but I've at least done enough marathons to know thinking these things is not helpful - I needed to just hold on and keep pushing. It wasn't until the end that I felt a bit better, it wasn't just me, that it really was a TOUGH day for all.
Describe the highlight of your day? The highlight - coming down Boylston with the finish line in sight. I knew my friend Sarah was going to be someone on the left cheering and I was desperately searching for her & thought I missed her but then I heard her screaming - BEST FEELING EVER! With that recharge I was able to surge to the finish now looking to the right for Bill and Denise Richard (Martin Richard's parents) -- There they were up in the grandstand waving and cheering. I blew them a kiss and held up my peace symbol for Martin as I crossed the finish line.
Did you hit any low points? I think from mile 15 on was a series of low points - wanting to walk so badly but still forging on. Running the Boston Marathon is an opportunity to let the memory of Martin live on - that certainly carried me through the low points - more than any personal time goal ever would.