Elite trail runner Alex Varner left the cozy condition of CA to come and run the Boston Marathon only 9 days after racing a 50 miler. This is his story.
Guest blog by Alex Varner
Boston. There’s really not much else you need to say to most people, runner or not. There’s something about it that captures a marathon runner’s imagination, as it’s become somewhat of a gold standard for marathoners. Before I ran marathons, people would ask me what my marathon time was. When I didn’t have an answer, they’d ask what I did, and I’d try to explain that I ran local cross country races and road and track. They didn’t understand. So I ran a marathon and had an answer to their question. But it was always followed up with, “Have you run Boston?” So as soon as I qualified for Boston, I signed up and ran it. This year was my fourth time traveling to Boston for the race and my third time finishing it (dropped out in 2012 due to an injury).
Each of the past 4 years, I have become more familiar with the race, the course, and the spectators. I have never ceased to be amazed by the support that the crowds show to ALL runners. It’s fantastic and I look forward to enjoying it for years to come.
Heading into the race this year, I was more focused on simply not doing something stupid and hurting myself. My legs were pretty thrashed after Lake Sonoma, so I took it very cautiously. I avoided all hills in the 9 days between the races. I flew out to Boston on Saturday, met up with Duncan, Jenn and Kim for dinner before joining some of the Nike folks for a bit. On Sunday morning, a group of us (Jonas, Duncan, Jenn, Malcolm, and Taylor) did a shakeout around Boston, and I was surprised to find that my legs felt really good. That left me feeling optimistic that they might feel good on race day. After the shakeout, I wandered around the expo with (a different Jenn), Russell, and a few others before meeting up with some West Valley/SFRC folks for dinner in the North End. Before I knew it, my alarm was going off and it was time to head to the buses.
Once we got to the runners’ village, we milled around, and found our group of Ezra, Jonas, DeNucci, Marion, and Bobby. We all walked over to the corral together. The weather was cool and overcast. It rained a bit before the race, but the start was dry and I hoped it would hold off while we were on course. The gun sounded and we were off. I had talked to Koop going into the race and we agreed that I’d start out at an earnest effort and see how it felt for the first several miles and if I felt good, I’d continue to push. If I felt bad, I’d slow it down and have a nice long fun run. Well, long story short, my legs felt much better than I thought they would. Much like New York, the wind was constantly in my face. I have no problem running at the front and was content to do so and break the wind for some other guys, because it allowed me to dictate the pace. My first couple miles were very conservative, so I ended up catching a decent amount of guys in the first half, and not far into the race, found a good group to run with, including an old college teammate Johnny Baker. There were probably 8-10 of us rolling along through Wellesley and the half (1:14:05). Around mile 14, I stepped off the course to go pee and gave up 20-30 seconds on that group. I knew that would happen but still held out hope that I’d be able to regain contact. I slowly worked my way back up to them and ended up moving on past them on the Newton Hills, bringing a couple of guys with me. I felt really strong on the hills which I appreciated, as last year I really suffered there. My hip flexors held out and the only fatigue I really felt during the race was in my calves.
After the hills, it was just a steady grind into the finish. I made sure to enjoy myself as much as possible, saw Sayles out cheering (thanks!), and basically just couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. My butt and hamstrings started to get a little tight in the last couple miles, but they held it together quite well and I felt like I finished strong. My time was 2:28:14, not quite good enough to get Wardian, who ran 2:27:xx. He’s off to run Big Sur this weekend, which does not sound like fun, as my calves are still pretty wrecked. I was really pleased with how well I executed. I was able to keep my pace despite the wind, the hills, and a pit stop and ran basically an even split of 1:14:05/1:14:09 (so a negative split if you remove the bathroom stop). My body felt strong basically the entire time and I can honestly say I had fun the whole race. The worst part of the race was after the finish, where we had to walk something like ¾ of a mile to pick up our clothes. The wind and rain picked up considerably and the space blankets they gave us to keep warm weren’t all that effective. Eventually, I made it to my clothes, changed, and headed back to the hotel.
Monday night was composed of celebrating, seeing old friends, and making new ones, and my alarm sounded a bit too early on Tuesday morning. I got home Tuesday night, immediately sat on my foam roller, and started working on my calves, which are still recovering. Other than that, I feel surprisingly good, although I have yet to try to run. We’ll see what happens today…
Next up are the IAU Ultra Trail World Championships in Annecy on May 30. Between now and then, I have a feeling I will be doing a lot of powerhiking, as the course has around 17,000ft of vert in 53 miles. I’m excited for a new challenge, as I’ve never raced in Europe, and I can’t wait to toe the line with my teammates.
Alex is part of our blog network. Check out his blog And miles to go before I eat…