Marathon Monday

Running Boston at age 65 meant a lot to me – a bid for immortality.  My stretch goal was to run at the same pace I ran it at age 48. 

It’s an inspiring course.  The first 4 miles of downhill tempt everyone to a fast start.  The next 11 are about controlling pace over mostly flat roads.  Then, the course dives down a long steep hill to Newton Lower Falls and the race really begins.  The Newton hills demand grit.  Finally, one hopes to have gas in the tank for a fast finish down through Brookline into Boston.

Four weeks earlier on my birthday, I had run the first 22 miles of the course and felt great – started in the dark on a beautiful cold morning; ran a steady pace on the flats with a slight tail wind; felt the passion to accelerate over the hills; crested Heartbreak Hill to see the sun rising over the city; stopped at Boston College feeling confident for a strong final four miles on race day.  A great run and a peak experience in itself, but perhaps a training error. 

I figured I had four weeks to recover and hoped to be as strong or stronger on race day.  I did some shorter, faster training runs and rested up.   In the week or two before the race, with several years of training behind me, I worried that I’d get hurt or catch COVID.  The day before the race, I stumbled going up the stairs in flip-flops, felt a twinge in my hamstring and thought it was all over . . . but the hamstring loosened up.

On race day, I went out at 8:40 pace, about 15 seconds faster than I had run four weeks earlier.  I gambled that I’d be able to maintain that steady pace over the hills and average out to a slightly faster run than four weeks earlier.  In fact, I averaged the same pace through mile 22, but I was decelerating, not accelerating.   I didn’t have much left in the tank after Heartbreak.

Near Cleveland Circle, there was a man holding a sign that said “Finish on Empty.”  I yelled over to him – “Hey, I’m already on empty.”  Not quite empty, I had enough to finish down Beacon street running 9:00 to 9:30 pace, but not the fast finish I’d hoped. 

My tank was so empty at the finish line that the short walk to the Public Garden to meet my wife felt longer than the race.  I noticed that a lot of other finishers didn’t seem to be walking so slowly.

I had finished in 3:52, about 13 minutes slower than I had in 2005.  So much for agelessness. 

Most of the people around me on the course were from out-of-state – T-shirts and accents from across the country and around the world.  I had not fully appreciated how far people at all levels of competition come to run this race.  Lucky we are to live in this state.

As a public servant, I marveled at the brilliantly executed logistics of the event:  The clean online sign-up process, the clear pre-race communications, the military marshalling of all the region’s school buses to convey 30,000 runners to the starting line (not to mention the marshalling of all of the region’s portable bathrooms), and the great support on the route – a massive volunteer army.

Hats off to the Boston Athletic Association and their race director, Dave McGillivray, and enormous gratitude to all the volunteers.  Great thanks also to the communities who host the event and all the public safety personnel from dozens of agencies who mobilize to keep the event safe. 

Special gratitude to all who came out along the route.  I ran my first marathon at 16 and I’ve been doing long races my whole life.  I am grateful to live in a sports town that celebrates runners.

Thanks to all for the very kind words below!!!! I am grateful for the support.

/w.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

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86 Comments

  1. Hope all goes well with a run that is safe, speedy, and rewarding! You are amazingly versatile!

  2. Good luck on the commemoration of the Battle of Marathon and of Lexington and Concord.

      1. Ok. One victory to which democracy owes all, and one opening skirmish in the American fight for independence.

  3. I recognize your bunny ears, Will because I was wearing them too while face painting all the beautiful children at the Community Egg Hunt! Hope you enjoyed running. Well done!

  4. Will, CONGRATS to you! My husband ran the course in about the same time as you a few years ago when he was 4 years younger than you. Your time was GREAT! What an accomplishment! Yay you!

  5. Congrats Will! I stopped running marathons in my late fifties. But, to be honest that course with all those downhills in the first half of the race were never good for my quads.

    I hope you recover quickly!

  6. Congratulations, Senator! I’m proud to be a BAA volunteer, offering you water and cheering along the way!

  7. How inspiring,Will!
    Thank you for sharing your experience-a true gift to us all.
    I’ll look forward to reading your posting about your run at age 85!

  8. Quite an accomplishment to run it officially twice, and even more for practice. We should all be so healthy at 65! Congratulations, Senator.

  9. Congratulations! You did great! You’re a little older than me; we’ve met a few times around the neighborhood and I would have guessed you were maybe 50. Maybe I should take up running . . . nah!

  10. CONGRATULATIONS! An incredible feat to run a marathon! You did it. It was an incredible day for the city and all who came. Not only the runners but all those who supported them. So many joyful moments. Thank you for sharing the fullness of your day’s experience.

  11. Nice story. Hats off to you finishing the race. It’s a great memory you will treasure.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Diana

  12. Congrats! We followed you on the app all morning! Thrilled you were able to finish!

  13. Good job Will, really good job! I hope you give the joints plenty of time to recover. Still a lot of years ahead and you are going to need them.

  14. Senator, I have always thought runners have a better perspective of life, since it whizzes by faster, so you know you gotta get crankin’. Thank you for going the extra mile for us.

  15. Will — I never, ever would have guessed you are 65! Very impressive to run a marathon, for sure!
    Kathy Greenough

  16. Congratulations, Will. I am decidedly (and unfortunately) not a runner. My oldest daughter and I watched in person and we were in awe of anyone that finished – we were in Cleveland Circle and saw the post-Heartbreak Hill exhaustion on everyone’s faces!

  17. Congratulations!!! Your commitment & perseverance are inspiring! I hope you celebrated your marathon accomplishment!!

  18. Congratulations Senator Will…. that’s an awesome Job!!!????????

  19. You’re amazing, Will! What a great example of staying forever young you’ve set for all of us. In this time of such hardship around the world, it’s so important to hear uplifting and inspiring stories. You’ve given us a great one! Here’s to another 30 years of running for you.
    All the best,
    Will T.

  20. Loved reading about your Boston Marathon experience! CONGRATS on a strong finish and take good care of yourself as you recover and prepare for next year!

  21. Perseverance is a tremendous quality. I appreciate your tribute to the organizers, volunteers and municipalities along the race. This 65 year old enjoyed the entire race on Channel 4. Thanks for their great coverage!

  22. Congratulations Will. You are an inspiration to many of us. We may not be able to run marathons like you but we can try to stay in shape as we age.

  23. What a wonderful tribute to this historical marathon. I’m so impressed Senator! I enjoyed being a spectator on the sideline. It was so exciting to see the people of Boston out again enjoying the event!

  24. Congratulations! That’s awesome. Thank you for sharing your highs & lows from marathon day!

  25. Fantastic race Senator. 3:52 is fabulous at any age. Thanks for the on-the-scene narrative. I felt like I was there.

  26. Terrific accomplishment, congratulations! You’re a role model in so many varied ways. (ps wow, 8:40 steadily for 22 miles :))

  27. Will … 8:51 pace for 26 miles … impressive to me, regardless of age. At 65 … just amazing. But as we all know, there always be those greater and lesser than us … even ourselves over time. Just another way that you are so special. Congratulations … Chuck

  28. Congrats on your run! Excellent work! I ran also yesterday, and was such an awesome event. Very few things compare to that unique Boston Marathon vibe! What an experience!

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