Boston Marathon 2023 – All Aboard the Cook T Express

Where the marathon starts is after 30 kilometers. That’s where you feel pain everywhere in your body. The muscles are really aching, and only the most prepared and well-organized athlete is going to do well after that.

-Eliud Kipchoge

I last attempted to run the Boston Marathon back in 2018. I stayed with my friend, Colin Cook, and his kids got me really sick and unfortunately had to withdraw from the race. He invited me back to stay with him again this year. Yet, if any of his kids showed a slight sign of sniffle, I was willing to slum in on the streets. We shared no water bottles this time and I felt healthy and ready to go. Even better, Colin was joining in on the fun and running as well; I was seeking some revenge!

Huge thanks to Colin and his family for hosting me marathon weekend. We had a bon fire with family and friends; he took me to his Peak Recovery and Health Center and I got to float and try out all of the other modalities; we took two of his boys into the city with us for packet pickup, where we also met up with his good friends for lunch; I went mountain bike riding with his kids through giant puddles; we celebrated his mother’s birthday at an all-you-can-eat steakhouse; and I got to see all his new toys, gadgets, and equipment in his basement that would make any triathlete’s jaw drop. His lovely wife, Kristen, cooked us homemade meals each night. They live extremely busy lives and I’m thankful they were willing to invite me into their crazy home.

Entering my 15th year in the sport, I’m honored to be part of the Every Man Jack Triathlon team. We had a training camp in Vegas and this was a huge motivator to kick-off the season. It felt like training in Kona leading up to the race, where every single athlete had a large resume of noteworthy race results. Most importantly, I made many new friends and got to know my teammates on a more personal, non-triathlon related level. It was exciting to meet so many like-minded athletes as myself and gave me a new sense of inspiration I’ve lacked the last few seasons racing solo.

I arrived into Manchester late Thursday night. Every time I visit the northeast in early Spring, the weather is extremely variable. On Friday, temps reached 91 degrees! The past Boston Marathons I’ve attended: record high heat in the 90s in 2012, a perfect 50 degree day with little wind in 2014, and a shit show of a day in 2018 with gusting wind and heavy rain. Luckily, the temps were cooling off just in time for marathon Monday and conditions were looking very favorable, overcast and temperatures in the 50s.

Training went well leading into the marathon. I’ve been heavily focusing on the bike and hitting up the weights a lot more. Cycling has been a clear weakness of mine and Jarrod has been heavily emphasizing the cycling training this offseason. Run volume ranged from 30-40 mile weeks on average, with my peak running week just cracking 50 miles. Each week consisted of a track session, a couple runs off the bike, a fartlek style run, and a long run. I really focused on pacing for my key running sessions; while my run training volume was relatively low compared to most open-marathon runners I really emphasized the quality and intent of each session.

Race Day:

Boston never disappoints. The crowd support and vibes are incredible at this iconic event. Toeing my third Boston Marathon start, I set a lofty goal of 2:40 (6:06 average pace) on this rolling, but net downhill course. I was nervous, as I never started a marathon at such an aggressive pace. My previous best was a 2:45 at the Phoenix Marathon in 2017. My longest run had only been 18 miles, but toed the line feeling very fresh, healthy, and ready to go.

Colin and I took a shuttle from Nashua straight to the start at Hopkington race morning. Logistically, this race can be tough being point-to-point. We dropped a dry clothes bag on Saturday, which was taken to a hotel a mile away from the finish after the race. Colin took one for the team and ran with his phone for the race. I was a big weight-weenie for this race, opting to run with an AirTag only, trying to shave off as much unnecessary weight as possible.

We arrived in Hopkington around 7:30 AM, 2.5 hours before the start. It was nice having our own cushioned seats and our own bathroom at the back of the bus. Around 9:15 AM we began our long walk to the start line. It was foggy and drizzling with temps in the low 50s. I remember being a bit chilly, but couldn’t ask for much better running conditions.

I ran my qualifying marathon at an aerobic effort last year, so I was seeded a ways back in wave one, corral five. Colin started about 20 seconds ahead of me in the corral in front. The start of the Boston Marathon always feels like chaos with so many runners running similar paces with very little space. You’re almost forced to run the pace of the group for the first few miles.

My first mile was one of my slowest miles of the day, 6:18 pace. This was also the steepest downhill of the entire race, with 100 feet of elevation loss. This effort felt way too easy and I was starting to get antsy to pick it up a bit. I ran on the side of the road trying not to expend too much energy weaving through the field. At the 5k mark, I clocked a 19:08 and I had a little more room to run my own pace.

Miles 1-3: 6:18, 6:08, 6:00

Knowing I had to make up some time, I made a decision to up the pace a bit in the flatter first half of the course. I was feeling really peppy and ran mostly by feel, occasionally checking my heart rate making sure I was running within my abilities. At around mile 5, I caught Colin running with two other EMJ teammates. We exchanged a few words, but I continued running my own pace as he dropped back. I ran directly behind someone for the majority of the race. This is one perk of being short!

Miles 4-13: 5:50, 6:05, 5:50, 5:52, 6:07, 6:02, 6:01, 5:59, 5:57, 6:02

Half split: 1:19:14

Miles 14-15: 6:02, 6:07

Looking back at the results, I had nearly a minute lead on Colin at one point. As I approached the Newton Hills (Mile 16) I was startled to see Colin make the catch and running side-by-side with me. I was a bit demoralized as I thought I had a big lead on him and could coast in for the W. It was at this point of the race I no longer had that peppy, incredible feeling, where running felt “easy.” I instantly hopped on the Cook train.

Knowing I had a several second buffer on him, I held on for dear life, and tucked behind the giant monster as he blocked the gentle headwind runners faced all day. There was a lot of unintentional bumping of elbows and I accidentally clipped the back of his heels several times. I gave him very little space and just stared at his feet, matching his cadence. It was truly a battle of David vs. Goliath, as Colin is a foot taller than me!

He witnessed me dry heaving behind him and grunting in pain. I could tell I was beginning to annoy him with my Jedi mind tricks and antics. I owe him all the credit as the second half of this course is very challenging and my body, especially my quads, was really starting to ache. Miles 16-21 is hilliest section of the marathon, with four notable hills.

Miles 16 – 21: 5:57, 6:13, 6:17, 6:10, 6:15, 6:23

As we crested the final hill (Heartbreak), I was in pretty rough shape. The rest of the race seemed like a blur as I just stared at the back of Colin, trying not to give up an inch. If he swerved left, I’d swerve left; if he zig-zagged, I’d zig-zag. He surged a few times, and I forced myself to go with him.

I truly believe the next few miles made my race. While I wasn’t really thinking straight and was no longer focusing on mile splits, my main objective was to hold onto Colin till the end. Completely in in daze, I ask Colin, “Are we at mile 20 yet?” I could tell he was really gritting it out now as I glanced over and saw the anguish on his face well. The next three miles were all sub six pace. “We’re at 23, dude!” he replied.

Miles 22 – 24: 5:58, 5:58, 5:58

The crowds were amazing all throughout the course. While I had the bandwidth to high five spectators early on in the course, I had tunnel vision late in the race and was in quite a bit of pain. I could feel my entire body starting to seize up and my quads felt like they were about to cramp at any moment. I looked down and could see blood on my shoes from a busted toenail. While the terrain looks downhill/flat the last eight miles of the race on the course profile, I could feel any gentle incline or decline.

I held on until mile 25.5, when the elastic had finally snapped and Colin slowly pulled away. Right before the left had turn on Boylston I coincidentally caught my coach and Olympian, Jarrod Shoemaker! The last 600 meters to the finish felt like an eternity. I was gassed and at my limit, trying keep Colin in sight.

Miles 25-26.2: 6:07, 6:13, 6:05

I crossed in 2:40:01 as I fell to the ground in exhaustion, nearly a five minute marathon personal best. I’m incredibly happy with the result, as I broke through a barrier I had in my head for years I’d never be able to surpass. I edged Colin out by FIVE seconds. I was ecstatic as my victories against him have been very rare over the years. He was definitely going to hear about this for a long time!

The mile limp to our dry clothes bag and shower was the toughest part of the day. It started down pouring as we maneuvered our way through the crowds and finally made it to the hotel room. A warm shower never felt so good.

Thanks again to Colin and his family for hosting me marathon weekend (although I was told I will not be invited back)… and to Dan Greer for giving me first access to the Normatecs (my award for edging out Colin) and driving us around post race! This trip was so memorable and its experiences like this that make me keep coming back for more.

I got home and Becca surprised me with a cake and homemade crab cakes!

Onto triathlon season! Victoria 70.3 in a few weeks!

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Categories: Race Report, Races


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