Boston Boiler: Headsweats athlete, Penny Comins, reflects on one of the hottest Boston Marathons yet

Boston Boiler: Headsweats athlete, Penny Comins, reflects on one of the hottest Boston Marathons yet

I thought I could handle heat, but on the death march into Boston city I had utterly nothing left. I was like a parched leaf disintegrating into a million tiny pieces.

The turn into the home stretch came. The crowds cheered. Yet my usual big smiley-drive to the finish was no where to be found. One foot in front of the other I pushed to the big blue line that has crossed Boylston Street marking the finish of a marathon run for 116 years in the same location. I was part of history and a year that will never be forgotten.

I was pleased to be finished. It had started off as a hot day. Organizers had allowed athletes to differ their entry to the following year if they thought they were not fit enough to run in the heat, a first in the history of the race. The start was not until 10am, usually allowing the morning to warm up. I stood in my corral in Hopkinton, Headsweats visor on, sweat dripping from my crop top, as the temp rose above 80. My race goals were still firmly in my mind despite the warnings to slow 30 seconds per mile to allow for the heat.

I held pace for the first half as we streamed down the rolling hills of Ashland, Framingham and Natick. The crowds were immense, as were the hoses and spray tents. Wellesley College girls lined the course at the half-way mark, kissing the topless men who had opted for being cool rather than wearing their tops.

I was only seconds off a 3.10 marathon at the halfway, the height of the crowd cheering, pulling me down to Boston. I knew my pace would slow over the three hills of Newton but I was ready for it. As I turned the corner after the halfway mark my legs decided that was enough. Even though I had increased my electrolytes by taking on more Maxifuel Electrotabs in the preceding days I was cramping in my thighs. As they locked up a huge blister popped on my toe.

Utterly distraught the only thing I could do was grab frantically at ice handed out by residents lining the streets. With multiple cubes shoved up my shorts I could hold a pace. This pace became a death march, as the day got hotter. The race became one big water fight as hoses poured on to the course and air conditioning units tried to cool the air. Feet slapped on as everyone trudged to the finish, many passing out on the course.

Heartbreak Hill was a smooth roll up with an amazing reception at the top. With the hills ticked off it was all downhill to the finish, all excruciating eight kilometers. Stuffing in Maxifuel Viper Active gels kept my power up and I made it to the finish in 3.46.

Will I do it again?  Yes. In the words of Runners World guru Bart Yasso, ‘This ain’t no cake run’. They say you get Boston in your Blood, I couldn’t agree more. Now which race to qualify in?

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