Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Running For The Experience - Boston 2014

Newton Hills. Photo: Josh Niforatos.

At the moment I'm in the middle of the key part of my build-up for Western States 100 by running races for a few weeks in a row. Not all-out, 100% efforts because that would either lead to injury or burn-out. Instead it's a balancing act of getting in runs that provide quality training for endurance, speed and hills.

On top of that there's no reason the races can't be iconic, inspiring and exciting. That's why I picked Lake Sonoma 50 a week ago with a world class field combined with a great route and organization. Another obvious choice for me was the Boston Marathon, especially after the bombings last year. I've run Boston three times before and loved it, but as soon as last year's events unfolded I wasn't the only one to swear to sign up for the redemption and pride edition in 2014.

A road marathon like Boston is excellent for working on sustained speed and making the easier sections of a 100-miler much easier to cruise (yes, there is method to my madness). However, there are moments that are worth experiencing even if they don't fit in with a perfectly planned build-up to a race. After all, in a few years when I look back at my running career I want to reminisce about memorable events and trips in a lot of different styles (road, trail, jungle, desert etc).

The global running community and city came together in the expected, and genuinely up-lifting, show of spirit at Boston, as captured by Scott Dunlap in his blog. It will remain one of my favorite memories for years to come, plus the extremely fast runs of many ultra runners were enough to make me want to train harder and more intelligently. Here are a few speedy ultra runners:

2:19 Uli Steidl (1st Master)
2:21 Matt Flaherty
2:23 Matt Laye
2:23 Mike Wardian
2:23 Blue Benadum
2:32 Alex Varner (a week after fourth at Lake Sonoma despite slowing a lot in the second half)
2:41 Magdalena Lewy Boulet

I aimed for a hard effort but kept on training as normal in-between races so was happy with 2:39 with a 1:17/1:22 split. Usually I'd call that bad pacing but I wanted to test my legs and it felt like a low 2:30s marathon would have been feasible with a taper, which is as fast as I've ever been. I bumped into fellow ultra coach, Jason Koop, at the start and we ran the first half together before I backed off, then I caught him up near the end and we crossed the line waving and playing up to the crowd.

So for those wanting to run Boston one day, this year was a timely reminder of why this race is special. I know I'm fortunate to be able to pick and choose my experiences rather than relying on lotteries or unobtainable entry criteria (except the Olympics). Thank you Boston and congratulations to all the runners, especially Meb's amazing victory and Rita Jeptoo's third win and course record.

Full results here.


Scott Race Rocker 2.0 shoes
Clif Bar Shot gels
Drymax Max Protection socks
Julbo Dust shades


  1. It was nice bumping into you when we got off the busses at the Village. Always fun seeing the big mountain guys run fast on the roads too. :)

  2. Seeing all the ultra runners and trail runners that run Boston just shows what a big pull the Boston is. With so many other trail races to do I have never felt the pull to run many marathons but seeing so many race reviews from guys I follow about Boston makes me think I should try it sometime

  3. Nice work Ian! I had a poor run at Boston, a bad day at the office. I need you to coach me down from a 3-19 to sub 3hr marathon ;) I found. Boston more challenging, in some ways, than some of the trail ultras I've done lately

    Rob (fellow Brit living in the US)

  4. Great to see you at the start! Amazing you can run 2:39 as a "decent hard effort". I'll see you at Big Sur!

  5. I would have been that much happier with my race had I bumped into THE Ian Sharman at the end! Nice effort in mid training, for sure! It was truly the experience of a lifetime being out there that day.