As an ultra-marathon runner and a running coach, my experiences at the Boston Marathon in 2021, 2023, and 2024 have been milestones in my journey, each year offering its unique set of challenges and triumphs. These iconic races have not only tested my physical endurance but also taught me invaluable lessons about resilience, community, and the human spirit.

Detailing my experiences below shows how each race can be quite different from the year before. Adjustments need to be made based on what you know you will face, as a runner, and things you simply cannot predict.

The Boston Marathon 2021 – A Pandemic Race

The Boston Marathon

After the event’s cancellation in 2020 due to the global pandemic, the anticipation and excitement in 2021 were palpable, albeit tempered by the necessary safety protocols. The race was held in October, a significant shift from its traditional April date. The atmosphere was charged with a mix of nervous energy and relief, as we were finally able to come together, albeit in a limited capacity.

One of the most unique things I had to deal with was not only preparing for the race itself but also preparing for the testing necessary upon arrival. Due to COVID, each runner either had to be vaccinated or had to immediately be tested as soon as they arrived. This also meant testing before getting on my flight as it would be a waste of time to show up and test positive. A positive test would have meant not getting to run the Boston Marathon in 2021.

Another unique challenge I faced in 2021 was the lack of a traditional corral for the start. Instead, each runner was given a time window to show up and you could start the race whenever you wanted within that window. I also felt as if I missed out on the true experience of running the Boston Marathon since there wasn’t as much pomp and circumstance in 2021.

Note: Even though I qualified to run in 2022, I decided not to, since the 2021 race was only 6 months before the 2022 race.

The Boston Marathon 2023 – A Return to Normalcy

Fast forward to 2023, and the Boston Marathon felt like a homecoming. With the world having adjusted to the new normal, the race returned to its traditional Patriots’ Day date. The energy was back with 27,092 runners and a much larger crowd out to support the race.  Compared to 2021, there were a total of 28,793 runners, but only 18,075 participated in person with the rest participating virtually.

With cool weather with some rain, the race was run in a much more traditional sense in 2023. I was able to qualify with my time for the 2024 race.

The Boston Marathon 2024 – Crowds Return & Unexpected Heat

2024 Boston Marathon

This year (2024), the Boston Marathon was much different than previous years. Initially, I felt like there were many more runners (29,333 participants) than in previous years and the floodgates had been opened for spectators, too. While security was still present and apparent, it felt like the race was finally back to its former glory.

With multiple waves starting in each corral, it felt like there were people everywhere. Not only did the crowds make this year’s race unique, but also the weather. Typically, the weather for the Boston Marathon is cool, and rainy weather for the New England area in April. However, in 2024, it was much hotter than expected.

The heat came as a surprise for many. Even with my training in California, I wasn’t fully prepared for how the heat might impact the race. Most of my training was done in cooler weather with temperatures in the 50s and 60s, so the heat changed the tone of the race bringing the mental aspect into play quite a bit.

Heat management became necessary with many runners struggling and some even collapsing. The weather also provided a few other unique obstacles. Instead of just trying to dodge slower runners, I had to dodge debris including water cups, banana peels, wipes, and other items. Many runners were taking water cups to pour the water over their heads to cool off.

You could feel the anxiety in the runners due to the heat. However, there was still quite a bit of joy when runners crossed the finish line. Throughout the race, it was obvious that many runners struggled to adjust to the heat. Training with a good running coach can certainly help with adjusting to unexpected obstacles during any race.

How My Times Changed from Year to Year

In 2021, my net time was 3:38:38, which placed me at 119 in my division. I was able to improve on my time in 2023 finishing in 3:33:25 putting me in 147th place in my division. This year, my time was slower, due to the heat. I finished with a time of 3:36:09, but I was able to place 35th in my division.

Weather can have a significant impact on any long-distance runner. Even seasoned runners may not finish a race if the heat becomes too much. If you’re looking for a performance coach to help you with race management, contact me today.