Surviving the heat in Boston — with a smile
By Stephanie Cosina
Despite all that you’ve read and heard, the Boston Marathon’s Heartbreak Hill is not that bad. It’s just a long climb at the worst time — between miles 20 and 21.
The heat? Now that’s a different story.
Before we go any further, let me just say the Boston Marathon far exceeded my expectations when I ran it for the first time on April 16. I had the time of my life and loved every (hot) second of it.
Now back to the heat. The official high temperature that Monday in Boston was 87 degrees. The humidity hovered between 40 and 60 percent and the promised tailwind of 10 to 20 miles per hour didn’t materialize until the next day.
To be honest, I was terrified of the heat leading up to the race. Each day as I tracked the weather, I found it becoming hotter and hotter. I was fearful of a DNF (even though I never done that before). The heat is sneaky. It creeps up on you, and before you know it, you’re in the medical tent and getting a ride to the finish line. I wasn’t about to DNF in Boston. I wanted to run a smart race, enjoy myself, and finish.
But before the race even started, there I was sweating. The temperature in the Athlete’s Village had climbed into the 80s. The sun was brutal and the course would offer no shade.
I decided to run by feel and started out at an 8:30-per-mile pace, knowing I would slow down. I was feeling good, enjoying the crowds in Hopkinton, and taking it all in. But around mile 4, the first signs of the heat’s toll began. My stomach started feeling a bit queasy. I tried to ignore it.
Thankfully, the spectators were amazing. They doused us with water and handed out ice cubes. I know now I would not have survived the race without their support.
After mile 10, I slowed down significantly. I happily walked through every single water stop after that, and even allowed myself to walk on the course when needed.
It was funny to see so many runners walking so early on during a marathon, especially Boston. This is going to sound cheesy but I felt a kinship, like we’re all in this together.
The Wellesley girls did not disappoint. I heard them cheering at mile 12. Since all the runners were enjoying the “experience” (the Boston Athletic Association, the official marathon host, refuses to call it a race but instead an experience), I’m pretty sure those girls got a lot of kisses that Monday. Sweaty kisses, that is.
And while I am at it, the Boston College kids were great, too. So drunk. So encouraging.
When we entered Newton, I remember thinking, “OK, here come the hills.” I didn’t think they were that bad, although I was running so slow. A bit later, after mile 21, I felt like I was going downhill all the time. But again, my perception of the course was a little skewed because of my slow pace.
Other than being hot (obviously) I felt OK around mile 22. My stomach had settled down, my legs felt good, and all the ice and frequent douses with water were keeping me somewhat cool. I was having fun!
I could even laugh. The best sign? “Honey badger don’t care about the heat.” Hysterical!
The next few miles were incredible. I had a smile plastered on my face the entire time. The crowds got even deeper and louder. I felt so emotional yet so dehydrated — which, by the way, equals no tears!
Making a right onto Hereford and a left onto Boylston was the best part of the race. I felt like I was on the red carpet.
I tried to soak up every last bit of it during the final stretch. But before I knew it, I had crossed the finish line.
My official time was 4:36:12 — my slowest marathon ever, yet I have never been prouder. I was just so happy to finish strong and not have to visit that medical tent.
I have so many people to thank. My family and friends who made the trip to Boston to see me and who treated me like a celebrity, my amazing coach Jason Jablonski, and everyone who sent congrats and words of encouragement via Facebook, text, and e-mail. I read each and every message and it meant so much to me. Thank you.
I definitely want to do Boston again — and get another shot at the course on a much cooler day and actually race it. But for now, I am just so content and happy to say I am a Boston Marathoner!
Stephanie Cosina is a Wenatchee resident and a long-distance runner. Her husband, Alex, also is a runner.