Why I Ran The Boston Marathon on No Training

I could have trained. I should have trained. But as we all know, sometimes things do not go according to plan. I knew that if I turned to the online running community for tips on running Boston while logging less than 20 mile/month would be met with anything but support.My running buddies who became my friends over the years never doubted and even made the trek to Boston for Marathon Monday. We were all committed to getting my body over that finish line.

The last year of my life have been utter chaos. Still I made a promise to my mother that I was going to run the race that I set my eyes on in early 2013. There was no way, sans a natural disaster, that I would miss running Boston. Who knows if I was going to BQ on another marathon in the near future. The 16-20 weeks leading up to the race I told myself that I would get out and run. Eight weeks out I officially joined a gym with the intention of logging many a mile on the treadmill. In reality I went to Zumba or cardio classes twice a week and log a mile or two after. My body and my brain were on totally different wavelengths.

I had decided that this was going to be the race that I truly ran for fun. Considering the fact that I had run a marathon seven months before I knew I was still capable of completing the distance. Shoot, I ran 81 miles in a 24 hour race on a whim.

In order to finish looking like a human and not a zombie my plan was to ride the coast the downhills with as little effort as possible and focus on my form and foot turnover on the uphills. My base goal was to get to the half marathon mark without walking and then walk the Newton Hills as needed. The expo was superb and the other runners that I met that day were a friendly reminder that we all run for a reason. A race wouldn’t be a good race if I hadn’t drunk my two god luck beers the night before the race. The race dinner offered Samuel Adam’s 26.2 tap, just my luck.

Boston 2015

I’m so excited and I just can’t hide it!

On race day the weather wasn’t great. It was just under 40 degrees with wind gusts of over 20mph. By the 5k mark the rain was another ‘perk’. Once I arrived at bag check I realized that I had left my Body Glide at home. I hadn’t planned for rain so a friend let me borrow her jacket to run in. This morning was off to an amazing start, but I still didn’t doubt that this would be a great day. After bag check things calmed down and I planned out my final race strategy.

The race went off without any further surprises. The downhills early in the race were helpful. I coasted through the 5k and 10k marks in good time. The crowds were great, it seemed that no one packed up shop and left due to the weather. Somewhere between the 10k and 21.1k mark I met my first running mate, a guy from the Czech Republic. Around the same time I saw a pizza shop and someone walking out with a few boxes of piping hot pizza. This is also the same time that I started craving pizza! Approaching the Wellesley crowd was something special. Those ladies (and gentlemen) must go to class without voices for the rest of the week. I partook in no kissing myself, but for those that are looking for a unique moment this is the place.

I slurped down my first two gels and ate a few oranges leading up to the halfway point, but my body wanted something else. I continued to push forward, head first into the wind and rain. As I made it to the first of the Newton Hills I slowed my pace and power walked my way up. My running mate for the next 7.5 miles spoke to me then. He said something along the lines of, “You look like you have the right idea.” At that point we began talking and motivating each other to make it to the next stoplight, tree or mile marker. He had a surgery a few months earlier and couldn’t train, but felt that he still had to complete the race.

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 3.30.11 PMWe ran, talked, ate Pringles and Swedish Fish. At mile 19 I saw a few friends and became a little more energized. A few miles later we saw his cheer crew. Eventually I knew my legs need a slightly longer break, a couple of minutes in a lovely porto would work. For the first time in a race 50k or under I did something different. I stopped running completely and went to the loo. I wished my mate a strong finished and proceeded to compose myself and shed a bit of liquid.

The last couple miles were tiring, I was walking anything that felt like an incline. The hill leading up to the Citgo sign was a walking hill for me. At this point I was saving as much steam as I could for the final 1.2 miles. The crowds continued to cheer and motivate runners. I had a few fun and friendly quick conversations with spectators.

Once I made it onto Hereford Street I started to pick up the pace. There was no more walking now, I was only a few minutes from keeping my word on one of the biggest promises that I have ever made. Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 3.22.52 PMAs I left onto Boylston Street and saw the finish lines in the distance I started to get emotional. I wished my mother was able to watch the race, see me finish it, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I unzipped my jacket in hopes that the photographers would snap a good photo of my crossing with my tribute shirt to my mother. All race photographers have a goal of catching you mid-moment, I had just finished opening the jacket when they snapped a photo with my arms flailing. Than all of a sudden it was over, years of planning to get here and after a few fun hours of running it was over. It didn’t feel like I had run completed another marathon, well physically it felt like I had run one, painfully smart.

Treating this race like an ultramarathon was my personal key to success. Shoot, I even dressed like I was running an ultra – so many colors, so many brands. I listened very intently to my body, paid attention to my foot turnover and ran my own race. Staying true to my word was another reason why I didn’t let any minor pain deter me from finishing. The Boston Marathon was my slowest marathon, but it is the race that I am most proud of. Thank you Boston for allowing me to run this great race and thank you mom for being my greatest supporter and motivation.

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My Honolulu Marathon Fun Run

I decided to run the Honolulu Marathon in late 2012 and I’m glad I followed through on the run. I stopped training and running in early November, after the NJ Trail Series 24 hour run that I completed (a race report for another day), so I wasn’t sure how I’d do on no training. I’ve had mild knee pain since my 81 mile run, which I haven’t had checked out yet. Reading other reports I knew there were three things to be aware of:

  1. The runners that stand at the start line watching the fireworks that kick off the run
  2. Diamond Head elevation
  3. The weather

The night before the race I had dinner at Auntie Pasto’s, which was delicious. If you are in Honolulu, it’s worth checking out. I’ve decided that two bottles of beer the night before the race shall serve as my pre-race “good luck” tradition. I opted for two Kona Brewing Company Longboard lagers this time. Since the race starts at 5am I needed to be up by 3:30am so that I could walk to the start with enough time to wiggle my way to the front of the start. laid out my race gear, drank my beer and off to bed I went.

The morning of the race I woke up, got dress, ate a quick snack and headed off toward the start line. My strategy for the race was simple, have fun! If I finished under 4:00 I’d be happy. I didn’t notice the humidity initially, although it wasn’t terrible overall. Florida still holds the crown in terms of humidity. The fireworks went off and some of us were off. I wasn’t as close tot he front as I wanted to be so I crossed the start line about 2:00 into the race. I ran with one of the reps for The Stick that I met at the expo. I’d see him pull up to me again around Mile 21 and I reminded him he needed to pick up the pace if he wanted to finish within his goal. There were small crowds through the first seven miles.

When we reached Diamond Head the road narrowed considerably. I decided to plow through the hill and run along the caution tape that volunteers were hold up. Hi-fiving them as a darted by was nice. For the next however many miles it was residential running, but nice to see folks out cheering, singing and playing instruments. I was able to catch sunrise early in the second half of the race, of course this was after I’d watched the front runner pass me (this is an our and back course). 21K – 1:53:39


Once the sun came up the cold sponges at aid stations REALLY came in handy. I took one at each aid station that offered them. More ‘Good Mornings’ and ‘Hellos’ to everyone I passed, including lots of police officers. I was having fun, as hard as it is for some to believe. Time ticked away and one thing I tried to do was learn the Japanese phrase I kept hearing. It reminded me of the word ‘Sabaidee’ which you hear a lot in Thailand. I later found out that is was something like ‘Gambatee.’ Anywho, back to running. Diamond Head was a little more annoying at Mile 24, but there was a bonus. A group of Hashers set up an aid station near the 40k mark, just before the downhill begins. They made sure folks knew they were doling out beer and I gratefully accepted. 2.2km left in this race, Woohoo!!!

As I neared the finish I saw a Minnie Mouse, I didn’t want to get costumed so at this point I made an effort to sprint through the finish. The only issue with that is quite a few people slow down just as they get to the clock…. Run through the clock, if you can, please! The mouse got under just before me, but that means I finished also. Second marathon completed in 3:57:08. As the volunteer handed me my finisher beads she said, “You don’t even look like you just ran a marathon. It looks like you could run another one right now.” I smiled, told her, “I just had fun” and headed to the finishers village. My knee was throbbing a tad bit, but I was able to walk on it.

Time for my 10 minute shiatsu massage and a few malasadas before spending the afternoon at Lanikai Beach. The finishers village was well organized and had a lot to offer, especially since there were only about 1,200 of us there at the time.


Overall the race was nice, as most say it could do for a little nicer view at some points, but it wasn’t terrible. The race director may want to consider making at least one seeded corral so that those who want to run the race can without having to run on dividers and such for the first few miles, the corral signs they use are completely ignored. There is no reason why people should be dodging walkers from the start gun/fireworks. I’d definitely recommend this race to anyone looking to run a destination race just don’t come in expecting a super fast course. Come to have fun!

Now to take a few weeks off and let my body recover from all this running!

Steamtown Marathon, I Love You!

Just over six months ago I decided I needed to start base training for the Honolulu Marathon that I registered for in January. I told myself I wanted to Boston Qualify this year as well, 3:35:00 or better for my age group. As a reference point, there are lots of people that spend years trying to run a time that qualifies them for Boston. I, on the other hand, hoped to do so on my first try and with one official race completed since my high school track days, a half marathon on mostly treadmill running. This is going to go well, right? Well somewhere over the last six months I found out about this amazingly beautiful race in Scranton, PA. I registered and found myself trying to stick to a schedule I drew up on my own. It wasn’t perfect, but I enjoyed it.

Fast forward to October 13th! Two friends and I parked in a garage around the corner from the bus loading area and got ready to run the Steamtown Marathon. Since this is a point to point race we all get dropped off in Forest City, PA and then run back to Scranton, PA. Sounds like fun? It is! The ride up was pretty calm, the sun had just started to rise and I was able to get a few minutes of sleep in. The men/women bathroom designations at the start worked well, we did have a guy in the women’s line – we let him use the women’s portos even though he somehow didn’t notice he was the only male in the line. It was nice to have an indoor place to wait and the messages from the students were a nice to see. Two bathroom trips later I made it to my corral/area that had a 8min/mi pace sign held up while taking my first gel.

There was a misfire of the traditional cannon start so runners started out with the gun blast. Three seconds later the cannon went off followed by cheers as runners crossed the starting mats. Miles 1-6… From what I recall they were great. The first half mile was pretty flat and the pace moved nicely, the downhill when you turn on Dundaff St. is very steep! I shuffled down it and turned right onto Main St. There are some early birds out there to cheer and it’s nice to know that the residents support 2,000+ runners making their way through the area at 8am. I don’t wear a fancy watch and I tend to forget to hit lap at mile markers, so I just did the math in my head at each mile marker. Thank you to all the runners around me with fancy watches that beeped and rang out as we approached each mile marker. I did use Map My Run on my phone so that I could see my stats later. 7:21 – 8:00 – 7:56 – 7:16 – 7:18 – 7:22

Miles 7-15 were equally as nice. I followed the advice of a friend, almost, and just enjoyed the run. I looked around, read signs, smiled and said ‘Good Morning’ to spectators. I believe I gave out about 12 high-5’s by this point. I made an effort to high-5 anyone the had a hand out or an ‘ Official High-5 Station’ sign, even when it meant darting to the other side of the street. Thank you to everyone lining the streets here: Carondale, Archbald and Jermyn. The scenery was gorgeous!! The support was fantastic and I breezed past the 13.1 mile clock at 1:41:11. At this point I had a few minutes banked, but I was feeling great and the best felt perfect with little effort. I took a gel at mile 8 and just after 13.1. The trails began just before mile 15 and they were lovely. The major elevation drop ends around this point as well. 7:54 – 7:17 – 7:46 – 7:33 – 7:38 – 7:39 7:53 – 7:43 – 7:51

Miles 16-23 included more trains and a loop in the park. I was on cruise control at this point and simply read signs and did pace/goal time math. I began to think that not only would I run a Boston qualifying time, but I may be able to run a sub-3:30. I told myself not to get ahead of myself and reassess my goal. Just as you exit the park there is a little wooden bridge that takes you over to the last of the trail section. Enjoy it!! I personally found it very enjoyable and not hard to manage. I took my final gel around mile 20. I think there was a little hill at mile 23, I’d compare it to one of the lower loop rollers in Central Park. I did the math at mile 23. I had 6.5 minutes banked if I wanted to hit 3:33 . I could run 10 minute mile pace at this point and reach my goal and rather than risk blowing out on the major hill that was yet to come I decided to start pulling back. I was around 2:58 with 5k to go. 7:47 – 7:47 – 7:47 – 7:56 – 7:53 – 7:52 – 8:01 – 8:12

Miles 24-26.2  is where the FUN begins in this race. Yes, they are kind enough to put a couple nice hills at the end of the race. I was very nervous about these hills going into the race and asked a few people at the expo about them. I tend to run Harlem Hill in Central Park and thought they would be a lot worse, thankfully they weren’t for the most part. The major hill is the one around mile 24.3. It’s a bit steep and a has a little curve at the end where it hides a little extra. I simply leaned forward a bit, shortened by stride and powered up the sucker. Sorry for the lack of smiles there, minus a smile and wave at the hospital patients I saw just before the right turn. It reminded me of Cat Hill in Central Park. More running, the support dies out a bit around here, everyone is on the last hill and at the finish minus the beer guy at mile 25, you are awesome, my friend. I told you I was coming back for that beer, I ended up asking a friend to grab one for me! Two ‘hills down’ and one to go is what I thought. I was greeted by my friend shouting at me. I love that kinda stuff!! ‘One little hill after the light, Espinoza, you’re almost done!!’ Trudging up to the top of the hill wasn’t effortless, it was a bit long, but once I reached the stoplight at the top I could see the finish line. YES!!!! I definitely had a sub-3:30 in the bag. I picked up the  pace a little, not a powerful finish by any means, but I was happy. Stopped my watch, 3:28:11! (It matched my chip time perfectly) ::Happy dance commences:: 8:17 – 8:13 – 8:13 – I forgot to stop my phone so it’s a little off, around 8:00

If you are going to run this race, get some hill training in, get some downhill training in and get some off-road running in if you can (nothing too crazy required). There’s no need for gloves, thermals, etc. at the start, IMHO. You’re body should warm up pretty quickly and by the halfway point the temperature should be ideal.

Overall I loved the race. The organization was great. They should definitely host a conference on ‘How to Plan and Execute A Great Marathon.’ The food at the finish was top notch. I love perogies! I love my medal! I was happy with my massage by Grace in the court house lobby. The shirts were a nice touch. The volunteers were very helpful and remembered faces, a great thing! If you are a looking for  a race that makes you feel like an elite and support from perfect strangers then definitely register for the 2014 Steamtown Marathon. I can’t gush about it enough, meaning I’ve probably forgotten about 300 great things I have been thinking about the race over the past 48 hours. I love you, Steamtown Marathon!

Ultramarathon & Marathon Training During Ramadan

It’s not hard. (إن شاء الله) Well I should say it’s not impossible, but it’s certainly not easy. When presented with the most recent heatwave in NYC I was left with to options, run in the heat or not train at all. (I’m not a fan of treadmill running now that I’ve started a serious relationship with outdoor running, so that was not an option.) Over the past couple weeks I have made it a priority to run at least four times a week, even logging over 16 miles on a Sunday run.

Going into this training season I hadn’t planned to run an ultramarathon at the end of August. It just happened. Really. I did know that I would need to log miles during Ramadan in order to hit my marathon training goals. So then this ultra moseys onto my schedule and there’s no turning back. I haven’t even run a marathon yet. I keep telling myself if I can run 30-40 miles a week in the heat and without hydration I can deal with a flat ultramarathon course with a cool start and a couple hours of running in the heat with hydration.

My ultimate goal is to finish the 50k, but I have an ambitious 4:59:59 or better goal time tucked away in the back of my mind. I was under the impression that I could hit my goal time on some of my longer runs, but I’ve found it hard to hold a slow pac, even on long runs. Last weekend I completed my run at a sub-9 min ave pace of 16.55 miles (if you don’t count the 5 minutes of water breaks, traffic lights and figuring out where we were). I believe the cooler, evening conditions aided in keeping a slightly faster, conversational pace with my fellow running buddies. My goal finishing pace is 9:39 or so for the 50k. I’m hoping that I can complete my 20 mile run this weekend at that pace, but if I stay in the low nine minute range I may be in for a surprise on race day.

I feel like I’m in a grove at this point. My weeknight runs have been at 7:50-8:40 mile averages. I don’t feel drained as much, which I can likely attribute to sitting in the air conditioning for a few minutes after runs to lower my core temperature.

Some of the things that have worked for me during Ramadan race training include:

  • Listening to my body instead of trying to hit specific paces
  • Not wasting energy by making unnecessary movements
  • Wearing breathable clothing
  • Not running more than than 6-7 miles (approx. 10-11k)
  • Starting runs within two hours of sunset
  • Having at least a .5 litre bottle of cold water nearby when the sun does set
  • Starting long runs close to sunset

Every mile during my runs I try to do a tune-up check on my body. I think about my form, my breathing, any tension in my body and how my body feels overall. I feel like this has definitely helped keep me on track and keep my mind off of the fact that I cannot rehydrate like many of my fellow runners post-run. Two more weeks to appreciate the simple things like a sip of cold water after putting a hard workout.