Last month, 30,000 runners – including 26 athletes from Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View – completed the pilgrimage to New England to compete in the 123rd Boston Marathon.
The top local finisher was Caitlin Chrisman of Mountain View, who finished 401st overall and was the 27th fastest in her division (women 18-39). She crossed the finish line in 2 hours, 40 minutes, which is a 6:08 mile pace for the 26.2 miles. Los Altos Hills’ Tatsuya Arai was the second fastest local participant, finishing in 2 hours, 50 minutes to place 1,149th overall and 882nd in his division (men 18-39).
“I’ve heard that Boston is the world’s best race,” Chrisman said. “And I had honestly hesitated to do it for so many years. … I thought this would be the year to do it (because) a bunch of my training partners were also doing it.”
Such encouragement is what makes the marathon about the people as much as it is about the racing for many participants. Arai said he decided to run his sixth Boston Marathon so he could reunite with old friends.
“It’s like a big runners’ music festival,” the 38-year-old said. “Everyone comes, so that’s why I just go.”
More people – athletes and spectators – return to experience the event year after year, despite the 2013 bombing tragedy. Volunteers take the day off work to ensure the event runs smoothly, and in some parts of the course, spectators are lined four deep on a rail, cheering on the athletes.
Going into the race, Chrisman, 33, did not have a specific time goal; she instead wanted to leave with a positive experience. In terms of strategy, Chrisman hoped to run conservatively in the beginning to avoid burning out toward the end.
“I had a smile on my face from ear to ear from the start line to about 24.5 (miles),” Chrisman said. “I felt like a rock star. I was doing things I would never do in a marathon, such as raising my hands to get the crowd to cheer and giving high-fives.”
In contrast, Arai had a time goal, hoping to run 2:50 to better his 2018 time of 2:51.
“First 16 miles I was well disciplined,” he said. “I didn’t do too much. Good thing is I actually found a good old friend from Dallas. We ran side by side together from the start all the way to the end. We just paced together, trying not to push too hard.”
However, a discussion about a successful marathon would be incomplete without mentioning challenging moments. Chrisman said cresting the infamously difficult Heartbreak Hill at mile 20 was a moment of triumph for her.
She said she doesn’t like the name “Heartbreak Hill” because it insinuates the possibility of breaking the race or defining it altogether, and she found an apt parallel in her own life.
“After (my divorce), I had a choice of whether I wanted to move forward and find happiness and accept this new part of my life and not let it define me,” she said. “I didn’t let my divorce define my future. I’m not going to let this hill decide my race. And after I get to the top of it, I’m going to just go as hard as I can.”
Both Arai and Chrisman plan to compete in local races over the next few months. Chrisman earned an Olympic Trials qualifying time at the 2017 Chicago Marathon, so she intends to race in the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials next February.