What It’s Like to Run the Boston Marathon


It’s hard to do the Boston Marathon.

After 123 years, the race itself now seems inextricably bound up in an aura of athletic excellence, reaching near-mythic status. Just to say “Boston Marathon” (or even just “Boston”) is to invoke a goal or an accomplishment of seemingly impossible caliber. But if you have your sights set on Boston, as I did, then this is exactly what you are trying to do: become part of one of the most famous and grueling athletic pursuits accessible to non-elites and non-Olympians.

But, again, the Boston Athletic Association, which runs the race, doesn’t make it easy. It’s hard to qualify; hard to get to; and, of course, hard to race. (As I’ve said elsewhere: Marathons are hard.) In the lead-up to and on April 15, 2019, the day of my first Boston Marathon, I experienced all three dimensions of the race’s difficulty.

In the end, I ran a 2:35:48 there, placing 226th overall. And if you want to know in granular detail what the whole experience was like, then you can read the 7,000-word (!) account I posted at my personal blog here. (There are also pictures.)

Or, if you don’t feel like reading that many words, listen to the last 25 minutes or so of the second most recent episode of this episode of the Remnant with Jonah Goldberg. Either way, I hope my account successfully conveys what the experience of running the Boston Marathon is like.

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  1. tigerlily Member

    Congrats Jack – 226th sounds pretty good to me. I heard your discussion of your Boston Marathon run with Jonah in the Tyler Cowin interview podcast.

    • #1
  2. Chris Member

    Congratulations on the race – and thanks for giving us the chance to say so.  Keep up the good work – including the solo interview you did recently.  Haven’t been inspired to read any of his books yet, but am watching Rome – have to walk before you can run.

    • #2
  3. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards

    JackButler: And if you want to know in granular detail what the whole experience was like, then you can read the 7,000-word (!) account

    “Then I took another step, then another, and another . . .”

    Great time, well done.

    • #3
  4. Shauna Hunt Inactive
    Shauna Hunt


    • #4
  5. Pugshot Inactive

    Jeez – 2 hrs 35 mins and 226th overall – and in the Boston Marathon! Very, very impressive. Congrats, Jack!

    • #5
  6. JamesSalerno Coolidge

    Congratulations Jack! I run a half every year but I feel like I’m still far away from committing to a full marathon. Completing one must feel pretty amazing!

    • #6
  7. Chris Campion Coolidge
    Chris Campion

    Jack, that pace and finish is amazing.  I’ve watched the Boston Marathon, with a group of friends, following it off and on from the suburbs to close to the finish line – jumping on the T, etc, to move closer.  

    Just finishing is amazing.  Don’t sell yourself short.

    • #7
  8. KentForrester Coolidge

    2:35. Wow, that’s a great time.  Congratulations.  You must be a youngster.  

    I didn’t start running marathons until I was in my 40s.  I did qualify for Boston a couple of times under the old harder qualification times.  I was in my 50s by then and my time was 3:15.  However, the expense of travel and a busy schedule wouldn’t allow me to run.  I’m sorry now, however, that I didn’t make a greater effort to run.

    My favorite marathon was the Chicago Marathon. 

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  9. John Park Member
    John Park

    Great job, Jack! I have done 5, none faster than 3:57+, and I’m not sure I have another in me.

    Qualifying and running a 2:35 on a tough course is an outstanding performance.

    I do try to do a 5K, 10K, ten miler, and a half each year, but have to get back in shape for that in 2019.

    • #9
  10. Richard Easton Coolidge
    Richard Easton

    I ran a 2:37 in Boston in 1985. My PR was 2:29 that fall in the Marine Corps Marathon. I’m done doing marathons but still enjoy running.

    • #10
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