Rachel G. Bowers

Even the best-laid Boston Marathon plans can go off-course

Brighton, MA -- 4/08/2018 - Christine Yost, 35, of Brighton poses for a portrait with her Boston Marathon medal at her apartment in Brighton. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff) Topic: Marathon Reporter:
Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
Christine Yost’s first Boston Marathon ended up being riddled with rookie mistakes.

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Christine Yost heard all the sage advice before running her first marathon — the Boston Marathon at that — last year.

She threw it all out the window.

“I call it an out-of-body experience, but not in a good way,” said Yost, 35, as she told the story with a dose of self-deprecation.


Her problems began with her wardrobe choice. It was hot on race day, but she wore a new pair of Lululemon leggings because she thought it would make for better photos. She elected against pouring water over her head to cool herself down because she did not want to get her shoes wet. And she embraced the notion that a rookie marathoner could finish in less than four hours.

“When the gun went off, I decided to run faster than I’d run in training, because that’s super smart,” she said.

It all began to unravel at Mile 16.

“I was like the person whose plane crashes in the tundra,” said Yost, who lives in Brighton and is a librarian. “They just start making bad decisions and the bad decisions compound.”

Although she was suffering from heat-related illness and enduring “excruciating” pain, she did not stop at a medical tent. If she did, she thought, she would be immediately put in a golf cart, covered in a space blanket, and whisked away to the hospital.


She ate everything that anyone in the crowd would give her. She texted “everyone I know,” including people from high school whom she hadn’t seen since their last reunion. She threw away her water bottle.

“This is the worst I’ve ever felt, and I still have hours of this to go,” she recalled thinking.

Then came the Newton Hills. Yost thought she was a Newton Hills champion because she had trained with the Heartbreak Hill Running Club.

Newton Hills 1, Christine Yost 0.

On the third hill, a Boston College student tried to give her a Coors Light.


“So I must’ve looked real bad if he picked me out of the crowd,” said Yost.

A man in a wheelchair — not a wheelchair racer, she said, but “I think just a gentleman who wanted to participate” — consistently passed her on the uphills.

“So that was a harrowing thing to see,” she said.

At the bottom of Heartbreak Hill awaited her father and brother. She cried, hugged her father, and begged him to get her out of there before she continued forward.

“I carried on with tears in my eyes, and I did cross the finish,” said Yost, who finished in 4 hours, 32 minutes. “I just was so out of it that I don’t remember any of those things that I had dreamed about for months, like turning onto Boylston.”

She recognized the series of mistakes she made, and vowed to strive for a simpler goal when she ran her second marathon in January: keep her decision-making faculties intact the entire race.

“[I] was conscious the entire time,” she said. “It was a true win.”

Yost is not alone in her less-than-ideal execution of a marathon. The 26.2-mile trek from Hopkinton to Boston can be dotted with mishaps, mistakes, injuries, odd-ball interactions, and quirky decisions.

‘I don’t pee my pants when I run anymore’

Andrew McDonnell lives in Framingham.
Courtesy Andrew McDonnell
Andrew McDonnell lives in Framingham.

Andrew McDonnell’s first marathon was last year’s Boston Marathon.

The morning of the race, he met his lifelong hero, Doug Flutie, and shook his hand as they wished each other luck. The course took him down memory lane, as many parts of his life — his childhood, the birth of his children, his work — are linked to towns along the way.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said.

But then something happened.

“When I got to Wellesley, I peed my pants,” said McDonnell, who sells software and lives in Framingham.

“It happened a couple weeks before in training, and I wasn’t really concerned. I figured, you’re chugging tons of Gatorade, you’re running, coffee, it just happens, right? That’s what I figured and kind of just went back to life.”

But as he began training for this year’s marathon, he couldn’t even make it through a 10-mile run without the overwhelming urge to go to the bathroom.

“I’m like, ‘This isn’t normal, always having to go,’ ” he said.

So he saw his doctor and learned that he has an enlarged prostate, which was causing the frequent urges. At only 39, McDonnell hadn’t considered that he needed to worry about his prostate yet.

“So now I just take this Flomax every day, and it’s really good,” said McDonnell, who finished last year in 4:30. “It helps. I feel better. I don’t pee my pants when I run anymore.”

Last year, McDonnell was a charity runner for Voices Against Violence, whose mission is to end sexual and domestic violence. This year, he is running for Call2Talk, a confidential mental health and emotional support help line.

Little did McDonnell know that while he was running to raise money and awareness for those causes, he would wind up helping himself in the long run, too.

“I don’t think it would’ve ever been a problem unless I was on a marathon,” he said. “I would’ve just kept going to the bathroom and probably been fine with it and ignored it for a while.”

‘Oh, you should do this, it’ll help with blisters’

JoAnne Bedard lives in Rutland.
Courtesy JoAnne Bedard
JoAnne Bedard lives in Rutland.

JoAnne Bedard knows runners should not try something new on Marathon Day.

“So I have,” she said.

It was 2012 and she was on a bus from Boston Common to the starting line with her fellow Central Mass Striders running club members. Some began to apply body glide to their feet and suggested Bedard, 52, do the same.

“They said, ‘Oh, you should do this, it’ll help with blisters,’ ” said Bedard, an administrative assistant for Wachusett School District Human Resources. “Well, I had never done it before. I will never do it again.”

It was blazing hot that year, so Bedard and two friends she was running with slowed their pace. At Mile 15, they stopped for water and Bedard retrieved what she at first thought was a pebble from her shoe.

“I don’t think it was a pebble,” she said. “I think it was the start of the blisters.”

She felt discomfort for the duration of the race, believing pebbles continued to get inside her shoes.

“Like, how many times can I stop to take little pebbles out of my shoe?” she said.

After crossing the finish line in 6:35, she made her way to a hotel room to get washed up. It was then that she took off her sneakers, revealing the full extent of the blisters.

“They were the whole ball of my foot, pretty much,” she said.

The blisters were so big that she turned to her doctor a couple of days after the race.

“He couldn’t believe they hadn’t popped,” she said.

She was told to wait until the end of the week to pop them, giving the skin underneath a chance to mature. She experienced mild pain when she finally popped them, wore sneakers and socks with a little extra padding, and made sure to keep her feet clean in the subsequent days.

“I hope nobody ever has to go through that,” she said, “because that was crazy.”

‘I literally had sunburned Band-Aid outlines on my nipples for the rest of the summer’

Courtesy Mark Vautour
Mark Vautour lives in Newton.

Mark Vautour had gotten a Boston Marathon race bib on two weeks’ notice. It was 2008, and he was running his first of seven or eight Bostons.

On race day, Vautour, 38, wanted to prevent chafing on his nipples, so he put Band-Aids over them. But it was a warm day, and at Mile 6, Vautour, who lives in Newton and runs Landry’s Bicycles, said goodbye to his shirt. But he left the Band-Aids on.

“I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me,” he said. “In retrospect, it seems like an obvious problem. I literally had sunburned Band-Aid outlines on my nipples for the rest of the summer.”

At Mile 23, it was no shirt, no problem. He finished a beer as he passed the Washington Square Tavern (“It was roughly a Harpoon IPA”), earning a tip of the cap from a police officer and delighting the crowd.

“Little did they know, half a mile later, I was burping it back up,” said Vautour, who finished that year in 3:48.

‘It’s like . . . you have to land and you have to throw up at the same time’

Meb Keflezighi (left) accompanied Hilary Dionne across the finish line at the 2015 Boston Marathon.
Elise Amendola/AP
Meb Keflezighi (left) accompanied Hilary Dionne across the finish line at the 2015 Boston Marathon.

Meb Keflezighi knew the feeling all too well.

At Mile 24 in the 2014 Marathon, Keflezighi had the urge to vomit but did not want to pull over.

“I just put my head up, put my hand over my chin, and kept it in,” Keflezighi said.

He went on to win, cementing himself in Boston Marathon history as the American who helped take back the race after the bombing in 2013.

When it was time to defend his title the next year, Keflezighi knew the pressure was on. In 2014, he had pulled away at Mile 5, but he knew he couldn’t pull the same move two years in a row. So he paced himself, planning to save a move for near the end.

“All I was thinking was, ‘Get me to Mile 22, get me after the hills,’ because usually people make moves on the Newton Hills and Heartbreak Hill,” he said. “So I was saving my energy.”

But it was at Mile 22 that the trouble started. He again had to vomit, and this time there was no holding it in. He tried to carry on with the pace, wanting to close the gap with the lead pack.

“But as soon as they notice you are having issues, they want to press it,” he said. “They don’t want you to get back in the game.”

He couldn’t get back in the game, having to stop five times to throw up.

“It’s like somebody just pushed you in the air and you have to land and you have to throw up at the same time,” he said. “It was tough, it was tough.”

He wound up placing eighth in 2:12 but created another memorable finish-line moment, helping a fellow runner across.

‘I woke up literally praying that I wasn’t going to get vertigo’

Courtesy Bob Cargill
Bob Cargill lives in Sudbury.

Bob Cargill was in the men’s department of Marshalls in Marlborough when he fell ill.

“I just went to the floor, vomiting and physically sick, and couldn’t stand up, and they had to get the ambulance to carry me away,” said Cargill, a 59-year-old social media marketing consultant who lives in Sudbury.

This was two days before the 2014 Boston Marathon. Cargill knew what was plaguing him. He had dealt with a bout of vertigo a few years earlier. This time it was severe. Everything was spinning. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t open his eyes.

“I’m vomiting because it’s so dizzy,” he recalled. “It’s like you’re on a roller coaster.”

He underwent a battery of tests to rule out other possible causes, and was discharged when the symptoms subsided a few hours later. But the vertigo wasn’t done with him. The night before the marathon, Cargill endured another bout, this time at his home. It lasted about an hour before he was able to go to sleep.

“I woke up literally praying that I wasn’t going to get vertigo, because we also knew it was kind of risky to get out there and run,” he said. “But I was determined no matter what.”

He felt a little weak on race day.

“We joke that, ‘Geez, if I get it during the race, I’m going to be around so many people that I’m sure to get plenty of help,’ ” he said.

He didn’t need it. Once Cargill, who has run 10 Bostons for charity, including four for Christopher’s Haven, got to the race, “it was a much bigger moment than my personal health,” considering what the 2014 Marathon meant.

“That may have been how I shook it,” said Cargill, who finished in 4:54. “I’m not saying you can control your body to that extent, but I was so determined, I just said, ‘Nothing’s going to stop me,’ and I think it was total exhilaration.

“Of all the marathons I’ve run, that’ll be the one I’ll always remember.”

‘Please don’t tell your brother about this!’

Courtesy Kristin Barishian
Kristin Barishian lives in Rehoboth.

Kristin Barishian was hungry.

Three hours before the start of the 2013 Boston Marathon, Barishian, 36, ate a bagel with peanut butter and a Cliff bar, thinking it would be enough fuel. But just 6 miles into the race, she started to feel woozy.

“I was desperate,” she said. “I will eat food off the ground if the food’s there.”

She started scanning the crowd for anyone with food. She spotted a woman giving out bagels to kids and zeroed in. Barishian, an accountant who lives in Rehoboth, asked for a bagel before hearing a woman call out to her.

“Are you a Pizzi?” the woman asked, addressing Barishian by her maiden name (she is the sister of marathoner Becca Pizzi.)

“And she’s like, ‘My brother went to school with your brother!’ ” Barishian said.

The woman’s brother, said Barishian, “was, like, the hottest guy that ever graduated Belmont High School. He was voted best looking. I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m so embarrassed.’ I was like, ‘Please don’t tell your brother about this!’ Of all the million spectators . . .”

Barishian, who finished in 3:12 that year and has run Boston several times, accepted the plain bagel, shedding her usual shyness and any possible shame that could come with asking a complete stranger for some of their food.

“When it comes to running Boston, there’s no shame,” she said with a laugh.

‘We joke that I got my son a Boston qualifier for the men’s division’

Courtesy Amanda Nurse
Amanda Nurse is from Brookline.

Amanda Nurse has made plenty of gaffes over the course of her six Bostons.

In 2010, she wore long pants. In 2011, she wore brand-new socks, which led to painful blisters. In 2012, she overexerted herself in the heat and passed out with 100 yards to go.

Running Boston last year did not include any mishaps or mistakes for Nurse, but it did present a new challenge: Nurse, 30, was 13 weeks pregnant.

“I found out that I was running in the elite field the same week I found out I was pregnant,” said Nurse, a fitness instructor who lives in Brookline. “I quickly decided I’m not going to run in the elite field because I’d be running on my own.”

Nurse still wanted to run but wasn’t sure how she would feel, and whether she could finish. Leading up to the race, she experienced low abdominal cramping and dealt with some pelvic issues she associated with early pregnancy.

“Even up until the day before, I was like, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to be able to finish, but I want to start, and even if I have to drop out, that’s fine,’ ” she said.

She could run a marathon simply to enjoy it rather than concerning herself with mile splits and qualifying times, as she did in her previous 14 marathons, including six Bostons.

“So that took a big load off of my chest and off my shoulders, to know that I was just in it for fun and just more to be able to tell my son years from now, ‘You’ve already run the Boston Marathon,’ ” said Nurse, who has her sights set on an Olympic trials qualifier at the Berlin Marathon later this year.

She ran with her phone in hand, frequently calling and texting updates to family members. She had friends and family along the course in case she needed to drop out. She closely monitored her heartbeat on her Garmin.

“Just making sure that it wasn’t too high, that I wasn’t rating too heavily,” she said. “I didn’t want to put any stress on him.”

She took more water and Gatorade along the way than she normally would have. She also took more salt tablets before the race.

“It was kind of perfect running conditions, so I felt good,” she said. “I ended up running a 3:05. We joke that I got my son a Boston qualifier for the men’s division.”

Related: More Boston Marathon coverage

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