The Boston Marathon 2024 Race Report and Results

Race Date: Monday 15th April 2024
Race Report by Hannah Holliday

The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon and, as many will know, the journey to get there starts with the qualification process. Basically, run a ‘qualifying’ time and then wait for a few months to find out whether this is actually a qualifying time or whether the goal posts have been moved. This year they were moved by over 5 minutes (wiping out 10,000 very disappointed people!) but fortunately I had enough of a buffer to get through, and so in September I received the “congratulations, you’re in!” email and set about working out how on earth to make this a feasible and family-friendly trip. 

It soon became clear that the only way to make this work with school holidays was to do the tourist part first and finish the trip with the marathon on the last day. It wasn’t going to be ideal preparation and, not wanting to completely ruin our family holiday by being a marathon diva, I made the early decision to go for enjoyment and enjoyment only. No time goals, no pressure, no taper stress. It seemed like a sensible plan. 

After a very busy week walking many miles around New York and Washington, we arrived in Boston on the Friday and went straight to the expo. Not dissimilar to London, it was chaotically wonderful! Crowds of people, more merch than you could possibly ever want and the excited buzz of thousands of fully-tapered marathon runners itching to get going. Then we went into Boston itself and I realised that this was different. It wasn’t just the expo that was buzzing – the whole city was alive with marathon excitement. Everyone was talking about it and everyone was wearing Boston Marathon gear from previous years (with what appeared to be an unofficial competition going on over who could showcase the most retro marathon top). You might think this sounds tedious or pretentious, but somehow in Boston it doesn’t feel like that. This was my first indication of what a special race this was going to be. 

Race weekend kicked off with the Boston 5k on the Saturday morning, which we’d managed to secure 4 places for. It was important to me that the weekend wasn’t just about ‘me and my marathon’ and so this was a great way to get the family involved and for them to experience some of the Boston magic for themselves.

The marathon itself is always held on Patriots’ Day, so it was a Monday race which felt like a long time to wait. However, race morning eventually arrived and I’d slept well. I ate my muesli (brought all the way from Sheffield 10 days earlier!) and walked the short distance to Boston Common, where the sun was shining and we were all loaded onto American school buses for the long journey to the start line. Over an hour later we arrived in the town of Hopkinton and started the process of queueing for toilets, fuelling and discarding unwanted layers. As it turns out, all layers were unwanted as the temperatures suddenly felt unseasonably warm – and about 10 degrees warmer than the previous days which had seen us shivering in a chilly wind. Standing on the start line with the sun beating down and everyone frantically applying suncream was not what anyone had expected or prepared for and I began to feel a bit apprehensive about what was to come. Still, the mood was positive and optimistic, and with my mantra of ‘just run comfortably and enjoy it’ I wasn’t too concerned. 

The countdown began and we were set off on the long road back into Boston. The first few miles are mostly downhill and the key piece of advice I’d read was not to over-cook this first section and to save your legs for the hills which follow. I trotted off at a sensible pace and felt very good for the first 2 miles. However, by mile 3 I was starting to get hot and by mile 4 I realised that this was going to be a monumental struggle. The entire route is fully exposed and there was just no opportunity to get out of the sun. While 21 degrees may not sound that hot, after months of cold winter training it felt brutal and, looking around, I could see that I was not the only one having issues. What followed were 22 miles of what I can only describe as intense hydration management. There were water and electrolyte stations at every mile and I stopped at nearly all of them, desperately trying to keep myself on track. I’d gone in with no time goals but even I was surprised by how irrelevant the information on my watch became as the race went on. I just concentrated on drinking, fuelling and ticking the miles off – trying my hardest to enjoy the occasion and soak up the amazing atmosphere. And it really was amazing.

The route takes you through several towns on the way back into Boston and all of them had gone all-out for marathon day. The support was incredible! It felt more personal than London and you could see how much the marathon means to the city and the people who live there. Despite my personal struggles, I was lifted by the crowds time and time again, and by other runners too. I met a runner from Chesterfield, a runner from York and a runner from Northampton and we all spurred each other on. 

At mile 16 you reach the first of 4 hills, known as the Newton Hills. The last of these is at mile 20 – the appropriately-named Heartbreak Hill. Now…as my Tuesday morning friends will confirm, I’m not scared of a hill and so I was wondering how heart-breaking this could really be. Surely little more than a speed-bump? But while it was certainly no Cobnar, its positioning 20 miles into a very hot, hard marathon definitely earnt it its name. What was perhaps worse, though, was the 6-mile downhill section which followed. At the business end of a 26-mile run, downhills are no more friendly than uphills and my quads knew it!

Finally we reached Boston, ran past Fenway Park (home of the Red Sox) and then on into the city towards the finish. “Right onto Hereford, left onto Boylston” is the famous strapline and that final left turn onto Boylston Street was magical. The noise was deafening, emotions were high and the feelings of joy, relief and pride in crossing that finish line were like nothing I have ever experienced. 

The Boston Marathon promised a lot and it really delivered. I high-fived more kids than I can count, cheered the crowd when they cheered me, hugged my family at mile 17 and gratefully accepted an ice-lolly from a stranger at mile 23. It wasn’t the marathon I’d prepared for or imagined but in many ways it was so much more. There is something incredibly special about every marathon finish line – sometimes it’s because you’ve achieved a PB or a specific goal, but sometimes it’s just because you’ve done it. Receiving that famous unicorn medal with a warm and heart-felt “Welcome to Boston” after what was undoubtedly the hardest marathon I’ve ever run was very special indeed. 

Position Name Category Time
13894 Hannah Holliday F40-44 03:48:16

Full results can be viewed here

scroll to top