McFadden won her fifth Boston crown on a day of freezing wind and rain that made for unusually challenging conditions along the historic 26.2-mile course. But, she said, things were “a bit in my favor.”
“I knew the conditions would be really, really tough,” she explained. “I would go at the pace I could go.”
In this case, it was a 2:04:39 finish for McFadden that topped the field, with Susannah Scaroni of the U.S. (2:20:01) and Sandra Graf of Switzerland (2:26:32) finishing second and third, respectively.
“It was probably one of the coldest and slowest Bostons I’ve ever done,” McFadden reflected. “I’m glad to be back. Physically, it’s a really good test.”
As difficult as the conditions were, they added up to a better finish for McFadden than last year, when she finished fourth after battling blood clots leading up to the race.
This year, she knew she would have to battle the weather, and she did so by layering up, wearing two coats on the bus ride to the start as well as hand warmers and even trash bags in between layers of clothing. And she warmed up for 10 minutes before the start. The goal, she said, was to “stay as warm as possible.”
Scaroni also game-planned for the weather.
“I know what to expect in those conditions,” she said. “I had really good insights. I had to mentally dig inside deep, trying to feel relaxed, given the situation. I would try to do whatever I could out there. I’m very grateful the way it turned out.”
Early on, it did not look like McFadden would be able to challenge last year’s record-setting winner, Manuela Schar of Switzerland. Schar opened up a sizeable lead in the early miles of this year’s race.
But, McFadden said, “I knew the climbs [came] later in the race…I would keep the pace, not give up the pace. I tried really, really hard.
“I could see her. Every uphill, I was a little closer. Every downhill, she was a little bit farther. At [miles] 9, 10, the climbs started a little bit. I was able to close the gap.”
While she was able to pass Schar, the weather proved a challenge throughout.
“I started to feel my arms get pretty heavy. The water was just soaking in,” McFadden said. Meanwhile, “at Heartbreak Hill, I was climbing 3 miles per hour. I did not think I would make it up.”
But she had encouragement from the spectators who, while fewer in number than usual, still came out to support the marathoners.
“Someone wished me happy birthday coming up,” McFadden said. “I said, ‘thank you.’ Even though they were a little bit sparse, the kids came out strong, especially coming down the last homestretch.”
The elements presented many difficulties. Because of the rain, McFadden said, “I could not hit the brakes really hard.” And, she added, “I couldn’t even see, the wind was so strong. At one point, I did not know where I was going.”
In the end, she was going right down Boylston Street for the win.
“It’s so honoring,” McFadden said. “I love coming back to this community. Nothing is impossible. I love spreading that message. It’s always good to be back.”