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BOSTON – I made the two most famous turns in marathoning — right on Hereford Street, left on Boylston Street — about a half-hour later than I'd hoped on Monday.

The 128th running of the Boston Marathon was the hottest since 2017, with 73-degree temperatures and midday sunshine exacting a particular toll on cold-weather qualifiers like me who hadn't trained in such conditions. It meant the rookie mistake I'd told myself I wouldn't make — going out too fast on the course's early downhill miles — had spelled trouble before I reached the notorious Newton hills. By mile 16, my calves were cramping so fiercely that I couldn't run more than a couple minutes without a walk break. The system I'd devised for the final 10 miles of the race felt like using a cordless drill that was just about out of battery: work for two or three minutes, then stop to charge it again.

Boston's storied course grants no favors, and despite the most diligent marathon training block of my life, I'd become yet another runner with a shredded plan. As I turned right on Hereford and left on Boylston, though, it was as if the menacing beast that had thrashed me for three-plus hours withdrew its claws, smiled and gently patted me on the shoulder.

For all but the elites who race for prize money, world titles and Olympic medals, running Boston is a career pinnacle that's as much about the fact you've been granted access to those 26.2 miles on Patriots' Day as it is about how long it takes you to complete them. That's not an intuitive realization for many athletes in a sport obsessed with minutes and seconds; it certainly wasn't for me before Monday. But as I crossed the finish line in front of the Boston Public Library, whatever disappointment I'd felt about my 3:24:39 performance was overshadowed by gratitude that I'd had the chance to let the famous course beat me up a little bit.

I've told a few friends this since Marathon Monday, but Boston is a bit like the course that finished its turn as the center of golf on Sunday, Augusta National. The landmarks in both (Boston's Firehouse Turn to Augusta's Amen Corner, Heartbreak Hill to the Hogan Bridge) are mythologized for their roles as pivot points in championships. And like Augusta, the Boston course tests every part of your game: your patience through the opening 5K that pitches you down steep hills, your ability to descend in rhythm without torching your quadriceps, your fortitude through the long climbs from miles 16 to 21.

It was in Boston last year where Eliud Kipchoge, the two-time Olympic gold medalist and former world record holder, lost for the first time in 11 marathons. C.J. Albertson, the top American finisher at this year's men's marathon, posted his ideal Boston splits alongside a course summary on Strava last week; the first mile he described as "flat" was the final mile.

Nothing about the race resembles jumping on a treadmill or a track and grooving a steady pace; you have to think through the course constantly and adjust your approach to its demands. I'd consumed all the Boston content I could and tapped every marathon vet I knew for advice before Monday. Many of them told me I wouldn't truly understand it until I'd run it once. I now know what they meant.

I'd run 2:59:31 to qualify for Boston last year at Grandma's Marathon, and thought I could reasonably break 2:55 this year based on how my training had gone. That works out to a 6:40 mile pace, so my plan going into the race was to keep things in the 6:40-6:45 range through the first 16 miles, survive the Newton uphills, attack the downhills that follow and be ready to surge through the final miles fueled by the raucous crowds. I followed the advice Burnsville assistant coach Brad Gluth gave me when we were chatting at a track meet last week and waited to load myself in the back of the Wave 1 starting corral so I could start cautiously without a stampede of runners behind me forcing me to push the pace. The first mile was 6:42, and I thought, "OK, we're in good shape."

But even as I tried to roll gently through the next three miles, my splits dropped to 6:39, 6:27 and 6:24 as the elevation fell another 207 feet. My splits stayed around 6:30 through the rest of the opening downhill section, and my heart rate was drifting higher than I wanted as the temperature rose. By the time I hit the famous Wellesley Scream Tunnel at Mile 12, I knew the rest of the race was going to be a battle. I made one last downhill charge before the Newton Lower Falls in Mile 16, but the cramps hit right as the hills did, shifting the question from "How fast can I finish this race?" to "Should I finish it?" Once I decided I could, the final miles became about making the best of it.

Runners make their way from the start of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.
Runners make their way from the start of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

Mary Schwalm, Associated Press

In Boston, that's where the crowds really help. Patriots' Day is a state holiday in Massachusetts, so vociferous spectators line the course even through quaint New England main streets, and you can hear the Wellesley College students a half-mile up the road. I couldn't count the number of people who yelled "Go Mill City!" after they saw my Mill City Running race team singlet, or knew I was from Minnesota because of it; it had to be in the hundreds. The adrenaline-soaked charge down the backside of Heartbreak Hill and into Boston College was like nothing I've experienced in running, not even in the beloved Twin Cities Marathon finish from the Cathedral of St. Paul to the State Capitol.

To continue the golf analogy, I'm a bit like a single-digit handicapper as a runner who got the chance to play Augusta, sprayed drives into the pine straw, dunked my approach on No. 12 into Rae's Creek and signed a scorecard of 95. But even the fortunate few amateurs who get to play there don't do it with Sunday galleries lining the greens.

Running a personal record at Boston will always be a dicey proposition: the mid-April race date requires cooperative winter weather for an 18-week training build, and the race day weather can be anything from sleet and wind off the Atlantic Ocean to heat that takes a special toll given the marathon's 10 a.m. start. Marathons like Chicago or London draw competitors with flat, fast courses; Boston turned away 11,039 applicants with qualifying times this year, and its course, rarely altered since the marathon began a year after the modern Olympic Games, offers no accommodations in the name of speed.

If you're asking whether I'd recommend it, though, my answer would be an unequivocal yes, because of the crowds, the challenge and that beautiful beast of a course that tests even the great ones.

It certainly humbled me on Monday. But as I turned right on Hereford, left on Boylston and the beast released its grip, I thrust my arms aloft and said, "Good fight. I'll see you again."