ROCKLAND, Maine — Staying hydrated is important for anyone coping with the heat, but even more so for someone trying to run 26.2 miles amid mid-April temperatures in the mid-80s.
Nick Wheeler was one of 22,000 runners who started Monday’s 116th Boston Marathon, and thanks in part to paying attention to all things water-related he finished among the best in the world-class field.
“My plan going into the race was to take on water or Gatorade every single mile,” he said. “So after Mile 1 I drank some water and after Mile 2 I drank Gatorade and I switched off every other mile.
“Then I dumped one or two cups of water on myself every mile, too, to stay cool.”
Wheeler, 26, was the top-placing Mainer in the race with a time of 2 hours, 33 minutes, 30 seconds, good for 35th place overall and 32nd among the men behind winner Wesley Korir of Kenya, whose time of 2:12:40 was the second-slowest Boston victory time since 1985.
The heat slowed not only Korir but the entire field, with pre-race warnings leading to as many as 4,300 no-shows. Race organizers offered entrants who picked up their registration packets but did not start the race the opportunity to save a place in next year’s field, according to reports.
But for those like Wheeler who braved the scorching heat, a steady supply of water both inside and outside the body proved invaluable.
“It seems to have worked,” said Wheeler, a 2008 graduate of the University of Southern Maine in Gorham who has lived in Rockland for a year and a half and works for Evergreen Home Performance, an energy efficiency company in his new home city.
“I felt the heat a little bit, but it seemed to affect other people more than me.”
The Derby, Vt., native, who has a twin brother Curtis, ran track while studying at USM and more recently has competed in road races, usually preferring the 10-mile and half-marathon distances.
Wheeler made his initial foray into marathon running last November, finishing ninth at the Philadelphia Marathon in 2:24:15 to qualify for this year’s Boston race.
Wheeler’s goal for Boston — at least before learning that temperatures for the race would be unseasonably warm — was to try to beat his Philadelphia time as well as finish in the top 30.
The first goal fell victim to the heat, while he essentially achieved his second goal.
“What was unusual about it was I never run well in the heat,” he said. “I knew how hot it was going to be so I didn’t imagine I’d run all that well, so I was surprised at how well I placed.”
Wheeler finished the first half of the race in 1:14:37, and while his pace slowed during the hillier second half of the trek from Hopkinton to Boston, he was able to withstand the heat and pass many more runners than passed him.
“At Mile 14 my quads started bothering me, but I knew at that point that I would finish the race,” said the 5-foot-8, 140-pound Wheeler. “Going up the hills over the last 10 miles was pretty rough because of how warm it was, but what I noticed was that almost no one was passing me and I was passing quite a few people, so I might have been slowing down but everyone else was slowing down more than I was.”
Wheeler plans to take 10-14 days off from running before resuming his training regimen.
“I’m pretty sore right now,” he said.