Jennifer Harkins during race listening to music

The Road to Boston…2016 and 2017

By: Jennifer Harkins

Boston 2016 marked my first experience as a participant in the coveted race. I logged the miles my schedule showed, foam-rolled like it was my job, and kept a close eye on my electrolyte intake. All of this in an effort to thwart off my racing kryptonite -- severe leg cramps beginning at mile 18.

I never had cramps in speed work, during long runs, or even shorter distance races. For some reason, the problem was dormant until racing 26.2. When I say leg cramps, I mean shoot-up-and-down-the-legs-I-am-going-down-for-the-count leg cramps. I was worried it would happen during this marathon so I took every precaution leading up to Patriots’ Day.

While at the Boston Marathon Expo last year, I noticed a booth with the words, “Do you suffer from cramps?” It was almost comical since it looked like an infomercial on late-night TV. As I casually, yet skeptically, walked up to the table, I was told the product (not yet named) was in its infancy, and was not for sale (yet). The rep said the 1.7 ounce drink, engineered by a Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist, was showing great results in the prevention and treatment of muscle cramps. I was intrigued so they gave me two bottles to try. Every runner knows not to try something new on race day. No new shoes, clothes, and energy gels -- especially not some random too-good-to-be-true product from a table at an expo.

But did I mention how bad my cramps can be? I made a deal with myself that I would carry it with me on the course and not drink it unless I was dying. As if on cue, my left calf started to tingle right around mile 16. I was in constant analysis mode: “What is that? How bad is it?” Then it shot up into my lower hamstring followed by my upper hamstring and then back down and into my right leg. I knew this was a pivotal moment in the race.

At mile 18, I said, “This is it—I am dying. Time to give it a go.” I was grasping for anything, and had little faith in what was in that bottle. At about mile 19 (where the course is not easy to say the least) I felt my pace picking back up slightly. I was in disbelief. At mile 20, I was moving even faster. I even passed a couple of my training partners who are much faster than me along mile 23 and 24 (heat got both of them). I couldn’t believe my legs felt so good, relatively speaking.

I finished Boston to qualify again for 2017 and I believe it’s because of this little spicy-as-all-get-out drink I took on a whim. I told my entire running group this was what got me to the finish line in one piece!

I returned home and pre-ordered a six-pack right then and there, though I would not need it for months.

Since then, I’ve gone through boxes of HOTSHOT and now many of my running buddies drink it during a long run, as well. One thing is for certain: I will be carrying HOTSHOT this Patriots’ Day. The only difference is that this year I don’t dread mile 18 as I did before. I have my own little bottle of magic potion to use against my racing kryptonite.

Now if we can just work on my turnover…





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