26 ‘dot’ a few tenths of a mile. Easy flights into Boston on Saturday afternoon made the beginning of the trip fun. First class seats coupled with some eats and shopping in Baltimore airport got me to Logan in Boston, ready to subway and train my way to my friend Scott’s house in Franklin, Mass. That’s my stop and bed for the weekend. Plenty of other runners were arriving at the same time in Boston, many in the BAA jackets from years past. Jeez, Logan airport’s interior hasn’t changed in the 10+ years since I’ve visited last. So tiny are the aisle ways and corridors, it is nothing like newer well appointed terminals in other cities. Getting a Silver Line bus was easy, that took me to South Station in the city center. I took the first of several hour-long train rides on the Mass. Commuter rail line. They have funny rules about getting on and off the train at only certain doors, but it turned into a regular stop-n-go ride once it left the station.
Scott’s house is in a great neighborhood, backing up to a state forest. His wife Patti met me at the station then she drove me the quick one mile to the home. I met their son Cooper, and spoke on the phone with Scott who was in Providence with his 15yr old daughter Madison and 5 friends celebrating her birthday. I had already eaten in Baltimore, so it was time to talk with Patti about the race, tomorrow’s plan for packet pickup and family happenings in the Young home.
Sunday I woke early for no reason, I kept stretching and drinking water to give my injured calf the best chance of performing well Monday in the race. Scott came home with the girls mid morning, it was good to see him and meet his daughter, too. Then I got back on the train heading to the city – expo time! I found the convention center after a short walk from the Back Bay station. Plenty of Red Sox fans were on the same train. I brought a camera, because for all the people I know that have done this race, I never see pictures! Maybe by the time people qualify for Boston, they are already over the “geekiness” of how special and fun going to an out of town race is. Not me! So I took pictures like it was my first marathon, not 20th. At the convention center, I got my number, shirt and race bag, simple. Then I went into the expo. The first booth that packet pickup dumped the athletes into was Addidas – with the official marathon gear. What a riot this was! The show was mid-sized but very crowded with runners and family members in town for the race. No more men’s BAA theme jackets in stock, but that was ok, I was hoping for an embroidered logo coat, the screen printed $114 ones didn’t look so great to me. I found a green running shell with zip off arms that looked neat. (Thinking I could use this to run or ride with) They were being pulled off the hangers as fast as stock people could get them out of boxes and back on display. I tried a size medium then a size small, finally relying on the expert eye of Jessica Crate and her mom Sharon to help me choose. What a neat girl she is, a very talented runner that should be modeling something for some lucky company with her pretty smile and shape. I spoke with her and her mom in the try-on area for a few minutes. We made tentative plans to meet at the post race party at House of Blues. Nice start to the expo for me, two Florida blondes happy to be in Boston just like I was. Over the next few hours, I shopped, took surveys, tried food and drinks, it was fun being alone and doing as I wanted on my schedule. I bought some souvenirs and kept light on my feet, sitting often to watch demonstrations or try things on. I went to a Lululemon yoga session after the show at 5pm, again hoping to keep my right leg as loose as possible. Taught by Angie Stewart from LA, it was worth my hour to relax and stretch everything in a quiet mood-music filled room. After that, I took another commuter rail ride back to the house. Now to rest and get everything ready for the morning.
Scott planned to drop me in Hopkinton before the roads closed at 7:30am. He has good local knowledge of the race, with runners in his family over the years and a brother in law that was the official starter of the race until recently. He took me right to the high school athlete village, which was a collection of yellow buses, tents, and porta-potties galore. It was in the low 40s and significantly windy from the west. A “good tailwind” I was told by the locals. I shivered deep to my core waiting then I saw people going into the school. I knew I’d make up some reason for me to be in there, so I went into the gym too. Inside, I found a line of 60 people waiting for free massages given by local staff and intern students! I gladly chatted with others, stayed warm, and got a great massage. This was the gym Paul Reback spoke of when describing Boston Marathon in the seventies with only a few hundred runners ran from Hopkinton back then! I figured it would be warmer once I came out of the school an hour later, but it wasn’t noticeably warmer except when standing in the sun. But to be in the sun, you had to be away from the building and exposed to the breeze. I went to a porta-pottie, and chilled my body all over again waiting in the line. I found a cardboard box to sit on top of in the moist grass and I grabbed a discarded silver space blanket from a previous Disney marathon to wrap around my lower self. I decided I’d be keeping my Lulu sweatshirt on to start the race; I’d tie it around my waist if I felt warmer once running. In another stroke of good fortune, a new white kitchen trash bag blew right to where I was sitting in the sun. I snatched that too and poked holes in it to wear as a windbreaker. So much for arriving prepared, karma and the natural laws of the open road kept me warm ‘til the race start.
The walk from the school to the corral was .7 miles. Easy to do, with good support from the neighbors and locals who gave runners coffee and snacks on the route. I found that few people were nervous or talking about the course or conditions, everyone was in a good mood, walking together and stretching. The corral system was very organized and not crowded at all; it was good to be in the first grouping of bib numbers. I saw helicopters overhead, news stations doing interviews, and plenty of fans near the tiny and subdued start line. Someone sang the national anthem along with other armed forces songs, and we began the run. The first dip leaving Hopkinton was nice on my legs because I stayed at what I thought was a conservative pace. The course continued going downward and leveling off, making for easy and relaxed pacing early on. My first mile in a very manageable grouping of similar runners was 7:40. I didn’t feel odd with that as a pace, the gravity was helping. At mile 2, I shed the sweatshirt pullover to the waist position. We went thru Ashland and other smaller communities. At exactly the 7km sign, I felt the sharper pain of my right calf emerge. Not a good feeling, I immediately ate an Advil thinking that with 22 miles to go, I didn’t need to have anything left in my fanny pouch at the end. It was tough running for the next 3 miles to just before 7. I was thinking I’d be able to press thru the pain and numb it out – just keep going. Maybe that plus the pain pill helped, I do recall thinking the approaching 7 mile sign was a 9 mile banner, that sucked once I realized the truth. I kept a good pace, trying to stay with familiar looking people from my corral. I ran next to plenty of people wearing their colors from other countries. A guy in a red first wave bib in a full gorilla suit was somewhere behind me, I kept hearing people yell to him and line themselves up to get photos with him on the course. At 10 miles with the same leg condition, I was now slowing to 7:45 pace thru to the halfway 13 mile mark. I looked for Scott and Patti in Wellesley after the great reception from the college girls. No luck finding them, maybe they saw me and I didn’t hear them? The fans at this race are so involved, even more than Chicago’s route. People are out in lawn chairs, handing water and snacks of all types to runners. Many children look to hand out pieces of fruit to passing runners, mostly they offer sliced oranges. Like feeding goldfish in a pond, they vie to see who will get their piece of nourishment into a runner’s hands. The kids without orange peels look for “high-fives,” the young girls hope to be kissed by a runner, it’s some show. The weather was now warmer and I was doing well drinking water and salt pills with gels every 5 miles. The roads get wider, the sun higher in the sky, I felt good that I could hold my leg running for this long without it getting worse. Another Advil and I was heading to the hills. 14, 15, and here’s one around 16 that slows the line of runners!
The Newton Hills I had heard plenty about – but I wasn’t sure how many there were. With my leg, I could run well going down, but any uphill was a real test for the calf muscle. The hills weren’t abrupt, just long and loping. I finally saw Patti and Scott, my two fans, before the final hill climb. That’s a great mental boost, seeing someone you know among all the other spectators. Scott had his cork hat on he brought from Portugal, who could miss that sight? For the runners, it’s slow going in this area. People struggled and walked starting around mile 18. I think there were four rises, ending at 20-21 with Heartbreak Hill. There were so many people chanting to runners to keep going, great signs at the roadside, chalk hearts drawn in the street, kids banging pots & pans, what a showing! I conservatively walked thru a water stop to drink up and ran the hills on the side of the road, passing a good number of walkers. My pace up was slow, but I kept the strain on the right calf in check. At the top of the last hill, I saw Boston College and big banners reading, “Heartbreak is Over!” Then a generous hill going down, which was refreshing. People seemed to respond well to the change from climbing and spirits were high as we passed more screaming college kids at BC. I saw one girl with a sign,”Smile if you don’t have underwear on.” I smiled and explained that there was no way these ballerina pants could support undies and not leave a line, she and her friends liked that! We ran through more communities then entered the city boundaries, how was I this close and it was still hard to see anything but the tallest two buildings? I felt very sore on the right side after the hills, my legs were doing some pre-cramp quivering at mile 22-23. I kept eating the gels and the salt pills. My pace was now stunted back above 8 min miles I think, I was definitely slowing. I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking how long it might take to walk in from 23 and 24 miles out, but it was a possibility looming. I stopped to stretch my legs several times in the last four miles, using trees, lampposts, fences, etc. I spoke with fans and people on the side of the road, many responded that they liked my LIVESTRONG visor. I saw a huge CITGO sign ahead, then Fenway Park on the right. I kept stopping and stretching because my leg cramps were coming more frequently. Once I ran in the middle of the road and a mini cramp almost had me fall over! From that point, I stayed over near the side of Beacon St near the rail line fence. Once in the city proper, I saw I had a few minutes left to finish under 3:30. This wasn’t going to happen, my legs would allow running now in only ¼ to ½ mile increments before needing a stretch. I turned right towards the convention center, then left onto Boylston Street. I could see the big blue finish line I’d taken pictures near yesterday. It was far enough away that I knew I couldn’t get there in time. I was now very slowly running near the 10-deep crowd on the left side of the road. One more stretch for the leg and to the finish line in 3:31 something. I was in good aerobic health but both legs felt really tight, the right one especially. I was handed water, a medal, my clothes and a space blanket. I was very satisfied to have gone so far on the leg I questioned only days before.
I found more massage, this time in the basement of the Hyde Building. Again the volunteers were fantastic… They served me chicken broth as I waited in line, and I was treated to what had to be an hour long massage by two interns. One lady concentrated on doing all the body’s big muscles, the other intern coming after 45 minutes to give a complete foot massage and then to lotion my feet and return them to the socks. No foot damage this time, the Thor-lo pad socks did well.
I walked around for about half an hour, tried to contact some of the Palm Beach locals with no luck and decided to head back to Scott’s house. I made a great choice; he had newly baked lasagna ready when I walked in the door. Later I heard from Jessica, who was going to House of Blues with her mom at 8:30pm. That may have been fun, but I wasn’t staying in the city – so I’d have had to wrestle late night train schedules and inconvenience my hosts to make that happen. I watched a hockey game with Patti and Scott, rested and stretched my legs, and went to bed at 10:30pm.
I do have to come back to Boston for several reasons. I should attempt a good time first of all with healthy runner’s legs. I know the course and what it brings, I usually like climbing hills, and I can see myself wisely saving energy in the early miles to be strong in the post-Newton hill miles. I had great running weather, so did the elites. A world record time of 2:03:02 was set but may not be honored due to wind conditions. Ryan Hall sets a new American record under 2:05 to get fourth place. American women get 2nd and 5th place, as Desiree Davila springs onto the USA female scene as better than Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanigan. I enjoyed my solo shot visit to this famous race. I have new ideas about training in earnest for the races I enter. I can grow from this. I’d recommend this race to everyone, as a spectator, a charity runner or qualified athlete. It was an awesome day to run my first Boston marathon.