A Special Return…
I am fortunate this year to be linked up with Cammie and Jeff, they have a great plan and routine. No Boston Commons bus line for me – I’m being driven to and dropped off at the start line in Hopkinton! This is a huge plus, no crazy jam-up in the athlete’s village/school ball field. I can sit in a warm car, prep my gear, laugh with friends and not worry about time. We drove to their usual drop off spot, altered a teeny bit due to new security procedures. There was a long line of runners waiting for shuttle buses to the start area. Our fellow passenger, Joe, said we could walk for 10 minutes and be at the start. So we parked in a warehouse parking lot and enjoyed ourselves with stories, music and YouTube videos! I sent as many “thank you” texts and Facebook messages to well- wishes as I could before the start. I brought my mini charger, anticipating low power after the race. It was good foresight! We said goodbye to Jeff and John and left the car for the start.
Cammie, Joe and I walked along the side of the road towards the center of Hopkinton. Helicopters above, buses full of runners passing by, it was a good psych-up for me to see this buzz of activity. Joe was right, it was a short walk. Once there, police and security interacted with Joe about his badge, so he left us. Cammie and I went into the start area, I was starting 35 minutes before her so we exchanged a kiss good luck and I headed to Corral 2 near the front.
I didn’t have too long to wait – the start gun went boom and I’m running! I saw John and Jeff immediately, they made their way to the left side of the start area, only 100 meters on the route. The large Giacomo cat head figures they held up made it easy to see where they were. A good clean start for 9000 runners in wave 2! Starting temp was 52 degrees, but it was warming fast. I was glad I shed the long sleeve Under Armour top before I started. No throw away clothes needed today.
The first few miles were good, for me it was a surprise as to how many fans were along the rural road leading out of Hopkinton. I saw a running shoe bounce down the street before mile 1, and a lady chasing it down the street! Tie those down, girlfriend, it’s Boston Marathon, remember? Downhill for the first 6-7 miles, my jaunt through Ashland and Framingham towns went well. I carried a water bottle so I wouldn’t have to deal with the stressful first few waters stops. This was a good plan taken from my A1A Marathon success only 7 weeks ago. I had to think about the miles and watch to not pace too quickly on the downhill. Looking back, this concern about energy use and mile pace signaled a less-than-PR performance ahead. But I didn’t put this together in the early miles. It’s Boston 2014, the streets are mobbed, the signs and support phenomenal. I am enjoying the run!
The course through Natick and Wellesley town center was crowded more than past years. I high-fived so many kids and fans on the left side of the road. Natick is beautiful, brick buildings and white trimmed windows. It’s New England personified! In Wellesley, I stayed acutely aware of the stores and signs on the north side of the road. I ran on the left side, Jessica told me her mom worked at the Caldwell Banker Realty office in town. I wanted to see that. And yes, there it was, easy to spot, right where she said it would be. A warming feeling of connection hit me. Plenty of neat things have happened since we met, This is another small one. (I love that feeling!) I knew Jessica was tracking me from Florida, that was some good incentive to post good split times and smile for the Marathon Photo camera people. It’s like she is along the barricades watching… 🙂
The Scream Tunnel. Hundreds of girls with funny signs looking for kisses and high fives. I stay in the center to watch and smile at it all. “Kiss me I’m from New Jersey, Kiss Me I’m a first Year, Kiss me, I’m good with balls” (complete with a graphic of lacrosse sticks) I have so much fun in this section. Then thru Wellesley Hills and what I believe is Wellesley-Newton. I’m on my plan of 7:26 pace, nutrition is going well, I eat gels and salt pills right on schedule. I definitely feel it. My legs are working, I’m breathing, and it’s getting warmer. Top temps predicted were in the mid 60s. Easy I thought, in Florida I’d be loving 60s! We’ll see…
Over the big highway bridge that is I-95 and I’m still going well. I find some shady spots on the side of the road to run in. I keep the hydration going and take water sometimes from fans in between official aid stations just to be sure I have enough. I see in some of my spit that I have foam, this means I am low on fluids. We run up the first “Welcome to Newton” hill. My pace is ok and a slight downhill afterwards allows me to run a 7 min mile pace to make up for the “slower than optimal” climb pace. The crowds are bigger and it’s here I catch the first mention from a lady speaking in the crowd that, “the American won.” Are you kidding me? Ryan Hall? Jason Hartmann? Meb or Abdi? Maybe they are talking about the girls, who on pre-race analysis were our best chance to grab a podium spot if not win outright! That’s another good psych for me – I wonder if it’s true?
The turn at Newton’s fire station heads me up towards the hills. I am feeling the heat and distance in my quads and calves – not good before miles 18-21. I think the results and splits will show that climbing the second hill in Newton was what stretched my pace to above 7:30. It wasn’t for long, but the small puckers of calf cramps were a sign things weren’t going to improve. I shouldn’t feel that ’til mile 23-24. I have to really concentrate. I drink up, take an additional caffeinated salt pill and toughen up in the rolling hills. It’s getting warmer, too.
At mile 20’s water stop, I see Adrienne and the kids right in front of the tables. I wonder if they saw Ian, Mark and whoever from our area is ahead of me. It’s hotter than I expected these race day conditions to feel. I have my short sleeve shirt on, it feels good. My new lululemon shorts, they’re good too, no chafing or issues where I applied Body Glide. I climb Heartbreak Hill and it’s hard. Last year I put my visor down and charged up the thing, feeling out of breath but strong at the top. I’m doing better than the red colored bib runners I’m passing. They started 25 minutes ahead of me in Wave #1 and they are broken and done. (See picture) Today my pace crumbles, I see 8:09, 8:35, 9:02 on my Garmin. Just don’t stop running, you cannot be that, “walk up the hill person” that the crowd is yelling at. I’ll be wise not to challenge my calves to cramp, but I will always keep a run stride going.
On my journey up, I get amazing news. A girl holds a neon orange poster board sign that reads,”Meb Won, 2:08″ Holy crap!! What an incredible day I’m again part of. An American has won the Boston Marathon! And it’s Meb, a most deserving athlete. I don’t have a ton of time to focus on this Meb news, because I’m working and being tested here. At the top, I’m glad to be over but I don’t feel confident and jubilant like last year. I have to run to Boston now. I see the Prudential building. It looks far away. I will try to keep this pace as long as I can. I decide not to attempt lowering the pace to make up for the slower hill climbs. I will not be breaking any personal bests today. I want to finish respectfully and enjoy the rest of this great race and course full of screaming fans. Even that is going to be a challenge!
The last few miles into Brookline and Boston are work. My pace when I look down is 7:50, 8:10, 7:39, all slower than where I wanted to be. There are small rolling hills in these tricky miles, twice I stop and walk through water stops, stretch my legs and hang my calves off the curb. I’m ok with controlling my pace to be slower so I don’t “break” and have to walk home. I definitely don’t want John and Jeff to see me slow strutting down Boyleston Street – I want to be running, of course!
I cruise down Commonwealth Ave along the left side by the RR tracks. This year, my side of the road is filled with fans and well wishers! I do appreciate the cheers and support. I pass crowded and loud Fenway Park, the Citgo sign and now I can see the Mass Ave overpass. I stopped right before dipping down and then up again to stretch. Without knowing it, John and Jeff were on the right side, a little bit ahead of me, calling my name. I wasn’t expecting or looking for them there, so I never saw them. I ran up the last bit of Comm. Ave, onto Hereford and turned for the finish line. I ran wide around the last left hand turn because that’s where John and Jeff were supposed to be. Nope, no sightings.
The finish straightaway is long, I know. I loved the loud cheers on Boyleston St, just like last year. I ran in the middle of the road, keeping my thoughts and eyes peeled for the Forum restaurant, site of last year’s second explosion. There are plenty of people along the road and plenty of security police. I look at the bleachers full of people, the crowded area where the first explosion hit, and I run as directed into the “Wave #2” finish chute. I was thumbs up or waving at the cameras, then under the tunnel and thankfully I’m done.
I speak with Jessica after finishing and she says she saw me come through at the end, while watching the live coverage on her iPad. She properly identifies me as the guy in the yellow shirt, white visor and “poofy hair.” That’s me. It was great, different than last year’s great. I feel good now that it’s over, I can enjoy the post race things knowing I’m not injured or beat tired!
I spy the Fedex box I rested at last April 15th, the lifeguard chair (This year made of metal) and the huge crowd on the side of the road. I turn on my phone and snap some pictures in the finish line area. It’s sunny and I’m wondering how I’ll meetup with everyone. How did everyone finish, what will we do now that it’s over? First step for me is to get my finisher’s medal and head to the massage zone. Then I can be Boston strong, happy, fed, showered, met up with and congratulated!