This was my first visit to the Boston Marathon as a spectator! I’ve been wanting to do this for several years. I know the weekend schedule, I know the town, and I know the course. I can put myself where I want to be, without any of the concerns that I’d have if I was racing. The advice is stamped into every runner’s head – “Don’t stay on your feet at the Expo too long, don’t eat experimental things, don’t have too many beers…” NONSENSE! I’m doing this one right.
I came on the same flight as Julie, together we have over 25 people we know running and that we will track on Monday. We landed at 9 am and were left on the runway for half an hour. I’ll go on record as saying this flight lands every day at the same time, it cannot be a surprise the ground crew – WHERE’S OUR GATE? More importantly, this chews into the time I’d rather be spending trying to get to the 5k to see the elites finish. Although we are close to Boston Commons, we are goofed up by the airline so we missed it. Molly Huddle misses her 4th consecutive win by only 2 seconds, and Ben True sets a new American outdoor 5k record with a 13:18. Wow!
First things first
We went to our AirBnB which is on Beacon Street in Brookline. Our host is Jennifer, a very nice girl. We are staying ON THE COURSE at mile 24.5 – This is exciting! We dropped our stuff off and walked to the Expo. Past Fenway Park, the Citgo sign, Kenmore Square, up Hereford Street to the convention center. It is crazy crowded with a HUGE line winding around the building. Confession: I walked around not really knowing where I was supposed to go and when I saw people heading inside I went right with them. We did a nominal security check and we were in! We went towards the Adidas section to see all of the official race merchandise. So many neat things to buy if you were doing this year’s event! We found the Samuel Adams sample booth – that was worth a few trips back on the line to get 26.2 Brew. There is plenty to see and play with and… we have all day to do so!
We find the lululemon “Sweatbox” at the other side of the show. We’ve seen this before and know it means try a garment on the treadmill and keep it! We each wait about 45 minutes and get to come out with something new. Most people hear about this and don’t want to wait. They have to get “done with the expo” and back to a hotel to relax. Understandable. While there, I catch up with Lilia and Chris – they are excited and enjoying the show also. We get texts from Sandra and Pete Holahan that they are going to the Runner’s World Speaker Series to hear Kathrine Switzer’s story. I know of her, I figure we can do that for an hour.
KV Switzer is Amazing
So glad I did that! She is so energetic and youthful. She ran up to the stage, told her story and really explained her efforts since the original 1967 Boston Marathon experience to get more women involved in running. I didn’t know the amazing level of her involvement in the first female Olympic marathon and her “261 Fearless” organization. I really enjoyed her talk. Julie had a lady translate for her so she caught the whole thing, too. Very impressive. I waited until she was done talking to speak with her. I told her they would have a statue of her somewhere on the Boston Marathon course. She chuckled and replied with, “I don’t know about that.” I am very glad I got to tell her that in person. It will happen! [Update: Her bib number 261 was forever retired for use in the Boston Marathon when she finished on Monday]
Once out of the meeting room, I am spotted and greeted by Cami and Jeff. We always, even in a crowd of thousands, find each other! They have to zip through the expo, but we agree to meet at Capital Grille for drinks and appetizers. How fun to catch up with them and get Cami’s take on the race and the local happenings.
After meeting with them, we walked to Boston Commons and found our dinner restaurant. We stopped and took some pictures at the finish line area, there’s always so much good energy and excitement there. The crew was clearing off the 5k and One Mile awards podium and getting things ready for Monday. Our restaurant, the Artisan, was in the Ritz Carlton. We met Steve and Mary Monks, Ricky and Nina Montez and Steve Chefan and his wife. We were all confused as this was not the restaurant or atmosphere Steve explained to us. It was a good meal and great laughs with a great group! Steve later reported finding the original place he intended on us visiting a day afterward. He sneakily paid the check for dinner for all of us – a nice but way unnecessary gesture. We took the T train back after dinner. Tine to sift through our Expo goodies and get to sleep.
Running with elites
Sunday morning we went to the Runner’s World pop-up store to do a shakeout run with the staff and Molly Huddle. That was a good event starting at 8 am, the Hotshot girls was there, KT Tape was sampling their goods, and the store was crowded with runners one day before the race. Molly ran and chatted with plenty of us. Her next big event after yesterday’s 2nd place in the 5k will be the Prefontaine Classic in May. She is a personable elite runner that could be anyone’s friend. Our run went to the Charles River and around a familiar loop east to the bridge by Harvard and the band shell. Once we arrived at the store after the run, I won a drawing for a sample pack of KT Tape and a body “cool and heat” pad. It holds the heat pack or ice in place when applied to a part of your body. Glad I’m not injured, I really don’t know when I will use such a prize! Runner’s World also had an offer whereby if you prove you are a subscriber, they give you these neat Boston Marathon-themed gloves. Each finger has one of the towns the race passes through. I like them!
I did the same run again an hour later, this time with Sandra and the Oiselle girls that were in town for the race. We met at a nice coffee shop, the Thinking Cup, and ran on the Charles River trail again. Once we returned, Julie had found her way back to the coffee spot and we had drinks and light breakfast with Pete and Sandra and Steve and Maria. With all of the people we knew collectively, it would be difficult to plan to meet them all. It seemed to all work well with minimal planning that we saw most of our friends doing things like this.
After that, we walked back up Boylston Street to see the rest of the Expo, the Adidas Run Base store, the finish line area in the daytime. There are always people taking photos, Marathon Sports is full, and the street is blocked off with no cars. The large area after the finish line is busy, too, setting up for the next day. There weren’t many flowers at the sites of the two bombings, but today there are more. An area in front of Marathon Sports has been fenced off, that is collecting some flowers and a few pairs of running shoes. I didn’t feel like taking a photo of either site, it’s a choke-up in the throat reminder to me of what occurred and how fortunate I was not to be injured in 2013.
The Expo was easy to get into today, plenty of buzz happening. Most folks had already claimed their bib numbers, so I took Julie up the extra escalator to see how and where that is done. It was mostly empty by the time we got up there. The fast runners of tomorrow’s race have picked up their stuff already!
Athlete Dinner – The event so few attend (but should!)
We went back to the apartment and dropped our bags – it was time to change into warmer clothes for the night time. The temperature was 82 today so I wore shorts. Jeans and a long sleeve shirt were on tap for the night. We took the Green line train to Government Center, that’s right where the Athlete Dinner was. We had a wait of about 45 minutes, and the weather cooled significantly as we were in the line
The dinner was a great time, chicken meatballs, pasta, salad and as much beer as you’d like. We stayed at a table and enjoyed the videos playing, the mayor’s announcements and most of all, meeting other runners and their families. We had a group from London, from Texas, from Milan, Italy and another that I don’t remember from where. We laughed and enjoyed being with all these people who were so excited about the race. A few first timers asked about the hills and the expected warm weather. I was light in my mood to hopefully help them relax. We stayed until they closed the venue, then went back towards the Back Bay area.
We went to Pizzeria Uno on Boylston Street to watch the hockey game and have more beer. They served the 26.2 brew and in large glasses! It was good to stop walking, to talk and laugh. No other runners were in the bar. Race morning would come fast with an early rise for buses to the start.
We took the train home from the Copley Station. It’s not a far walk home but having been on foot all day and now being full of pasta and beer, yeah, we are on the train! We got home and went to the rooftop of our apartment. The wind was picking up from the east and that made it cold. Here’s a photo from that vantage point…
The winds would shift while we slept to come from the Northwest, a perfect tailwind for the runners.
Waking up Monday we had no rush – we went to Dunkin Donuts on Beacon Street. We saw the New Balance banners set up alongside the T stop and roadway. Barricades that weren’t there last night were all in place. The whole city comes together for this big show! We took the train from nearby Yawkey Station to Wellesley to position ourselves well to see the pros. We arrived too early for the train and had a 50-minute wait. Seems like even with the annual throng of people following the route and runners, the train schedule is light on the Patriot’s Day holiday. It was a short train ride and we met and spoke with nice people in town to cheer for family members. In Wellesley, we had plenty of room to pick a great spot on the road. We went to a bakery for a snack, and then put ourselves in a good position. Figuring it might be most crowded nearest the train station, we went east and found a great place to stand and wait. Right past the half way point we would watch for the wheelchair athletes, pro women, then the pro men. First, we saw a few of the military walking the course. Then two F-15 jets flew over, signaling the start of the race. It was about 35 minutes before the first wheelchair came down the hill – very fast and NOT Marcel Hug! He was second but already behind several minutes at the 13.1 mark. Next came the women elites. Jordan Hasay and Desi Linden right with the leaders. Julie took phone videos while I snapped iPhone 7 pictures. The next few elite women came through at less than 6 min pace, Liz Costello is shown here. They really look as if they are slower because their pace doesn’t cost them much energy. They are smooth and almost running step-for-step with each other. It’s very impressive to see up close!
The elite men came next – Galen Rupp in a white hat, white singlet and pale skin just nestled in with the Africans! The unheralded Maiya from the Army was up with him. Luke Puskedra and Jeff Ward followed, then Meb. They all looked great at the halfway point!
We boarded the very crowded train and after having delays to start and delays at almost all of the 7 stations back to Fenway/Yawkey, we made it onto the streets to get a good spot. The sun was warm and we didn’t have sunscreen – noticeable when I was in Wellesley. We went through Kenmore Square which was very crowded. The first wave of runners (red bibs) was coming through. We found a great spot on the shady side of the street. It was next to a mailbox and garbage can that was barricaded around. This meant that we had a very clear view up Commonwealth Avenue. We stayed here for over two hours, looking for our friends and trying to track them via the BAA app. The app wasn’t reliable, most of our runners seemed to “stop” at the 30k mark. We saw Julie and Spencer West, Lilia, Ricky and some more of Julie’s friends. We met Jeff here and waited for Cami, but by the Jeff moved to Hereford St and Boylston where she would usually expect to see him.
Julie and I had invites to the new Trackhouse – Tracksmith’s new permanent store on Newbury Street. It’s a retail run store on the first level and a recreation of the “Eliot Lounge” runner’s hangout on the second floor. Free beer and fresh fruit and food. What an interesting concept. We stayed there and relaxed after many hours on our feet walking and standing. I met Eric Ashe, men’s finisher #25 with a time of 2:23. He was rolling out his legs on the couch as if he’d just run a 5k. We met Pete and Sandra here and she got a poster made with her number stamped on the bottom. A nice touch! I hope this company catches on. Their products are very nice with a “retro” runner look. I bought a pair of shorts and two singlet tops. No one has these back at home!
After that, we met Jeff and Cami at their usual post-race spot – Anchovies. A good dinner and recap of the day. Julie and I walked to Fenway Park for the Athlete Celebration, which was a chance to get out on the field and go behind the scenes at Fenway. Terrific cooperation between Fenway, the BAA, Samuel Adams, and Adidas. They really made it a special day for the runners and their families.
I know I’ll be back to run here again and to enjoy a weekend as a cheering spectator again. It is a very special event done so well!
Thank you, Boston!