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Archive for the tag “boylston street”

Be Boston – Marathon 2017

Welcome Runners!

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.

Race Day!

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.

Trackhouse & Tracksmith  

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!



Odds have it

4 mi. Track workout was lightly attended today. Until Dave Reback brought a vanload of kids, there were less than 12 people running today. Paul felt a calf pull on his first “220” so he made his way around the track to start and announce each interval. When I arrived, we were the only two people there. A full amber colored moon was sinking into the western horizon as other guys showed up to run. Randi Garvey was the only female in for today’s workout. We did sets of odd-beginning distances, with the first of each being a “strider” and the second being at a better pace. These are the intervals…

1 mi warmup jog
300m w/200m recovery
300m w/200m recovery
500m w/200m recovery
500m w/200m recovery
900m w/200m recovery
900m w/200m recovery
700m w/200m recovery
700m w/200m recovery

Boston Marathon, beyond the finish line

boston finish

Charlotte Maines and I in the finish line area, Sunday, April 14th, 2013.

My race ended in grand fashion. I experienced wonderful running weather, tremendous crowd support and a goal time achieved. I had several friends also participating in the race, each running their own version of the famed Boston Marathon. If you haven’t been to the race, I can offer an explanation of what many videos and photographs do not make clear. The finish line on Boylston Street is NOT the large blue scaffolding structure seen in the pictures. The finish line is a large painted stripe on the concrete, bordered by two timing chip mats. It is 40 feet in front of the blue tunnel. The blue scaffolding bridge is for photographers, media and race officials. It is mostly blue on the front side facing the finish line, decorated with Boston Marathon logos and sponsor banners. The back side is mostly white tarps and banners enclosing the structure from the elements should it rain or be exposed to wind. Once you complete your run, you walk under the structure and head east on Boylston Street to get water, the Mylar blankets and your finisher’s medal. That’s the plan, anyway. I passed under the structure and stopped for a minute to catch my breath and look back at the last straightaway. (see Figure label #1 below)  “I really did it,” rang in my head, I pulled together one of my best endurance sports performances just minutes ago. I was elated!  White and yellow coat volunteers and race officials asked me if I was ok, I reassured them I was fine, thanked them and just stayed in the shade of the tunnel. I watched and listened to the music, heard the announcer calling out names, and kept enjoying the non-stop noise from the crowd.  The cheering on Boylston Street is so memorable. I’d venture to guess that only by coincidence would there be anyone in the massive crowd that knows me. Yet thousands of people scream, cheer, ring cowbells and wave flags as you run by.

I wear a Nathan 10k waist belt pack when I do long runs. It stays tight to my body, doesn’t look like a big lump of equipment, and holds some things I like to have during and after the race. I can carry gels, salt pills and my phone with me. I had the phone and my ID and some cash in the pack when I finished the race. With my running completed, I was riding a high that had me using my limited cell phone battery power to relay quick text messages about my experience to friends . Between text messages and Facebook personal messages, my phone’s already low battery was in trouble. I had to minimize what I was doing with my iPhone. I needed some juice left to connect with Charlotte and hopefully get a few finisher pictures of ourselves, too. Volunteers encouraged me, politely, to continue moving to the water and runner recovery area just 150 ft ahead. This recovery zone for athletes began at Dartmouth Street and Copley Square. I didn’t want to get water and begin shuffling down the street yet, I had a few people running that I wanted to greet right as they finished. Lilia Drew, Diane Walsh, Charlotte of course, followed hopefully soon after by Michael Papa and Barry Green. I spoke with Stephanie Freeman just yesterday, she said she wasn’t going to be at Mile 19 as she thought, she was going to the finish line area instead. Ann Wessling is usually poking around here, too, with her Competitor Sports credentials, I expected to see her in the finish zone with a microphone. I was going to hang as close to the action and excitement as possible – for as long as possible. Anyone who knows me knows this. The finish line area is the pulse of any race. This was a great day!


Click to enlarge – View of bomb #1 site and Fedex dropbox. This is where I first waited for friends to finish.  (Not my picture, for reference purposes.)


Click to enlarge – This picture shows the proximity from Fedex drop box to explosion site #1

I moved under the tunnel and to the south side of the street. I leaned and stretched up against what I will refer to as a “Fedex” drop box. It was a metal mailbox-like permanent fixture servicing the businesses on Boylston Street. (see Figure label #2 below) I stretched my calves and shoulders, answering volunteers that asked me to keep moving with, “Sure, just stretching out and getting the rusty pieces back in shape.” Two white coat volunteers were standing next to it, so I started to chat with them. They asked about my race, where I was from, how I enjoyed Boston. One wore a Boston College hat, so I raved to him how Mile 21 at BC was a great segment of the course, the loudest and most enthusiastic fans greeted me there! While I spoke with these two volunteers, others with white and yellow jackets stayed away and focused on getting the stream of finishers to keep walking forward and vacate the finish area. I could stall here as long as I could stretch my legs and keep talking to these two guys, I thought.  As I spoke to them, I was also answering text messages from people who had contacted me while I was on the course. I didn’t claim the time on my Garmin to anyone, I wanted the official time from BAA to surface so I was sure it was authentic. I was back and forth texting with Austin and Anita Daniels, Suzanne and Sal Senzatimore, Jessica Crate, Adrienne Papa, Diane Walsh, Patty Loubris and Erica Lazarus. All of the texts from them happened before the first explosion. On Facebook, I also answered a few posts and congratulation messages from friends. The phone was low on battery, but this activity wasn’t eating up too much power. I would ask runners what their finishing time was as they passed me, giving me an idea as to when Charlotte and others would be coming through. I believe I missed Lilia Drew and Diane Walsh at their finish because I was talking to the two volunteers at the Fedex box. I learned from texts with Suzanne that Charlotte was not going to be finishing before 3 hours 53 minutes, still at that time 10 minutes away. I said goodbye to the two volunteers and moved from the Fedex mailbox to the lifeguard chair behind the finish line. The lifeguard chair was setup in the middle of Boylston Street.

I took a moment to answer questions from a guy with a tape recorder. He asked basic questions about my race day exeperience and  took my name in a notepad. I laetr learned he was from NPR Radio, here is that interview with myself and other finishers minutes before the 1st explosion.  NPR Radio Interview


Click to enlarge – View from BEHIND the finish scaffolding. Lifeguard chair before explosions was located in the middle of Boylston Street. I did not take this photo

Sitting in the chair were two yellow jacket race officials, encouraging finishing runners to keep walking to the water tables past Dartmouth Street or if they needed medical help, to enter the large white tent at Copley Squre. I said, “Hi” to them, thanked them for being a part of the race, and stood behind their chair to wait for runners. (see Figure label #3 below) I continued to stretch, talk to other finishers,  and answer text messages while at the lifeguard chair. I was moved to see so many people crying as they walked to get water and their medal. They cried because they were happy with their results! I spoke to a few, they were so positively affected by the race and their finish. This made me feel really good, what a perfect day to run and spend it among friends. And soon my friends would start arriving. I looked forward to the runner after-party at House of Blues. I thought that when Charlotte came through the finish and we collected our things, we could visit the bars on the north side of the street in front of the finish line so I can get a Samuel Adams “26.2 Brew” glass. I saw them online, Sam Adams employees at the expo said I’d get one free if I went on a brewery tour, but I wasn’t going to be here on Tuesday. This would be my chance at scoring one! I didn’t know it then, but it would have also put me in the mix of where the explosions were to occur.

boston finish 7

Photo taken after the race by Boston Police Officer. This is approx 10 min before the first explosion.

I wanted a picture to send to Andre from Skechers to show him I wore the shoes and finished in a good time. Runners streamed by on both sides of me, so I walked to the North side of Boylston Street near the beginning of the Dartmouth Street intersection. I asked a Boston Police officer if he would take my picture. He did, I checked it to make sure it was in focus and thanked him. (see Figure label #4 below) I tried to attach that picture to a text message to Andre, but the photo never went through. It stalled trying to attach to the text, so I stopped it because I feared it was sapping my battery power. I moved back to the middle of the street next to the lifeguard chair and kept looking for Charlotte. I went back and forth via text with Adrienne Papa on where Michael was, she said he was scheduled to arrive in 4:01, he was looking to beat her previous Boston marathon time. She said he had reached the 30km mark on schedule, and that he was “on a mission.” I typed a message to her that did not send – it read…

“I guess. The hills don’t end at heartbreak. The little ones at 23-25 hurt, too.”

Charlotte sent me a text after that, saying she was heading towards the meeting spot we had arranged yesterday. This was a building three blocks away with a  lower level concourse that provided free massages and chicken soup for the runners after the race. I was very surprised that she too had completed her run and passed by without me seeing her. Granted there were many finishers, but I was right in the middle of the street  and I thought I’d easily recognize her. Maybe my incessant texting caused me to miss her? I said I’d be over to the meeting spot shortly, I’d have to begin walking east on Boylston, get water, my medal and my clothes from the bus. When I shut my phone off to save power and turned left, the first explosion hit. (see Figure label #5 below) My right ear whistled with a ringing sound as I watched a cloud of whitish-grey smoke rise from in front of the finish timing tent on the north side of the street. Everyone got very quiet, the smoke rose and started to dissipate when explosion #2 hit further down the street. I thought a generator, transformer or propane tank exploded. I watched police and volunteers hurry to the scene. The video that played over and over on TV showed low flames and minimal debris. I didn’t see flames, blood or anything that made it alarming besides the loud sound it made and the echo from the surrounding buildings. Count to ten – the second explosion wasn’t as loud, but made me think someone was going to be in big trouble for this mess and that people were probably injured nearby, knowing how big and tight the crowds were all along the non-bleacher side of the street. Within two minutes, the smoke from both explosions cleared. A breeze that acted as a runner’s headwind from the east blew the smoke away. So really, to me, things didn’t look too bad from behind the finish line structure. The volunteers and police now made sure everyone that wasn’t associated with the authorities or the race was walking away from the finish area. The medical tent in Copley square had a stream of people coming out heading towards the first explosion area. Volunteers stopped anyone from moving towards the finish area, but there wasn’t a whole lot of clamor among people looking to go towards the troubled area. The soldiers in uniform that finished hiking the course, they ran by me to get to the finish line and as the video showed, to the slat fence that separated the spectators from the finish line. I walked towards the water tables, took a bottle and spoke with several runners and people who asked what I had seen and what happened. (see Figure label #6 below) I answered with the same thing… I saw white/gray smoke from two explosions, and there were plenty of people there to help. I wasn’t worried or scared, I was calm and under the belief that things went very well with my run and whatever had just occurred was under control due to the large presence of law enforcement and medical personnel.  I kept reminding people that so many police and medical pros were there. Further down the road, I went to collect my medal and Power Bar samples and food goodie bag. I went to the bus that held my race bag, collected that and saw that many people were not worried about what they had seen. I heard a man say to a woman, “This isn’t Disney, they don’t fire off cannons at the Boston Marathon, that was a bomb.” I had an odd feeling that people very close to where I was were injured, the explosion was very loud and happened in a crowded place. I wasn’t naive to that. For 7-10 minutes, I did not see or hear any sirens at all, the sound of one helicopter was overhead, that’s all. I met Charlotte at the entrance to the building we were to meet at. Then we heard the first sirens. She had by that time been monitoring Twitter, where reports of casualties and people with missing limbs were being reported. Charlotte was at first reluctant to go into the building, she really wanted to leave immediately and understandably so. If this was an intentional act, there could be more explosions. My reasoning was that we should remain indoors, in this “secret” basement to relax and recoup our thoughts. Charlotte worked diligently to get word to her family and husband Stanton that we were ok. She was able to get a message to Stanton first then her Twitter account. This was important as media was now reporting that an attack had been perpetrated at the Boston Marathon. And the news was spreading fast!

We lined up to get the athlete’s massage. It didn’t take long for an official to tell us,”Folks, I’m sorry to report that for the first time in 28 years, we have to ask you to leave now, this building is being evacuated, again I am sorry, please take your things and proceed up the stairs.” We knew we had to head to the trains, we had to look for a way to get back to Harvard where we were staying. I don’t know Boston, I relied on Charlotte’s knowledge of the city. Good thing, she knows the T system well. We walked first back to the Boston Common area to try and get on the Green Line, the train we took in the morning to the bus lineup. Now we saw various emergency and military vehicles on the roads. The black SWAT juggernaut trucks and SUVs from federal environmental agencies were first. Then ambulances, many of them, made there way through newly cleared streets and confused runners. Once we walked a few blocks to the Commons area, we saw the entrance to the T station was locked, and a fully armed “stromtrooper” military member relayed the same message to all of us. The Green Line was closed, we could check other lines because they could still be operating. Charlotte quickly identified the Red Line as the best option for us to return to the apartment. We walked across the Commons, texting and talking away to concerned friends and relatives. We made the Red line station before any closure or interruption of service occured. We hurried through the ticket entrance and lined up on the platform for the train. I remember constant sirens while we waited on the elevated station platform, but most of these people weren’t chatting among themselves. One man talked to his two children, another lady complained about her phone service. We boarded the first train we saw pull into the station. It was crowded and surprisingly quiet on the ride. Most people tried to text others or catch the news on their smartphones. We had heard that cell service was purposely shut down by the authorities, and although it was difficult to get messages through and Internet connectivity was weak, this shutdown rumor we later learned wasn’t true. A few stops later we arrived in Harvard Square. It was bustling and vibrant – I didn’t see too many people with the runner gear bags or race bibs. We went to Subway and ate a hero, talking about what we had seen and constantly returning texts and emails to friends. We walked by the Charles River and returned to the apartment, with the sounds of sirens nearby in Cambridge and across the river in Back Bay Boston. We turned on the TV once home, showered, and watched the day’s events unfold. The video played over and over again, the injury count kept rising, but we were safe. A race that I’d looked forward to for months was done. The world event that we had been a part of was still in progress a short 2 miles away. We were very relieved  to be home in a quiet place.


My Boston finish diagram, click to enlarge. Corresponds with notations and numbers in the above story.

marathon goods

Click to enlarge.

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