Boston Marathon, Pt. One

Currently 7am in Boston, I sit here at Logan Airport watching the sun rise over the tarmac with planes dotting the horizon while I type this. The memories of yesterdays race and the weekend that accompanied it are very active, and can especially be felt in my legs. There is 2 hours until I get on my flight, ultimately landing in Vegas where I will begin my segment of MS Run the US to raise donations for the cure of multiple sclerosis. I think the majority of that time will be me writing up this post.

Marathon Monday started at 5:50am. I woke up 10 minutes before my alarm, lying on the couch of the house I was staying at. The sun was just beginning to rise, and the pink sky was shining through the window, virtually cloudless. I fell asleep wearing my racing shorts and jersey, so I wasted no time having to put those on. I threw on some women’s sweatpants from a room mate at the house (this seems to be happening as of lately- see previous posts haha) since I did not pack anything to dispose at the starting line. Also, I put on an old sweater that belonged to the friend who was letting me stay at his house.

I ate a good amount of bread and some bananas before leaving, as well as downing a few glasses of water.

I was driven to the subway, where I jumped aboard, joining dozens of runners who were, like me, heading to Boston Common to board the busses out to the starting line at Hopkington.

Upon arriving at the Commons, I headed right to the bus line. When I got to the front, I was told everything must be in a bag a gallon or smaller. I was using the bag they gave me for my ear, so I was rather confused at the moment. Either way, I didnt argue and carried what little I had to the busses, disposing of the bag. While waiting, I noticed nobody wearing the BAA jackets, nor anything that looked “nice”. Suddenly, I understood. There was no bag drop at the starting line. I ran out of line, missing the first set of busses, and to the bag drop tent to drop off my “nice” running gear. I was able to catch the second wave of busses.

The ride to Hopkington was an interesting experience. There were helicopters everywhere, some flying above us, cops directing traffic at all intersections to keep the busses moving, spotters on the rooftops, etc. Security was top-notch to say the least. Once on the highway, I started watching the signs, looking for the hopkington exit. 10 minutes. 15 minutes. 20. I began to jokingly think to myself “I have to run THIS back?” Also, at this point in the bus ride, I never had had to pee so bad in my life. I couldn’t wait to get to Hopkington, wherever that may be. Eventually, we made it.

When I got off the bus at Hopkington Middle school, I walked under a larger banner that said “Welcome to Athlete’s Village!”. The security was again, very tight. Nobody without a bib was allowed in the parking lot of the busses, nor in the athlete village. I displayed my bib while walking past the security, and was nodded forward. I made a sprint to one of the 800 (literally) pot-a-potties there and waited for the longest 5 minutes of my life.

The grounds of the school, and the multiple fields behind it were packed to the max with runners. It was a cool sight to see. Everybody was wearing the heat blankets that were given out at the med tent. I picked one up myself so I could lay down for a quick nap.

I was supposed to meet Dave, a producer, for some really quick videography of me before the race for the documentary on MS Run the US. He couldnt even get close to athlete village, and there was nowhere good around to meet either way. I borrow a ladies phone to call him, and made a last ditch effort to meet up, but, like I predicted, it didnt work.

On my way back into athlete village (I left to find dave), I picked up a gatorade and powerbar to get some more calories in me.

The gates opened at 9:05am. People flooded through to begin the long long walk to the corrals and onward to the start. The walk was a nice long downhill through Hopkington. The families of the town were all blocked in for the day, with gates and security at the end of each driveway. People were grilling and partying already at 9am haha. Notable houses I passed were the one passing out free vaseline and calories (thanks) and the one that had the tailgate at it with a sign for “free beer, cigarettes, and donuts for runners.” They actually had the donuts. I almost took one but didn’t haha.

The town was already lining the streets to the corrals to cheer. we werent even close to the start yet! It was amazing to see all the support going on here. After about half a mile of walking, we made it to the corrals. There was a parking lot of bathrooms again, so I made use of them. I stopped again for more gatorade, and walked another 200m to corral 1. I spotted bib 103, which was the lowest non-elite number I would see all day. Also, a guy was wearing a bacon-print triathlon suit, which got lots of laughs from people. Bib 200 something. (the lower the bib number, the better you are expected to run)

Quick side note: I looked up from typing, and am surrounded by people wearing the jackets and medals from yesterday 😀

back on track: The gates surrounding the start were packed full of media and reporting. There was a giant camera attached to a crane that floated above the start, maybe 10 feet above us all. Cops from Hopkington, State troopers, NYPD, Military… everyone… were there as well, about every 10 meters, and on the rooftops. Again, helicopters were chopping the sky constantly.

*graphic content coming up*
I had to pee again. I couldnt leave the corral, and no bathrooms were in it. There was 20 minutes until the start still. Wasn’t gonna make it another 3 hours to the finish line. Making use of my sweater, I crouched down and pulled it over my knees. From there, I just went with the flow. Pun intended. Some guy came up to my and was said “excellent idea. I was trying to figure out how to do that” haha.

I stretched my final stretches, and disposed of my sweatpants and sweater. Better said, donated them to charity. Corral one loaded in behind the elites. I saw Meb for about half a second, and got a glimpse of what I believe was Rita earlier in the day.

We did the national anthem, which gets me so fired up every time. Like in the Super Bowl, we had a flyover from the tactical helicopters. There were 3 or 4 that did a “V” formation and flew over right as the anthem stopped. We all cheered and pointed up to them, sending our thanks.

Race gear:
Saucony Fastwitch 6, bright orange
Saucony Jersey, bright orange
Oakley Radarlocks, fire iridium
Oakley Persevere LS (post race)
Swiftwick socks
Garmin 205

Bang.

We were off. Thirty six thousand of us. 26 miles and 385 yards to go. While I was corral one, it took me a good 30 seconds to cross the starting line. (could be worse, I know, I know.) I immediately spotted my buddy Kyle up ahead, having failed to find him earlier in the day. I came up beside him and shook his hand. We chatted the race for a mile, and settled in. I felt like I was going pretty slow at the time. I looked at my watch. 5:13 pace. Unsustainable, insanely overpace. We both knew it, and kept on keeping on, although we pulled it back to 5:30ish. Our first hill, quite small, was a couple of miles in. We made it up no problem. I grabbed a few cups of gatorade at the top.

5K mark was about 17:30.

I can’t remember which cities were where, but I know Natick (?) was very pretty. We ran along a large lake there. We passed through other downtown districts as well. People lined the course the whole time. Every foot of it. Every inch of it. Sometimes multiple people deep. The crowd was loud, almost deafening. The cheering didn’t stop for a moment the entire 26.2 miles. People had signs, bells, megaphones, boomboxes, etc the whole way.

10 Mile mark was about 59 minutes I believe. Half was 1:18.

I was on good pace for a 2:35, which was my realistic goal. However, judging by how my legs felt, I knew it would not happen. I spent the previous few days enjoying the Boston experience, on my feet ALL day long, getting at least 10 miles on them a day while exploring the city, walking the expo, seeing the history and parks, etc. Furthermore, we went to Crane Beach on the border of NH and Mass the day before to hike along the dunes at the coast. It was such a fun day, and a very scenic beach. I don’t regret any of it. My legs hurt like a beast, but I had, in my mind, the full Boston epxerience.

Well, not quite yet.

At mile 13.5 is the Wellesley campus. For the past 20 years, the women of the college have made a point to line the street for nearly a quarter mile and offer kisses to the runners. My friend Pete warned me about this area, joking that it would be a time consuming place due to all the girl who want kisses. The atmosphere in this place was unlike any I have ever had at a race. It was festive, it was supportive, and again, it was LOUD. One one side of the street was the ladies of Wellesley, and the other side was the town. I knew I had to embrace the tradition, YOLO, and get one of those “Boston experience” kisses. I ran along, smiling and laughing with the rest of the population, looking on to the crowd of ladies. I stopped quickly in front of a pretty blonde, wearing her Boston Strong shirt, and exchanged kisses on the cheek. We laughed and both said thanks. The people around cheered and patted my back as I ran on and yelled good luck. I laughed for the next mile, at least, and my legs didn’t hurt as bad at the moment with the boost of adrenaline from the bit of fun. ^That whole scene cost me about 2 seconds of time, and It was totally worth it. If you run Boston, do it.

After Wellesley, I knew Newton was coming. The momentary runners high was gone, and I had long lost Kyle and had no mental boost to focus on. I grabbed extra gatorade again at the next aid station. We did a big downhill, which was painful on my quads and knees. At the bottom was the sign “Welcome to Newton”

Newton is known for the hills, most for Heartbreak Hill. We turned a right, and hill one began. In my mind, this was the biggest one. It seemed to last forever. I knew I was dying fast here, and this hill was going to suck the rest out of what little energy my legs had. There was no fuel on the course, so every calorie came from a small cup of gatorade. Even the gel I had in my pocket did virtually nothing.

I fought the hill, and encountered hill 2 shortly after. Hill three followed immediately, and was smaller, yet had an immense crowd. I saw a sign that said “The Heartbreak is Over!” I looked back, not believing it. The smallest hill was, in fact, Heartbreak Hill, and would you know it, I was dead.

I chilled my pace from the 6:30 I had since decreased to, to about 7:45 and coasted it in to Boston. I wasn’t going to win the race. In fact, Meb had finished 20 minutes ago at that time. I wasn’t going to get top 100, 300, or even make a PR at that time. I just wanted to enjoy the incredible experience. And I did.

After Newton, Its all downhill. I could see the Boston skyline on the horizon. A few hills later, I could see the massive Citgo sign that hangs above Fenway Stadium, where I saw the Red Sox play a few nights prior with my friend Joel and his family. That was my first MLB game, and a good one at that.

The Citgo sign took forever to get to. It just loomed on the horizon for what seemed like forever.

Beacon street, the last one before the downtown area of Boston was such a dense area of people. People filled yards up to the houses. People hung out of windows and on balconies, draping banners from them exlaiming “Boston Strong” and “This is OUR city!”

Side note: I just boarded. I got Row 8, as close as it gets to first class. I can sprawl out with tons of leg room up here. And… window seat as always. I love it. I am sititng next to a fellow Boston athlete. We chatted about the experience, and his presence at last years race.

Anyway- Running down Beacon was mostly downhill. We passed under a bridge, and the “One More Mile” sign. I could FEEL the crowd at the finish from here.

Boston marathon has many sayings, one of them being “Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston.” Hereford was approaching. I could see the sign. I knew I had less than a kilometer left. When you turn onto Hereford, everything hits you. Like I said, you can FEEL the crowd, the noise, the echoes off the buildings. The Hynes convention center courtyard is in front of you, with the American and BAA flags flying gloriously in the light breeze. It really is a feeling that is hard to explain. I had tears start welling up in my eyes, this being the most powerful moment I had ever experienced at a race.

Left on Boyston.

The tears didn’t stop. The crowd was beyond deafening. It was like a rock concert, shaking my chest. I could see the finish line 400 meters ahead. I looked around, taking in the moment. People were backed up to the buildings, and again, in windows, cheering relentlessly.

I ran through the bleachers, and past the site of last years attack. The memorial tree was decorated more than ever. I smiled, knowing that 36,000 people would reclaim this finish line and city as their own.

I threw my arms up above my head, clenching my fists as I crossed the finish line.
I came across at 3:06, about half an hour slower than anticipated, but, I had one of the greatest experiences of my life and wouldn’t change a bit of it.

I walked along the finish chute, nearly a mile long. My legs were screaming. I wanted to sit. I could feel the dehydration and lack of fuel getting to me. I had been cramping the past 10 miles, and knew I was severely low on water, even though I took it in at each aid station. In total, I downed 5 bottles of water/gatorade/protein mix going through the aid station. I munched on the chips and bread they passed out as well. The liquid didn’t make it out of me for three more hours. I clearly was depleted, and my body must have just absorbed all of that.

I picked up my medal, having it put around my neck by one of the volunteers. There was about a hundred feet of medals stacked as high as possible on the tables, a very unique sight to see. I also grabbed one of the heat jackets, printed in Adidas and BAA logos from the tables, not because it was cold (a nice 68 degrees), but because they were awesome. The volunteer insisted that she put it on me. I took it right off because I got warm so fast in it. As I took it off, I realized how much salt I had dried on my body from expelling it in my sweat. I brushed my forehead, and my hand was almost completely white. I could pick chunks of salt from my eyebrows as well. This explained the dehydration.

At the end of the finish chute, I found a place to lay down and elevate my legs against a building. I lie there in the sun for a while, letting my legs recover a bit. A shadow interrupted my nap, and I opened my eyes to see a lady kneeling down above me. She introduced herself, a reporter, and wanted to report on my experience of the race. We chatted all about it. My favorite parts, my motivations and reasonings for running it, what the hardest part was, etc. I told her about MS Run the US and the upcoming marathons as well.

All in all, the day was perfect. For the rest of the day post marathon, see part two of this post. It was equally great.

Congrats to all runners, Boston or not. We are one, we are strong, we are resilient.

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