The Boston Marathon Review
Yesterday, April 21, I ran the Boston Marathon. I had a goal of 3:38, which is 5% faster than I ran the New York Marathon in the fall. I trained much harder increasing my mileage by 20% with more drills and speed training. I drove to Boston with teammate Audra and girlfriend Lisa. I did a house swap with a woman from Boston and stayed only .6 miles from the finish, which was excellent.
The morning of the marathon I went to the buses at 6:30, by the time they were loaded and we drove to the Athletes Village it was 8:40. It was a very long bus ride with many of us jumping out to pee along the highway in the bus traffic jam. The Athletes Village was a large open field lined with portable toilets and tables of food. Unlike NY where runners go to their assigned corrals, which contain food and toilets, in Boston all runners congregated in one giant area waiting to be called to the start. It made for very long lines and long walks to get to the toilets. I was in wave two, for runners slower than 3:30. We were called to the start at 9:45 to begin at 10:30. Just then the sun comes out and I head to the start, and walk, and walk. I did not check the time, but it seemed to take 20 minutes to get to the start. The road came to a “T” at corral 25 with no way to get to the right or left without jumping over walls and peoples shrubs. It was a mess, people running and jumping and climbing to get to their corral. I was in 18, which was mixed with people from 17-20 all in the wrong corral. Suddenly we were off.
The beginning is downhill, a hard downhill, toe slamming with packs of people to keep you from really working the hill. By mile 3, I was hot and sweating. I thought then I might not make 3:38. My first mile was 40 seconds off; with all the people there was nowhere to go. My 5k was an average pace of 8:26, only 7 seconds off. Before I talk about my graduating slowing of pace I want to talk about the spectators. There are thousands and thousands the whole way. The course is packed with people to a frightening degree. Barricades try to hold them back but they push onto the course with extreme exuberance. It freaked me out. I tried to run in the middle. At one point another runner, both of us seeming to feel the same fear were trying to get away from the spectators. The road narrowed to one lane as the barricades were being pushed into the street by so many people. People hung over them, screaming and wanted to slap the runners. The children were handing out oranges and sponges. The sponges were very welcome but all the dropped orange peels were a recipe for disaster. In NY crews rake up the drink cups non-stop, it seems that no cleaning up or raking was happening in Boston, the streets were a carpet of paper cups. But you have to laugh at the folks grilling meat and standing on the sidelines handing out shrimp and steak to the runners, but nothing beats the 10-mile cake.
By mile 18 I did not want to see another spectator. I needed to block them out. Now I was tired, sunburn, and had chafed underarms. I waited the whole race to tackle the Newton chain of hills; I went over heartbreak without even knowing what it was. But that was because the whole course is hilly, the Newtown hills did not seem to be an exceptionally bad point, the whole race is up and town so it is just another chain of killer hills. My legs were already really beaten up. I was more freaked out by the people, they began to suck my energy, then sponge bob was suddenly running with me the next 3 miles and I was ready to kill him and everyone one screaming “sponge bob.” I saw Lisa at mile 17, a welcome site, and handed her my arm warmers and pacing bracelets, which I had carried for 15 miles, it was so hot I needed them off my arms. At mile 20 it was carnage. People were falling to the sidelines crying. One woman was stumbling and falling side to side as if on a seriously bad drug and alcohol trip. We were trying to run around her, the E.M.T.’s who were excellent, had not gotten to her yet. I am sure she had no idea where she was. One women was walking and a random spectator jumped the railing and run up to her screaming at her head, RUN, RUN, RUN, You gotta run, as if he was a drill sergeant. The Boston fans were like no other running fans, it was if if they were watching a Red Sox vs. Yankees game. At mile 25 Audra ran out, I gathered energy from her that was great. She said to me, “run the rest hard.” My watch read 3:42:48. I had 8 minutes to get to the finish to get under 3:50 a qualifying time if I ever want to do this again. I mustered up everything I had. I ran hard, drawing from my sprint drills and crossed the line at 3:50:54, I thought. It was not my official time. I crossed the finished line, a big painted road and stopped to a walk then saw the timing mats to follow. My official time was 3:51:01, two seconds over qualifying time. I wobbled, and then started the walk though the chutes. The chutes are a whole page in itself. This was perhaps the worst part of the race. No, the chutes and the huge extended families crowding the runners chutes was indeed the worst part of the marathon experience.