Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Yesterday I ran the Boston Marathon and what New Englanders in the Boston area call Marathon Monday. Since Patriots Day is celebrated here, most people have work off and have time to drink/line the marathon route. This makes for great motivation since there are few spots along the route without spectators cheering you on. The crowd helped substantially, but they did not lessen the pain in the final few miles. Here's how it went down.
Finished in 3:43.
We got up early (5:30) to be picked up by the rest of our group; we were running as 4. We then drove out to the start some 26.2 miles from Boston. We got there at around 6:30 and took about 15 minutes to find the start. The four of us were running bandit and had not registered to run, so we had to fend for ourselves to find the start and pass the time. Before leaving Boston, we found a registered runner who was lost, so we gave him a ride too. When we got out at the start, it was a little chili - mid forties or so. We didn't want to leave anything at the start, so we were in our running gear and went numb for the next few hours. To put the size of the event in perspective, there were 26,000 registered runners and about 5,000 bandits. The little town of Hopkinton was packed. After the elite men and women had gone, we hopped into a corral (sneakily so as not to be caught) and waited for the starter's pistol. From there it took 16 minutes to get to the starting line and the beginning of what would be a once in s lifetime experience.
We had talked ahead of time and decided to shoot for a 3:45 pace. That meant we would have to hold back in the beginning since there would be a ton of adrenaline. Since I'm used to explosive sports--crossfit, ski racing, etc.--it was a very anticlimactic start. The first mile slowed us more than we expected since we had to weave though literally thousands of people. After 1 mile we were already 1 minute 30 seconds back from our pace. We picked it up for the second mile and shaved that down to 30 seconds. We then held that pace for a while shaving off a few seconds here and there. Even from the beginning there were people cheering us on. Also, we found it funny that many people had what I like to call 'cocker spaniel' syndrome and were in the woods relieving themselves not even half a mile into the race. The first many miles were fun and kind of drifted by. One notable moment was when a spectator on a ledge was throwing orange slices into the crowd saw us running by. I motioned for him to throw one to me. When he did everyone I was running with thought it would go over our heads, but, in stride, i leapt up and caught it with left handed behind my head. I received many cheers and a delicious orange. Somewhere around mile 8 we lost one of our group. She was the only experienced marathoner with us, but she was having problems with her hips. She told us to go on and finished the race on her own suffering great pain and showing extreme determination.
For two of us, reaching mile 10 was the end of known territory. Over the next 16.2 miles, each step would be the furthest we've ever run. At about mile 12, one of our friends jumped into the course and ran with us a ways. She then jumped out and found the girl who had split off. At about this point we entered the halfway mark and Wellesley College. This is an all girls school where the students have been known to scream, flash, and occasionally latch on to runners. Most of the girls were holding signs saying 'Kiss Me' and were yelling. We saw no flashers. We had thought about slowing down for this section and really taking in the atmosphere and taking advantage of our surroundings, but when my two friends saw the line of girls, the both kicked it into high gear and got about 1000 high fives. One of my buddies had written his name and phone number on a few wrist bands that he planned on throwing into the crowd at Wellesley, but as soon as the moment struck him he completely forgot.
We continued to make time and eventually got ahead of pace. We were all feeling good, so we kept up our pace and cruised through several miles. Somewhere along this, probably mile 14 or 15. I stopped to use the bathroom (enough said). We had planned that I would run ahead, they would slow down and I would catch them after. Surprisingly this worked. I sprinted, so to speak, ahead, did my business, and kept a fast pace for the next mile or so. Luckily, I saw the tattered American flag boxers and Vibram 5's (that's right he ran in 5 fingers) my friends was wearing. He said the other guy had also made a pit stop. He caught up with us shortly thereafter.
The night before the race I was given the advice from an experienced runner, that BC should be thought of as the halfway mark both physically (body breakdown-wise not distance), and mentally. Unfortunately, I started getting sporadic cramps in my calves at about mile 18, 3-4 miles before BC. Once this started happening, I drank as much Gatorade and water I could get my hands on. This worked for a while and I was able to keep pace with my friends until Heartbreak Hill. My calves were cramping too much to keep up so I let them go ahead and I would face the next 8 miles alone. I didn't stop at any point on the hill, but the pain was getting pretty bad. Somewhere along the way my hamstrings joined in the fun and I would cramp up every third step or so. Nevertheless I pushed on. The rest of the race was mental. BC was huge. The student body has so much energy that they pretty much carried you through their section of course. A little while after that, at about mile 22.5, some of my friends were watching. They had beers ready and it was good. Then I hit the BU campus body, who had a similar effect to BC. I did stop to walk at some random water station to get my fill, but at this point, liquids did little for my legs. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and thought to myself, only a few more miles. At this point in the race, I drew inspiration from some of the runners around me. I saw many bands of soldiers carrying 50lb ruck sacks who had left hours beforehand, but were still en route. I also saw a man pushing a wheelchair, who had also left ahead of me, but was determined to reach the finish. Both of these sights spurred me on. For a few miles I found myself singing military running cadences, that I listen to running, half out loud half in my head. This was an emotional portion of the race and my adrenaline brought me through the final miles. When I rounded the last corner and saw the finish line, nothing could stop me. I ran as fast as my now hardly functioning legs would take me and crossed the line with a time of 3:43. The big clock said 3:59, but I later found out that we had crossed the start when it said 16.
They kept us moving through the finish area. Everyone got a heat blanket, a bag of food, water, water and more water. The registered runners got a medal and could receive medical attention if they needed. Us bandits just took whatever we were given. There were so many people at the end of the race that I was sure I wouldn't find my friends. I did a slow, very slow, walk around the meeting block and finally found one of my friends back at the beginning. He had finished in 3:35 and our other friend finished 30 second thereafter. However, this second friend, Dave, was given medical attention by his girlfriend who was working in the medical tent. We then sat and waited for the spectating crew to come pick us up. There were many congratulations and victory beers. However, someone had the bright idea to pick a bar over a mile from the finish. We set off at a slow hobble and finally reached the bar for a delicious after run celebration.