Daylight has broken
I awoke from a pleasant dream around 4AM. I had just received a temporary job with the BSO (Boston Symphony Orchestra) as a call up musician. I was a world-class clarinet or trombone player and worked temp jobs with orchestras and groups all over the world. It was a happy life.
Trying to get back to sleep, I felt my heart beating; not fast but powerfully. My mind flickered to consciousness like a fluorescent bulb. My watch read 4:33am. Game day is here.
I made a cup of tea, fooled with my phone, plugged everything in to top off the batteries and sat down to write. I cannot believe how clear my mind is. It is now 5:33 and time for a shower. Somehow an hour has slipped by. Time to get moving.
First caffeine – check, first carbs – check, shower – check, all systems charged and ready to go – check!
Off to the buses. 5:51am
The drive into Cambridge was an easy 20 minutes and no one managed to piss me off. I parked in my office parking garage and left the building through the front door. By this time it was around 6:30 and the sun was rising over Boston.
It is about a mile walk from my office to the Boston Common where the bag drop was. The streets were quiet and I made good time. I located the tent for my bag drop and then went to find a bench to sit down and make my final preparations. I found a spot next to a lady in a house robe. At first I thought she was some eccentric from one of the near-by multi-million dollar condos. Then it dawned on me, this was her throw away clothing.
It was a little chilly but I had to take my jacket off and eventually my singlet to put on my glide. I attached my number to the front of my shirt and a tag on the back that read: “For Martin, Krystle, Lingzi Lu & Sean”. I double checked my running belt and clip on pouch, put on my trash bag and headed for the drop off tent. I had my post race drink in a plastic bag and they told me they could not take anything inside of a bag. So I double checked the cap and put my tumeric drink in the same bag as my marathon jacket. I asked them to be gentle.
I shivered as I walked back across the Common to the Starbucks on the corner of Beacon and Charles Street. When I walked in I was surprised to find seating available. I got a vente and a coffee cake and sat down by the window overlooking the park. What a spot. I chatted with some other runners, had a 2nd cup and used the facilities. As I walked through the Common I shivered so much, coffee was spilling out of the drink slot in the top of my cup!
I sat on a bench near the bus loading area and spoke with a couple. She was running, he was there for moral support. We did talk about last year briefly, but mostly about today’s race. She was a blue bib and boarded ahead of me. We wished each other luck as she headed towards the buses.
Around 8:20 I headed in that general direction and started talking to a young lady who was also from Medford. We took each other’s picture’s by the entry and headed for the buses. I made one last pit stop before boarding the bus and it was a wreck inside there. I warned the poor girl who was waiting to go inside.
When we arrived in Hopkinton just after 10, I had to go again in the worse way. The bus parked quickly and we all moved off the bus quickly. They were checking numbers as we approached the Athlete’s Village but I thought it was very unobtrusive and barely slowed the flow of people heading towards the Village. Instead of heading right onto the football field, I headed trait towards what looked like a hundred porta-potties in the field behind the school. I thought the lines had to be better at this out-of-the-way location.
Wrong! The line was long and I thought I was going to explode. After what seemed an eternity, I dropped all of my stuff on a piece of cardboard I found on the ground and headed into the blue sanctuary. I moved as quickly as I could using all of my experience navigating one of these things.
Gatorade was handing out their 01 pre-event drink and I grabbed two. I’ve used them before and knew I would tolerate them well. I grabbed a PowerBar and skipped the coffee. I found a table to lay my belt onto and tried to get organized. They were calling the final corral of the wave before me and my nerves kicked in a bit. I would not have time for a second porta-potty visit. My pre-race routine was being compromised.
I got all my stuff together, stuffed one of the Gatorade pouches into my waist band and headed towards the football field. Along the way I tossed my trash bag and stopped to put on sunscreen. It was thick and I slathered it all over me. I handed the tube to a lady who was standing next to me and told her she could have it. She seemed quite happy. We were still chatting when they started to call my corral.
The walk to the corral is 0.7 miles. I chatted with a few people along the way, ate the PowerBar and got my watch ready. We stopped for a while and then they had us move up and then we turned the corner to walk up the hill to The Start. The street was packed with runners and I just kept following everyone else.
Down hill and Sunshine
Since we were the 4th wave, there was no National Anthem or speech from the race director. I got into the 2nd corral and within minutes the starting gun went off. The first mile is all down hill and sunshine. Over the next mile and a half there are three small hills, but they are hills. Then we went down hill until about mile five entering Framingham. It was around mile four that my buddy Mike Hartin found me. We stayed together for a bit with each of us trading off the lead.
I lost Mike on the Framingham Hill. I saw lots of people using the woods and I began to feel a sensation. Not urgent, but I knew that in 10 miles it would be. As the mile 6 marker came into view I could see they had 4 porta-potties and two had green on the door latches. Score. I was in and out in less than a minute.
Eventually I found Mike again and Lois Parker was running with him. Lois and I received our numbers from our club. We had hoped to get some pictures together but we only saw each other during this brief period of the race. The course was mainly downhill here so I used it to my advantage and took off. At this point in the race I was still running under 8:30 miles. At mile 10, nothing slower than an 8:39.
Mike and I linked up again around mile 10 and I told him that my feet felt really good. In previous Boston’s I knew I was in trouble by mile 5. I still had my Gatorade bottle but began to grab a cup of water at each stop. It was hotter than we expected. I had to remind my self to take a gel every 4-5 miles.
At the Half-Marathon mark they had photographers in buckets over the road. We’ll see what those photos look like!
Coming down the hill in Wellesley I felt good but knew the work was just beginning. We hit mile 15 coming down the hill and I took a gel near the bottom before we began the climb out to Newton Lower Falls. Then we went over Rt. 128 which is a hill and then hit the hill after that. Thus begins the series of hills that leads us into Newton and the three hills we take there after the right hand turn onto Comm. Ave. the third hill is the famous “Heart Break Hill”.
My pace on The Hill was between 11min and 12min miles. Not great, but I wasn’t walking. I began to notice blue bibs in the crowd. I caught up to and was passing people in the wave before me! That felt pretty good. Somewhere after mile 20 my running club was on the side of the road. Audrey gave me a cup of flat coke, I grabbed some pretzels, a bottle of water and I was off in no time.
As I continued my charge up the hill I ate two pretzel sticks and washed them down with the water bottle. This was getting serious. My quads were sore from the downhill pounding and I could tell I was entering the zone. I had probably been in the zone since mile 15. As we passed Boston College it was all I could do to keep running. I broke out the glucose tablets and starting taking one of those every now and then. Sometimes they were powder in my mouth, sometimes I had a cup of water. I needed fuel. Dust or not.
At this point I started to feel like I could not fill my lungs with air. I’ve felt this before but only after a race. I knew that if I did not walk I might not finish the race. I could fight through the pain in my thighs but I could not fight oxygen deprivation. For the first time in my life, my legs and will were stronger than my cardio. I walked and ran like that over the next few miles.
Even at mile 24 when I was so close I knew I had to walk and let my body recharge or I was going to end up on the side of the road. At this stage of the race I saw a half-dozen people or so down for the count, receiving medical attention. That was not going to be me. After mile 24 I started jogging again and taking water at every table. I took another glucose tablet and dug deep.
The bridge over the Turnpike was killer. Later on TV, I saw lots of people walking the bridge. Then we turned right onto Comm Ave and into Kenmore Square. I felt better this time than I did in 2012. I began to think I had some gas in the tank. As we ran through Kenmore I couldn’t tell if we were going under Mass Ave of if they would let us cross Mass Ave. I did not want to go down that hill and climb back up the other side. There was banner that said “The last 1K” as we went under the Mass Ave bridge.
The final 1K
Lots of walkers. Lots of us gutting it out. We were all spent. Just putting one foot in front of the other to reach the finish line. Then I saw the sign for Hereford Street. What a relief! Friday evening I stood on Boylston Street and looked down Hereford to Comm Ave. How could that little hill seem so steep on race day? And so long? It’s probably 100 yards but it feels like a quarter-mile.
Then the left onto Boylston Street. There were a lot of runners and the crowd was loud. I pushed as hard as I could and actually passed a few people. I looked into the crowd as I ran but kept pushing. I know some people were there to savor the moment, I was there for the best race time I could manage. I looked to the finish line and saw that my corral was to go through on the right side.
As I passed over the finish line I let out a yell and swung my arms into the air. Then I quickly stopped my watch! I wasn’t sure what my time was because I started in the 2nd corral and the clock started with the first corral. I also made a rest stop, stopped at my club’s stop and my watch auto-paused at Cleveland circle!. Then on Boylston Street my watch chimed and I looked down to see “Lost Satellite Connection”. WTF! What a convenient time to lose signal. Garmin shows my pace dropping to 30 minutes per mile at this point and then it bounces to 6:38.
I knew I beat my previous Boston PR of 4:30, but was way off my Marathon PR of 3:47.
As I walked along I grabbed a bottle of water and saw a white board with Meb’s name on it and I thought I heard someone say an American had won! As I walked along the nicest doctor came up to me and asked how I was. I told her and she didn’t seem too concerned. My friend Meg Michels hands out medals every year and told me she would be on the left side. She gave me my medal in 2012 and I wanted to keep tradition.
Everyone with medals wanted to give one to me. I started calling our “Michelle” and then realized I was looking for Meg. So I called for Meg and she spotted me. I had my camera phone on video and think I got most of our moment. Receiving your medal from a friend is a special moment.
When I got to the heat shield cape people they put the cape on for me. It is pretty nice with Velcro to close it and a hood. As I hobbled along I got food and a Gatorade recovery shake, which was awesome! I didn’t even notice when we left the security perimeter on Boylston Street. For some reason I thought the baggage area was within the perimeter, but I started noticing all kinds of people around me who were not runners or police.
My legs were sore and tired everywhere. I knew a bag of ice would really work wonders. Eventually I found the First Aid tent, which was quite busy. They gave me one of the chemical pouches which stayed cold for about seven minutes. Pretty much useless.
I wandered away from the Med Tent with the bag and found a spot with some shade to sit down. I put my cape on the ground and miraculously was able to site down without tumbling to the ground. I watched my calves twitch as I drank my tumeric beverage. I did some light stretching and felt okay. There were people everywhere, mostly in groups.
I noticed a guy sitting 20 feet away under a tree also by himself. When I was getting ready to leave he came up to me and asked if he could take his picture with me. He asked some Japanese guy to take our picture. Then I gave the guy my phone to snap a photo also. I have no idea who this guy is.
I imagine he was there by himself like I was and wanted to get a picture to capture the moment. I thought it was pretty cool. It was my idea to bite the medals like we were Olympians. I could tell he was not sure what the hell I was doing, but like a good sport, he went with it.
On the way across the Common, I stopped to look at the banners school children from across the country made for Boston. There were way more than 50 and I could only read a few. I wanted to study each little square because someone had taken the time to send us a message, a thought or a prayer. Some wonderful little people whom I will never meet touched me in a way they may never fully appreciate.
If you happen to know any of them, maybe one is your child, please let them know how much their thought and effort was appreciated. They made a difference.
I’ve left out so much but we are heading towards 2,800 words. It took less time to run the marathon than to write this. Probably all of us could write a novel about our journey to Boylston Street. I’ll keep mine to a short story, thank you for reading and wish you well.
Run well my friends!