The Road to Boston has begun with the second Sunday Long Run. The Melrose Running Club has been sponsoring these Sunday runs for the past twenty years and all runners are invited.
The Road to Boston SLR 1
Since January 1st was the first Sunday of 2023 we didn’t have an organized club run that day. Many of us ran various New Year’s Day races, such as the Hangover Classic in Salisbury Beach.
Because I was running a New Year’s Day race I decided to do my first long run on December 30th.
For that run I started at my house, ran through Malden and out on the North Spur bike trail to Saugus.
This route in almost entirely flat, so it was a great way to start ramping up the miles. I ran 10.3 miles that day at a comfortable 10:05 pace.
On the way back I stopped in at Idle Hands Brewing and had a nice half liter of Emelyn, their Vienna Lager. I also had a nice conversation with the bar tender, John. I was the only customer in the bar!
The Road to Boston SLR 2
January 8th was the first official Melrose Running Club Sunday Long Run. And since it is technically the second week of Boston Marathon training, we ran the week 2 route which was 12.5 for the long run and 7.1 miles for the half distance.
I know, not great math there. But when you’re not up for almost a half marathon, 7.1 still feels like half of the full. Or a short run.
We had at least 44 people show up for this chilly run. I think a few more people joined us after this photo was taken.
When we started it was 24F and it really felt like it. We were lucky in that there was no wind or rain. That makes a big difference in the comfort level.
In this photo you will notice that several of us have our hands stuffed under our arms. Even with gloves my fingers were freezing.
It was so cold that I headed out with the first runners. I knew I would warm up eventually. And if I was in the lead pack all the faster people would catch up and I’d get to talk to everyone. I’d also not be at the end of the pack.
At mile one my fingers and toes were feeling a little better, but I was trying to figure out if they were warming up or if I was loosing feeling in my fingers and toes!
At mile 1 we were close to the intersection of West Wyoming Ave and the Fellsway East. The road was clear so we crossed the Ave like a stampeding heard of beast breathing frost into the air.
At the intersection we took a left and headed for the hills of the Fellsway East.
At this point I began to adjust my running pace and approached the hills by my self. I’ve been doing this twenty years and I know what running hills can do to you if you’re not prepared.
As I made my way up the first hill our former club President, Bobby Taylor, caught up to me.
He noticed that I was wearing trail shoes on a road run and asked if I always wore them for road runs.
I told him I have been for the past few months.
I started wearing the Brooks Cascadia shoes about 10 years ago. At the time I was looking for a shoe to keep my feet warm in the winter. At the time these shoes featured Gore-Tex which helps insulate the shoe.
Trail shoes are generally stiffer and heavier than road shoes. The outsoles are designed to give you extra traction and support. They do not flex as much and are good for landing on stones and tree roots.
But they are stiffer, don’t have as much cushion, and are very loud on the road. Like many runners, Bobby prefers more cushioning. I agreed that I should pick up a pair of road shoes to use on nice days. It’s good to rotate shoes and the Cascadia are a bit much for a road run.
Eventually Bobby moved along and the group prepared for and made our move across the Fellsway so we would be ready for our next turn onto Highland Avenue.
Highland is a nice wide avenue with a wide bike lane to run in. It’s also a hill for the first half mile.
5K and Water Stop One
Shortly after turning onto Highland we hit 5K. Only 9.4 miles to go!
At this point all of us still felt good and both the long and short runners were still together.
Julie and Gail had the first stop set up for us. When you get a group of runners together, it can be hard to get them going once again. We have so much fun catching up.
Zelia Magliozzi had run down the Fellsway and met us at the water stop. She was doing a recovery run after doing her long run on Saturday.
I left the water stop by my self. If you hang out too long the muscles tighten up and you get cold.
As I headed out of the Fulton Street rotary I could see a few runners ahead of me heading up the Elm Street hill. They had crossed the road already and were moving along nicely.
I put my head down and dug into the hill. About half way up the hill I made my crossing to be in position for our right onto the Fellsway West.
As I approached the turn I saw a runner in a 2017 Boston Marathon jacket. He was standing there looking at his phone.
When I reached him I asked if he was okay and he said he thought he was lost. He had downloaded the half-map and thought he needed to turn left.
I assured him that we were taking a right and off we went. His name was Eric and he was with The Mystic Runners. Eric is also training for Boston 2023.
This piece of road has a number of challenges. The breakdown lane is nice and wide in most places, but there is hill. There is also a ramp to Rt. 93 South and if someone is coming up behind you and doesn’t care about hitting you, it can get dicey.
Fortunately we waved someone on who was coming towards us to take the ramp.
The run over the Rt 93 bridge wasn’t too bad. Some days this wide open area can be windy and cold.
Shortly after the bridge we hit mile 5 and approached the exit ramp from Rt. 93 North. People come flying up this ramp, there isn’t a cross walk and no one would expect to see runners crossing their path.
Once again, we were fortunate and there wasn’t any traffic.
10K and Water Stop Two
Just as we hit mile 6, we made our turn at Straw Point for water stop two.
Nicole Jacob was our goddess at this stop. We weren’t especially parched or anything but it’s always nice to see a friendly face.
After a quick drink we continued on our way and hit 10K before we left the parking lot.
Eric hadn’t run much beyond 10 miles in quite a while and as we told Nicole, “it’s beginning to feel like a run.”
We ran down Pond Street in Stoneham and made our way past the Stone Zoo. Running past the parking lot we had to run another hill.
Shortly after we hit mile 7 the road turns into Woodland Road. This is one of those curvy, hilly roads that our forefathers designed for Sunday driving in the suburbs. We managed to stay pretty close to our average pace running the hills they designed for amusement.
As we approached Flynn Rink we hit mile 8 and it felt like a gift. I hardly noticed the mile. I still felt pretty good but both of us had become more focused on putting one foot in front of the other.
We negotiated the Fulton Rotary again and headed for water stop 1/3.
It’s always nice when the club can use a water stop twice. It’s often challenging to get enough volunteers to man all of our stops. Sometimes one person will cover more than one stop.
Four miles to go at Water Stop Three
Eric and I were the only two runners at the stop this time.
Julie and Gail said they ran out of cups and had to go buy more. Based on the cup count they figured 40 runners were on the course. Amazingly, there were a few people behind us.
We didn’t hang out long. We were both sweaty and tired and didn’t want to get cold and have our muscles tighten up.
Stiffly we started out and crossed the road to get ready for our next turn.
This was onto East Border Road which is a hilly piece of road on the south side of The Middlesex Fells Reservation.
As we ran down the hill approaching the Fellsway East we hit mile 9. Only 3.5 miles to go.
The turn onto The Fellsway had us running up hill immediately.
Drivers tend to fly up this road also. Seems to be a common theme here!
But the pavement is only a few years old and there is a pretty good break down lane for most of this section of The Fellsway.
We continued to chat as we made our way over these hills. As we crested the second hill we hit mile 10 and still felt pretty good.
As we ran down the hill I knew I needed to make a pit stop at the Dunkin Donuts.
Eric asked if I wanted him to hang out, but I told him to go on and I’d try to catch up.
Fortunately the restroom door wasn’t locked and I was back on the road in no time.
As I left Dunkin’s parking lot I didn’t see any other runners. But I knew where I was going.
As I crested yet another hill I saw Joe Winslow ahead running on the sidewalk. It took me a bit to catch up with him, but when I did we ran the rest of the distance together.
Joe and I haven’t run together in probably three years. We did chat after a club run a few weeks ago, but it was still fun catching up. Both of us once had little girls and are now empty nesters.
As we approached West Foster Street I made sure we got to 12.5 miles. This early in a training program, you don’t want to be taking short cuts. Training is about doing the work.
Apre SLR 2
Before COVID we used to hang out at Brueggers after a long run. They had a few long tables and we could get twenty or so people seated. It was great and we left some cash in the till.
But Brueggers removed all of their tables during COVID and still hasn’t replaced them.
So we headed to a new coffee shop called Café Nero. It’s in a new building on Main Street and is a new shop in town. I think they are a local chain.
There menu looks like Starbucks but they have a wider variety of food and the décor is a bit more modern and hip than Starbucks.
I was celebrating twenty years since my first ever training run. So I got a grande coffee and an almond cressant.
As one of the last long-runners to come in, I found the table full. But AJ Drummond was gracious enough to offer his seat. He had to head out.
It was fun to hang out with everyone. Some people I knew, some I recognized and some I didn’t.
I finished my cressant, said my good byes and headed home. While I sat there my muscles had tightened up and I knew that I needed to get home and stretch.
Run well My Friends!