With all that is going on in this world, not being able to run races IRL is nothing to complain about.
All of us are seeking some normalcy in our lives and running with people gives runners that feeling. There is peace in idle chit chat while running down the street.
Like most races, The Boston Marathon turned into the Virtual Boston Marathon 2020.
Any runner who had a Boston Marathon bib could participate in the Virtual Boston Marathon 2020.
The Melrose Running Club had six runners with a bib who decided to run the Virtual Boston Marathon 2020.
They started training in January like any other year and then hoped the race would not be cancelled.
Then the race was postponed and turned into a virtual race for the first time in Boston Marathon history.
While the club suspended Sunday Long Runs, they continued to organize Sunday Long Runs and other training runs to prepare for their race.
I didn’t have a bib for the 2020 Marathon, so I ran as a bandit for the first time! I also did not train to run a marathon.
It Takes a Village
Starting at Mile 2, The Boston Marathon has water stops at every mile. This year the crew had to arrange their own water stops and bathroom stops.
Maria Cavero was the team captain and master mind behind putting together the course.
Yvonne Liu-Constant put together the first draft of the course and then Maria found ways to avoid as many hills as possible!
Several miles had virtually no elevation gain and most had only 20-30 feet of elevation gain.
Together, Yvonne and Maria found people’s homes, parks and other spots where we could stop and re-charge.
Volunteers and Guardian Angels
The crew reached out for volunteers for the water stops and to provide on-course support.
They put together seven water stops and a crew of about twenty volunteers. On paper it was about twelve volunteers but many more turned out to help and provide support.
I think the volunteers were as excited to be there as the runners were!
Unlike Boston, we stopped at each water stop. There was no big clock on Boylston Street waiting for us. This year, everyone was just looking to run 26 miles and 385 yards.
It was very chill and less of a “dammed the torpedoes” vibe.
For most of the run there were three guys on bikes riding with us. They were in helmets, sun glasses and masks so I’m not sure who they were!
These guardian angels rode with the last person on the team, took photos and stopped traffic for us!
These guys stood in the middle of Alewife Brook Parkway, aka Rt. 16, into Cambridge and stopped traffic!
With authority they turned their bikes sideways on the median strip, held up their hands and shook cow bells! Drivers actually stopped for them.
They did this countless times so that we could cross busy roads with minimal hindrance.
This bandit would like to thank everyone who took time out of their Saturday to come out and run a water stop or stand in the middle of a road for us.
Running the Virtual Boston Marathon 2020
I was going to go to the start of this run but upon reviewing the map, I realized they were passing within a half mile of my house. So why drive to Melrose?
Over the past few months my weekly miles have rarely hit twenty miles. I’m not qualified to run a 5K. Running more than a four mile training run takes an act of will power.
I didn’t plan on running 26 miles, 385 yards so I told them I would meet them on the corner down from my house.
I figured they were running 10 minute miles. I left my house at 7:20 and thought I’d meet some of them on the corner.
When I got to the corner of Spring and Central Streets I didn’t see anyone. I decided to run down to the first water stop.
No one was there, so I decided to run around the neighborhood to make up some miles and warm up a bit.
I run in this area at least once a week, so I knew exactly where I was.
I ran from the water stop to The Fellsway, all the way back and up to Main Street. At Haynes Square I hit 2 miles.
I ran down Central Street to the water stop and in a few minutes Kristi and Bobby Taylor showed up. In no time they had everything set up and some of the cyclist began to show up.
It was great to catch up with Bobby and Kristi who have both started new jobs recently and have a new dog.
Soon we saw runners in the distance heading down Central Street towards us. This commonplace street corner began to feel exciting.
Some people came out of their houses to see what all the commotion was and everyone seemed happy to see us.
As everyone showed up we began to take over the intersection. Drivers were really good about waiting for people to step out of the way. And we tried to be good in keeping people out of traffic.
The runners had black and white bibs which did not stand out. The drivers had no idea that they were witnessing part of the 20020 Boston Marathon. These folks were decent to us just because that’s what people do.
After everyone was ready to go we headed down Park Street to Riverside and ran through Medford Square.
Medford Square is always busy and has six roads entering or exiting the square. A classic New England intersection.
I was running with Haecha Donnelly and one of our guardian angels helped us get through the square.
We ran up High Street and crossed The Mystic river on a little foot bridge that I’ve never been over.
Then we crossed Mystic Valley Parkway, another hairy crossing and headed towards Whole Foods to cross this road again into Arlington.
I started running with Jackie Ecker along The Parkway. As we crossed one of the streets a young women was clapping and cheering for us and Jackie took a spill!
She fell to the sidewalk in an a “Superman pose” with her hands up and to the sides. In that moment before she moved, I was worried.
I helped her up and she seemed fine. She had a cut on her knee, elbow and small cuts on her hands. She got up and kept on running. No big deal.
Everyone except her was worried.
We ran on a boardwalk next to the Alewife Brook. This was really cool and a place I’d never been to before. The brook was clear of brush and trash and the area looked to be set up as a flood plain.
Our next turn was a right onto Broadway in Arlington and to our second water stop.
Since I was a guest I only took water.
We headed back down Broadway and turned onto River Street towards Medford.
Another area had never run in. People were doing yoga in the park and enjoying the river.
Then we got to one of my favorite places to run in Medford.
Magical Mystic Valley Parkway
We crossed High Street and ran through the rotary onto Mystic Valley Parkway. Our guardian angel was able to stop the few cars in the rotary and we crossed safely.
As we ran down the Parkway we passed two groups of people who were waiting for their Boston Marathon runners to arrive!
It was like being in Framingham or Newton except we were in Medford. They all waved and cheered us on and it was fantastic.
The Parkway is shaded and cool as the sun began to beat down on us.
I hit mile 9 just before we turned off of The Parkway. While the pace was modest compared to how I would normally run a marathon, my total lack of training was beginning catch up to be.
When I’m training for a marathon The Parkway in one of my long run routes.
The Second Half of My Run
We took a slightly different route through Winchester than my normal route. And it was nice to see something different.
As we passed people on the trail they waved and cheered us on. Most wore masks and I assume they were all smiling.
In Winchester we had water stop three on the lawn of a church. There were spouses and kids with signs. It was great to see all of their excitement.
At this stop I took a gel and a Nuun tablet for my water bottle.
After this stop we had the familiar slog up Washington Street. It’s not a bad hill, but it always comes half way or more into a run.
For me Washington Street was miles eleven and twelve to our next turn.
I had been feeling it for a few miles. I had the energy but my left knee had been acting up and now my hips were beginning to ache. The hips are a sure sign of lack of training and stretching.
When I signed up for this gig I planned to run 13.1 miles at the most. Now I was headed for 13 and we were miles from any end.
I began to think about catching a ride with someone at the next water stop.
For the past few miles I had been running with Jose Viveiros. He was training for a marathon in Jackson Hole, MT in three weeks. This was one of his taper runs!
Jose was feeling it too and we began to make plans to bail.
Heading for the End of The Road
I knew where we were but wasn’t sure how to connect the dot of where we wanted to go.
We were going to Maria’s house where Jose had his car. To make sure we didn’t end up running forty miles I fired up Google Maps for the win!
With verbal cues for each turn Jose and and I set out from the Winchester water stop and did the old walk/run routine.
We were both beat.
But as we went he kept telling me about Jackson Hole and another race out west.
He is working on running a marathon in all 50 states and now is a good time to do it. Airfare and hotels are fairly cheap. And getting a reservation is pretty easy.
He almost had me talked into it, but the last few miles had a few hills that made it clear that I was not ready for a marathon in two weeks.
We ran the flats and down hills and walked the up hills. At this point it was about getting to the end for both of us.
As we crossed The Fellsway in Melrose neither of us had been to Maria’s house from this direction. I had never been there at all. Jose assured me that we were in the right neighborhood.
Then we finally turned the last corner and saw her house with 26.2 miles balloons and the chalk finish line.
There’s a picture of us crossing somewhere.
We hung out for a while and chatted with Jeanne and Lesley about the run.
My run came in at 16.05 miles at a pace of 12:49. That’s about 10 more miles than I ran in total the week before.
Definitely not in marathon shape!
Jose gave me a ride home and he headed off to Somerville to pick up some food for the after party.
As a bandit I didn’t want to crash their party. Plus I had to get to the Post Office.
It was great to run with a group of people. We all wore masks for most of the run and no one complained.
The few IRL (In Real Life) races I have seen all allow runners to take off their masks once they are on the course.
Whenever we were near people it was “shields up!” But sometimes we pulled them down while running, and of course at water stops.
Over all I think we were pretty careful.
Congrats to the ladies for finishing the 124th Boston Marathon!
Run well my Friends,