The BAA Half Marathon 2018 is the final race in the three race Distance Medley and is more of an entry into fall running than the end of a season.
There are many things that I love about this race. One of them is how easy it is to get to. I get on the Orange Line at Wellington Station in Medford and ride to the end of the line at Forrest Hills. I park my car and let someone else do the driving. No worries!
This year, due to construction, we had to get off at Copley Square and take a bus. When I saw the notice I thought it meant we took a T bus to Forrest Hills and then a BAA bus to Franklin Park Zoo.
With typical BAA efficiency, the BAA had their buses at Copley! It took about 10 minutes to leave the train and find a seat on a bus. The ride was about 15 minutes.
BAA Half Marathon Transport
My fellow Melrose Running Club runner Durm Cahill met me at my house around 6AM. It’s easier for him to park at my house for Boston area races. Usually we park at my office but this time we headed for Wellington Station and the Orange line.
I had two “Charlie” cards but did not know if either was valid. The MBTA expires Charlie cards after some period of time. My girls used to take The T into Boston for school, so some of my cards are more than five years old. But they do not date the cards, so you never know.
They have several machines at Wellington to re-load cards. The first card I checked was expired. The second one was good but had a $0.00 balance. I was thrilled to use my credit card to load it up.
Last year all of my cards were expired and I had to buy a paper Charlie ticket. That ticket got us onto the train, but it rained last year. The soggy ticket jammed in the turn style reader on the way home, and a T employee had to let us through. I still think he thought we were pulling a fast one!
This year we got through the turn style at Wellington and onto the platform in no time. After about six minutes the in-bound train arrived.
For a 6:15 train it seemed crowded to us. Wellington is the second stop for this train and the cars were already about half full. As we looked around we spotted a few other runners.
The transition at Copley was flawless and we arrived at Franklin Park around 7:20.
Since both of us were Distance Medley runners, we had access to a tent reserved for Distance Medley runners.
BAA Half Marathon 2018 Prep
Durm wanted to go to the bag drop, but I wanted to check out the tent first hoping they had a bag drop there for us.
They didn’t, but they had reserved porta-potties and lots of food. In addition to bagels and Builder Bars they had coffee and cider donuts! Oh heaven!
I grabbed two donuts and we headed for the bag drop. As I waited in line to get a zip tie for my bag tag I lathered up with sun screen. It was overcast in October but I’m all Western European. I can get a sun burn in a dark room!
The grass was wet and rutted for some reason. It looked like someone drove a truck through the muddy field the night before. So we had to be careful not to get our feet wet or step into a rut.
I’m pretty good at walking full steam ahead through a crowd, even with obstacles to watch out for. In no time we were back to the Distance Medley tent and checking out the food selection.
Bagels with cream cheese or peanut butter. Hot coffee and tea, Builder Bars, Gatorade and those cider donuts!
I got two more donuts and we headed for the porta-potty line. As we stood there we could see the line everyone else was in. It was a marathon length line and not moving.
In just about five minutes we were through the line and headed back for the food.
I got a cup of coffee and more donuts! The runner’s rule is to not eat anything new before a race. Now I’ve eaten cider donuts by the half dozen before, just never before a 13.1 mile run.
I’ve never had an issue eating these donuts. But all good donuts have more grease in them than most runners need on race day. I still had about six of those sweet tasty little delights! And most of my coffee, of course!
About quarter of eight we headed for the start line. About half way across the field we could hear the National Anthem. I took off my hat but we kept walking. I’m not sure what the rule or custom is on this one. I know I need to take off my hat, but do I need to stand still?
Running the BAA Half Marathon 2018
As we approached the start area we could see that the corral was full. All kinds of people were milling about outside of the corral or trying to get in.
As we looked for our pace area we saw Allison Cunningham. She was looking for a way into the corral also. We saw two openings with people crowded around. The three of us decided to get with the group trying to get into the 8:00 to 8:59 pace group.
Allison tried to upload a photo but her phone dropped to one bar. She figured everyone else was trying to upload photos at that moment also.
In a few minutes they started the race. We didn’t move much initially but eventually began walking and then jogging.
It took about 90 seconds for us to cross the start line. By then we were doing a light jog.
By the time we made our first turn we were running and had some down hill. Allison said good bye as we moved ahead.
My goal for this race was to run two hours or better. I ran The Smuttynose Rockfest Half at just over two hours. The BAA Half is a more challenging course with a lot more hill to run, but I had a lot left in the tank at the end of The Smuttynose Half.
At Smuttynose my goal pace was 9:30 and I ran 9:11. I was pretty sure I could run a 9:15 pace on this more challenging course, so that was my plan.
Durm wasn’t feeling great so he let me set the pace. The first two miles were under 9:00 and I was worried we were going out too fast. It was a lot of down hill but it’s still running.
Mile three came in at 9:03 so I felt I was getting things under control.
I had a great race at The Smuttynose Rockfest Half because I had a plan and I ran the plan. It turned out to be a bit conservative but I met my goal. It was probably the best half I’ve ever run.
I’ve run faster Halfs but successful running is about being in control. You can’t get swept up in the excitement or someone else’s goal. It’s great to be a man and run your ass off to chase someone else, but it’s not so manly to flame out miles before the finish line.
I’m perfectly happy to set my goal and run my plan to achieve that goal. It doesn’t always work out, but when it does it’s a beautiful feeling. Hampton was an almost perfect execution.
Based on that race I knew I could set my sights on a 9:15 pace and see what happens.
Running the plan
It’s tough to keep things under control when you feel good and people are passing you. It’s even harder when your running buddy wants to push harder.
Durm was cool with me reeling him in now and then. I just knew that bad things would happen on the hills on the way back if we blew it out early in the race.
As we ran along I tried to enjoy the parks and awesome houses we were running by. It’s not often that you get to run down the middle of The Jamaicaway and Riverway past Olmsted Park and through part of Boston’s Emerald Necklace of parks and waterways.
We ran past Angell Animal Medical Center and I recalled going there once in the middle of the night on a Labor Day weekend with a sick cat.
A little further down the road we passed The Jamaica Plain VA Medical Center. I had spent the previous week at a conference with a lot of VA folks so seeing the local hospital reminded me of the important work that they do there.
We hit mile four at 8:54. A little faster than the plan, but nothing too crazy. Durm seemed to be quieter than usual. I asked how he was doing and he said okay, but his breathing indicated otherwise.
We had rolling hills on the way to the turn around and I knew it was down hill approaching the turn. That’s all good, but we had to turn around and run back up that hill!
Even with the downhill we had slowed a bit. As we approached the 5 mile marker and the timing mats, Durm said he was going to walk some after the clock.
I was worried and he said something was wrong when I asked him if he was okay. He said his leg was bothering him and that he might get a ride back to the finish!
There was a group of volunteers at the mile 5 clock and lots of people around so I knew he would be okay. I was still worried, but what could I do? Any EMT could do more for him than I could.
We each said “see you at the tent” and we parted ways.
On My Own
I run a lot of races by myself. Often no one I know is running or they are too fast for me. So running the next 8.1 miles by myself was not so strange. Plus I had thousands of other runners with me.
Running on my own allowed me to focus on my plan. I had spent more time looking at my watch than the scenery, but now I was even more focused on even splits and running smart.
The hills from mile 5 to mile 6 were minimal and I ran an 8:35 split. Then at mile 6.25 we hit a long slow hill and gained 63 feet.
I changed my gait and turn over to adjust for the hill. I love to run hills and the new pace felt comfortable.
I stayed away from all of the water stops and drank my electrolyte mix in the two bottles I brought with me. I figure this saves me 15 to 30 seconds for each stop I skip.
Going up the hill I took my second gel. I took half and swirled it around my mouth to help jump start the digestion process. About a minute later I took the second half and did the same.
Mile seven ended just before the hill crested and came in at 9:10. Not too bad. I was still ahead of my goal pace and I must have passed fifty runners going up that hill.
I actually had to zig and zag around walkers and near-walkers going up the hill.
Did I mention that it was hot? Not July hot, but in the 70s and with high humidity. I started the race with a 500ml Poland Springs and finished that before 5K.
I was now being careful with my belt bottles. I didn’t want to run out or finish the race with much left. All part of managing the race.
In the first few miles Durm and I could feel waves of heat. I’m not sure if it was rising from the pavement or if it was the wind. But we definitely felt heat.
Durm had 2 liters in his Camelbak and it was empty when he finished the race.
As we pushed through mile eight I could feel sweat dripping off the back of my shorts. Early in the race sweat was running down my arms and with each arm swing water would whip from my hands!
Now my shorts were drenched like I had just stepped out of a pool. I couldn’t believe that it was October!
Mile eight came in at 9:00 and my overall pace was 8:58. I felt good and I was way ahead of my goal.
Mile eight to nine ran along The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. Lots of rock, ledge and woods. Very unusual for Boston.
We hit mile nine just after we re-entered The Franklin Park Zoo. My mile pace and over all pace were both 8:50. I knew there were hills ahead, but I was killing it!
At the intersection as you enter the zoo we took a right onto Circuit Drive. I recall this road from last year. It starts out paved but turned into a country gravel road where you had to watch your step. This slowed the pace and made it difficult to maneuver around runners.
Scattered all the way up the road in the zoo there were runners in various levels of distress. A few people looked to be in serious distress, others had cramps or had hit the wall.
I couldn’t believe I felt so good. My upper calf behind the right knee had a few twinges, but that was it. My hips felt fine and my knees were being very cooperative.
With the mild incline I just tucked into my pace and kept moving past people.
Where the road had been a mess before, it was now a freshly paved road! I missed the country road feel that we had before, but it was nice to just focus on running!
I knew this was a long out and back with rolling hills, but I was all systems go all the way.
At mile ten my pace was 9:05 and my overall pace was 9:02. With 5K to go I was way ahead of my goal.
We hit mile 11 in front of the Lemuel Shattuck Hospital. I had run the out and back at a 9:06 pace. Not bad.
With two miles to go I began to think about breaking two hours.
My watch battery was low on power. Unfortunately the “Low Power” message over-layed my overall time. I could see the 1-hour but I could not see how many minutes!
I figured as long as I saw the 1, the dream was alive!
Finishing the BAA Half Marathon 2018
With two miles to go I was feeling the fatigue. I had managed my supplies and pace very successfully. But I had run 11 miles and had 2.1 to go, or more. My watch had been hitting the miles about 0.1 mile early.
I told myself 2.5 more miles to go. Just hold on and don’t kick too soon.
Mile twelve had a 64 foot climb and a lot of loop-ti-loo in the zoo. We also had to watch out for curbing and stone barriers put up to keep autos off of the newly paved Circuit road. Mile twelve came in at 9:23.
I told myself, 1.5 miles to go. I had done everything right so far. It was now time to lay it down and kick.
Mile 13 had some hill and loop-ti-loo. We also had some narrow areas to run through. I tried to see these spots as an opportunity to back off a bit and re-group.
For about half of mile 13 we looped around Playstead Field and entered White Stadium to finish on the track.
I hit mile thirteen about a quarter mile before the stadium with a time of 8:49! Wow! I didn’t think I had it in me.
As we entered the stadium and got onto the track I took the second lane and owned it. I ran the last quarter mile at an 8:09 pace!
I knew we were about two minutes behind the official clock and the official clock said two hours and change as I crossed. I knew all of this but still felt some disappointment.
My watch said 1:58:54 and 13.25 miles. My official BAA time was 1:58:51 and I finished in the top third of my age group.
Apre BAA Half Marathon 2018
As I walked along the track someone handed me a bottle of water and then someone gave me my medal. The BAA gives out some nice medals!
I wandered along the track looking for the exit and the path to food. It wasn’t far and soon I was in the food tent. They had full-sized wrap sandwiches and huge bags of TERRA chips. 10oz bags! They also had cider donuts and Builder Bars!
I was thrilled. At the 10K there wasn’t much food and no going back for seconds. I I don’t think they had much more at the 5K. With a large sandwich and family sized bag of chips, you didn’t need to go back.
I had my hands full with all of the food. Imagine that! I decided to make my way to the bag drop. I was worried about cooling off and needed a bag for all of my stuff.
There was only one way into the bag area which added a bit to my walk. My legs were getting a little tight, so the extra walk was good.
The bag area was empty so I got through it quickly and headed over to get my race shirt. I saw people wearing them during the race and it looked nice. Navy blue with gold stripes on the shoulders and a well done BAA graphic.
With my race shirt stuffed in my drop bag I hobbled over to the Distance Medley VIP tent.
It was way cool. As I approached I saw people with white bibs talking to security. I waltzed in with my yellow bib a nod and a smile.
I don’t know if this is the first year they’ve done this, but everyone in the tent was ready to sign up for the 2019 Distance Medley.
Our own porta-potties, food and Sam Adams beer? That makes it worth paying a bit extra to sign up and pay for all three races. Now if they could have more food at the 10K and 5K I’d be a true convert.
I made my way down the food tables and got the last of the coffee. I got more of those awesome donuts, several more Builder Bars and headed for the beer tent.
They were carding everyone. I saw people with gray hair and wrinkles being turned away. You don’t see that often.
I got ID’d, got a bracelet, two beer tickets and they marked my bib. I think it is easier to get into the Pentagon!
Sam Adams was providing “Sam 76” in cold cans and coozies! I’ve got a draw full of coozies, but I still like to get them.
They had standing tables and I found one near the front that had room for me. I instantly started a conversation with a couple and another guy who was there.
Everyone was having a good time and seemed to have a good race.
I texted and DM’d Durm with no response. I know he would be okay because the BAA always provides top notch medical support and he was at mile five when I last saw him.
When he finally showed up he didn’t look too bad. When I asked him about my messages, he said he had his phone turned off. I did the same during the race, but you get worried when someone drops out and then you can’t reach them.
Durm ended up finishing the race at 2:18. Not bad for a guy who thought he needed a ride to the finish line.
We hung out for about an hour for beers and conversation and decided to head for the buses.
As we walked up to the bus there was Alain Ferry of RaceMenu. He was telling everyone about the Howling Wolf Half. We did a high five and I said “Here’s my favorite race director,” to which he laughed.
When we got to the Copley T Station the gates were open and they didn’t charge us. When we got back to Wellington there wasn’t anyone at the gate to charge us for parking either.
My wife tells me they have cameras and will mail me a bill based on my license plate. I guess I also get to pay a penalty. At 6:00 in the morning, I didn’t see any signs. As an infrequent user of T services I had no idea they changed the way they did things. But I’ll get to pay for it.
Over all it was a great day. I was able to manage my race and achieve my goal for the second time in two weeks. I really feel great about that and I’m looking forward to The Howling Wolf Half!
Run well My Friends!