"Boston Strong" By Emmett Delaney
This past weekend about a dozen Reston area runners traveled north for the holy grail of marathons - the Boston Marathon. This was the 121st consecutive occurrence, making it the world’s oldest continuously run marathon, and its strict qualifying times make it a very sought after entry. Boston Marathon hosts a world class field which Monday included 30,000+ runners from 50 states and 99 countries. One runner was making his 50th consecutive appearance. 500,000+ Spectators and 10,000+ volunteers participated to make the day work smoothly. Marathon Monday is a holiday in Massachusetts and it seemed they were all out to help us, one way or another. An ever present aura over the city and this race was the Boston Bombing of 2013. That event and its aftermath unified the city, and made “Boston Strong” their battle cry. It is evident everywhere and perhaps similar to New York post 9/11.
We have been training and planning for this for months. We have shivered on the pre-dawn winter runs, taped up our strains, popped our blisters, whined about our splits and sniveled about injuries. For some it was their 6th or 7th appearance, for myself and others, our first. Not forgotten were those heartbroken runners who could not make the trip due to injury. We also had many virtual supporters tracking us online and boosting our spirits with messages and calls.
We headed to the Boston Convention Center for packet pickup and Expo. Wow! The crowds and lines snaked around the city block, we were waiting at least an hour before getting our bibs and bling (shirt, bottle opener etc). Everywhere the signs and banners welcomed us. After packet pickup we headed into the Expo for some retail therapy to help calm our nerves. The crowds were intense and browsing the stalls a mob scene - exhausting and stressful. Buying the Boston jacket is obligatory but wearing it before you have earned it, is bad karma. We survived the Expo unscathed but the same could not be said for our credit cards.
On leaving the Expo Marcy was interviewed by a camera crew who were looking for an inspirational talk to motivate the race medics. Who better than Marcy? A natural under the bright lights. Marcy told an uplifting and energizing story about last year and how much the medics helped her. The race could not happen without them.
Sunday started with a short 2 mile course preview and to check out Wellesley College. The rest of the day was lazy and we did some serious carb loading before an early night.
Monday morning saw us all dressed in racing finest, ready for our pre-race photos. We all had butterflies and nervous energy. These are always the best photos, before we get all sweaty and disheveled. We were in the start area with plenty of time. Adjacent to the start area in Hopkinton we saw 100+ pristine porta potties all lined up and waiting for us. For nervous runners the view was better than the Grand Canyon! Some porta potties had flowers inside and encouraging notes stuck to the walls. We had the perfect place to wait and watch the various waves start. Excitement permeated the air and the tension crackled. We peered and stared at world class athletes we had only read about.
We hugged and encouraged one another as our waves began. The waves were 25 minutes apart and each wave had 8 corrals, it was a finely tuned machine. Eventually my turn came and I stepped into my corral. Last minute check of laces, gels and Garmin. We were like grapeshot in the cannon - so many tightly packed runners all fired up and ready to race. It was electric. Although I have run many marathons before, toeing the line at Boston was quite an emotional moment for me, my first time at this epic event, a goal I have strived towards for years. I tried to soak it all in. Boom! And were off.
The weather was very warm making overall times (including mine) slower than usual. I could feel the sweat as soon as I started. The entire race is lined by roaring spectators and the din is constant. Like many others, I had my name on my shirt and thus I was cheered personally. It was like having my own orchestra. It is impossible to give less than your all when people are screaming your name. It gives me shivers just thinking about it. The first miles are very crowded and you have to watch your step, especially near the barriers. Running the tangents is not possible.
We ran through 8 towns along the way, each subtly different. The "Wellesley Scream" about mile 12 was awesome. Hundreds of college girls vying for a kiss. Water and aid was about every mile starting from 2M. Because of the heat, I made sure to drink at every one of them. There were also many informal offers of food and drink along the route. In several places there were water sprays where we could cool down. Running up Heartbreak Hills between M16-M21 was tough. Although not great in elevation they arrive at a bad time. All the early downhill miles had worn our quads. It seemed the entire city of Boston came out to greet us for the final miles. Running down towards the tape on Boylston Street was incredible - I paid particular attention to the shops and people on my left, as this was where the bombs exploded. Then a well-earned medal for everyone.
Many of us ran slower than we wanted or expected and we can blame the warmth and assorted injuries for that. We all want to run our best on the big day, however measuring the entire trip by a number is one dimensional and you have to see the other elements too - the crowd atmosphere, rubbing shoulders with elite athletes, Boston bragging rights, quality times with old and new friends to mention but a few. Not every race can be a PR and some days you must simply celebrate the day.
After the race I was a tad weary and trying to walk to the hotel via the shortest route. However one of the streets was blocked off with barriers and adamant guards. A member of Boston’s finest (ie. A police officer) came up to the barrier, put his hands on my shoulders and asked the guards to let me through. Still a firm no, quoting rules and regulations. The police officer responded by offering to accompany me the whole way through the secure area. At this, they acquiesced and the magic gates opened. The policeman walked with me several blocks to ensure I reached my destination and everyone was happy. It moved me deeply that a very busy officer on a very busy day would go out of his way to help a tired stranger. While his kindness was special to me, it was typical of the warmth and hospitality shown by the entire city of Boston.
Thanks to my wonderful Reston Runner and Morningstar friends for making this a great weekend. Thanks to Sarah Humphrey for editing and repairing my drafts.
You want times? Look up our team on Bill D'Agostino's list or at baa.org