Well every reasonably serious runner wants to do the Boston Marathon one day right? I guess that I am no different. Although I have become more and more ambivalent about road marathons over time as I grow more attached to trail ultras, I decided late last year that I would qualify for Boston, run it and then be done with road marathons. At least in North America (I would like to run Berlin Marathon some day to visit my sister there and maybe run sub 3 hours).
So I ran 3:15 at Silicon Valley to qualify last October. Then some young friend said "oh you old guys get to qualify so easily!". So then I had to go run Vegas in December in 3:10 and change to do the open standard for anyone. So.. given that I qualified I pretty much had to do the race, despite the fact that it fell right I between a lot of important (to me) trail races.
I flew out after winning Skyline Ridge 10K on Saturday and arrived very late on Saturday night to the Park Plaza hotel right near the finish area. Waking late thenext morning I caught the end of the women's marathon before going into the thronged convention center to pick up my bib.
Monday morning I woke up at 4am, despite the late race start of 10am. Just a habit before big races I guess. After eating a leisurely oatmeal breakfast (probably too much for just a marathon) I caught the 6:30 am bus out to Hopkinton. It really is quite a production number getting 25,000 runners shipped out of the city to the race start. If there is ever a natural disaster Boston will be more prepared than any other city to handle the logistics.
Although Boston itself was reasonably warm for the early morning, Hopkinton was bitter cold and windy and there was no heat in the tents. I was dressed only in a couple layers of t-shirts, and I realized that I'd be hanging around for a couple hours with no warmth. My bus seat-mate was kind enough to give me his disposable rainshell. But it was still cold even with that on.
A stupid move not having a jacket. But its rare that I have a race that I really have to wait so long for. And I hate dealing with drop bags. There was a line for a "pre-race massage" that was done indoors. Oh well, I guess I'm going to experiment with having a massage before the race. This would turn out to most likely have been a mistake. They worked my habitually tight calves and hamstrings, which felt great (as did being inside in the warmth).
After braving a 20 minute wait for the porta-john (police were patrolling the woods on the lookout for rogue urinaters - I knew there was a reason I liked small trail races better), I hiked with a few thousand other Wave 1 runners to the starting line. I was in corral 7 after being "seeded" as runner 7055 based on my 3:15 qualifier. I guess I would have been a corral forward if they had used my Vegas time instead. As we waited the sun started to peak out. This was cheering after a very cold and dreary morning wait.
The gun went off and after not too long for such a big race, I crossed the starting line. A crowd was cheering for the first mile or two alongside the race (as they were for almost the whole course). This is one race where it would be quite difficult even for me to get lost on.
I wanted to clock eight minutes for the first mile and then settle into seven minute miles. For some reason, I found myself in a 7:15 mile rhythm. I was a bit baffled by this as 7 minute miles seemed so easy and natural in last winters road marathons. Perhaps I was feeling the effects of last week's 50 miler and Saturday's 10K after all. Still I ran easy and felt good for the first 14 miles or so.
After stopping to kiss the girls at the Wellesley Wall, I found my calf twinging on the slight incline (I hadn't even reached the Newton hills). I stopped to stretch it out and started up again. Every time I tried to push the pace back to 7:15 at least it seized up again. Finally I settled into a stiff-legged "nocalf" gait of 9 minute miles I was able to continue. At the first several aid stations I begged for electrolytes (I hadn't brought any for this seemingly cold day) but noone knew what I was talking about. This was pretty frustrating, although I guess I should have some pills with me given my proclivity for cramping. Still cramp or no cramp there's no way I wasn't finishing a race with tens of thousands of people screaming and encouraging me from the sidelines.
I managed a good push in the final two flat miles to finish in 3:39 and change. I looked everywhere at the end for electrolytes and still couldn't find one. On the walk back to my close by hotel I ran into Steve Yee, president of the Marathon Maniacs
. I hadn't seen him since running with him at the Mount Si 50K. What a contrast - I had set my 50K PR at that race, and today I was lucky to finish, Steve had a tough day as well but finished a couple minutes ahead of me.
Given that it was Monday I was eager to get back to California for a bunch of work happenings. I rode a cab right from my hotel at the finish to the airport. At the United counter I was told that I had won at least one division today: first runner to check in for a flight.
With the cheering crowds, long history, and fine fellow competitors, Boston is a one of a kind experience. Despite the mixed results, its a good potential last road marathon for me.