Monthly Archives: April 2010
The run to Hopkington:
It was cold, dark, and lonely as I navigated the quiet city streets from the parking garage to the starting line of my run just after 4:00 AM Monday morning. Patriots Day.
Reaching the official finish line of the Boston Marathon, I paused for some pictures and then took off into the unknown. My goal was to run the 26 mile course in reverse, making it to the town of Hopkington in time to join the other 26,000 runners for the race back to the city.
I had my doubts about this undertaking, but felt fairly confident in the attempt. While I had not specifically been training for doing a double marathon, I knew that if I kept things very slow on the way out that I would most likely be okay for the return trip. My weekly miles were not as high as I would have liked coming in due to tap dancing around some injuries, but were very consistently in the 60s. My long run had been solid, hitting a run of between 20-34 miles in 11 out of the first 14 weeks of the year. Just keep the heel from flaring up too bad and things would work out.
I jogged easily down the middle of the road, moving to the sidewalk once I was beyond the barricades and early morning traffic started to flow. Garbage trucks and taxi cabs owned the pavement now. I did my best to avoid tripping over cracks and negotiated the first of about 1,000 curbs for the day. down/up, up/down. Repeat.
Some big city marathons have a blue stripe painted on the road to mark the course. Not so in Boston. The course wasn’t too tough to follow, though I did have some folded up Google map printouts to guide me through the key intersections. The ‘no parking on Monday’ signs attached to trees and posts along the road were the best indicator that I was staying on track.
The first couple of hours passed slowly. I was tired, having gotten up at 12:30 Colorado time, and my quads were very achy and sore for some reason. I had plenty of time to get to my destination, so I moved along carefully in the dark and tried to enjoy my time and pick out various landmarks along the famous course. I was also super aware of staying on top of my hydration and nutrition needs. It was going to be a long day and I needed to stay well fueled.
I hit Newton and its famous hills just after dawn and stopped for a few pictures.
I even got to run on some dirt! Much to my surprise, the sidewalk gave way to a dirt path for about half a mile.
Soon I started seeing aid stations beginning to take shape as large trucks would stop and disgorge huge bags of ice, tables, coolers, and boxes of supplies before speeding on to the next location.
As I made my way into Wellesley, a handful of runners that were also doing a double caught up with me. This was a nice little boost and I spent a few miles swapping stories with them. We would run more or less together the rest of the way.
I made sure to take in the sights and soak up the building wave of excitement as more people were out and about making preparations for the big event. I finally made it to the outskirts of Hopkington and stopped at one of the now fully functional aid stations to refuel and top off my fluids. The day was warming up quickly and I also took a moment to shed some layers.
Cyclists were everywhere! Hundreds, if not thousands, were taking advantage of the impending course closure and moved swiftly by in huge colorful packs.
One of the advantages of running to the start line like I did was that I got to be a spectator for the earlier races (elite women, wheelchair, and disabled athletes all started before 10:00). Runners that take the bus to Hopkington are dropped off at the athlete’s village to wait for their start, and then make the almost mile walk to the starting area from there. Never seeing what’s going on up front.
Elite Women's race
I finally reached my destination and took a while to enjoy the moment. I had to step off the course at this point and walk behind the buildings and crowds to get up to the starting area.
There are two main starting waves (10:00 and 10:30), and although my qualifying time put me in the first wave, I opted to sit that out and wait for the second one. It turned out to be a good move, and I used the extra time to hydrate and fuel up for the task ahead. My quads were still killing me for some reason, but other than that I felt OK. My heel was not exactly happy, but was holding up well enough.
It was fun to watch the national anthem, jet flyover, and the start of the first wave. I enjoyed the moment and shook my head at seeing so many people in one race, it was an amazing sight!
Anthem and flyover:
Wave 1 start
The Boston Marathon:
Before I knew it I was lined up in my starting corral and ready to go. Wow, was I really here – lining up to run another 26 miles??
The anticipation built steadily as the ropes separating the corrals were dropped and everyone filled the gaps waiting for the starting gun. Then just like that, we were off!
Wave 2 start
It was awesome to cross the ‘real’ starting line to the cheers of the crowd and music blasting. Everyone’s feeling GREAT now…
We ran in a huge pack for miles. The road isn’t all that big, but I never really felt like I was impeded or fighting for a spot. Things flowed nicely. I hung near the outside edge and slapped what seemed like 10,000 hands. It was great to make eye contact with the kids and see their faces light up when you high-fived. I totally fed off of their energy.
The crowds were thinner in some of the more rural areas, but as we started to approach the towns – WOW!! The roadsides were packed with people screaming and yelling. What a rush! I was loving being part of the event and having fun keeping things steady and clicking off the miles.
Before I knew it, we were at mile 10. My mile 36 for the day and I was still holding up. Nice! I didn’t exactly feel great, but was happy to be moving well and holding my own. My hamstrings got mighty twitchy for a while so I took in some extra salt and that seemed to calm things down.
The ‘scream tunnel’ was next. The halfway point of the race goes past an all-girl college in the town of Wellesley. The girls line the road and SCREAM for the runners, pretty much making you deaf in one ear. The video I shot doesn’t do it justice, but gives a little sense of what it was like.
After that, it was pretty much time to grind. Now with over 40 miles in my legs I put the camera away and focused on running. The infamous Newton hills were next and the crowds were getting more and more intense.
I suffered a little up the inclines, but kept pace with a couple of runners from Canada and that really helped me out. Everyone was hurting! Right at the time when I was in the most pain, I looked up and someone at the top of the hill was holding up a sign that said – Where is gain? Loved it.
I realized that I was going to make my goal of running back to Boston in under 4 hours and now it was only a question of how far under that mark I could go. For the final 3 miles I started pushing hard, really letting the crowds pull me along. Citgo, then Fenway, the landmarks came and went. Soon I was hitting the mile to go sign and suddenly had to swallow really hard as a huge lump rose in my throat – the stress and emotions were bubbling up and kind of took me by surprise. Boylston Street looked a LOT different than when I last saw it – the noise was unreal. I enjoyed every second and literally gave myself a pat on the back after crossing the line. Nice work, buddy. 3:47.
See previous post for background on my plans to run the ‘double Boston’.
I felt a bit silly waiting to board my flight. Traveling across the country to run in a race just seemed a little over the top for me. It’s not like I have a huge history of running road marathons and was fulfilling a lifelong dream. I was a relative newcomer to the sport, and had only run one previous marathon, but here I was going to Boston. I felt kind of like a trespasser. Would it be worth it? The time, money, stress, hassle?? So many people thrive on qualifying for and running Boston. I could only hope that I would catch some of that fever, and decided to make the absolute best of this trip that was my 40th birthday present.
I arrived late Saturday night, leaving all day Sunday to drive downtown for the packet pickup and shopping at the expo. I got very frustrated trying to drive where I wanted to go, but soon realized I had plenty of time and decided not to fight it. Turned out to be a good call, because even though I made several wrong turns and covered way more ground than I needed to, I got very familiar with the area and that knowledge served me well in the coming days.
I parked and walked a few blocks taking in some sights:
The race expo was nuts. Super crowded and tough to even walk around. It was big, but at the same time felt very cramped. Not quite as massive as I had imagined. I spent a lot of time buying T-shirts for the family and a few other things. I also got the obligatory jacket. Not sure how much use it will get, but it’s pretty much mandatory for your first time at least.
I was happy to get some Sennheiser headphones. The new generation Adidas-branded ones are sweet. I had used the previous generation for a year, but they had just broken a week ago so the 30% off deal at the expo was a nice find. They’ve improved the design and lightened them up.
After shopping I lugged my huge bag of stuff back to the car and headed for the hotel to get ready for the big day. I stayed in Wakefield which was a bit of a drive at 20 miles or so, but had easy access to the city right down I-93.
The soggy weather was clearing and things were shaping up for race day. I planned on starting my run between 4 and 5 in the morning and knew I would be needing a few more clothes for the predicted 38 degree temps. Other than water refills, I had to be totally self-sufficient for the run out to Hopkington and back. I wanted to take as little as I possibly could, while at the same time having everything I would need. I settled on a strategy of disposable layers. I would wear the clothing I wanted to run the actual marathon in as my base layer, and everything else on top of that would be expendable.
I made a trip to Wal-Mart and snagged a beanie for 50 cents, a clearance-rack flannel shirt for a couple of bucks, a pair of $1 gloves, a package of black tube socks, and some scissors. Normally I would carry all of my food/gels/bloks in a small waist pack, but didn’t want to do that for this run. Instead I brought a very old bike jersey with me from home and also wore my trail running shorts – lots of pockets and options for carrying everything. I cut the toes off of the tube socks and had instant disposable arm and calf sleeves that I could easily shed once the day warmed up. I also packed a garbage bag to wear while waiting for the start because I knew I would get chilled from sweating on the run out there. Water would be carried in two old waterbottles with duct tape hand-holds. My shoes were La Sportiva Wildcats. The same pair I ran Leadville with last year. They are comfortable for long distances and I had used a razor knife to remove the hard plastic heel counter to keep it from aggravating my injury. Lighting my way in the pre-dawn hours would be a single AA Buzz Lightyear flashlight. Pure utility!
Yeah, yeah, so the lid is up.
Two sharpie tattoos from my daughters completed my ensemble. I think I nailed the perfect hobo-thug look I was going for.
Stay tuned for my BUM (that’s Boston Ultra-Marathon) race report…