Race Report: 2010 Boston (double) Marathon
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.