That race sucked.
It’s my own fault. I did everything that they say not to do.
I never should have raced the 20 mile trail run as hard as I did three weeks before Boston. I probably left some of my hills ability out on the Naked Bavarian course.
They say don’t spend too much time on your feet at the expo. I watched a guy run on a treadmill for about forty minutes. Good for him, he broke the treadmill half marathon record. Bad for my legs.
I did get to sit and watch two of the Runner’s World panels, which were fun. Heroes of Running from the Pages of Runner’s World had scattered attendance, but interesting stories from the three men on stage (Bill Iffrig, the runner knocked down on Sport Illustrated’s cover, Ben Beach, the longest current Boston streak going, and David Clark, a man who was planning on running Boston 4 times – there and back and there and back).
After that, it was the treadmill record guy, where I caught up with Derek (and arranged post-race shower/gear situation), then the Legends of Boston panel, where I saw Amby (and five other Boston winners). Amby was great – pulled me in for a big hug when I went to shake his hand, and said that he had seen me in the bathroom, but that I was “texting or skyping or vining something, and I didn’t want to interrupt”. I was not shooting video in the bathroom.
After that, I went back to my hotel room, watched the Orioles defeat the Red Sox (happening live about a mile from the room), made some dinner and fell asleep early.
The early bedtime was key, as Marathon Monday was on 4/20 this year, and at 12:30 the fire alarm in the hotel went off. Someone had celebrated 4/20 in their bathroom at about 12:01, and set off the alarm. My heart was racing, and it took about fifteen minutes to calm down and go back to sleep – just as the all clear announcement was made, in triplicate.
Another fifteen minutes later, I managed to doze off, and stayed asleep until 4:55, when I woke, five minutes before my alarm.
I showered, shaved, made four cups of coffee, and considered my outfit. I had brought all possible combinations for the run, but the weather was super tricky. Mid 50s? I know what to wear. Mid 30s? I know what to wear. Mid 40s, with a 20 mile per hour headwind, possibility of rain? I didn’t know what to wear. I had laid out a tank, short shorts and socks and shoes with my throwaway gear, but that didn’t seem right.
Finally I decided on tank, long sleeve on top, and short shorts with long shorts on top. I thought I could peel off layers if need be, but it would be hard to add layers during the race.
I met Bryan in the lobby at 6 AM – we had planned the night before to walk to the buses in Boston Common together – and we set off, me sipping my coffee and carrying the complimentary US Today, Bryan gamely listening to my caffeine and nerves-fueled monologue.
On the way to the buses, Bryan pointed out the finish line, which I tried to stop and take a mental picture of, knowing I wouldn’t see it again for another seven hours or so.
We boarded the bus, and Bryan was treated to an hour long monologue of mine as we drove to Hopkinton. At the Athletes’ Village we were making our way to the coffee tent when we were waylaid by a man with a microphone. “Do you want to be on TV?”
“Uh, I guess?” I think that’s the only possible correct answer in that situation.
“Alright! We’re gonna go live in three minutes or so!” Bryan and I stood still and let the cameraman focus on us, and chatted with the reporter. Suddenly his gaze snapped from us to a woman stretching behind us. “Is that Megan? Megan?!” he yelled. Apparently it was Megan. “Guys, sorry, I’m going to have to bump you!” Megan apparently had a much better story than us. Megan needs to learn a little bit about promptness for live TV reports, though.
I stretched out under one of the large tents in the Athletes’ Village (with another cup of coffee), and Bryan walked off to look around. I wouldn’t see him again for another five hours.
In line for the porta-potties, I heard a surprised “Jim!” from behind me. Mark was there, covering the Athletes’ Village for Runner’s World, so we chatted briefly – it was good to see him, I had meant to catch up with him at the expo, but hadn’t found him there.
Shortly after that, I had to step out of line for the porta-potty, as it was time for corrals one and two to walk to the starting line. I chatted with some guys on the way, and was pleasantly surprised by the cluster of porta-potties in the supermarket parking lot on the way to the starting line. Even though I had been told they were there several times.
Near the starting line, I ran into Warren, Budd and Chris, who I briefly talked to before realizing that the women’s professional start was about to go off. “Bye guys! I want to see this! Don’t leave without me, Warren!”
Number 1, you cannot see the start of the race from corral 2. This I did not know. Number 2, I was very concerned Warren, my purported ride home, would leave the hotel without me. I wouldn’t have been concerned, but a week before the marathon I confirmed with Warren that he could take me home. “You have space for me in your car, right Warren?”
“What do you mean, Jimmy?”
Despite talking about how I was going to ride home with him three times in the preceding couple of months, Warren had forgotten, with a week until the marathon, that he was meant to take me home.
We planned to meet in the hotel lobby at 3 PM, but I was VERY concerned that he would leave without me if I wasn’t there by about 2:45.
I spent the next thirty minutes in the corral, fretting about my clothing choices. I was still wearing my throwaway long sleeve tshirt and corduroys (which I hadn’t worn in about three years, but, as I discovered on Monday, were still SUPER comfy, and I regretted having to ditch them – and only briefly considered running the marathon in them, making “zip zop” noises the whole 26.2 miles), but it was decently warm out, and not raining or particularly windy – so I wondered about my choice of pinning my bib to the long sleeve running shirt.
I moved the bib to the tank, and the tank to over the long sleeve shirt, ditched the throwaway clothes, tightened my shoe laces, listened to the national anthem, and suddenly we were running.
Boston starts straight downhill. Everyone says save your legs for the first six miles, don’t take the downhills too hard, you will regret it. If you’re feeling leaden legs by mile 6, you’re going to have a long day ahead of you.
Of course, I am awesome at downhill. Rules don’t apply to me. I ran the downhills faster than I should have.
Adam passed me at mile 5, on the way to a 2:52. “Hey Jim! How’s it going?”
“Not my day today.”
At mile 6, I slowed, as my legs felt a little heavy already. My goal went from “Possible PR!” to “Maybe sub 3?”
At mile 7, I slowed, as the heavy rain started and the wind picked up. My goal went from “Sub 3?” to “Re-BQ at Boston (sub3:05).”
At mile 5, feeling hot, I had thrown my long sleeve shirt to a startled gentleman who looked about my size on the side of the road.
They say to not do that, to instead tie it around your waist. I missed that shirt at the finish.
From 7 to 12 I rolled along, hitting about 7 flat. Not bad, not my best, but a good pace for a medium hard effort long run. The scream tunnel at Wellesley was unique – and apparently not half as huge or loud this year as many others. Probably the cold rain had something to do with it. I had to take a kiss on the cheek from two girls – as I probably will never have that opportunity again. Although I AM qualified for Boston 2016… I forget the reason for the first girl, but the second had an “I’m ready for Hillary” sign – so, in honor of my daughter, who asks if there are ANY woman presidents every time we read about one of the male presidents, I made her my second and last kiss on the cheek. Also, a dude running behind me slammed into me at that stop, as he was high fiving the whole line up – which I also did, which was a blast. Probably the most high fives I’ve ever given in a half mile.
I cannot remember a single thing from mile 13 – 17.
At 17, the Newton Hills begin. On the day of the marathon, I would have ranked them (worst to least horrible);
1. The first hill.
3. The third hill.
4. The second hill.
Looking at my pace, I slowed the more and more each hill, but I stand by my “first is the worst” comment – I was just not prepared for four miles of hills at mile 17.
Topping Heartbreak, I looked forward to five miles of downhills and flats – and most of all, to the finish. After Heartbreak, there is a good downhill drop, the likes of which the runners haven’t seen since the first six miles – and rolling down it, my legs really began to protest. For a downhill mile 22, I put up a 7:44.
Mile 23, another downhill mile, I put up an 8 flat. The wheels were coming off. Marathon math put the 3:05 long behind me. 3:10? 3:10:59 (my BQ time when I first started trying?). Who cares. Just finish the damn race, whatever time. At 23 and a quarter, the mile 23 waterstop came up. I slowed to a walk, downing three cups of gatorade. I kept walking for a block or two after the stop. If I walked in the last three, could I still get a ride with Warren at 3 PM?
From behind me, I heard a loud “Jim!” It was Bryan. He had caught me from corral 5. “Do you need something? Want my jacket? Can I get you help?” He was literally offering the clothes from his back. My emotions, which always get messy during the latter part of a marathon, were conflicted. I was so grateful, but also so angry, and so sad, and so scared, and in so much pain. Grateful, thankfully won out, but only after a burst of sad – “I’m fine! I’m fine! I just want to suffer this last three miles! You go!”
Bryan wouldn’t leave me behind. He sacrificed the end of his race to bring me in. Despite my walking the 23, 24 AND 25 water stops, Bryan wouldn’t leave me. He encouraged me with blatant lies every time I got back up to a jog (“Wow! What a recovery! You’re bouncing back!”). He got me orange slices. “This is the best orange I’ve ever had, Bryan!” He told me he wouldn’t let Warren leave without me.
We saw the Citgo sign. We passed Fenway. We turned right on Hereford, left on Boylston. We sprinted it in, as best we could.
I got emotional. I hugged Bryan. I tried to hug the medal lady. I got a space blanket hoodie, and almost cried while trying to put it on. Without running, my temperatures were plummeting. I got a yogurt – blueberry greek Stonyfield – and lost Bryan. I asked a cop how to get to the Sheraton.
In a movie-like Baaaahston accent, he glanced over me, and said “Normally you would just wahhhlk up this street, but what you wanna do is, you wanna go in this daaaahr heah, go up the two escalataaaaahs, and follow the signs. It’s wahhhhmahhhh.”
At this point I was shivering, and couldn’t stop my teeth from chattering. Walking through the mall to the Sheraton (with dozens of other marathon finishers near me), people kept asking me if I was alright. Me in particular. I met two women from Chile and Brazil, who were just in town to be tourists. I asked them if they would ever come back to run the marathon. They looked at my condition, laughed, and answered as if I was insane. “No. No.” they said.