The Boston Marathon certainly is special – it is the marathon with the longest continuous history, it is one of the few marathon distance races with qualifying standards, and the course winds through some pretty Massachusetts countryside.
I managed to finally meet the qualifying standards in a race in December 2009 by running in 3 hours and 29 minutes in the California International Marathon in Sacramento. But as the race approached, I had to have some abdominal surgery in December of 2010. So with a 6 week layoff from running and only four months to train for Boston and wanting to make sure I didn’t get injured, I decided to just enjoy the race.
The 115th running of the Boston Marathon went along for me like this:
- I’ve heard plenty of stories about unpredictable and bad weather for this race. But this year, the temps were in the 50s with sun, and the only wind was a nice tail wind. Pretty ideal conditions for both runners and spectators.
- I was in the 2nd of three waves (the red, while and blue waves) in coral #3 of 9.
- The bus pickup by the Boston Common was surprisingly well organized with waves of school buses scooping up lines of runners. (Although we did hear an announcement that a runner’s kids had stowed away on a bus). A 15 minute walk from my hotel, about 45 minutes waiting for a bus (7:00AM) and about an hour or so travel time (8:06AM).
- The organization level for the race is excellent. The little town of Hopkinton seems totally transformed into a machine for starting the race. The Athlete’s Village looks a bit like a refuge village with runners sprawled on the grass wherever they can find space. I was really happy I brought several heavy-duty Hefty large trash bags with me to have a dry (and somewhat warm) place to lay upon.
- I was pretty shivery waiting for the race in my singlet, throwaway t-shirt, hoodie and warm up pants. Not sure I would do anything different here though, even if it was raining.
- I picked up a water at the Athlete’s village but skipped any of the food there, preferring the bagel I had brought with me.
- After you drop your dry bag, you have a 3/4 mile walk to the start. Loading into the corals was pretty efficient for wave 2, with just a brief queue to wait for wave 1 to clear out.
- The course has hills – hills – hills! In fact, I don’t think there is any part of this race that isn’t going up or going down. Training on hills is really important, not just for the last quarter of the race.
- I decided to take it a bit easy in the first three miles so as not to trash my quads on the downhills. I only passed a gal who had a sign on her back which said "baby on board" – she said she was three months pregnant and decided to wear a shirt which said "speed bump."
- What a great way to see little towns founded in the 1600s and 1800s. The crowd in Framingham was particularly loud and welcoming.
- Wellesley College (Hillary Clinton’s alma mater) is famous for welcoming runners. They are screaming at the top of their lungs and holding signs: "kiss me, I’m from Texas", "kiss me, I’m Vegan", "kiss me, I’m a senior", "GAY". I decided to give them all high-fives instead of kisses. Yes, I’m too shy to kiss anyone, but I was so distracted by the Wellesley Girls, I very nearly tripped over the half-marathon timing pad. Yipes! Suppose they would kiss me if I fell?
- The best outfit I saw was a guy with long black hair running completely naked and barefoot… except for a loincloth. Guess he needed something to pin his race bib on. He was booking pretty fast though, although I noticed spectators were snickering a little bit.
- There are a series of four hills in Newton, MA starting at about mile 18 which make things a little challenging. If you are struggling at all in the race, this is a real sucker punch. But with all the hills I ran in training and the last week in San Francisco on hills, these were not bad at all, and I was holding it together pretty well.
- Heartbreak Hill is the last of these hills, coming at around mile 21. It really was not bad at all and remember chatting with someone else on the course commenting on how it was not too bad.
- The whole course has an amazing level of crowd support, but in Boston proper the crowds are deep and loud. Wow, taking that last left hand turn on Boylston at the end of the race is spectacular. At the end I was waving at the crowd, urging them to cheer. Yeah, that was fantastic.
- My sister Ellen and her husband Don came out to see the race, and my wonderful wife Debbie was there as well. Our good friend Anne from our university days was running in the race as well, and her husband was there at the finish as well.
- Compared with other big city marathons, Boston ends the race in the streets of the city rather in a park like New York or Portland. So again, a major organizational machine is at work wrapping runners in space blankets, hanging medals on necks, handing out water and food bags, returning dry bags and reuniting families. Volunteers are on high seats with PA systems directing wiped-out runners to where they should go.
I was happy just to finish in under four hours and having a Very … Fun… Time.
Now, for the next goal! How about improving to a 3:20 finish?