Saturday, April 25, 2009

Memories From My First Boston
The 2009 Boston Marathon Race Report
Part I – Pre-Race Weekend

Saturday, 4/19, 10:21AM
I’m sitting anxiously on the back of the bus. Beside me, the April issue of Runner’s World beckons for my attention. My three-and-a-half hour ride to Boston is barely an hour old and already I feel as if I’ve traveled a thousand miles. In my head, I’m I trying to envision what’s ahead--arriving at the race expo, picking up my bib number, seeing FL again since last December--but my mind wanders with each thought and drifts back to flashbacks from my own running past. From the BQ fail of 33 seconds at Hartford in Oct 2006 to my marathon triumph in 2007 NYC, from a DNS at Boston 2008 because of a broken clavicle to my marathon PR in November at 2008 NYC, each race in its own way was pivotal in bringing me to this bus ride today. Although I cannot define what I hope to find in Boston, I draw comfort in knowing exactly where I’ve been. With my Boston Marathon celebration jacket clenched tight around my body, I stand to scan the premises and to find familiar faces who might be traveling to town for the same purpose as me.

Saturday, 4/19, 2:41PM
It’s mid-forties, dark, overcast and a bit windy. Black wispy clouds hang overhead like a puppeteers over marionettes. For me, this is typical New England weather for this time of year. For FL, who doesn’t believe good weather exists under 70F, this is downright cold and dreary. We’re sitting on park benches outside the marathon expo enjoying lunch and reacquainting ourselves with our lives, our own goals for this race and our race prep anxieties. All around us, tons of runners are walking to and fro showing off their Boston Marathon gear as if they were all members of a large eclectic secret society that had just spilled out onto the streets. It took several elitist thoughts slipping into my conscious mind before I “got” it. I too had just left the biggest expo ever and have a marathon shirt, a marathon hat and several bags of goodies that I cannot wait to tear into. Although I’d like to think I’m humble and cool and am content just to be an average marathon runner preparing to run just another 26.2 mile race, I cannot help but be inspired by the sight of thousands of finely tuned Boston marathoners, the best athletes in our sport, circulating in all directions all around me. They’re all scurrying to pick up race shirt and bibs, meet family and friends and make last minute preparations for the same race that I’ll be running in. And then it dawns on me, it really hits me. I AM one of them; I AM one of the best; I AM a Boston Marathoner. I have arrived.

Saturday, 4/19, 5:55PM
“Every runner is different.” The platform poster says. I couldn’t agree more. I’m boarding the commuter train to Newburyport, NH, where I plan to have dinner and spend the night with out of town friends. Next to me, an older gentleman wearing the same celebratory jacket as I, strikes up a conversation. Like me, he is also running his first Boston. But unlike me, it took him 13 attempts to get here, including his first B.Q. back in Arizona in January of this year, where he qualified by less than 10 seconds. He indulges me by giving me the lowdown of all his marathons to date. As he is talking, I’m mesmerized by his candor, his excitement and his serenity. It was obvious that he was enjoying the experience and was happy just to have arrived. “I haven’t trained well this winter, and so I have no time goal. The game plan is to go slow and enjoy the show.” I’m envious that he seems so relaxed, with race day now less than 2 days away.

Saturday, 4/20, 11:48 PM
My eyes are droopy. My stomach is full. I am ready for bed, but since an animated MT is talking running, which isn’t usually a topic of late night conversation with her, I am obliged to listen. She shares with me her favorite Patriot’s Day memories from B.U., where she had gone to college. She remembers the wild frat parties that spilled into the streets even before noon. She remembers standing on the sidelines on the first warm spring day and offering beer to runners who looked like they were struggling. She even remembers when as a dare, some of her college friends would chug a beer, jump the barricades and run a portion of the marathon course with some of the runners. In the middle of all of this, she suddenly declares to me that SHE wants to qualify and run the Boston Marathon in a year or two. I found this rather ironic as I’m coaching her to run her very first half-marathon just next week. I smiled and nodded as she relates to me all she plans to do as she runs the course. Although I fear that her exuberance and excitement will be short-lived once she realizes the extensive training necessary to run a successful marathon, it was nonetheless extremely inspirational for me to hear what Boston means to someone else besides me.

Sunday, 4/20, 11:20AM
Beyond the stage offered by the coach car window, the silent cinema of the rural countryside unfolds next to me in a reverse direction to what I had seen yesterday afternoon. Although I find myself aboard the same commuter train with the same B.A.A. poster advertising the Boston marathon, I am less anxious and more relaxed as I await the one hour ride back to town. Maybe it was the delicious five course meal I shared with MT and her friends which took the entirety of last night to finish, or the realization upon waking this morning, that even though the start of the marathon is less than 24 hours away, there is really nothing more I can do to prepare for this race, either way, I am enveloped in a quiet subdued confidence that I hadn’t felt all weekend long.

Sunday, 4/20, 3:01PM
FL and I are together again in the same hotel room, just as we were four short months ago in Vegas. This time however she’s badly injured, with a sore and tender piriformis muscle that prevents her from running with a normal gait. As she lies on the floor going through a myriad of exercises with her system of trigger balls to ease the tension on her back, I read over the mile times I plan to run from the pace bracelet I had prepared for the occasion. FL notes the awkward juxtaposition and comments. “Just as Vegas was about me and that BQ…This race is about you and your sub-3. I’ll be okay. I’m just hoping to finish.” I thank her for the vote of confidence but can sense the disappointment in her voice. “Don’t worry. We’ll come back again and do it right.” I assured her. “Let’s get through tomorrow so we can grab that medal and go celebrate.”

Sunday, 4/20, 7:14PM
I never could have imagined a pre-race pasta dinner without pasta, but the filet mignon and vegetable rice risotto my friend SH (with assistance from DS) conjured up made for a more than adequate substitution. Although the gathering was small by marathon standards with only seven in attendance, the abundance of food and the pre-race jitteriness and excitement felt amongst the four marathoners, including three Boston first-timers, made for some lively and spirited conversation. FL was intrigued to meet another injured soul who was running the marathon just for the medal and not for time while I sought the advice of another who had traveled the course once before. It was mystifying how everyone with such varied running experiences and race goals can spontaneously coalescence and be encouraging to one another. I feel bad for those partygoers who aren’t yet marathoners or runners but got swept up in all the excitement and hoopla anyway.

Sunday, 4/20, 10:48 PM
As it often occurs on marathon eve, we stayed out a bit later than expected and got back to the hotel room way past our scheduled curfew. It’s alright though. I’ve got my drop bag, my pre-race breakfast and drinks all laid out for a quick getaway in the morning. One last check of race day weather on the internet verifies that there’ll be no rain in the morning and will reach 52F by the early afternoon. I ditch my long-sleeve technical and settle on a quarter-zip sea blue light technical shirt for the race. I find my matching blue bandana and Asics race shorts and lay them out on the nightstand for easy access in the morning. Before climbing into bed, I confide in FL that I’m indeed nervous and unsure if I can run sub-3 on this course. She turns to me and says. “Listen to me. I know you’re a sub-3 runner. You know you’re a sub-3 runner. If it doesn’t happen tomorrow, it’ll happen the next time. The point it, IT WILL HAPPEN, so quit worrying. DDYA!” I nodded in agreement and closed my eyes. As I drifted off to sleep, I reminded myself that although sub-3 is an important race goal, it was more important to enjoy the journey, because I’ll never again get the opportunity to run my first Boston.


carpeviam said...

Excellent pre-race commentation. I feel like i'm reliving it as I read! Can't wait to read part 2 and write my own!


Vava said...

Man, you tease! I want to hear about the race!!!

Though I do like the pre-race report...

Jamie said...

Love the pre-race report! Can't wait for the upcoming part(s)

Running and living said...

Great details, can't wait for part 2. Ana-Maria

Ms. V. said...

Of course just as I'm going out for the night, this comes in.

I'm on the bus with you, but I'll be back for more!

Susan said...

Such suspense! I can't wait to read the rest.

Run For Life said...

Ahhh!!! This makes me feel like I'm about to do an important run. All you needed to add was some dramatic music, haha jk. Can't wait to read the next segment!

sRod said...

Can't wait for Part II (and Part III?)!

BTW, I just found out that to be considered an elite runner at The Flyign Pig the cut off is 3:00:00. When you run your sub-3, you will officially (by at least The Pig's standards) become an elite.

ECrunnergirl said...

Lam that was a GREAT post!!! Especially for me just having qualified!! I love the last comment " I'll never again get the opportunity to run my first Boston..." That's exactly how I felt about crossing the finish line and seeing my qualifying time on the clock...I know I will never experience that feeling of qualifying for the first time.

What a great pre-race story :-)

Michelle said...

This is great Lam!

I can't wait to read more! It's like reading a very exciting book!!


Irish Cream said...

Great pre-race report, Lam! I'm so excited to read what comes next! :)

Cowboy Hazel said...

I'm surprised to hear you ate steak the night before -- that would kill me. It sounds like you did a very nice job of turning the trip up there into a real vacation (as it should be, we are doing this for fun) rather than just focusing 100% on the race. Looking forward to the rest...

joyRuN said...

Nicely written, Lam.

Looking forward to the rest...

M*J*C said...

Love the way you wrote this, you make it so easy to "see" everything you're talking about! Can't wait for the next segment!

Anonymous said...

Nicely written. I can't wait to read the rest. Pre dinner sounds great.

lindsay said...

loved hearing about your weekend. fl said it right - you will sub-3! i know you have it in you.

thanks for your note this weekend. i was way too hard on myself as i always have been. it was nice that you could 'relate' though with your own self-disappointment.

while i'm extra hard on myself, i still believe you will sub-3! maybe in nyc so i can give you a huge congrats after, if you're still even around by the time i finish ;)

aron said...

I havent had a whole lot of time for blog reading (or commenting this week) but I have seen this and part 2 sitting in my reader and have been dying to read them!! it definitely didn't disappoint :)

now i need to sneak in part 2 :)

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