Monday, 4/20, 6:14AM
Monday, 4/20, 8:48AM
Monday 4/20, 9:59AM
Miles 1 and 2
Miles 3 and 4
Miles 5 and 6
It is finally race morning. Sitting in a semi-awake, semi-comatosed state on a crowded yellow school bus shuffling toward the marathon start in Hopkinton, I’m reminded of a similar journey I took four years ago in my first marathon in NYC, when I woke up way too early to join the mass exodus out of Battery Park toward Staten Island also on a school bus. At that time my excuse was that I was a marathon virgin and didn’t really know any better. This time I’m still a virgin, a Boston Marathon virgin, and had no other choice. This morning, I think I prepared well though as I woke up, got dressed, ate breakfast (a chocolate croissant, a banana, and an orange), packed up, and checked out of the hotel all within a half-hour. Still my stomach feels a bit queasy as I endure the hour long bus ride out to Hopkinton. I’m not sure if I’m having real GI issues or if my gut is just revolting against the rumbling and tumbling of the bus making its way out of town. I turn around and catch the glance of FL sitting in the seat behind me. She darts her eyes to the boys sitting in the next aisle and wiggles out a wry smile. I nod my head in silent agreement and turn back around. Yes, I heard them too. The boys, probably in their early 20s, in college no doubt, were discussing, no, bragging about their PRs and race goals loud enough for all the bus to hear. I heard one of them say, “I know this is my first one, but if I run this thing in anything over 3 hours, I’m going to shoot myself.” Poor immature colts, I thought to myself as I take a swig from my water bottle, they really have no clue what they’re talking about. No matter how good or speedy they think they are, they have much to learn in the sport of distance running.
Monday, 4/20, 8:48AM
The sun hasn’t yet peeked behind the clouds and the air feels misty and cold as I make my move. I’m standing in a poor excuse for a line waiting for a port-a-john. It’s not like I have to go really, but since I’ve been sitting and slightly shivering beneath the sporting tent in Athlete’s Village for the better part of two hours, I thought it wise to move around, start getting warm and get on line. Besides, since arriving, I’ve had 2 bananas, 2 oranges and a bottle of Gatorade/water concoction that I made early this morning and I know I’ll need to eliminate some excess digestive baggage before heading over to the start. The scene around me is a complete runners’ mayhem. Besides a sea of runners wrapped in a myriad of clothes trying to stay warm, there are tables everywhere--bagel tables, coffee tables, even a table where they’re giving out free gloves. I thought about getting an extra pair for FL but since she ditched me early this morning to hang with her friends at the Hawaiian House right at the start, I figure she won’t have much use for gloves anyway. I feel restless and start stretching my hamstrings and quads while standing in line. I am ready to race.
Monday 4/20, 9:59AM
The powerful sonic boom from two F-14s soaring overhead resonates across the starting field like a call to arms on a battlefield. On my immediate left, spectators are lining the steps of the Korean Presbyterian Church, anxiously awaiting the race to begin I have conquered the half mile walk from the Athlete’s Village to the starting line and have shed the cotton long sleeve shirt I had been wearing to keep warm by the time I arrive at my corral. We are moments away from the start of the 113rd Boston Marathon and I’m at peace with myself as the national anthem plays off in the distance. Despite the hundreds of spectators clapping and shouting words of encouragement to all the runners, all I can hear in the moments before the start are echoes from my own sage voice the night before, advising FL and others to start off slow and keep the flow. Seconds later, the starting horn is blown and we’re OFF!
Miles 1 and 2
The runners take a gradual left as the course immediately descends right off the start. I remind myself that this is the steepest part of the entire marathon route as I start my race at a comfortable pace. I let others fly by me as I gingerly make my way downtown. A sparse crowd is already starting to form on both sides of this two-lane road by the time I stroll through. The capricious sun makes an appearance from behind the clouds and I’m grateful for the increased warmth this weather change brings. I slither by the middle lane at the first water station and watch the chaos of musical chairs with runners and water unfold on either side. After passing through, I take a swig from my own Gatorade supply I was carrying and watch as Captain America in full gear pass right in front of me. I must be going slow, I thought to myself as I pass the first mile marker. I look down and was shocked to see 6:58 for the first mile. “Going slow is one thing, but this is utterly ridiculous.” I lecture myself as I enter Mile 2. Since the course continues will gradually descend gradually for another five miles, I use this opportunity to speed up some in an effort to reclaim my pace. Cowbells, beer, and New England accents abound on both sides of the course. Everyone is enthusiastically cheering us on right from the get-go. I see kids and adults, young and old, going wild on the sidelines and feel fortunate for us and for them that the rainy weather as forecasted is holding off. (Statistics: Mile 1 – 6:58; Mile 2 – 6:26; Overall Pace – 6:47)
Miles 3 and 4
We enter Ashland just as we start the third mile of this course. After running the last mile much faster than I’d wanted, I tempered my speed just a tad and settle into a more consistent pace. Even at the 5K mark, waves of people are still passing me by on both sides. As I will comment to a friend a while later, I’d never felt so middle-of-the –pack as I felt running this race. I am curious to know the identities of these folks who think passing me this early in the marathon was justified so I draft behind a set of twins wearing the same marathon outfit. I didn’t hear much from their conversation, but from what I did hear, I am somewhat disturbed. They are both running their first Boston and are planning to run a 3:10 marathon, yet were moving just as fast as me through the early miles. Either I am way off target or they were seriously overestimating their abilities. I look down at the Nike pace bracelet I was given at the expo and realize that I was at least ten seconds ahead of schedule at this point. Remembering to “believe in the pace” and “run my own race”, a formula prescribed to me by a kid on his dad’s shoulder holding up a sign, I shorten my stride, ease back my pace and rejoin the recesses of runners swarming up behind me. (Statistics: Mile 3 – 6:35; Mile 4 – 6:36; Overall Pace – 6:39)
Miles 5 and 6
The sight of a freight train rolling by signals my arrival into Framingham, the third town in a series of seven I’ll pass by on my way back to Boston. We climb up a short hill as we make our way toward the famous railway house. I was surprised, but the ascent was actually a welcome relief to my legs which had gotten weary from the long stretches of downhill running. Under the bright-lit sky, I am not cold but can feel a slight headwind blowing against my face. I finish up the last of the Gatorade from the bottle I had been carrying and toss it to the side. Ahead of me, I see a guy running with two prosthetic legs, the kind Oscar Pistorius made famous last year, and I get a bit teary-eyed. I think about all the people who couldn’t run today. I think about FL and how she’s gutting it out just to finish despite her myriad of injuries. For them, I can’t even imagine how I’d feel if I didn’t run my best today. I ride the wave of emotion, slap some kids high-fives on the side and continue on my journey, now almost a quarter complete. (Statistics: Mile 5 – 6:50; Mile 6 – 6:48; Overall Pace – 6:42)