Monday, April 27, 2009

Memories From My First Boston
The 2009 Boston Marathon Race Report
Part 2 – The Bus Ride, Athlete’s Village, The Start, and Miles 1-6

Monday, 4/20, 6:14AM
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)

25 comments:

carpeviam said...

This is good. I'm feeling everything you are and reliving it through your post. It's taken all week for the experience to set in! I'm still in awe of it all. Boston is still shrouded in mystery.

Heart.

Spike said...

wow, I love how you have described the race so far, especially how easy it is to see a slower than desired mile and to overreact with a silly 6:20ish mile.

can't wait to read the rest of it!

X-Country2 said...

This has been awesome to read. Thank you for typing it all out.

Can't wait to hear the rest!

Running and living said...

I think it is so hard to get on a consistent pace during the first miles of the Boston Marathon. I think I was lucky in a way to be with the cahrity runners. There was no way I could have gone faster than 8:50 or so.
Great, great report. Your memory and ability to describe details is amazing! Ana-Maria

D10 said...

Awesome report. I need more! Can't wait for miles 7-13!

Irish Cream said...

Please, sir. Can I have some more?! :) I am SERIOUSLY excited to read the next installment(s)!!

Xenia said...

And... :)

Vava said...

Alright! Looking forward to more.

Anne said...

I hope this doesn't sound cheesy or stalker-ish because the intention behind my comment is very real. Since I recently found your blog I had to go back and read your old posts to catch up with your running journey thus far. Those early posts juxtaposed with these newer posts about your quest to best Boston and your experiences there... well, your hard work and subsequent success are really inspiring to me. Thank you for that.

I've been running seriously for a year. I didn't run in high school nor in college. I began running to get back into shape after having three babies in two years (one set of twins), and to get the hell away from my kids for an hour or more every other day. To my utter surprise I've actually gotten good at it, and find myself wanting to do more and do better.

Reading what you write, reading what you've done, gives me the encouragement I need to actually believe I can become a great runner some day. So thank you for that, too.

Congratulations on your success at Boston. I'm excited to read more about your race.

lindsay said...

ok... so now that i do the math and realize your marathon pace is better than my 5k pace... i'm thinking i need to re-evaluate my own "sub-3-one-day" goal. mr "6:57 is ridiculously slow". i'd be holding on for dear life! (i know, it's all relative, just busting chops)

did you do much downhill training for boston? i know i've heard/read about trying to prepare for that aspect as much as possible. i'm not familiar with your nyc routes or if you specifically ran routes that were downhill and then uphill. just curious, that's all.

really great report thus far - i'm ready for chapter 3! :) i am always amazed at how many details everyone else seems to recall - i try to conscientiously remember things during a race and feel like i need to write them down.

The Laminator said...

lindsay, please...I never said 6:57 is ridiculously slow...if I did, I'll need to smack myself upside the head because that's my marathon pace...I believe all I said was 6:57 was :pedestrian" for me that day, because I was supposed to be doing a speedworkout at 6:20 or 6:30...so no, I don't think that's slow for anyone, I was just commenting on MY speed for MY workout that day! Remember, speed is relative...

Also please don't compare your paces to mine because that's similarly ridiculous. It's like me comparing my paces to Kara Goucher or some of the elites...they also run faster for a marathon faster than I can run one mile, so do the best you can, but be your own competition...

As for my downhill training, i think i'll have a Q&A on my boston training after i'm done with my report to address questions that you and others have about my training.

Thanks...and congrats on winning your 5K race...that's an honor I've never had...I'm just hoping for an AG award some day...haha.

Now back to my race report.

Susan said...

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to run Boston based on the general paces of people who are there. Theoretically, most of the people are pretty speedy (hence why they are running Boston!), so people who are used to being in the front(-ish) are more in the middle or near the back! That would be an interesting mind game.

Can't wait for the rest of the race!

Michelle said...

Reading your race reports mile by mile is so exciting Lam!!! Keep it coming!!

Ms. V. said...

It's almost like being there. Fantastic details.

lindsay said...

your commenting on my comment in your comments regarding your comment in my comments completely lost me. comment.

but, i know what you're saying about speed and comparing. i'm working on it.

you should def have the q&a. i would love to steal all your tips. ;) (/need all the help i can get!)

and yes, sorry, wasn't trying to hijack your space. your report and race are still awesome, and i am still looking forward to the rest.

aron said...

love your reports, everything about them :) cannot wait for part 3!

Cowboy Hazel said...

That's interesting -- I've found myself doing the same mile 2 thing in distance races lately. I try to hold myself to a slow pace then hit the mile 1 marker and realize I was doing too good a job and held it too slow, then overcompensate on the second mile. That's great that you were able to bounce back to (close to) your intended pace in mile 3, though, instead of remaining too quick.

TokyoRacer said...

Hmmm...exactly what I did in my last marathon. 7:06, 6:35. There seems to be a pattern here, and it's not a good one. Psychologically, it's understandable, but physically, it's not a good idea. Going out too fast is a major marathoning mistake. Got to work on that....

Run For Life said...

Excellent report, as always! You have the ability to make us feel like we're with you. Which I've probably said before but it's worth mentioning again. :) Oh, and I like, "start off slow and keep the flow."

M*J*C said...

Soooooooooooo gooooood, totally giving me chills, once again I totally feel like I'm there seeing everything...can't wait for more!

Reid said...

Dude, you are really bringing back the memories! I loved the high 5s from the kids. That was so much fun!

carpeviam said...

Try for part 3. You'll feel better. ;)

sRod said...

I hear a four parter coming on. Nice work so far. Crazy how the race seemed to mess with your mind and pacing.

The Happy Runner said...

Oooooo...I can't wait to read the next installment...

Nitmos said...

You are keeping us in suspense on purpose right?

 
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