Saturday, May 9, 2009

Memories From My First Boston
The 2009 Boston Marathon Race Report
Part 5 – Beyond The Finish Line

Just to complete my race report, I’m going to share all that went on physically and psychologically after crossing the finish line. Although I no longer feel the same about these things as I did back then, I’m going to state the facts and emotions as truthfully as I can at that time for two reasons. First, I need to stay true to the report so you all can understand and appreciate how I was feeling at the time. Second, I want to capture the moment for my own sake so that a year and ten years from now, I will remember what I look and felt like after finishing my first Boston. (In other words, read for your own pleasure and discretion, but no need for the votes of sympathy afterwards…although as always, comments are appreciated!)

Without further adieu, I present to you the final chapter of the Boston Marathon race report.

After the Finish
By the time I arrive past the most famous finish line in all of marathoning, I was no longer in control of my physical self or my emotional self. Even as I was exhausted, hungry, fatigued, and cramping faster in more muscles in my legs than I could identify, I was pushing away all of the volunteers who were being so nice in offering all forms of assistance.

As I alternated between stretching and limping gingerly ahead, mentally I was still trying to figure what went wrong out there at mile 19.5 that so suddenly wiped away all the great pacing and racing that I had done up to that point. I just couldn’t understand how my physical body could have turned against me so quickly when it has always responded so well to adversity in training. When I finally had the energy to click my Garmin to find that I had missed my PR time by one second, I was devastated and almost started to cry. Luckily, at that same moment, a couple of the runners extended their hands for a congratulatory handshake, forcing me to collect my emotions temporarily and respond in kind.

The Quest for The Unicorn
I continued limping and limping and limping. I looked around, expecting someone to wrap a Mylar blanket around me and hand me my medal already. Unfortunately, although there were plenty of volunteers offering assistance to us finishers, there were no one handing out blankets or medals. I force myself to continue limping. At the one block mark, they hand us the post-race food and goodie bag. At the two block mark, they finally cover us with blankets. But where are our medals? I kept wanting to ask, but couldn’t force out the words in my fatigued state. Dammit, I just want my medal already! I kept thinking as I inched forward with the crowd. In my delirium, I found myself in such a panic, thinking that I had failed sub-3, failed to PR, and now won’t even get a medal to show for my efforts that I finally broke down and cried. After that point, everything became somewhat of a blur, as I allowed the tears and the sweat to cloud my vision and drain some of the frustration and emotion that had building all day. Right there and then, I told myself that I never want to run another marathon ever again even as I knew that I would break that promise as soon as I got the opportunity.

Eventually after limping and walking for what seemed like an hour, but in actuality was only four blocks, I got directed to the side of the procession where a volunteer removed my chip from my shoe and finally hung a medal around my neck. I was so relieved to finally get my unicorn ornament that I kissed it as soon as I got it! I’m not sure if it was justified, but it was one of the most sentimental moments I’d ever had in my life. I became much happier afterwards as I congratulated everyone else around me on their accomplishments and thanked the volunteers who were all still cheering and offering as much assistance as they could.

It had gotten cloudy and cold all of a sudden. I was shivering as I walked to the baggage buses where I was handed my dropoff bag with my warm and dry clothes. I picked a location towards the back of the bus and proceeded to change everything right there on the spot. It took a long time to negotiate my cramping legs out of my race shorts and into long warmup pants. As I was changing, I selectively hear all the runners around me regale each other with their PR stories and race times much faster than me and I couldn’t help but be jealous and disappointed once again. Even after I finished changing, I stayed where I was for another ten, fifteen minutes to listen in on some spontaneous race reports and soak in the post-race atmosphere.

Leaving Boston
The biting wind and dropping temperatures became somewhat harder to bear as the afternoon wore on. After I had recovered physically and psychologically enough to move again, I pampered myself a bit and got a post-race massage before walking back to the hotel for the longest and most relaxing post-race shower I’d ever taken. By the time I was done, it had been about two hours since I had crossed the finish line and F.L. texted to say she was just now done with her race was waiting for me at the hotel lobby. I hurried down to meet her. We grabbed a quick bite at the Au Bon Pain around the corner and did our best Amazing Race impression by rushing over to South Station to catch the last bus out of Boston to NYC that day. While FL slept most of the way back to town, my mind was somewhere else, thinking about all that had happened, and how I would never ever forget my first Boston.

Wrapping Up
In the end, looking back at all that transpired on race weekend, I had a great experience traveling to Boston and running the marathon there for the first time. The people I met all around town were friendly and nice; the volunteers were spectacular, enthusiastic and very helpful; the crowds all along the course were energetic and lively (especially when I needed them the most at 19.5), and the race organization and logistics were top-notch and efficient in every imaginable way. Even though I personally did not have the best race performance, I can say without a doubt that everyone should have the opportunity to run this race just once in their lives. To be out there, amongst the crowd, running the ultimate distance with the best athletes in the sport, really gives you a sense of honor and accomplishment that cannot be easily translated to words. I feel tremendously privileged to have participated in this event and have no regrets about how I prepared or ran my race. I hope in future years when I can no longer sustain the level of fitness and training necessary to qualify for this race, I can look back and be proud of my performance here as well as inspire others to do the same in their own races.


X-Country2 said...

What a great end to a fantastic series of race reports. Thanks for sharing it all.

Running and living said...

V nice, Lam.
I was worried about not getting a medal, too, and so happy when I was finally able to put it on! Ana-Maria

J said...

I am sure you will run Boston again! I am glad that you got to run it this year and experience everything!

Andrew is getting fit said...

Thanks for sharing that. What a great set of reports.

Irish Cream said...

Awesome finish to a fantastic race report! You are going to be SO glad to have all of this later on in life. Thanks for sharing with us! :)

Jamie said...

Fantastic finish to your race reports!

Anonymous said...

Lam, great job again. I loved how you summed all your feelings and were honest about your experience.

Robert James Reese said...

I have a feeling the detail you've written these posts in will benefit you in the future. I've found myself reading and re-reading my notes from Philly this past week and there are so many things that I had forgotten -- things that I shouldn't forget as I run my next marathon. Next time you head up to Boston, you'll have all this to look back on and to help you plan your next one.

Run For Life said...

Nice wrap-up, thanks for your insight to Boston!

runner26 said...

Lam--this was such a great post! I almost cried too! I know the feeling of being totally exhausted, disappointed, and generally at a loss. I've experienced it once or twice following a marathon. That's why they say "blood, sweat, and tears." But you really captured that feeling beautifully in this last write-up. Hope you are feeling better--you know you will run another one. It was good to see you the other night--hope you had fun.

Michelle said...

Once again:

Your awesome Leslie!!!

Thanks for this amazing story!!

lindsay said...

a great final recap to your amazing first boston. i still think you ran fantastically, though i can certainly sympathize with feeling down about your performance and not meeting your goals. i'm glad you are feeling better about it all and hope the running has been going well!

Chic Runner said...

Thanks for letting us in on your thoughts Lam, great race report and glad that you could finish and got your medal.

aron said...

I love going into runner's thoughts... no matter what they are. I am glad you were able to remember them and jot them down so you can look back. As always thanks for sharing :)

NY Wolve said...

Before a big football game in high school, my coach gave us the pre-game speech. he said we were fortunate to experience this. Win or lose, these are the moments that make up life and make us feel alive. Feel the moment, the crowd, the energy.
Of course, I had no idea what he was talking about at the time, but he was right. (We lost, btw.)
I felt it coming off the 59th St bridge in first NY marathon. The quiet of the bridge, and coming down to the bedlam that is First Avenue. I hope your post helps you remember the moments -- good and bad -- later.

Nitmos said...

That is the Walk of Death at the end, isn't it?

Congratulations again!

You will get your own (Beardsley's) revenge next time!

sRod said...

Just catching up. Congrats again bud. Your medal wel deserved.

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