Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Boston Marathon Report
Wow. What a weekend!
Rick and I headed up to Boston on Saturday. Mother Nature cooperated as we arrived in Boston with plenty of time to check-in to our hotel prior to our trip to the race expo. After a quick trip on the T (Boston's subway), we made it to the Hynes Convention Center. The expo was absolutely packed with marathoners. While it was easy to grab our race numbers and other free goodies, the search for a "super cool" t-shirt or wind breaker proved to be more of a challenge. Everything in a size medium was out. After much searching, we did find a small men's windbreaker that fit me. Thankfully, Rick had enough patience for both of us during this mini-shopping trip.
We returned to our hotel to bundle up for the Red Sox game. This time, the T ride over was a bit different as every single subway was jam-packed with fans heading for Fenway. I used to think I was claustrophobic. Well, I think I got over that after that ride. Even though the T would sometimes lurch to an abrupt stop, I had no fear of falling over as I was wedged into place by other people around me.
We hopped off the T and followed the crowds up to Commonwealth Avenue. As we turned the corner, I told Rick that he was about to see the mecca of baseball: Fenway Park. Despite its grungy floors and somewhat nasty bathrooms, it's a fantastic place to watch a game. We sat right along the first base line. New Englanders are absolutely crazy about their sports team. We took in the whole atmosphere. It was especially wild when Manny Ramirez smacked a towering home run to give the good guys the lead.
I did have to translate the "Baastin" accent a few times for Rick.
And did I mention that Lance Armstrong threw out the first pitch?
Rather than try to fight the crowds on the T or for a cab, we walked back to our hotel. It was probably about a 40 minute walk, but it was a night for walking. We strolled down Commonwealth Avenue - catching glimpses of gorgeous interiors (and a few non-so-gorgeous ones, too).
The next morning, we woke up relatively early to catch the first mile of the women's Olympic trials marathon. They flew right past our hotel - and they really looked like they were flying. I tried to spot Deena Kastor or Joan Benoit (or Joanie as they call her Boston) but they were too darn fast.
We spent most of Sunday relaxing and hydrating. We did head to the North End for authentic Italian food. Yum.
On race morning, we only had to walk a block to catch the shuttles that would take us to the start (in Hopkinton). We did have the misfortune of getting on the one bus that somehow got lost on the way. Yup - we were heading east while everyone else was going west. After a 20-minute detour, we were back on track. By the time we arrived at the start, the first wave was getting ready to go. We barely had enough time to hit the port-o-johns (how lovely) before we had to head to our own corrals. The start was simply a mass of runners.
I had heard that the course starts on a major downhill. That is no exaggeration. As Mark B said, people who like running downhill have never run the Boston marathon. The downhills take a tremendous toll on your quads early on in the race, so it's best to start conservatively.
My goal was to try to keep around a 9-minute pace, so I was pretty happy with my pacing throughout the course (average 8:58). The course is lined with people - and they never stop cheering. It's amazing. The course is also quite hilly. You are either going up or down for most of it. Miles 16-21 are especially hilly, with mile 21 being the infamous "heartbreak hill."
It helps that Boston has so many colleges since those undergrads know how to make the race feel like a party. The girls of Wellesley scream but so do the BC and BU students. During the last few miles (as I ran by Fenway Park), I had one person after another on the side high-fiving me like I was an Olympian. I wish I could thank all of those strangers for giving me a lift when my legs were ready to rest.
For those of you who were with me in Florida, I did not have to spend time in the medical tent. Yay me! Unfortunately, Rick did. He had major cramping in this legs right around mile 24. But, he finished it. It was about 25 minutes off of his PR, but he was happy to be a finisher.
We walked ever so slowly back to our hotel. I'm sure anyone watching us hobble home, sweaty and tired with salt plastered to our faces would question why we do things like run marathons. But, anyone else who has ever crossed the finish line of a tough race knows the reason.
We enjoyed a relaxing dinner (and ice, cold beer...ahhhhh) with Liz and Amy. We all talked earlier about how we were going to be so "wild" celebrating...but we weren't. We were tired.
Last night, I quietly watched the Red Sox game from the comfort of Rick's house, I felt a sense of melancholy - kind of like how you felt as a kid on December 26th. Our marathon getaway to Boston was over.
Of course, we still have Brazil.