Funny, just as I started to type this, a song called 'Marathon' by the French Canadian group Poirier started playing on the podcast I'm listening to. Weird.
The one thing that stands out to me when I remember the race in Boston is the influence that other people have had on my training and on my race. The blogger community has been so instructive and supportive that I hardly get embarrassed at all anymore when I refer to my 'internet friends'
I would never have attempted to qualify if it weren't for my friend Brian who believed that I could do it. Once I had been convinced, reluctantly that I could make a legit attempt at a BQ, I signed on with Tim, who trained me up enough to put up a qualifying time in Vegas December 2008.
And so, almost 2 years later, I found myself rolling through the hills of New England.
The most memorable thing about Boston is the amount of people who come out to support the race. There really isn't a single spot on the race course without spectators. In some places they were two, three rows deep on the fence and in downtown Boston they were stacked four, five rows deeps on the sidewalks. Really incredible support.
First mile was packed and I felt trapped. Were moving slow and I was constantly looking at my watch. First mile was about 7:20 and I knew I had to make up time.
I remembered some advice from Kerrie who told me to find a group that was running my pace and let them carry me along to a good time. Trouble was I started a few corrals back from anyone running 6:50's so the first 10 miles I spent running alone trying to hide from the wind on the rare occasion it blustered up and looking for a pack. I had the Garmin set to show only current pace, elapsed time and average pace. I kept pressing hoping to get that average down to 6:50 before half.
At halfway is Wellesley College and the sound gave me goosebumps. Yes, you can hear it before you get there. Yes, it sounds exactly like what you think it will sound like. One side of the road for 1/4 mile with screaming girls separated from the course by a crowd control fence. Adidas has seized on the marketing opportunity and many of these screaming collegians had branded signs that said 'Kiss me I'm_________________'. Kiss me I'm Irish, Kiss me I'm from Georgia, Kiss me I'm a senior (my vote for 'most likely to work'), Kiss me we're on TV (my vote for 'least likely to work'. Hello, I have a wife!). Loud, crazy, unbelievable. Chicks dig runners. Honest.
For me, Wellesley unofficially marked the end of 'things to look forward to'. The rest of the course had Heartbreak Hill, the stupid flippin Citgo sign and the last 6 miles, other wise known as 'things I would later realize I was right to be worried about'.
Halfway was also the next time a blogger's words popped into my head. I passed through half in 1:30:30, a 2 min PR for the half. I remembered Kerrie's post about her crushing defeat at the hands of GG in their last open marathon and Glenn's quote popped into my head 'I just set a PR in the half, I better slow down'. Kerrie's advice to GG, which would later come back to bite her in the ass, was that it was a race, and in a race you don't slow down on purpose. Well, i didn't slow down on purpose, but I did slow down. By mile 17, I was starting to fatigue and Kerrie's advice popped into my head again "Just turn off your brain and run". By the time I hit the rollers at mile 18-ish the downhill first half and aggressive pacing had taken their toll.
My quads were cooked and there was no turning off my brain. I started to cramp in the quads and calves and was bleeding speed all over the course. I was still moving but a sub 3 time slipping away.
Halfway up Heartbreak was the first and only time I stopped to walk in the race. My legs were done and I was losing it a bit mentally. For the last time that day, another person influenced the outcome of my race.
I was walking, staring into space trying to collect myself and will the legs to get going. The hill was half done and my legs were hella sore from the downhill pounding and cramping. Then, from the corner of my eye I noticed movement and a lady who I remember mostly as a voice and tiny 5'2" shadow takes a full step off the sidewalk onto the race course and angrily shouts into my ear, her surprise, disappointment and near disgust booming:
YOU'RE A TRAINED RUNNER!
I'd be willing to bet my next week's salary that she has experience coaching track athletes. Exactly what I needed to snap me back to reality.
Or course, the only thing I could do was start running again and as I chugged up the rest of the hill I could hear her shouting encouragement behind me.
Whoever you were, thanks for that.
By the top of Heartbreak, it was obvious the 3 hours had come and gone. I took a shot and it wasn't my day. I was okay with it but there was still a lot of race left. I'm sure that fatigue played a role in my decision, but with that goal gone I decided that I had two options: kill myself to run a 3:08 or try and enjoy the rest of my day in Boston as much as possible. I went with plan B.
Three things of note about the race course from mile 20 in:
1) It's downhill again. Not great news for the quads.
2) Boston College does not get the credit it deserves for the fan support. The course narrows and you essentially run through a tunnel of screaming college students. It was sweet, although a runner who went through before me later mentioned that he saw a soccer ball pop out of the crowd and onto the course. Hmmmmm.
3) There is a Citgo sign that is well, well, publicized for marking the last mile of the course. Well, what is not so well publicized is that you can see that freakin sign for 2 miles before you actually get there. Yeah, it's huge and you run at it, and run at it, and run at it and it never seems to get any closer. I get that it's an icon, and although I don't even know what Citgo is, I'm boycotting their products. ;)
Last 6 were coasting with the occasional burst to see if the legs were finished cramping. They weren't.
Jamie was waiting near the finish. I had my head on a swivel to try and spot her. Good luck, city was packed out. Grandstands at the finish line against the building in the middle of the frame.
She did snap a great shot of me just after trying to throw down a surge to the finish. Legs cramped and I basically stiff-legged it to try and keep moving and run out the cramps. Couldn't have timed it any worse! Gives a good idea of what the last few miles felt like. I'm mid screen in the red.
And that was it. The race was done and the goal of running Boston had been accomplished. Collected my medal, grabbed my food which was cleverly preloaded into a branded lunch bag, got changed, met Jamie.
Once back in Cambridge I realized that other people's influence over my race was done but influence over my day was not.
I had promised my Mom that I would get a photo of myself in my race bib and I hadn't done that yet. So, like any good son, I put my wet singlet back on and ran down the streets of Cambridge painfully recreating the race to get a photo for mom.
12 hours ago