…We keep moving forward. Boston 2014.
I arrived in Boston “nervous and excited,” and that’s what I continued telling those who asked. I was as ready as I could be; the training was complete. I wanted to PR and I knew I could do it. I wasn't thinking about not PR’ing, but I knew I’d have a great race experience regardless. There shouldn't have been any reason for me not to finish right around 3 hours or sub-3. Yeah. As much as I like to plan when my future PR’s are going to happen (haha?), sometimes, sometimes, you find the marathon does not in fact simply show up on your doorstep like some timely smiling brown box from Amazon (I realize RunningWarehouse may be more appropriate). So you swallow your giant-sized pride in a big choking gulp and figure out who the hell you are, all over again. The marathon is funny like that. It’s good though. Sometimes you need a good smack in the face to make you realize what this race is about. Yeah there are more difficult and longer races, but the marathon still deserves respect. It can be a struggle, it may bring pain and self-doubt making you question your mental toughness. Sometimes this race is about everything in the world but you. I’ll get out from behind the pulpit – you guys know this, I know. This is just me now realizing what the universe had in store for me…
I’m not from Boston, had never been to Boston before, and as of now I've only run Boston one time. I won’t even pretend to tell you what this race is really about, and how special it is for so many people, especially after last year. But a few words about my own Boston experience... Being in Boston for my first time I came to feel at home. It’s an amazing city and I know I’ll go back and spend some quality time experiencing it in a not-so-pressurized state. During marathon weekend however the atmosphere here was thick with crazy-chaotic, energetic, and nervous-but-pleasant vibes. There were other races happening on Saturday, the day I arrived, so from the get-go the places I went were cram-packed with runners and runner-related folks. The town was decked out in marathon signage, #BostonStrong everywhere. With last year’s events still vivid in everyone’s memories, you could tell everyone was ready to take back the marathon. You can go and read about stories and meanings of Boston Strong on a 100 other better blogs, but let me just say, even as I was making my way through a sea of people toward the expo at Hynes Convention Center, I was surprised to find myself stopped in my tracks at the sight of the finish line. Just standing and staring. The freshly painted finish line we’d cross, the awning under which we’d finish, the blue & yellow signs, the people, the moment. Not completely understanding why, tears filled my eyes. Sure, I felt a journey for me had reached a destination in many ways, but I’d be straight up lying if I said I did not feel a direct connection to this place, the events a year earlier, and the people there now. And here we were, today. Happy. Excited. Ready. Unafraid. Stronger. United. Boston Strong. An intangible concept or feeling became entirely tangible and real, and had spread throughout the city of Boston. And those crowds along the course, wow, those crowds were deafening and constant. It was a real thing. Boston had come back strong, without a doubt.
|Finish Line Two Days Before Race Day|
Ticket to Boston
Looking back, this was my most anticipated race ever. Some dream of running Boston their whole lives and others run their first half and immediately follow it up with booking their flight to Boston. For me, Boston wasn't within my realm of possibility until about three-and-a-half years ago when I ran Twin Cities in October 2010 in 3:38 (no, not a BQ), gutting 19 minutes from my then five-year-old marathon PR. With Twin Cities, I gained a new level of confidence and got busy doing my homework. Boston was in my head. I upped my training appropriate for the next logical level to go after that swanky sounding BQ that everyone was talking about. In September 2011, I ran my first BQ at Beaver Island Marathon – which by the way has not been held since – but my time was not fast enough to be selected after registering for Boston 2012 (the hot year). In November 2011, I BQ’d again and dropped sufficient time to register the following September 2012 and was accepted into Boston 2013. I got injured just before Boston 2013 and didn't run. In August 2013, I ran another qualifying race in Wausau, BQ’d, registered in September, and was selected for Boston 2014.
…So not my whole life, but not an overnight flip of the switch. The previous 3.5 years of training accounted for 7738 running miles, 971 hours, 10 pounds of weight loss, 3 significant injuries that sidelined me for several weeks at a time, 11 more marathons, and 1 dietary change to veganism. I really never needed any external hype or enthusiasm to get me interested or excited to run Boston. I had plenty going on inside my head already. That ticket to Boston. No one will hand it to you. You don’t get there by beating anyone. You compete with yourself every inch of the way. It’s you against you.
NOT HOT! …but it did warm up a bit.
I know you have more important (not necessarily better) things to do than read another excruciating monolog of some kook’s race day pains and unoriginal excuses for not stepping up to the plate. However a brief amount of whining is always in order for any self-respecting part-time blogging race recap writer. Besides, I think the varying stages of dehydration over a 3-hour period reveal an interesting insight into human physiology.
|Collin and I Before the Race|
I may not recall specifics from 90% of the course, and despite the pain, slogging, memory loss and other strange physiological effects that happened to me, I will never forget this race. The support back home was incredible. Friends on Facebook, Twitter, and Dailymile – well, everyone was supportive, excited, and encouraging. The spectators along the course? Expletive wow. Seriously! I've never heard a louder crowd in my life and I've never experienced such ceaseless screaming and cheering. It was so loud that by the later stages of the race my ears were ringing. There were so many people, so much energy, so much noise, you’d never believe these people were all there just to watch some runners go by. Of course it was so much more than that. I have to go back and run again. I need to experience it while remaining sufficiently hydrated.
After the race, I learned a number of others had similar race experiences, also affected by the heat, and dealt with dehydration as well. It’s interesting and sort of sad, but definitely interesting, to know so many of us went to Boston with high hopes for kick-butt races, fell somewhat short of that, but still came away with amazing and kick-butt Boston experiences.
Would you run a marathon for a friend? #BostonStrong
Again Life had a lesson for me. Again I was hit over the head with a big dose of, “Wake the hell up! There are bigger things in life than PR’s and goal times!” You may have already noticed above: my friend Collin ran this race with me. The entire race. I am still not exactly sure why he did that. I mean yeah we are pretty good friends now, but I don’t remember the last time I actually ever seriously considered running a race, let alone a marathon, with someone else for the duration. We started at the same time, we finished at the same time, and he looked for me every time I got behind him even a few steps. He had several opportunities to “lose me” and go ahead on his own, and I even told him to a number of times. But he didn't leave me; that guy was stubborn in a big good way. He knew when to talk and when to leave me alone. When he noticed I was slowing down he didn't get frustrated or in my face. I think he knew I was doing all I could. But to me, having him there with me was enough. He pulled me along and never showed any sign of impatience. I've run a few races with my wife and I think I've always pushed her with some degree of impatience. I swear this race made Collin and I brothers (at least in my mind) on some level anyway. I know how it feels to run at a pace that is not your own in a race. And it can suck. Collin’s marathon PR is 8 minutes faster than mine; and I ran 8 minutes slower than my own PR. Collin ran 26.2 miles at a pace 37 seconds per mile slower than he is fully capable of running. He said he was recovering from injury and just wanted to run Boston and not worry about PR’ing. But still. To say I owe that guy a beer is another understatement of proportions. I think I did buy him a beer actually, but still.
I don’t know what to say, but I've said enough. Hopefully I've managed to relay some message here, however I bungled it in the process. If not, well, one last thing… The Boston Marathon is certainly bigger than any one person and it doesn't belong to any one person. To me, this race is about all of us: people, runners, friends, and strangers. It is about celebrating our ability to overcome the hardships we each go through every single day of our lives, as well as the seemingly overwhelming evil that drives certain people to do really bad things. We fall down, we get back up; we may stumble, but we will keep moving forward, stronger.