It’s April and people are talking about the Boston Marathon. It shouldn’t be a big deal, except it is of course, because of those two imbeciles who tried to make a point at our race last year. Luckily, one of them is dead and hopefully the other will be soon. In the meantime? Runners are running the marathon in droves and spectators will be out in record numbers I’m sure. Was there ever any doubt this would happen in 2014? Silly terrorists. We’re runners. You had no clue who you were messing with.
I can’t speak for those who are running this year or those who ran last year…hell, all I can speak about is the year I ran it – 2007. It was the 111th running and it almost didn’t happen. That’s right. In the 110 years up to that point, there was never a year when the weather threatened to actually shut down the race…until I qualified to run the damn thing.
In case you don’t know, the Boston Marathon is the closest mere mortals will get to the Olympics. It’s arguably the most prestigious marathon in the world. The qualifying times are fierce and it takes some runners upwards of 10 marathons before they get that elusive “BQ” or Boston qualifier. I’ll hold my comments on those who raise money to gain entrance. I don’t think of myself as a running snob but, when it comes to the Boston Marathon, one could argue that I have a stick up my ass.
An article from Running Times from years ago put it perfectly:
No stranger to Boston (I went to Boston University, class of ’97) I was ecstatic when I qualified with a marathon time of 3:30 – ten minutes in the clear – in the Fall of 2006. I was 32 years old, happily married without children and working full-time as the Fitness Director at a large local gym. Life was good and I had plenty of time to run and train.
My family and I descended into Boston a few days before the marathon, did the expo thing and walked around the city (not too much of course) then went out for a huge pasta dinner in the North End. I toasted them and told them how important it was to me that they were all there, and I would be thinking of them throughout the race! Then, it started pouring. It was a cold, hard, driving rain and it didn’t stop all day and night. It was a friggin’ Nor’easter in April sans the snow. I guess I should have been happy about that small detail but I wasn’t!
Throughout the night before the race, I heard the rattle of the flagpole as it banged and clanked against itself outside my hotel room window. How could I sleep? How was I going to run in this? It was a bad, bad night.
I collected myself in the morning, choked down some carbs and proteins and got on the bus to Hopkinton. As I rode the 26.2 miles out of Boston with the wind and rain hammering the windows of the bus, all I could think about was that I would be running all.the.way.back. I had never felt like this about any other race. Not good.
Don’t worry – it gets worse. Once I got to the start line area, there was a simple tent set up with rain pouring down the sides at every angle and runners were packed underneath it like sardines! The best part? The port-o-potties were outside of the tent and, of course, where there are toliets and runners, there are lines. I seriously felt like I was in a refugee camp awaiting certain death. An hour before I could even start running, I was wet, cold and alone. Most of all, I remember feeling very alone under that tent even though I was surrounded by runners. I know, poor me – wah!
Once I finally got to the start line (which was a pretty good walk by the way) I was feeling better. I think it had stopped raining slightly and was just really windy and freezing. Perfect.
The race itself was like any other – fantastic/horrible/pretty good/horribly bad – you know, the usual head games that take place when you’re running for over three hours.
The highlight? Seeing my family at Heartbreak Hill. I still have visions of my dad whistling and running up the sidewalk beside me, with my stepmom yelling “You’re going to have a heart attack!” behind him. It’s one of my greatest running memories and my dad and I talk about it every April.
The next best thing? Running to the finish down Boylston Street. There is just nothing else like it. I made a mental note to take it all in – the crowd, the finish banner, the buildings, the runners around me – when I want to give up in a race, I summon that image and it never fails to lift me up.
Sadly, I crossed that finish in 3:47 – one of my slowest marathon times. I couldn’t wallow too much in self pity though because shortly after I crossed, I started shaking all over, like someone does when they’re hypothermic. Not good. Since there was no chance of finding my family at the finish (who had my dry clothes) I ducked into a medical tent and was given a dry shirt and warm chicken broth. To this day, that was the best damn drink I’ve ever had in my life. It tasted like pure heaven in a cup.
The glow from finishing that marathon still hasn’t worn off. It’s one of my proudest accomplishments, regardless of my finishing time. There just isn’t another race quite like it.
When I heard the news last year, about the bombings, I took it personally. Running is a part of who I am. Boston is a part of who I am, and the Boston Marathon belongs to me and anyone else who has ever run it. Yes, even the “charity” runners. Nothing anyone could ever do, could take that away.
On Monday, I will be cheering on a very close friend, who will no doubt have the race of her life there, for her second running of the Boston Marathon. I will be watching on TV and routing for Shalane Flanagan to take home the win for the American women! I will be showing my kids what courage looks like and someday, I’ll go back and run it again.
Have you run Boston? Is it on your bucket list?
Have you ever been caught in the rain for a big event?
Thoughts on Boston this year?