Friday, April 24, 2009

2009 Boston Marathon

My first Boston marathon experience.....So where do I start? I guess from the beginning...The athletes village in Hopkinton. After an enjoyable busride from Boston Commons, I arrived in the village at around 7:45 a.m. and took in the sites. It was a chilly morning, but I had chosen an old polar fleece-lined jacket as a throwaway, so I was pretty cosy as I walked around. To put things in perspective, the field was capped at 25,000 participants but I did see bib numbers in the 27k range so we could assume the field was larger than the publicized cap. This means that there were probably this many people roaming around the athlete's village today. This is five times the population of my home town of Hudson!


After a banana and a bagel, I wandered around the various demo tents in search of a coffee. I finally found what seemed to be the only coffee line at the far end of the village. It was a huge line-up and nobody was moving so I wandered up to the front to see what was up. The coffee hadn't arrived yet so I decided I would continue exploring and come back later. Music was playing on the loudspeakers and an MC was keeping the folks entertained and making public service announcements. I tried to find the other Team in Training runnners from Montreal but it was an exercise in futility. After I had been around the village a couple of times, I picked up a cup of joe (the line was much smaller now) and decided to find a piece of real-estate of my own when I heard an announcement that Brian was looking for Isabelle. I figured there was a good chance these might be the TNT folks from Montreal so I made my way back toward the MC behind the Hopkinton sign pictured above. I recognized Theresa (a TNT virtual team coach I met at the Disney marathon last year), spoke to her for a few minutes, wished her luck, and continued on in search of Brian and Isabelle.

After milling around the sign for a few minutes, I finally spotted Norm and Brian, our two coaches. They hadn't found any other team members either so we decided to claim our turf near the MC, just in case. By now it was closer to 8:45 so I decided to head to the porta potty lines before they got too long. I headed straight to the ones I spotted with the smallest lines during my initial walk-around. I was about 6th in line so it went pretty quickly. Afterward, I headed back to our spot and crossed a fellow with an armful of white gloves. I had heard on the PA that Hewlett Packard was giving away free gloves so I asked him for a pair. I didn't realize until later that he wasn't even an HP rep - I think he was part of a delegation of Japanese runners here for the marathon. Anyway, he gladly gave me a pair and gave me a quick bow when I said thanks - that's when I realized it...oh well, nice man. I got back to our spot and asked Norm and Brian if they wanted a pair. I had seen the rep on my way, so I headed back and grabbed a few pairs for them as well. People were flocking around there like seagulls in an Orange Julep parking lot. By the time I got back, it was time to start my pre-race routine of getting dressed and relaxing before the start. Although I was registered for the first wave start, I decided to run in the second wave with my buddy PJ, seeing as I was planning to take it slow anyway. It wasn't long before they were calling for the wave 1 runners to drop off their bags and make their way to the start. I decided to scope out the gear check area and noticed the VIP area (this is where PJ would be) and PJ just happened to be standing there so we arranged to meet back at that spot at 10:15 since Wave 2 started a half-hour after wave 1. As the start was announced, a couple of F-14 Tomcats did a fly by. This reminded me of my Army Forward Air Controller days and also that the sight and sounds of supersonic jets never gets boring.



Afterward, I headed over to the gear-check busses and dropped off my bag. I went back to wish Norm and Brian a good run and soon enough 10:15 rolled around. It was still pretty chilly so I kept my jacket over a throw-away sweatshirt. Underneath, I had a short sleeved technical shirt, arm-warmers and gloves. I met up with PJ and the rest of the Florida Marlins crew, and we walked over to the start. It was literally a sea of people overtaking the main strip of Hopkinton. I snapped a couple pics in both directions with my arms extended just to get a perspective of what 13+ thousand people looks like. Then we heard someone say we were off, well sort of. We kind of walked for a good 10 minutes and I don't even remember noticing the start line. I started my Polar and lost the jacket as soon as we started a slow jog. There were all kinds of people lined along the start collecting the throw-away clothing for charity. I knw clothes is collected and given to charity in many marathons, but I have never seen people actually collecting the stuff during the race. Definitely well organized.


Here we are among the second wave starters




We restrained ourselves from going too fast despite the crowd of runners as far as the eye can see. It wasn't long before we entered Ashland and settled into a rhythm among the other runners. By now, the Marlins crew had spread out and I found myself running with PJ and Joel Silverman. We were keeping about the same pace and were pretty much chatting while we shuffled along. Up to now (mile 4) it was pretty much down hill the whole way. We started ascending a little slope on our way to Framingham. Joel, now living in (flat) Florida asked me if this was considered a "hill"...this was the first of many times he would ask over the course of the next 5 hours.



As PJ and Joel continued on, I snapped a pic of the Framingham road sign. By the way, I was wearing a Montreal Canadiens shirt and tatoo and the Boston fans made a point to show me their loyalty - it was a hoot!




By this time we had a groove and we talked about everything under the sun. I couldn't believe the amount of people all along the route just out to support the runners. As we entered Wellesley at about mile 12 and we could hear the cheering from the "college" a mile down the road.

video
Wellesley college. Hard to imagine this if you haven't seen it for yourself...

Not long after Wellesley (which is actually a pretty big town) we entered Newton and began to anticipate the four famous Newton hills. I exchanged a few "pleasantries" again with some Bruins fans and stopped to pee in a porta potty right by the turn at the Newton Fire station. I then had to catch back up to PJ and Silver who had a good 5 minutes on me.


Here is PJ looking pretty comfortable ascending one of the hills in Newton.


Heartbreak hill. The last one and not all that bad after all. Heartbreak hill was a bit of a disappointment - I had heard and read so much about it that I imagined this long and steep monstrosity. We easily ascended the slope and I turned around to snap a pic of our achievement noting that it was pretty much downhill from here on in. That's when I noticed how many people were actually walking up the hill. I guess my hill training paid off...




We had to put the brakes on a bit on some of these downhills. Even after 4 hours, the spectators were still out there. It was a real party with barbecues, beer, sandwiches, popsicles. I certainly felt like stopping to enjoy the hospitality on more than one occasion.



As we entered Brookline, it was PJ's turn to stop for a pee so Joel and I carried on. Joel had never run this far before but he was strong and confident. We kept a steady pace as we could feel the anticipation of the finish only a few miles away. I was concerned about PJ catching back up to us, though.

At Kenmore square, there were only a couple of miles to go so I told Joel to continue on as I waited to make sure PJ was okay. It seemed like forever before he came along. As I waited on the side of the road, a couple of people asked if I was okay. I said I was waiting for someone, but I did feel a little wierd just standing there on the sidelines. I decided to stretch a little and have some water. Now that I think about it, I should have taken another picture.... Finally there he was, so we picked it up and discussed in how much time we would finish. As people cheered us on on Commonwealth avenue, I could feel and hear another runner huffing to catch up to us and then fading off. I turned around to see an older man struggling as he asked me in what time we planned to finish. I looked at my watch and told him we could finish in 5 hours flat if we picked up the pace a little. He said that would be great, so I did some quick math and determined our pace for the next mile and a half. As I picked it up, PJ said to go on ahead, he was fine to finish.



The gentleman couldn't keep the pace very long and we had to take 10-second walk breaks every couple of minutes. I coaxed him along under the underpass (on Hereford, I think) and then we could hear the roar of the crowd on Boylston. As we turned the corner and saw the finish down the block, I spotted my nephew's girlfriend, Brittany, who told me Chantal and the girls were across the street. I waved to them and told them I would be coming back for PJ in a few minutes.


The final turn as I wave to my family with my new friend chugging along to finish in 5 hours.


The finish line!

At the finish, I turned around without crossing the line and headed back up Boylston to meet up with PJ. We then crossed the finish line together a few minutes later.


Woohoo!






Me and my biggest fans!

After the race, I realized how much of a toll running so slow, and for so long, this race has taken on my legs and especially my knee. My left knee felt as though it had no strength and I hobbled to the restaurant for a well deserved steak and beer.

Despite this setback, the entire Boston marathon experience has been, bar none, the best marathon I have ever experienced. The organization was spectacular, the sheer magnitude of the event is unimaginable, and the support of the local "fans" for all the runners, is such an inspiration. I can't wait to do it again. Now that I have experienced it as a "tourist", next time, I want to see how well I can do on this fabled course. So, until next time, keep on running! ;0)

4 comments:

Malatesté said...

Congratulations. Just curious, I really don't mean to be negative here, but how come your time in Boston is significantly slower than your PR?

Good luck with your current training...

-Nicolas (PR 3:57, Mtl 08)

Patrick said...

I ran Boston exactly 13 days before the Vancouver marathon. My plan was to use Boston as my last long training run before my taper for Vancouver. It seemed like a good plan at the time because I was doing high mileage training runs to prepare for the back-to-back marathons and my buddy was also running in Boston. He told me he was a slow runner so I figured I'd run with him and enjoy the Boston experience. What I didn't count on was that going so slow in Boston actually took it's toll on my knee and prevented me from beating my PR in Vancouver...oh well. There will be others...

Janet said...

Hey Patrick!

Congrats for finding a way to expand your love of running to those around you. What a great way to live your life.

Go Team!!!

Arcane said...

Nice race report. thx for dropping by. To answer your question. No i havent run Niagara on the lake nor do i know anyone that has. You can some limited reviews on marathon guide at http://www.marathonguide.com/races/racedetails.cfm?MIDD=3028100619

Good luck!