Hello everyone and it is with pleasure that I welcome you back to the Tale of 2 Halfs. It has been months since we have written and for that we are sorry. Jen has started a new career and the blog has taken a back seat to our jobs, our children and our training. With that said, I am excited to share with you my experience from this year’s monsoon of a Boston Marathon.
As many of you know, I decided to run for Team Up! with Autism Speaks and therefore was a charity runner. I committed to fundraising $7,500 in order to secure my entry. It was no easy feat to hold fundraising events on weekends while still trying to complete my long runs and spend time with my family. But I am happy to have run for Team Up! and I look forward to my next race with them.
We traveled as a family to Massachusetts for this year’s race and we were very fortunate to stay with a good friend who, himself, has run for Team Up! six times and is an Abbott Six-Star Finisher. His family was our hosts for the weekend and we could not have asked for a better situation for the wife and I, but also our children as they were able to play and enjoy themselves much more than at a hotel.
We arrived on Friday afternoon where we were met with 70 degree temperatures and sunshine. It was perfect weather and we took advantage by grilling up some delicious food and catching up with our friends while our children played. On Saturday morning, our friends were gracious and had offered to watch our children for us while Jen and I traveled into Boston and ran the B.A.A. 5K. This was a shake-out/fun run for me and Jen and we had no intentions of doing anything crazy. The weather was on the cooler side, but perfectly clear.
When we arrived, we parked near the finish line of the marathon on Bolyston Street so we decided that we should go and check it out before heading down to the Boston Common for the start of the 5K. Surprisingly, the finish line area was rather quite, except for a few workers and only a few runners taking the obligatory photos. Of course, I indulged and had Jen take a few photos of me. I was also able to capture a cool image of the finish line with no one around. I would later refer to this photo as my ‘motivation’.
As it got closer to race time, we walked down Bolyston Street and I couldn’t help but look back at the finish line. It finally hit me that I was about 48 hours away from realizing a dream I’ve had since I started running marathons.
The start of the 5K was interesting. As the national anthem was sung, a dog nearby was howling along. It was one of those moments that just make you laugh no matter how hard you try to control it. In fact, the whole crowd was chuckling at the sound the dog. I know that seems unpatriotic, not being silent and respectful, but it wasn’t disrespectful at all – just funny.
As the 5K began, the corrals moved slowly towards the start line and before we even began our journey, the real race was already over. Both the men and women elite athletes had crossed the finish line along with a 13-year old young man who set an age-based world record! Jen and I enjoyed our slow jaunt through the streets of Boston where we were able to see the infamous Citgo sign, the Boston Strong bridge, cross over the marathon finish line and enjoy the morning.
For the rest of Saturday, we enjoyed our day with our friends relaxing and playing with our children. On Sunday morning, Jen and I took our kids to a childrens museum near our friends house and we had a great time for a bit. The kids got to play with some really neat exhibits and burn off some energy before we headed into Boston to visit the expo at the Seaport World Trade Center.
Now, for reference, this was my ninth marathon and my third Abbott Marathon Major so I’ve been to some other big expos, but wholly crazy folks. We went on the final afternoon knowing that most of the merchandise would be sold out and hoping that the crowds would have thinned out as well. We were wrong. The hard part was we of course had two children with us and we thought it would be easier if we put them in a double stroller with some technology so Jen and I could try and walk around a little easier. We were wrong again. No one cared that we would hit them in the ankles and legs with our stroller, they would just cut you off and walk in front of you regardless.
We of course started at the most important spot, the bib pickup. I had been containing my enthusiasm for months but I was beginning to get really excited, and really nervous. I found my pickup location and after verifying my personal information, the nice lady handed me my first Boston Marathon bib – #26696. I waited in line to have some photo’s taken and afterwards we headed downstairs to the expo for my t-shirt pickup and some fun shopping!
T-shirt pickup went very smoothly and I am in love with this years design. Solid blue in color, with the names of all the towns you run through – Hopkinton, Newton, Ashland, Boston, etc. in a repeated pattern on the shoulder area.
We then moved on the official Adidas merchandise area, where I proceeded to buy a large assortment of goodies. I ended up leaving Boston with – a hat, celebration jacket (of course), long sleeve 1/4 zip, 2 t-shirts, running singlet, running shorts, sweatpants, shoes, marathon pint glass, patch and pin. Hey, don’t judge!
The expo remained jammed packed and we worked our way through the booths and really enjoyed the excitement that you could feel from the all the runners and their families. We left the expo and I captured a few photos on my way out of the building before stopping for coffee and some last minute items at CVS.
When we arrived back to our friends house, we enjoyed a wonderful pasta dinner before I headed to the guestroom to take a few moments to prepare for the following day. I gathered all my gear including the extra layers that would prove beneficial. I relaxed with everyone that night, talking about different races and constantly watching the weather channel as the sleet and snow began to hit the windows of the house. Before going to bed, the ground was covered in about 1/2 inch of ice and snow. Tomorrow was not looking good already.
One thing I definitely enjoyed about the Boston Marathon was that with a wave 4 bib, I didn’t start running until 11:15 a.m. and I could actually sleep in a bit. When I woke up, we made a hearty, but light breakfast before I got dressed and headed out the door to Hopkinton at 8:30.
We arrived at the runner’s shuttle bus location after a little traffic congestion and I was out of the car and onto the runner’s bus in about 45 seconds. I talked with a few other runners during the 15 or 20 minute ride to the athletes village and donned my poncho for my wait in the village. When I arrived, it was raining good so I worked my way towards a tent and forced my way into the center where it was dry and found a two square foot section for me to claim as my own. I layed out some mylar blankets and began to prepare for the race.
Due to the rain, I did not walk around or experience much else of the athletes village but I will say this – I am sorry to all the volunteers and to the Hopkinton School District. Your property was destroyed! Between the trash left by runners and the wet conditions that ruined any sign of grass you may have had, I feel horrible. I only hope that the B.A.A. restores your grass when spring does arrive.
On the walk to the starting line, I made a quick visit to the portopotty and then continued on my way. There were no such thing as corrals, despite what my bib said as the wave 4 start was simply a free for all. Before crossing the starting line I made one fatal mistake when I decided to remove my rain poncho. I thought that with the strong winds that it would be more of a hindrance but I would quickly regret that decision as I began running the 122nd Boston Marathon.
So now on to the actual race. It was brutal. Here were the official race conditions as provided by the Boston Athletic Association: 30F at the starting line with 32mph headwinds and constant downpours. So, yeah…that pretty much sums up the race. I’m kidding – partly. I knew given the conditions that a PR was out of the question for me. I adjusted my goal to a very attainable time and still failed to hit that. I ultimately accomplished my “C” goal of finishing the race. Hooray for me! The first 15 miles actually went according to plan if you will. I was very close to my “A” goal at this point of the race but I was getting cold, and very fast.
As my entire body was soaked from head to toe, despite running a marathon and putting off what I imagined to be a large amount of body heat, I was freezing and I mean that in every sense of the word. After the first of four Newton hills, my legs were so cold that I couldn’t feel them, my feet and hands were numb and my lips had a hard time finding the opening to my water bottle. My race quickly went downhill from about mile 17 and it was a personal fight with my mind and body just to finish the race. I ended up taking 11 (you read that right) walking breaks. I know that this might seem counter-intuitive to walk when you’re cold, but my legs would not move. I was cold, cramping and shivering.
The final miles of the race were some of the worst “running” I have ever done, yet this race is one of my proudest running moments. The 122nd Boston Marathon will be remembered as the race where 4,232 runners did not finish. 2,290 people were medically treated including 80 hospitalizations. This race experienced more elite athlete DNF’s (Did Not Finish) and was colder than any other Boston Marathon in my lifetime!
I completed my 9th marathon on Monday, April 16th in my second worst time ever – 3:39:54. Despite starting towards the back of the final wave, I finished just outside the top 40% of all runners and just outside the top 50% of male runners. I proved to myself that despite unfavorable, brutal conditions that I could persevere. In a different way than the original meaning, I also proved that I am ‘Boston Strong.’ I raised awareness and vital funds to help enhance the lives of those with Autism today and accelerate a spectrum of solutions for tomorrow.