Down by the banks of the River Charles

I won’t “run Boston” this year, but I did run Boston this morning.

It was nothing like I’ve been used to from 8 years of running in Bozeman, Montana. Still, it was invigorating.

The reason I was in Beantown was to select hours for next week at my part-time job, which is located at the Transportation Building near the common. I work as a Data Collector for the MBTA commuter rail. Sounds important, doesn’t it? Well, all I do is count passengers coming off and getting onto trains. I usually wake up at 4 a.m. three days a week to do this. I sit in my car and … wait. Then count passengers with my clicker, and wait again. It’s not glamorous by any means.

But it’s an extra hundred or so bucks a week. And after moving across the country and being out of work for two months, everything helps.

This morning, I caught the train from Ayer and arrived in Boston at North Station at 9. The next train going back west leaves too early (9:35) for me to get it, and the next one isn’t until 11:20. So after picking my hours, I had some time to kill. Fortunately, I had my shorts on underneath my dockers, a watch in my bag and my running shoes on – as always.

My brother works for the MBTA (he hooked me up with the job) and told me how to get to a running loop not far from his building. I was hoping to stay away from the busy streets somehow, and this was my chance. He told me to go past the common and go across a street and then I’d see the Arthur Fiedler foot bridge. I was off!

It was already near 50 degrees by the time I set off at 9:30. Perfect day to be out.

It’s one thing to listen to a set of directions; it’s entirely another to execute them properly. Once I passed the common, I wasn’t sure which way to go. But I knew Storrow Drive wasn’t far away, so I worked my way in that direction, and soon enough I found the ramp for the Fiedler bridge. But not before encountering a cranky biker from the other direction. During one of those split seconds in life where you’re not sure which way to go when someone is coming right at you (I believe Rich Hall from that old HBO segment called “Sniglets” referred to it as an “indecisajig”), I hesitated. Right or left? Once this baker passed safely, she said, “wake up,” rather condescendingly. I felt like saying “SHUT up” but didn’t. This isn’t Bozeman anymore.

Anyhoo, once up and over the bridge, I was running along the Charles River. The Standells song (you know it – “Dirty Water”) was in my head nearly the whole way. It was great to see all the buildings, the Citgo sign and all the runners. There were dozens out there. Maybe you saw me: black adidas jacket? With flourescent green stripes? Probably not.

I ran on soft dirt and on hard pavement. I ran past boat houses, imagining what the Harvard-Yale Regatta must be like. Probably a lot like a road race, where spectators line the course, only the see the athletes churn by for a second or two.

Back in Montana, I was used to making eye contact and waving, or maybe saying a quick “hi.” Not here. I was lucky if people took any notice of my existence. Those waving days are over, no doubt.

The best part about running around the Charles is there are many options without getting out too far. There are loops and figure eights you can do to get the same mileage as if you were doing a long out-and-back. And because there’s a bridge every mile or so, there are stairs and ramps to run up/down to break up the monotony – and speed up the heart rate.

I had about an hour and 20 minutes to be out before I had to head back to the Transportation Building and collect my belongings and get back on the train. Once I returned to the building, I took the stairs up to the second floor, where I had to “sign in” to gain entry into office where my bag was. As I was doing this, the secretary said, “oh, I have a check for you.” Sweet. I’m getting paid for running! Not quite: the check was for driving expenses and the woman at the front desk forget to give it to me when I first arrived. Still, it’s always nice to hear that money’s coming your way.

Soon I was back on the train to Ayer, eating a granola bar and back at work: Framingham’s Denise Beliveau called and I was able to interview her for a story that will run in Monday’s MetroWest Daily News.

All this before noon. Not a bad way to start the day.

I have to be back in Boston next Wednesday to select hours again. I’ll be sure to bring my shorts.


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February 2012
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