Three days to go: Running UP hallowed ground

I ran the hills of Newton today. Piece o’ cake. (They’re always easy when you don’t run 18 miles beforehand).

On my way to the Boston Marathon Expo, I stopped near the intersection of Rtes. 16 and 30, near the famous firehouse when the course takes a hard right turn. On Friday, they were just roads. Come Monday, they’ll be clogged with runners, spectators, thumpingly-loud music and empty cups and bottles.

This hallowed ground (for one day each year at least) is beginning to show signs of race course life. The mile markers are painted yellow in the middle of the road, the water stops have been marked with white paint along the curb. Porta-potties are everywhere and there is lots of temporary fencing stacked up for road closures. (There’s a race planned for Heartbreak Hill Sunday).

I parked (legally, I might add) just off Rte. 16, stripped off my jeans to reveal shorts, pulled on my wind breaker and gloves – it was chilly, with rain and spitting sleet – and headed toward the firehouse. Once on Route 30, uphill I went. At this point, the turn after the firehouse is right before Mile 18. And the hill is short.

I saw a few other runners, but not many – probably due to the weather. Just as the hill ended and the road flattened out, someone honked at me. Not because I was in the way of some impatient Massachusetts driver, but the honker had an adidas jacket on, just like me. He must’ve known what I was doing – running those hallowed hills, three days before the big race. I gave him a fist pump and floated on air for the next few minutes.

The next hill was a little longer, but Heartbreak was still to come. Luckily, there’s a little downhill mixed into this stretch. Just after the Mile 20 mark, I started up the big one. Right after going past Heartbreak Hill Running Company.

I tried to practice good posture – running straight up, keeping my shoulders back, eyes looking ahead. It wasn’t long before I could see Boston College at the top. If only these hills would feel this easy Monday.

After getting to the top, I turned around. Again, I practiced good technique going down: short strides, leaning forward.

The run lasted 1:06. I wasn’t able to go straight up and down because of the occasional busy intersection, but I’ll get my chance to run uninhibited soon enough.

Running up these hills was part of my training plan from the very beginning. I could have done it at any time, but I was targeting this weekend all along. I’ve done everything else as part of my training plan (lots of 2-hour runs; a 30K race used mostly as a temp run; a quick trip to the track; a couple of hill workouts) and I wanted to run in Newton more as a symbolic gesture. I’ve run this race before, but I just wanted to be here in the last few days before Boston.

A year ago, without a qualifying time, I covered the race as a reporter. And the weekend before Boston 2012, when it was summerlike and not sleeting, I headed to Heartbreak to interview runners who had ventured here. It was a blast; I interviewed people on the run. They seemed to enjoy it as well.

Once my run was over this Friday, I jumped into the car and drove those same hills toward Cleveland Circle to catch the T into the expo. When I reached my stop at the Hynes Convention Center, I got out onto the street and wasn’t sure where the building was. But there were Boston Marathon bags, jackets and shirts everywhere. I just followed the crowd.

I only had an hour paid for at my parking spot, so I hurriedly picked up my bib number and race packet, and headed back to my car – and Friday afternoon traffic.

Each day that goes by, I get more fired up. My friend John from Montana is in town (I’ll see him tomorrow) and I’m done working until next week. The weather looks perfect for Monday and I feel very confident that I can sniff a sub-three-hour race.

I don’t plan on any more running until 10:20 a.m. on Monday. Luckily, I’ll be keeping busy in the interim. Then I can revisit those hills again.



4 Responses to “Three days to go: Running UP hallowed ground”

  1. April 13, 2013 at 3:01 am

    Great post. I was at the Expo today and spent time with lots of friends. I’m not running this year so it is bitter sweet to be at the Expo and to read your post. I had so much fun at the Expo. This year is Family time. The marathon has been here for 117 years, it will be there for me again.
    Have a great race, kill those hills!

  2. 3 Paul Wager
    April 14, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Best of luck Monday. I remember a certain someone who couldn’t make it up the stairs at work on Tuesday (or Wednesday as I recall) back in 2004. Here’s hoping for a cool, fast go of it this time around.


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