04
Apr
16

Marathon No. 4: Can’t beat the heat

A marathon is 26.2 miles. But it was the “27th mile” of the 2004 Boston Marathon that summed up my second experience with this race.

The race itself was summed up by Gerry Greenwald, aka “unplanned pit stop,” who was in my corral again: Death march.

I’ll spare you many of the details of the race, except for this: It was 85 degrees.

I was able to slow things down and didn’t have to walk until Mile 19. At 23 near Kenmore Square, I saw a runner I knew from Western Mass.

Our conversation was brief.

Me: Hey Jim, how ya doing?

Him: Hurtin’

I was jealous that at least he was still running, albeit slowly.

After leaving Hereford Street on the last mile, I saw the finish line in the distance. I wanted to run across it.

But despite my intentions, I couldn’t run more than 20 feet. As I was transitioning back to a walk, however, my legs would not bend. I started to wobble. I was going down.

I managed to make a soft landing on my butt about 100 yards from the finish line. As I was thinking about getting up, two runners pulled me up and we walked arm-in-arm for a few strides.

At this point, I just wanted to cross the finish line under my own power. I did, in just over 4 hours, but as one of these good Samaritans left me, he said, “you should seek medical attention. You feel cold.”

Again, it was 85 degrees. I didn’t heed his advice. Yet.

After I got my medal and turned in my timing chip, I headed to the family meeting area. But to get there, you must walk several blocks, take a right turn, then walk some more to locate the first letter of your last name to meet your loved ones. I call it the 27th mile.

When I met my parents and wife, I felt horrible. We headed for our hotel, but I wasn’t going to make it. I started to feel light-headed and my vision started to disappear. Everything went white.

But as I sat down, it all came back. I could see again. Soon, I was loaded in a wheelchair and headed back to the finish line. Mile 28.

Once there, the line coming out of the medical tent was enormous. Since I was still conscious, I wasn’t a priority. They took the wheelchair away for some other poor soul and gave me a folding chair. I thought I was going to be fine after slowly sipping water and eating little bites of a banana.

Back at the hotel, I tried to eat and drink as much as possible. I thought I was coming back to life, but I made a fateful mistake that had me heading for the bathroom to pray to the porcelain god: I ingested dairy products.

It took me years, and another hot marathon/puking experience, to figure it out. I wondered why I got sick two or three hours after I finished. But I remember the last thing I ate was cheese and crackers. The processed crap you get in the package.

It took four IV bags the next day at Leonard Morse Hospital in Natick for me to feel whole again. Hot onion soup from the cafeteria never tasted so good. And I don’t even like onion soup.

The doctor told me not to run for a week. No problem, doc.

My first two Bostons were not memorable for the end result. But “the experience” of running in this event trumps all that. Running through Natick, and high-fiving my friends, is almost surreal. My second Boston was a scorcher, but I’ll never forget seeing my family at St. Pat’s church in Natick. I made sure to stop and not just do a run-by.

My wife handed me a bottle of water and my cousin Roger had his young daughter on his shoulders. She looked miserable in the heat. She was just 2. But she had a sign that read “Run Tim, Run.”

Phoebe is now a teenager, but Roger passed away at age 47 of cancer nearly three years ago.

Yeah, the race, and its aftermath, was a bitch. But having that support meant everything to me.

I would be back for another crack at Boston. Minus the heat, I hoped.

 

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