19
Apr
16

Boston 2016: Thrills, chills, kisses and hugs

kirstenNow for the really hard part; how best to sum up a day of exhilaration, misery, heat, chills, cramps, kisses and hugs. Actually, the process of running the Boston Marathon is never about one day. Or one runner. It’s about months of training and the support you receive after countless (endless?) solo miles.
It all started in January with increased mileage. February, because of the increase, was all about injury flare-ups. March was probably my best month in this process. The body felt good. I ran a 2-hour, 10-minute 30K race at Stu’s in Clinton, and I started thinking about a goal time for Boston.
I had run 3:11 twice at Boston, so going sub-3:10 seemed like a logical choice. Then came April.
A bout of lightheadedness led me to the doctor. My iron levels were high and I may have a metabolic disorder called hemochromatosis (still waiting on blood work results). The condition can lead to, if not treated, chronic fatigue, liver disease, heart problems, diabetes and joint pain.
It was time to dial back my race goal, especially with a forecast for 70 degrees. Simple; instead of running 7-minute miles (for a 3:03 finish), I would run 8s (3:29).
Monday was indeed warm. Seventy degrees for a race isn’t bad if it’s June. But most of my runs – which are done at 9 a.m. – included hat, gloves, wind breaker and temps maybe in the low 50s. My plan was to become a heavy drinker.
Starting Sunday morning, I didn’t let a half hour go by without sipping from a water or Powerade bottle. By the time I arrived in Hopkinton on Patriots’ Day morning, it was already 60. Keep hitting the bottle. After waiting in one of the many extensive lines for a porta-potty at the Athletes Village at the high school, I had time for one last evacuation at the former Colella’s Market downtown. I felt good and hydrated.
For about two miles.
My mouth was very dry. I didn’t want to be “chasing” my thirst at this point in the race. Not a good sign.
I saw my wife and daughter at Mile 3 in Ashland, but was still parched. I made sure to hit the water stops and walked while I sipped. (I cannot drink out of a cup and run at the same time. The water just splashes around and I can only get in a few drops.)
It didn’t take more than a minute for the dry mouth to reappear. Fortunately, Natick wasn’t too far off. It’s the town where I grew up, watching this race as a kid. On the west end, a group of my friends always gathers. My friend Dave’s parents live right on Route 135. I saw them on Saturday night, and because of the predicted temps for Monday, had requested a water bottle and a banana.
As I approached, there was another friend, Ted, with a bottle. Sweet! And his wife had a bag of sliced bananas. But I couldn’t even think of eating at that point. All I wanted to do was slurp. It’s much easier to drink from a bottle than a paper cup. About a mile later, I saw my friend Kinch – and grabbed another bottle.
Downtown Natick was even better, and it had nothing to do with hydration. My cousin Kirsten texted me just before the race to say that she had staked a claim in front of the library. She traveled from Worcester with her daughters to see me – there was no way I was going to miss her. And I certainly wasn’t going to just do a “run-by.”
Just after downtown, I began scanning the crowd, which at that point was piled two and three deep. The library is at the Washington Street intersection, and when I saw the sign I began to slow down. She was in the crowd there somewhere – there she is! I’d recognize those sunglasses anywhere.
I stopped and gave her a huuuuge hug. It felt so good that I let it linger (I still had 16 miles left). Then she asked if I could pose for a selfie. No problem. Anything to prolong this magical feeling.
Natick was also the point in the race where the wind picked up. Sure, it was in our faces, but that meant cooler temps. I thought it wouldn’t be until near Boston that the sea breeze would kick in. I ran with my water bottle for another few miles and finally caught up with my thirst. Love ya, Natick.
Not long after Mile 11, you begin to hear it. The sound is unrecognizable at first, but it soon becomes clear. Barely into Wellesley, the Scream Tunnel begins to take over your senses. There are not only screams, but dozens of “Kiss me” signs among the throng. I usually opt for the opposite side of the road  – not only to take in scene but to avoid any runners darting across the course for a smooch.
But I reconsidered. Where else can you run up to a total stranger, kiss them, and run away? Without recourse. At first I handed out high-fives. But then I did it; leaned in to a young lady who was invitingly tapping her cheek, and smack, right on the lips. I went for another a few strides later. This is my fifth Boston, and it was a new experience. I finally got the nerve.
Up next were the hills. And after that, my parents were stationed at Mile 23 in Brookline, just down the hill from my brother’s condo. It was something to look forward to. With the aid of more water and a few freeze pops, I slowly made my way up the hills. My pace slowed, but I was still running. If I grew frustrated with my pace (9:30 at this point), I was buoyed every time I ran past someone who was walking.
After cresting Heartbreak, the crowds at Boston College are so enthusiastic. Inebriated even. I tried to slap as many hands as possible. (No kisses here). It took my mind of how my legs and feet were feeling. One word: Cramps.
At Mile 23, I probed the crowd for my parents. I had seen them here three years ago, the last time I ran. But I couldn’t find them. My mother did see me after I ran by, but by then it was too late. It was the one thing that didn’t go my way Monday.
I hung on for a 3:43 finish. It’s the slowest marathon I’ve ever “run.” (Not counting the two Bostons where I walked several miles). But because I took a conservative approach, the recovery time was much quicker. Usually, I feel horrible for hours. I can’t eat or hardly stand. My family worries. Not this time.
After walking a few blocks, shivering in the breeze (those Mylar wraps are pretty useless in the wind; picture Marilyn Monroe in that famous picture where her dress puffs up), I found my way to the Boston Marriott, beer in hand.
My running club – the Squannacook River Runners – had booked a room. What a great perk.
My wife and daughter were there. After they saw me in Ashland, they dropped their car off with my brother at the Riverside T stop and met me in the city.
The food, drink and camaraderie (not to mention the view from 38 floors up and a hot shower) were uplifting. Soon, we retreated to the T for a lift back to my brother’s place where my parents were. Hamburgers and hugs awaited. What a day.
After months of solo runs, you become part of a team when it comes to race day. From those who gathered and watched to those who scrambled around and provided rides, post-race comfort and delivered my bag to the finish, the race doesn’t happen otherwise. All I had to do was run. Everyone else spent the day coordinating and synching up meeting times.
Here’s to you.

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2 Responses to “Boston 2016: Thrills, chills, kisses and hugs”


  1. 1 Paul Wager
    April 22, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    Congrats on finishing another Boston Marathon. I still (probably more so than you) remember the days after the first one when we were in Bennington and the many stairs to reach the office. Hope all is well.


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