I said would send a write up on The Boston Marathon last week. Clearly I didn’t and even that would have been a bit late. This e-mail is longer than usual but it needs to be to tell the story. Hopefully it’s interesting. Here is how things unfolded.
We had awesome spring days leading up to the race and my loosening run the day before felt good. I felt I was ready to give my target time of 2hrs 55mins a crack. I found it hard to believe the weather forecast which predicted 7 degrees centigrade, rain and wind for the race. Please let the weather hold out.
The normal way to get to the start and the way most people do it is to catch the official Boston Marathon buses from Boston from 6:00Am to the athletes village about 1.2km from the start in Hopkinton 42km away. You’d then have to wait about 2.5 hours in the athletes village until 9:15Am when my group would be asked to leave the athletes village and head to the start line for 10:00Am. Keep in mind the athletes village is simply a bunch of large tents/awnings with no chairs. A 2.5 hour wait in those conditions with that cold would be horrible.
Another official alternative would be to catch a Boston Marathon Shuttle from about 2km outside to the athletes village from 6:30Am onwards.
My girlfriend and I rented a car and drove all the back routes until we knew the best way to get as close to the athletes village as possible as we thought maybe it was best she drives me. There were a bunch of road closures and our planning had to be good so that we could make it as hassle free as possible. This way I would be in control of my time. The night before I decided to catch the 6:45Am shuttle the hotel provides that would supposedly take us closer to the athletes village than we could do in our own car.
At about 6:15Am race day I was chatting to another runner (Boyd) starting in the same group as me who had done 10 Boston Marathons. He was going to catch the 8:30Am shuttle as apparently the year before it made it through road closures all the way to the athletes village. Now this would be cutting it tight but this way we’d have very little time to wait before the start. As he is a veteran of this race I decided to do the same.
On the shuttle I quickly realised the driver wasn’t taking any back routes which worried me as I knew there were road closures. It was even more puzzling when the other runners questioned him and found he had lived in the area his whole life. He didn’t have a clue about road closures and the police flat out refused him entry even though he protested he had runners on board. At about 9:20Am myself and Boyd climbed out the shuttle (the other runners were in later start groups so they stayed) as we were getting further and further from the athletes village and the start. We had to walk about 3km from there to get to the start and skipped the athletes village. Eventually I was in my start group waiting for the gun with about 10 minutes to spare…all good.
The day had turned out to be the 7 degrees promised and it was predicted to stay that temperature…I think it got colder. At the start I ditched a bunch of my warm clothes. They had people holding bags for charity collection…we keep warm until the start and less fortunate get clothes, everyone wins. 10:00Am and the gun went off and no movement…that’s what happens with 5 000 runners in front of you. It took about 3mins 30s to cross the start. After about 8kms the rain started and while it seemed it wouldn’t last it did. At 15km though I was bang on my race plan so all good.
Given the conditions I adjusted my finish time to a more realistic 2hrs 58mins. At 21km I was on track for my adjusted time but the conditions were getting worse. To go with the cold and ever harder rain there was a headwind. Heartbreak hill finished at about 32km and it was tough. I looked at my watch and thought I was still on track for 2hrs 58mins.
While mostly flat the last 10km was really tough. The rain didn’t stop, the wind seemed to pick up and the cold felt worse. It was difficult to get my muscles moving and I simply couldn’t do the fast finish I had planned. I finished just after 1:00Pm in 3hrs 1min and while disappointed with my time was happy to be done. It took about 1 hour until I met my girlfriend and was able to put on some warm clothes. I don’t remember ever being as cold as during that wait. My muscles tightened up so much because of the cold I could barely walk. It was miserable enough that medics were pushing wheel chairs around and taking runners to the medical tent to warm them up. To make the experience more memorable our apartment wasn’t ready until 6:00Pm that night so it was a long wait until a hot shower. Thinking back to the conditions I’m actually reasonably happy with my time.
The atmosphere was amazing though. There were people lining the route from start to finish, absolutely unbelievable and something I’ve never experienced anywhere else. Would have enjoyed it more in better conditions.
Why do we run, cycle or do endurance sport? Paul and I were discussing this a few days ago and it’s difficult to give a good answer to someone who has never done an endurance event. My story above sounds as appealing as ripping your eye out with a spoon but for some reason it was a good experience. Yes you can be hurting, your muscles burning and your lungs busting but there is some perverse pleasure in that. For sure you’ll never enjoy a hot drink and shower as much as after an experience like I described above.