After 30+ years of “next year I'll run” and then letting life get in the way, the last five months have been terrific – especially April 21. The whole day was exciting from start to finish. Actually, it started the day before in Boston at the Fitness Expo at Hynes, picking up my bib number and race packet...thousands of runners and athletes taste testing the latest high-tech racing foods and participating in hydration/nutrition speaking events. Adidas had a booth that, after scanning the bib number, projected my name on a screen with a personalized note headlining a photo opportunity at the “finish line”.
The morning of the race began at 4:00 am with a bigger than usual bowl of yogurt, sunflower seeds, flax and bananas. I took Aleve for my sore knee, the one problem that had tempered my training for months. Pick up was at NWH Shipley Center with Gayle Olson and PT staff at 5:50 am for a ride to Hopkinton. As we traveled the Mass Pike, the distance we covered was noticeable - three exits to Route 495 felt even longer when it sank in that I would be running this distance…and this was just from NWH - still nine miles away from Copley.
We had four hours to sit at Athlete's Village at Hopkinton High School's football field with 25,000+ marathoners until the 10:30 am start. The time went fast as we chatted among ourselves and ate and drank all the water, Gatorade, bagels, etc. that were available. There were runners from across the country and around the world. A husband-wife-daughter team was in from Spokane for their third marathon this year and fifth time at Boston. This was just a step in their training for an Ironman Triathlon in June...they hardly believed this was my first marathon, especially since I had an air mattress with me like I was a veteran. Another man was running his 52nd marathon and his eight Boston and said Boston is by far the most difficult course and thus his favorite (surprise, surprise).
The starter gun went off at 10:30 am and it probably took 20 minutes to get to the starting line, walking slowly and gradually jogging...we were on our way! The weather was ideal - light sun, cool, in the 50s. After Hopkinton came Ashland with TG's cafe on the left already in full operation with well wishers and music pouring into the street - it was here that someone offered runners the first beer of the day...no takers that I saw. Space began to open up between runners so everyone could pretty much settle into their pace and concentrate on the course, which is straight downhill the first four miles and into Framingham. Hydration (besides Budweiser from neighbors) was available every two miles (water, Gatorade) all along the course, which doubled as a perfect walk break for me as my rudimentary strategy was to run 15 minutes and walk one minute to push my “wall” (complete glycogen depletion) as far into the afternoon as possible.
Mile and kilometer markers kept us on track in our minds (where are we? how far have I run?) and Wellesley seemed to be a signpost as we broke through the halfway point. Wellesley College was a roar of noise with students screaming and waving signs (I'm from California, Kiss me!!) following an all-Korean runner /drum corps. I was really glad to get to Newton-Wellesley Hospital (17 miles), which was my personal longest run to date and where my wife Liz and daughter Lindsey were waiting. It was absolutely great! We took a minute for a photo and it was VERY tempting to not start running again and enjoy what was already an accomplishment. I don't recall who said that we only pass this way once in life, but it hadn't resonated as much as it did that minute. I NEEDED to keep moving into the Newton Hills, the most famous five miles of road in the world for runners. Away I went.
My pace slowed down considerably (a lot, actually) as I plodded up Commonwealth Avenue. My right knee, sore since February, was definitely swollen and I shortened my gait and dug in. Next, I passed my parents and son Eric at mile 19 and up to Boston College where the course and crowd entered a different plane - loud students, more beer offers, even birthday cake. The end was within striking distance and even “Six miles to go” sounded good. The CITGO sign appeared in the distance and somehow took forever to get closer but Kenmore Square finally arrived and there was about a mile remaining. Rounding the corner onto Boylston was the moment of realization that all the training, sore knees and frigid early morning winter runs was worth it. I raised my arms crossing the finish line like thousands before me - I completed the Boston Marathon! Thanks to my wife Liz, my family and all the kind and expert help from Newton-Wellesley Hospital staff for making this possible! See you on the road!