Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Boston Marathon, A 26.2 Mile Parade.

The 113th running of the Boston Marathon.

It’s been a while since I’ve traveled. Let’s just say the last time I flew in an airplane I didn’t have to take my shoes off. I was a little stressed about what I could take and what I couldn’t. I wasn’t going to check my race stuff and that’s pretty much all I was bringing. I arrived at the airport at the required 2 hours early and about 4 minutes later I was sitting at the gate wishing I’d packed my laptop. I did upload a bunch of documents to my phone so I had plenty to do.
My flights over to Boston were good. I didn’t get any sleep because of the 2 year old future soccer player sitting behind me. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal but it would plague me all weekend.
The flight back on tired legs sucked and getting delayed in Denver twice made it worse. I’m not an expert flyer but when a plane shows up late and then, after you board, the Capitan says we’re sorry but the maintenance crew can’t certify the plane to fly, it can’t be a good thing. So we get off and wait for another plane to show up. Obviously I eventually made it home but it wasn’t “fun”.
So I made it to Boston. I bought a Charlie Card for the “T”, grabbed a free shuttle bus over to the Blue line train/subway thingy, take that a few stops and transfer to the Orange and jump off that a few stops later. What a great system they have. I climb out of the subway and walk about a ¼ mile to the YWCA. It’s a nice clean friendly place that’s super close to the Finish line and really cheap. They let me check in even though it’s only 10 am. I try to catch a nap but I was too tired and too wired for that so a grab a snack and head over to the expo. It was a little chilly and breezy but perfect weather for running. I knew where I was going, I like to be prepared, but I didn’t have to. All I had to do is follow the source of the hundred’s of runners carrying bright yellow race bags.
My impression of the expo was that it was smaller than I thought it would be but way way busier. There were about 36-40 Adidas (a main sponsor) cash registers going non-stop selling race gear with long lines from open until close the entire time of the expo. There were hundreds of other typical expo booths that were all rather busy also and all the walk ways were jammed with people. I think if things were spread out more it would be better for both sellers and buyers.
Of course I made it over to the Brooks Booth because everyone knows they make the best running shoes in the world. They had a tent set up where brothers Karl and Carl were doing a live show every hour. It was funny, they truly are super fans.

After getting my picture taken with my race number and filling up on samples I headed back to my plush private suite at the Y. Ok it was more like a dorm room but it was nice. I tried to nap again and I think I actually fell asleep for a few minutes but it was the middle of the day and I didn’t want to be up all night so I grabbed my camera and headed out to take pictures of the finish line, pasta man, etc. I seemed to run into somebody I knew every few minutes, mostly Maniacs because there were a lot of us there.
After a spicy chicken pizza, I went to bed early and tried to catch up on my sleep but only slept a couple hours at a time.
Sunday I relaxed and did some sight seeing. I watched the milers fly around the block 3 times.

I’m surprised any of my pictures came out they were going by so fast. I eventually got on the “T” and made it over to the pasta feed, another long line, but they had free beer. That’s a great way to get in some Carbs. The dinner was actually pretty good.
Race day
I got up not completely rested after going to bed early but waking up a few too many times in the middle of the night. I guess I was over hydrated. I left for the buses just before 6 and after a very long ride in a school bus I made it to a chilly breezy Athlete’s Village. The Village was huge and there were runners everywhere. First thing I did was use the porta-potty with no line because I knew they would get busy later and they did.
After sitting, standing, laying down, walking around forever,

and having my picture taken a couple dozen times I headed over to the start. About half way there I heard the start of the Women’s Elite race and I cheered out for the fastest person I knew from Washington, Go Devon! I figured I’d see her on TV when I got home.
My corral 7000-7999 was already full when I got there so I had to shove in with a hundred other late comers. The race hadn’t even started and there was already about 7500 people in front of me. The start of the race eventually came … and went … and nobody moved. A few moments went by and we started walking, and then stopped, and walked 10 more feet and stopped again. This went one for about 5 minutes until just before the actual starting line when we broke into a jog. It was the first time I’d run in a few days and it was good to be finally running Boston. I wasn’t sure my hips were recovered from the camber of Yakima but I would find out in a few miles. I had 2 pace charts on my wrist. One was what I knew I could beat and the other was one I knew I could run but maybe not today. They were 3:08 and 3:14. I found a spread sheet online that was made for Boston. It had me running a 7:35 first mile even though it’s the steepest downhill of the course, from there it dropped down quickly and in the 3rd mile I should be running at a 6:55 pace. Hmm that didn’t happen.
Over the length of the first mile the pace slowly increased but still too slow for my liking. I tried to be smart and run straight ahead. I wanted to weave and sprint my way out of this pack I was in but the pack never ended. On the downhill’s I could see a two lane hwy snaking off into the distance jam packed with runners for as far as the eye could see. The first mile was over 7:40 but they got progressive faster (except mile five when I stopped to pee) until mile 6. 6 was my fastest mile at 7:04, and from there the times varied by terrain. My slowest mile was in the Newton Hills where I had 2 miles at the crawl of 8:00 per mile but I was still passing people.
Somewhere around mile 10 I was running next to someone (as I was passing them) and I commented that this wasn’t the Boston Marathon; it was the Boston 26.2 Mile Parade! That has stuck with me and I have repeated it a dozen times.
Many people told me before the race it’s about making it there, it’s about the experience, just enjoy the ride, don’t try to PR, it not a fast course. That mentality perpetuates itself and you end up with most of the 26,000 runners out there with their head in the clouds jogging along at no where near the pace they ran to qualify for the race.
I never gave in to the will of the other runners. I stayed true to myself and ran the race my way. I passed about 3000 (give or take 500) runners, but I never let it frustrate me. It’s always fun to pass somebody, right. I knew I was off pace but I gave it my best. Even though I wasn’t weaving around, passing does take more energy than running a steady pace. I think I fueled well, maybe could have had one more gel near the end. I did break into a jog for about a half a minute once I turned into the home stretch on Boylston Street just to soak in the crowd a little longer then back to pushing the pace.
And no I didn’t stop to kiss any girls or drink any beer along the way. The crowds were great, I wasn’t sure I’d like them or not, but I did. It was loud but not as loud as I thought it would be. I’m happy with my 20 second PR and I’m glad I had the chance to go. The wind and “weaving” definitely slowed me down but that’s ok. Will I ever go back, probably not. It’s too long and too far away from the family to do for a second time. Maybe when I’m old and grey and just want to go for a 26.2 mile parade.


Journey to a Centum said...

I'm glad you had the opportunity to make the trip and experience this grand old race. You've got Boston in the bag and a new PB to boot! Not too many runners get a PB on that course. It's always been a slow race for me but I'll blame the heat on 2004 and 2005.

Backofpack said...

Sounds like a fun trip and a whirlwind trip too! I bet it's hard to get on a plane right after the run. Glad to hear the Y was a good pick too. I just love the city on race weekend - so cool. You need to go back once more and take Jen - she'd love it!

Colin Hayes said...

Parade or not, sounds like an experience every distance runner should have. Thanks for the report. Good luck w/the Rock-n-Roll!

shawn said...

Super impressed that you ran a PR despite the crowds. Very cool. So, do tell, was Heartbreak Hill difficult or no big thang?

What's up with macaroni dude?

King Arthur said...

The hills were nothing. Sure they slowed me down a lot because I was pushing a hard pace but all 4 Newton hills added together were about the same as the last Yakima hill.

That's Brian Sell, he's a Brooks sponsored athlete and Olympic marathoner, he took 14th place at Boston.

Laura H said...

Nice job - sounds like the travel arrangements worked well and you made the flight on time. Eric's right - not everyone PRs at that race. Way to stay true to your race! And you do need to go again and take Jen!

Steve S said...

A PR with the wind, crowds, and it's not considered a fast course, excellent. I agree, it's a long way to go for a parade, but nice to do at least once, I felt that way about Marine Corps.

Tony C. said...

Nice post and race Arthur! Yeah, you pretty much took that 0.01% chance I ever had of going to Boston and made it an even 0.00%. I would go batty with the parade.

This is why I run low key ultras.

Hope you had a good day at Cap Peak!


Maniacles said...

Aloha Arthur! It was nice to finally meet you. I loved the whole experience of Boston...from the expo to the Scream Tunnel, Fenway at Kenmore Square, the final turn onto Boylston and even the weather. Glad we had a chance to hangout.