Monday, April 21

Report from Boston

The crappy wireless network here at the hotel has now eaten this post twice, so hopefully the third time will be the charm.

Long story short: I haven't posted around here much because I've been running and running and running. The reason was because that today I joined about 25,000 other people for the 112th Boston Marathon. They say that it's an experience unlike any other marathon. And they're right...from the 8-deep crowds on a hillside at the start in Hopkinton, to the enthusiastic cheering students at Wellesley College near halfway, to the cheering masses in downtown Boston, it's a memorable race. And the fact that it's one of the most celebrated, historic marathons in the world is the gravy on top.

I'd put it out there that I was shooting for a goal of 3 hours, and from the early running things looked good. The day started utterly ideal for marathon running - cloudy/foggy, mid-40s, light winds. The sun burned off the clouds right before the start, but it was still fairly pleasant. I cruised through the first half in just under 1:29 (2:58 marathon pace), and felt great - I was barely even breathing hard.

From mile 16 to 21 is a series of hills that keep Boston from being considered a "fast" course, even if it is a net downhill drop overall. These of course culminate in the infamous Heartbreak Hill near mile 20-21. None of the hills, including Heartbreak, are particularly steep, but they are a grind, coming as they do later in the marathon when you're already getting tired, and some of them are fairly long (Heartbreak Hill drags out for a good half-mile or more).

All around me runners started to slow to a walk or even stop completely and massage tired legs, but I was more than a little happy to find that I had the strength to charge up all of them without slowing down (beyond the normal slowing to climb), including Heartbreak Hill. Just over the top of Heartbreak is a downhill that takes you back down pretty much all the elevation you've climbed, maybe even more. And I put it on cruise control and zoomed down the hill, passing runners right and left. I was still on sub-3-hour pace, and I had maybe 4-5 miles left to go.

The course turned right and leveled off, and it was at about this point that my quads decided to check out for the day, seizing up like a rusty car engine. My quads twitched and spasmed, and it became a battle to move forward at anything faster than a walk. It's no exaggeration to say that miles 22-26.2 were some of the toughest running I've ever done in any race anywhere. In a way, it was a silver lining that this happened in Boston, where I could no sooner begin to falter than the crowd several deep on the sidewalk would urge me to get it back in gear.

My three-hour goal disappeared pretty quickly, but I still considered it a victory of sorts that I was able to gut out a 3:12:37 finish (and had I not somehow managed to actually run 26.45 miles I probably could've gotten the magic 3:10:59 re-qualifying time). And it's hard to be too disappointed at managing to run 22 miles of sub-3-hour-pace marathoning.

I have no doubt that some day I'll cross the 3-hour threshhold, but it wasn't meant to be today. In the meantime, I have a bit of unfinished business with the Boston Marathon. Hopefully I'll be back next year - perhaps sharing a room with rslight or bl?


Blogger bl said...

congrats again.

if all goes well, you know, i'll be out of the country this time next year but rslight is making strong progress.

and who knows what the future holds?

definitely an inspirational story.

hopefully i'll get there at some point.

April 22, 2008 1:24 AM  
Blogger rslight said...

I also wanted to congratulate you on finishing Boston. That's an awesome achievement you can always be proud of.
I'll have to actually look at the results now and see if you outran Lance Armstrong and/or Mike Huckabee.

April 23, 2008 8:53 AM  
Blogger Jim Evans said...

Good job.
I noticed that at 30K you were still on a 21:20 per 5K pace.
I guess it isn't just us mortals that "hit the wall" sometimes.

April 23, 2008 4:36 PM  

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