Painful Memories – 108th Boston Marathon, April 19, 2004

 

 

The Boston Marathon is hard in good conditions. The first 13 miles of the course is a deceptively fast downhill journey, the next 7 miles is a series of hills (climaxing with Heartbreak Hill) and the remaining 6.2 is another downhill pounding of the quads to the finish line on Boylston Street. Throw in some high temps and it becomes a test of endurance like no other. Run barefoot on asphalt over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and it becomes a trial by fire – a true test of character (or sanity, depending on perspective.)

 

The 108th Boston Marathon on April 19, 2004 was my third consecutive Boston Marathon and my 19th marathon overall. In 2002, I ran it with a slight stress fracture in my left knee. In 2003, the heat was a factor with temps in the high 70s the majority of the course. This year, the heat was the dominating factor for many not finishing and others (like myself) completing the course with their slowest time ever.

 

The Boston Globe reported on April 20:

 

“More than 1,100 runners suffered dehydration, heart ailments, and other medical problems at the Boston Marathon yesterday in near-record heat, more than twice as many injuries as medical officials have seen in recent years.The temperature reached 85 degrees, the hottest marathon since 1987, when the high was 87.”

 

Although I have been training barefoot since October 2003, most of my running has been through the winter months with cooler surfaces. My initial thought before the race was that the asphalt felt good on my bare feet – that it would be softer and more forgiving since it was heated up. Unlike the scraping that occurred on my soles during winter months, the hot pavement caused swelling rather than abrasion. At times during the race, it was difficult to cool them down.

 

The Race

 

Wearing bib number 8831, I lined up in Corral 8 of 20. It took over 6 minutes after the starting gun to reach the start line. I knew to start off slow because of the deceptive down hill and hot temperatures. My first mile was approximately a 9 minute pace which is where I hoped to stay throughout the race. I began hydrating at every water stop. My bare feet were feeling good through approximately 6 miles, but then I needed to slow it up to a 10.5 minute pace. My feet were getting quite warm and I was feeling some numbing on the balls as I made impact with the asphalt. I continued to slow up to around an 11 minute pace through Wellesley when I came to mile 13. By this time my feet were burning, so I decided to slip on my flip-flop sandals to give my feet a break. At or near mile 18, I met up with Ken Saxton, the only other barefoot runner at the race. I told him I was going to shortly take my sandals off, because it did not seem to matter – my feet were hot regardless. Shortly afterward, I slipped off the sandals and resumed running barefoot. I made it through the Newton Hills and the finale, Heartbreak Hill, continuing on my barefoot run. Every couple of miles I had to sit for a couple minutes to cool off my feet. The swelling had become quite painful on my foot strike, but I was determined to finish barefoot.

 

The final two miles were an adrenaline blur as the crowds are incredibly enthusiastic and supportive. I continued to plod along at an 11 minute pace, crossing the finish line with a net time of 4:48:41.

 

Although this was my slowest marathon ever, it is probably the most satisfying. Only two of us out of over 20,000 runners ran the course barefoot. Although I did not cover the entire distance barefoot, I accomplished 21.2 miles which is my longest barefoot run to date and my first marathon without running shoes.

 

No matter how many road races I run in the future, I will always associate Boston with pain. The irony, however, is that it some of the most satisfying pain I have ever experienced. Pain, of this variety, I may never need to duplicate. The memory should stay with me a long time regarding this most arduous test of will.

 

Stats:

 

Barefoot – Approx. 21.2

Sandals – Approx. 5 miles

 

Bib

Name

Age

M/F

City

State

Country

Ctz

  *  


8831

Roeber, Rick

48

M

Lees Summit

MO

USA

 

 

Checkpoints

5k

10k

15k

20k

Half

25k

30k

35k

40k

0:27:49

0:56:48

1:27:55

2:05:53

2:12:34

2:41:29

3:20:15

3:54:33

4:33:14

Finish

Pace

Projected Time

Official Time

Net Time

Overall

Gender

Division

0:11:01

 

4:54:30

4:48:41

12750

8267

3250

 

 

 

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