109th Boston Marathon - April 18, 2005
A Barefoot Marathon Personal Best!
After four years of making the annual
pilgrimage to Boston, I think I can honestly say this is my last year running
the Boston Marathon for a while. Maybe. I said the same thing after my
2nd Boston in 2003 because I finished in what I considered a respectable time of
3:41. The previous year I had ran with a stress fracture in my left tiblial
plateau of my left knee and knew that my lackluster finish in 2002 could be
bettered. I did so in 2003. I qualified again for Boston in December '03 at the
Dallas White Rock Marathon for both '04 and '05. I waited to register for Boston
'04 until February, not knowing if I really wanted to run it again. I should
qualify that last statement, because I did want to run it if I could do it
barefoot. Rather than running over the same old ground (see
Boston 2004 Report), I did run Boston '04 -- but only 21 miles barefoot and
the other five with sandals. I knew, after '04 Boston, I wanted another crack at
it. I knew that I needed to go back and complete the entire distance barefoot,
and in a respectable time.
My Boston qualifying time for Boston 2006 would be a 3:35. I thought, this might be doable since I ran a 3:54 at the Cowtown Marathon in Ft. Worth on February 24, and I had ran a 1:46 in March at the Sedalia Half Marathon. It seemed doable. My second goal was to finish in under 4 hours.
As we waited at Athlete's Village in Hopkinton for the start of the 109th Boston Marathon, it became reminiscent of last year's weather. The temps slowly climbed throughout the morning reaching 74 degrees by race time. The barefoot brigade (myself, Ken Saxton, David Wright, Peter Yee, along with the Orange County runners left the Village about 10:30 a.m. and made our way to Pete's house in Hopkinton (which happened to be right across from our respective corral number 8). Pete owns a couple of the older homes in this fair city that he has turned into offices for his engineering firm. We lounged around inside, watching the start of the wheelchair race and the women elite on TV. Finally, it was time to bid our host good-bye as we went and lined up at about 11:50 a.m. The National Anthem was being sung as we entered the corral and the F-15s did their flyover. Certainly awesome!
We heard the race start at noon and within minutes we were starting our run as we made it to the start line. The fast descent out of Hopkinton is exhilarating! All the excitement of the day is now finding release as we head out. All four barefooters were within sight for the first mile, at least. Then, I lost track of David and Peter. Ken hung with me for a bit and then I lost him also. I continued to run, trying to keep to the middle of the road and the yellow stripe. I had forgotten how rough some of the roads are along the course so I decided to go the way of least resistance and save my feet if the roads became any worse. This was probably some of my best thinking of the day.
The first thirteen or so miles were fairly uneventful. I handed out a bunch of BarefootRunner.Org business cards to kids along the way. The Wellesley girls were as loud as ever. And then came the Newton Hills! Once again, as in past years, the hills took their toll. I slowed to around a 9.5 minute pace and just persevered. I kept looking for Johnny Kelley's statue at the base of Heartbreak Hill, but I later found out it was obscured by a funnel cake vendor and crowds. Oh well!
By the time I started the downhill descent into Boston, the footsies were feeling the last 21 miles. I refused to walk (I ran the entire 26.2 mile distance) and just kept at it. The last 5 miles I just focused on the road ahead and couldn't expend extra energy engaging the crowd. I kept hearing "Barefoot Rick!" and "Hey barefoot guy" but I needed to stay focused on what I was doing. The road was pretty well torn up in places so I needed to watch where I placed my feet. I was relieved to see the Citgo sign at mile 26 but it took a while to get there. Once there, I felt a rejuvenation and started engaging the crowd once again. Turning onto Boylston Street the crowds were thick and supportive. I cruised over the finish line with arms extended! I came in at 3:52:38 chip time! A new barefoot marathon personal best! It was a great feeling!
In a nutshell, Boston is a great event that has given me, for the past four years, a great respect for this time-honored race. However, I feel that I can respectively acquiesce from future Boston Marathons knowing that I tamed the distance and it did not beat me like last year. On another reflection, I believe barefoot marathoning is not for everybody. While I believe everyone can benefit from barefoot running, I believe it takes a special stubbornness and tenacity to finish 26.2 miles barefoot. Or, as others have told me, possibly an unwillingness to concede to the pain.
"Inch by inch it's a cinch .... Mile by mile it's a trial"
Honorable Mention in the Kansas City Star Newspaper!
(Note: Thanks to Jeff Flanagan for including me in his column
and Barefoot Ken Bob for the use of the use of "Shoes? We don't need no stinkin' shoes!")
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