A Bittersweet Day in Boston

Many would regard running as a solitary sport. Those of us who run distance know of all the hours that it takes to prepare for a marathon. There are mornings and evenings running on deserted paths where there are few people and less conversation, because most of our training is done solo. The Internet has created a vehicle that allows many runners a place to share their experiences and training, their successes and their failures. I found a cyber-forum such as this nearly a year ago. Since then, I have connected with many people of like interest in distance running. I met up with several of them last week in Boston as we prepared to run the 106th Boston Marathon.

On Sunday evening April 14, my wife Rebecca and I met the online runners group at Milano’s Restaurant on Boylston Street, just down the way from the marathon finishing line. It was great to put a face with an email. After a couple of hours of carbo-loading on pasta and linguini, we called it a night and retired to our respective hotels for the next day’s big event.

The next morning at 7:30 a.m., 17,000 of us loaded into school buses for the trip to Hopkinton, Mass. Upon arrival, we were directed into a large high school athletic field to await the noon race start. Several of us sat around and passed the time talking about our expectations for the race. Back in January, I developed a stress fracture in my left knee. Realistically, I was only hoping to finish with a respectable time since my training had not been up to snuff. I knew my qualifying time that I achieved last year to run in Boston (3 hours and 15 minutes) was not within my ability because of my knee. I just wanted to get through the course without walking.

At about 11 a.m. they directed us into one of the 17 "corrals", with approximately 1,000 runners per corral. The lower your bib number, the better the qualifying time, which allowed a runner to be in one of the first corrals. My bib number was 6245, which placed me in the 6th corral.

The gun went off at exactly noon, and we were off. It took me nearly 4 minutes to cross the start line. With every step, I felt pressure in my left knee, but it was low-grade pain so I kicked it up to an 8 mph pace. Boston is a deceptive course, because the first 15 or so miles are basically a downhill grade. After a few miles, the constant pounding was starting to take a toll on my legs. I had to slow it down to a 9 mph pace as I entered the township of Wellesley. Of all the townships that we passed, this was the most exciting. Wellesley is the home of Wellesley College, an all womens school. For over a mile through the town, the roar was deafening as the girls lined the street to cheer on the runners. It was quite awesome!

After Wellesley came the Newton Hills. By now, I had been pounding my quads to the extent that up hills were a relief. After 4 or 5 hills, however, my body was taking the toll. The picture included shows me cresting Heartbreak Hill, the last hill before the 4 mile descent into Boston.

The last few miles were kind of a blur. I do remember becoming re-energized when I entered Boston proper. The crowds were 20 deep and quite loud. It was a welcome sight to turn onto Boylston Street and to see the finish line up ahead. I crossed the mat at 3:59:47. That was the gun time. The computer chip time was 3:55:57.

All in all it was a wonderful experience. Although I did not run as well as I would have liked to, the camaraderie and the elation of running the entire course made it a weekend I will never forget.

Click here for an article about my Boston Marathon experience from the Lee's Summit Journal 1

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