Mon, Apr 21/14
Marathon # 371
This was supposed to be my last race report? Due to health reasons most readers knew that this race would be marathon # 371, my 8th and final Boston and my final marathon! Well 2 out of 3 ain’t bad!
So I changed my story to “this would be my 8th & final Boston & my final ‘domestic’ marathon”. I have run the Boston Marathon seven times before and when I am undoubtedly asked “what is your favorite marathon” I always answer “Boston”. I like the mystique and tradition of Boston and it is one of the few marathons in the world that a runner must qualify to run. Out of my previous seven Boston Marathons there are a few that are memorable and I want to reminisce about:
I had just run my 1st sub 3-hr marathon to qualify and my goal was to break 3 hrs at Boston. I was on pace at 24 miles to narrowly break 3 hrs. When I passed the CITGO sign at mile 25 my pace started to slow and as I neared the turn on to Hereford St I was afraid that I would not break 3 hrs? Worse- I might finish in 3:00 and a few seconds and I would be very mad at myself. So I deliberately slowed my pace and cruised across the finish line in 3:01:51. Later I realized that if I had only sucked it up, ignored the pain and pushed to the finish line I would most certainly have broken 3 hrs. I vowed that I would never ‘give up’ again in a race. It was a valuable but painful lesson – and the only chance I ever had to break 3 hrs at Boston!
2) My 5th Boston in 1996. My 100th marathon & 100th Anniversary of Boston. My funnest Boston.
Runners knew that this would be a special Boston – a 26.2 mile party. And it was! I decided not to worry about time or goals – except to join the party along with 38,000 runners, the largest Boston field in history. The runners and spectators were joyous and it was the most fun I ever enjoyed in a marathon.
Since I would turn 60 a few weeks before the race and I was still running close to 3 hrs I figured this was my best chance to win a coveted AG award at Boston. I trained hard and seriously for this goal. I was running mile repeats @ 6:30 pace and bridge repeats @ 6:45 pace and I felt confident. Three weeks before the race while running a final speed work on a track I tore my left hamstring – my dream was shattered in one short moment. With aggressive physical therapy and meds I was able to go to Boston and ‘jog’ the race in 3:58:06. I promised myself that if I was still running at age 70 I would try a 2nd time to achieve my dream.
I had no intention to run Boston this year until a good friend, Frank Ouseley, aka ‘the Mad Monk had quadruple bypass surgery and then declared that his wish/dream was to run Boston only nine months after the surgery. I helped Frank qualify for Boston and volunteered to accompany him to Boston and guarantee that he cross the finish line. We did well for the first 10 miles but Frank had trouble starting at 16 miles and wanted to quit. I had to play serious mind games with him to coax him to continue. After walking through the hills at Newton I once again had to play serious mind games to coax him to ‘jog’ the final 5K so we could finish under the time limit and collect our finisher’s medals. I was very proud of Frank and his courage and determination to run – and FINISH - Boston under such difficult circumstances.
So now we return to the present and Maddog is returning to Boston also with heart issues but not even close to what the Mad Monk experienced and overcame. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep my promise made 10 years ago. There would be no competing for AG awards in my 7th decade. I had to accept and be happy with the fact that I was still running and able to enjoy what would be another memorable Boston due to the unfortunate events that happened last year. I didn’t expect the mood to be joyous or festive like it was in 1996 but I did expect the 2nd largest running field in Boston history to be united and determined to show that a couple of crazy/fanatical terrorists could not intimidate or deter runners from enjoying their passion. All 36,000 runners would be BOSTON STRONG!
I arrived in Boston on Sat afternoon and after checking into a hotel in Cambridge I made my way over to the Expo. It was a zoo! Actually bib pick-up was smooth and easy but trying to get into and around the expo was difficult. I have never purchased any Boston memorabilia in all my previous races but since this would be my final Boston I decided to treat myself and buy a T-shirt and a Boston Marathon jacket. After squeezing my way through exhibits for about an hour I met a friend at a designated spot. Malcolm is writing Maddog’s marathon book. He explained that he was having problems with the size of the book. Each marathon/country needed about 4 pages and there are (will be) 121 countries. Nobody is going to read that many pages! We decided to focus on a specific number of Maddog’s goals and include a specific number of Maddog’s most memorable races.
My hotel was located in Cambridge and there are not a lot of restaurants or shops in that area and few of them are open on Patriot’s weekend. Rather than mess with the subway I decided to skip my traditional Chinese/rice dinner and enjoyed a nice seafood dinner at a Legal Seafood restaurant near the hotel. But I did order rice with my delicious seafood casserole.
On Sun I had arranged to meet a new member of the Country Club for lunch. After a few minutes discussion we realized we had met and spent a lot of time together in the past but didn’t remember it? Jeurgen and his wife (from Germany) were on the same ship as Nicole and I when we ran the Antarctica Marathon in 1997. We will meet again in Kosovo in May.
Mon (Patriot’s Day) was M-day! This year, because of the large field (36,000) of runners, there were 4 waves of runners with 9 corrals in each wave. I was seeded in the 3rd wave and 7th corral. The 3rd wave started at 11 am – 1hr after the start of the elite men. Runners in the 3rd wave had to board a bus in Boston Commons by 8:30 am for the Athlete’s Village in Hopkinton which is the typical time frame that runners have to begin their odyssey to the start line. I had watched weather forecasts closely since it can be very cold waiting in the Athlete’s Village. With extra security measures in place this year it was not possible for runners to take bags to the start area so I visited a Goodwill store at home to purchase several layers of throw-away clothes to wear before proceeding to the start line. They came in handy since the temps were in the high 30s when we arrived at the Athlete’s Village. However I had discarded all the warm-up clothes before moving to the start corral. But I was glad I had them while waiting in line for more than 30 minutes to use a port-o-potty (they did not have enough for 36,000 runners?).
The 3rd wave was instructed to make their way to the start corrals at 10:30 am. We barely made it into our corrals when they started the 3rd wave at 11:00 am. It took 6 minutes for me to reach the start line where I started my watch and began the race. As most runners who have run Boston know the 1st few miles are downhill and you can see runners ahead of you for at least 1 mile. I remembered to run my pace and not get sucked in by the pack but I still passed mile 3 in 30:06 and a split of 10:48. I stopped on the top of a hill at mile 7 (1:15:03 and a split of 10:19) to take a photo of the pack chasing me. I passed mile 10 in 1:46:23 and a split of 10:28 – I was running faster than expected. Runners were serious but joyful and we were inspired by a record 1,000,000 spectators that lined the entire 26.2 miles of the course who were jubilant and noisy. It was the best crowd I have ever experienced at a race!
As I passed mile 12 in 2:07:43 and a split of 10:41 I could hear the ‘Wellesley tunnel’ ahead. My only disappointment with the race was that they had limited the Wellesley coeds to only the college side of the road whereas the coeds used to form a tunnel and narrow the road down to single or double file for runners. The noise this year was not near as deafening (or thrilling). However the coeds did their best and still held signs up asking for kisses. I almost stopped for a cute coed whose sign said “kiss me – I’m from Florida” but I would have had to cut off other runners to reach her. So I stopped and took a photo of the Wellesley tunnel. I passed the Half in 2:20:36 and I was feeling good. I was way ahead of my predicted pace but figured the 2nd half would be slower because of the hills.
When I passed mile 16 in 2:51:21 and a split of 10:41 I figured that if I ran the final 10 miles at a 12:00 pace I could break 5 hrs so that became my goal. When I helped Frank complete his dream in 2005 I had noted after the marathon that it was the 1st time I ever “saw the course”. In previous years I had been too focused on competing to actually see the course. As I continued at an easy and smooth pace I think I noticed hills that I had never noticed before? I passed mile 20 in 3:36:52 and a split of 10:55 and started up Heartbreak Hill. I always thought it was much tougher and steeper? Half-way up the hill my right calf started to tighten and I became concerned about cramping. I refused to walk until I crested the hill in 3:49:35 and a split of 12:42 (my slowest split of the race). At that point I could tell that the calf was on the verge of cramping and locking up so I wisely stopped and stretched the leg and walked for a short distance to let the muscle relax. I hoped that preventative action would get me to the finish line without cramping?
However as I passed mile 24 in 4:24:00 and a split of 11:43 the calf started to cramp and I was forced to stop and stretch again. I knew that a sub 5-hr race was in the bag if I could prevent the calf from cramping. When I passed the CITGO sign at mile 25 in 4:39:17 the calf started to tighten again but this time I decided to ignore it and just slow my pace down a little and try to get to the finish line. Thankfully I held off the cramp and crossed the finish line in 4:51:41. Needless to say I was very HAPPY to finish my final Boston and final ‘domestic’ marathon under 5 hrs!
After a long hot soak back at the hotel I decided to attend the Mile 27 party hosted by Sam Adams at a pub near Fenway Park. Bad mistake! The subway was packed. Every restaurant and pub near Fenway was packed and noisy and the line to get into the party was over two blocks long! I turned around and went back to the area near the Hynes Convention Center where I had noticed lots of pubs and restaurants. Another bad mistake! Everything was packed and noisy. I returned to my hotel in quiet Cambridge and enjoyed a snack of greasy food and fries before going to bed. I had been looking forward to a delicious meal to celebrate my success.
I am back home and trying to restart my training program for my final marathon and country. As I mentioned at the start of the report a ‘one of’ opportunity came up. I completed a marathon in every country in Europe in Oct 2005 but then Kosovo declared independence in 2008. I have been trying for the past six years to find or organize a marathon in Kosovo. A few months ago I managed to contact an American expat living in Kosovo who volunteered to help me organize the ‘first-ever’ marathon in Kosovo. She is returning to the USA in June so it was organize a race in May or lose the opportunity ‘forever’?
Fortunately ten members of the Country Club were able to arrange/change their schedules to join me. We will have about 20 runners for the marathon and once again I will re-establish my World Record of completing a marathon in every country in Europe.