I've procrastinated completing this report, because I wanted extra time to process the weekend.
After hurting my knee, and missing three weeks worth of training in early March, I knew I couldn't race this marathon. Leading up to the injury, I hadn't done anything special in my training, so honestly, I was a little bit glad for the excuse to let up and come into this marathon without the weight of my own expectations, a challenging time goal, or anything else I normally associate with running and being competitive.
Fortunately, the injury was pretty minor, and I was able to resume training a couple weeks later. But in no way was I ready to even sniff requalifying, or come within 10 minutes of that.
The nice thing about this race was spending the weekend with one of my best friends over the last 25 years, Nate. We were mission companions twice, and have remained in contact, even while he has jet-setted and lived around the country and world in the intervening years. 2 years ago, he moved to Springville, so we've been able to renew a regular association, running together at TOU in 2011, Ogden in 2013 and Huntsville in 2013. He's a fiesty, full ironman, but due to injury, he was only able to run around 100 miles in preparation for Boston 2015.
So neither one of us was in a position to kill it this year. But even with all that in the background, it's still the Boston Marathon. I wanted to show somewhat well, and respect what this marathon is all about.
We ended up missing our wave, which was probably a blessing. Wave three went out at a perfect starting pace for me; shooting for a 3:30 or below. The first mile was the slowest; I stopped to wait for Nate while he found an impromptu portapotty in the bushes.
8:19, 7:28, 7:28, 7:15, 7:44, 7:46
Off to a reasonable start for the first 10k. The rain and wind were steadily intermittent. I wore a shirt, long sleeve shirt, jacket and cap. My shorts were soaked. The jacket was mostly water resistant, but not terribly breathable, but definitely worth the $60 at the expo the day before. At stages during the race, I took off the cap and wrung it out. There was standing water on the roads. I could avoid the puddles at the risk of tripping other runners. I could not avoid others splashing through said puddles. Only a few miles into the race, my feet were completely soaked.
The next section went smooth as butter.
7:43, 7:45, 7:47, 7:40, 7:46, 7:41, 7:48: Half marathon split: 1:42
I ran most of this period with a woman named Melody from Florida. She was deliberately starting slow, trying to pick it up for a fast finish and make in around 3:20. She held on to the 7:45ish pace for the whole race. After Wellsley, I lost sight of her. I didn't have enough giddy-up.
By the half, I was getting pretty depleted. I ate lots of oranges people were passing out, but neglected self-provided nutrition. I accidentally threw away a clif bar; I left it in the pocket of the DI sweats I left at the start. I think the lack of calories contributed to my slowdown in the second half, but mostly I ran as well as I trained.
7:51, 8:07, 7:52, 8:20, 8:32, 8:10, 8:29, 8:52
Those splits are the hilly section of the course. 8:52 during Heartbreak Hill. There were plenty of excuses to walk, and plenty of examples, but I kept going. I paused to choke down a gel at 17, but that was the only break I took (other than the mile 1 waiting). I think I got passed by thousands of people in the last half of the marathon. It wasn't demoralizing at all, though. I was inspired by all these examples of good pacing, of mental toughness, of preparation meeting opportunity, despite the lousy conditions. One thing I'm proud of is, nobody passed me today because I was walking.
After cresting Heartbreak, 3:30 was still in reach, but the cold and lack of calories caught up to me. I couldn't work the downhill, and strangely, couldn't feel my left leg from about mile 17 on. The crowd was a huge boost for the entire course, but especially at the top of the hills, Boston College, and Beacon Street. IT. WAS. DEAFENING. No iPod for me; I was carried, and at times, annoyed by the noise. I found myself weaving to the less populated side of the street to get away from the screaming.
8:13, 8:31, 8:37, 8:41, 8:58, and the rest.
At mile 25.5, my erstwhile knee threatened outright mutiny. Luckily, the threats were idle. I slowed my pace a bit, and managed to cross the line. It felt very good to stop running. I was very tempted to find my way to the medical tent and some warm blankets, or even a warm IV, but I wasn't that bad. The 2 mile walk back to Boston Common and dry clothes took an eternity. My legs were locked up, joined shortly thereafter by my jaw, from all the teeth chattering. I finally got dry tops on, and made it to the hotel bus, but it wasn't until I spent 20 minutes in the hottest water shower and tub possible, that I felt warm for the first time in 5 hours.
Nate finished at 4:03. We spent the evening feeling sick, eating pizza, and watching the NBA playoffs.
Flights were in the afternoon on Tuesday. After checking out, we drove to Concord, and wandered unsteadily around Walden pond, discussing family, life, and its vicissitudes. Because of threatening skies, we were 2 of 7 people there. The serenity of the pond was a stark contrast to the concrete, metal and tile of Logan Airport. We flew separately to NYC, then he connected to Florida, and I came home.
Each time I've been to Boston I've visited Walden pond. There is a subtle synchrony between the marathon and that thoughtful place. When you get to the cabin site, there is a brown wooden sign that says,
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
On some level, that's why I run. On a long, challenging run, one pares life down to the bare essentials. And sometimes, in those spare, barren moments, alone in Farmington Canyon, or on Beacon Street, surrounded by thousands of screaming people, I learn some of what running has to teach. And feel acutely ALIVE.