Very crazy day. We plan for a lot of things that might happen during a race but a DNF due to terrorism is not one of them. Just glad that Kim and I are safe and very sad for those who were killed or injured because of today's senseless act of violence.
I'm writing the rest of this report a few days after the race. Still hard to fathom what happened. This may well end up being my longest race report ever but I want to try and capture as many of my memories as I can while they are still somewhat fresh on my mind. I'll try and include lots of pictures and maybe even some video to help keep anyone that reads this awake :)
Kim and I decided to not read each others reports until they were completely written so it will be interesting to see what stands out in each of our memories.
I'm just so glad I decided to run this with Kim and also that we decided to leave the watch home (literally) and not even worry about pace. Looking at Kim's SGM time and what the race predictor shows for Boston I can see that if I would have paced Kim to run her best time we very likely could have been arriving at the finish line at around the worst possible time.
Just wish I were a better writer so I could properly capture the grandeur of this amazing race, the spectators, and the great people of Boston who treated us so wonderfully.
Where to begin.... so for some reason we booked a red-eye flight Saturday night that left SLC at around midnight and got us to Boston at around 9:30am on Sunday. Maybe not so smart I know but it actually seemed to work well for us as both of us slept better than we ever have the night before a race on Sunday night. Never did feel overly tired or jet-lagged during the whole trip.
Here's a nice picture of us on the plane:
It was nice to finally arrive in Boston!
Once we got settled at the hotel (so thankful they let us check in early!) we headed over to the expo to get our race stuff and start soaking in all the pre-race excitement.
The only bummer thing was that all the medium men's BM jackets were gone and small was a bit too snug so I had to settle for the oversized large. Also in all our excitement somehow we forgot to pick up our race poster :( Now we did see a few folks at the airport that had a whole bunch of extra posters and we almost asked one of them if they would be willing to sell 1 or 2 of them to us but we were not bold enough. So if by chance anyone knows how to snag one of these posters after-the-fact we would really like to get our hands on one.
We then headed down Bolyston street to the finish line area and took a few more pics and chatted with a few other excited runners. At that point the possibility that anyone could blow up a bomb at that location was the absolute furthest thing from anyone's mind.
We eventually made our way to the pre-race pasta dinner. Got there a bit early so we walked around and watched some street dancers and statues. Statue watching usually isn't very exciting but they have some pretty groovy statues in Boston.
While we were in line for the dinner we got talking to an older Chinese gentlemen behind us. Turns out he was kind of a celebrity of sorts. He 70+ years old and always runs barefoot including his BQ marathon which just happened to make him cool enough to show up in Runners World magazine May edition, page 26. Not sure of his full name but his first name is Ty.
Then it was back to the hotel to get all our gear ready for the race and get some sleep! I think we actually got to bed about 9pm which would be like 7pm in Utah. I was worried I would wake up at midnight or something and be up all night but both Kim and I slept soundly clear until the alarm went off around 5:30am.
Got our gear ready, had a quick breakfast (yogurt, granola, banana I think), then hopped on the hotel bus to the Commons to get in the long lines to load the busses to the starting line. We were in line for quite a while maybe an hour but it went by quickly as we had some great chit-chat with the 2 ladies behind us in line. Weather was little chilly still but just about perfect for a 10am race.
The bus-ride to Hopkinton seemed to take forever but we still arrived with plenty time to kill before our wave 3 race start at 10:40. We mostly passed the time doing what any seasoned runner would do which is stand in port-a-potty lines :) Also we found time to grab a marker and give ourselves some temporary tattoos in hopes of garnering lots of personalized cheers from the spectators!
Then before we knew it it was time to make the walk to our corral at the starting line, wait for the horn sound and we were off! Quite the sight to see the road ahead and behind us filled with runners of all sorts creating a rainbow of color all moving in the same direction toward our far-off destination 26.2 miles down the road.
OK so I guess now the actually race report begins!
Miles 1-12: I can't remember any particular memory that stands out during these first dozen miles. Just Kim and I, having a great time, taking it easy and soaking in the whole experience. So fun to go through these smaller towns in this part of Mass and be so warmly received by the towns-folk. There were a few sections of the race with not so many spectators but once you get into these townships the streets were lined with the most enthusiastic spectators you've ever seen.
Also quite a few bands (mostly of the 'rock' variety but also some of the 'brassy' variety) playing along the way. Spent plenty of time giving high & low 5's to the folks lining the street especially when they were 10 years old and under. Just a lot of fun-fun-fun during these miles.
I also ate more stuff during this race than any other race I have ever done. And that's with not having a single GU! So many folks handing out stuff it was hard to say no especially to the kids.
Let's see if I can remember everything I ate along the way..... bananas, oranges, licorice, jolly-ranchers, starbursts, baby-ruth, chocolate-chip cookie, fig newtons and otter pops. There were probably other things that I'm forgetting. I was also offered a hamburger and beer but I resisted :)
Somewhere during this part of the race we ran into these nicely dressed familiar faces. And the great thing is they were cheering for Kim!
Miles 13-16: Much of this is through the town Wellesley and the famous Wellesley College women. For some reason this section of the race is known for being a favorite for the guy runners :)
Here is some video showing the entire stretch of the race past Wellesley College. Yes I did steal a few kisses but only on the hand and cheek and of course with Kim's permission :)
I really enjoyed this section of the race, and not just because of the Wellesley women. I just felt like the crowds of spectators throughout the entire township of Wellesley were amazing and bursting of energy and enthusiasm that transferred to us runners and provided a real boost.
Miles 16-20: During this section of the race we get to deal with the infamous Newton Hills. These are a set of 4 main hills (seemed like there were a couple more than that to me) with the last hill being the one referred to as "Heartbreak Hill". It's not that these hills are really all that nasty, especially compared to what we have in Utah. But it's just that they come at a time of the race when you're prone to hit the wall anyway and the fact that there are multiple hills to deal with can really mess with a runner mentally and physically.
Thankfully since Kim and I were taking it easy with our pacing we didn't have to face any "heartbreak" although during this section I did feel more tired and wanting to be done more than at any other time in the race except for maybe mile 25.
But like everywhere else the spectators were amazing and always kept us going. We made it a point to not walk up any of the hills but save any walking to only while drinking through the water stops. We came across a few more kind spectators who were cheering just for us.
Sorry for getting my finger in the picture Kim!
Also during this time we took some time to think about Kim's brother Kevin who passed away unexpectedly last month. We wanted to dedicate some of this race to him and these miles gave us a good chance to focus on that. We also ran into another Kevin running the race and had a chance to tell him a bit about our Kevin and what an awesome life he lived.
Miles 20-23: I'm not sure who decided to build Boston College at the top of Heartbreak Hill around mile 20, but whoever did it was a GENIUS!
Unfortunately just before this point of the race Kim's phone/camera ran out of battery and died. I suppose all that time we spent taking video at Wellesley used up a lot of juice.
Too bad too because these miles were the high-point of the race for me and I think Kim too and it would be so great to have some pics and video. I gotta admit that although the Wellesley girls at mile 13 seem to get more attention, the boys & girls of BC were the most amazing, enthusiastic, energetic spectators I have ever seen anywhere in my life!
Kim and I found ourselves along the right side of the road being completely drawn up into an incredible running euphoria as we ran by these students. Talk about a MEGA-ENERGY-RUSH!!
Running along and slapping all these kids on the hands and hearing them scream our names along with words of encouragement was truly one of the most incredible running experiences of my life. Is this what it's like to be a rock star! I'm getting big chills and goose bumps as I think and write about it.
Kim and I got so pumped up after this I'm sure miles 20-23 were easily our fastest miles of the race.
Miles 23-25.5: Somewhere around our mile 23 is where the unthinkable happened. As you might imagine by the time we finally figured out what was going on our running euphoria we had picked up at mile 20 came crashing down and turned into running confusion, chaos, and eventually great sadness mixed with anger.
The first clue we got that something was going on was somewhere during mile 23 or 24. We could hear another runner in front of us saying something about "explosions" and "..but I want to finish..." and that's about it. We didn't think too much of it, our first thought was that maybe something was going on with someone in this runner's family at their work or something.
But then we started noticing something a little different with the spectators and with the policemen who were along the course every so often the entire route. Lots of people talking on their phones with concerned looks on their faces. The whole vibe of the race had changed and the atmosphere just felt uneasy.
Then another runner who had been talking on her cell phone told us the news that 2 bombs had gone off near the finish. But at that time her and a few others we talked had been told that the damage was minor and nobody was hurt. So my initial thought was that maybe some prankster had just lit off some M80's or something but nothing serious. But later when we saw a 1/2 dozen or some ambulances go racing down the other side of the street we realized it was a lot worse.
We ran mile 25 with this uneasiness in the air, then 2 or 3 blocks after we had passed the sign that said "1 mile to go" (on Commonwealth Ave. just before Mass. Ave) we could see a lot of runners stopped and looking confused along with spectators and local residents. At this point there was nobody with a bullhorn or otherwise appearing to be in charge telling us what we should do. Obviously the folks that might have been in that position had their hands full dealing with the chaos a few blocks down the road.
So what you had were a few folks who sort of knew what was going on waving their arms and yelling for the runners to stop and letting us know the race was cancelled at that point. About another block away at Mass. Ave. it turns out is where the official police-line began where nobody was being allowed to pass that point.
Very confusing and chaotic for quite a while. Nobody really knew what was going on or what we should do next. Kim's cell phone was dead but it wouldn't have mattered since at that time they had shut down all cell towers in the area to prevent anyone from possibly detonating another bomb using their phone. So even though a few people were offering their phones to us so we could call home to let our families know we were safe, we were unable to contact anyone for quite a while.
Also all the metro trains and buses had been shut down so we couldn't really go anywhere. For probably close to an hour we just kind of wandered around the grassy area located down the middle of Commonwealth Ave. waiting for instructions on what we should all do.
During this time runners kept pouring into the area so soon we probably had a few thousand runners, all at 25.5 miles into the race, tired, hungry, thirsty, and starting to get cold as the clouds had come in and the wind was blowing pretty hard.
Here is a pic showing the area around that time. We didn't take this pic but I pulled it off the web just to help show what things looked like.
Memories that stand out to me during this time include the following.....
As I mentioned it was quite confusing and chaotic at the spot where we had to stop. Many runners had no clue what was going on, and at 25.5 miles into a marathon a lot of times your brain isn't quite working right and all you're focused on is getting to the end so to be abruptly told you have to stop is pretty hard to digest.
One 70+ yr old runner had no idea what was going on and came running toward where we had stopped and was trying to tell people to "get out of the way, don't you know there is a race going on!?". After we explained to him what had happened he just broke down with some of the saddest tears you could ever see. He was so sad that someone would bomb a race and also just sad he had to stop.
Then he explained why he was so sad. He pulled out of his pocket a small bag of ashes and told us they were part of the ashes of his old running buddy who he had run many Boston marathons with. He was carrying a few bags of his ashes and had dedicated the race to him. He had given 1 bag of ashes to the girls at Wellesley College and told them to sprinkle them over the grass of the campus. Then at the top of Heartbreak Hill he had sprinkled another bag of ashes. I think he had done similarly at other spots during the race. The last bag of ashes he had saved to sprinkle at the finish line and he was heartbroken he wouldn't get the chance to do it. But I suspect when things settle down and people are allowed back in that area he'll make his way to the finish line area and finish his task.
The other thing that stands out during this time is when the angels came to help us. By us I mean all the runners who had to stop 1/2 mile from the finish. By angels I mean the unselfish people that lived in that area. As I mentioned earlier we had a large group of exhausted runners, many in dire need of something to drink and many starting to shiver in the cold wind. Kim and I were starting to get pretty thirsty ourselves and had started to shiver. We decided to move towards where the largest grouping of runners were with the idea that it would be warmer where we could all huddle together.
Then out of the nowhere we see a lady walking around handing out trash bags and who promptly gave us each a bag. We were just so grateful to her for doing that, it didn't make us balmy warm but it stopped the shivering and felt like a fur coat at the time. As she ran out of bags and left to find some more, another guy shows up with bottles of water and starts handing them out. He claimed he had stole them from a nearby store, I have no idea where they actually came from but whatever the case we were just so thankful for the hydration.
More and more people who lived in the area kept showing up and bringing more garbage bags, jackets, water, food, etc. Whatever they had handy they stepped in and took care of all of us. These angels gave us whatever they could, with no thought of anything in return and many of them basically gave away all the blankets and jackets they had in their homes.
Just an amazing thing to see all the goodness from the residents of Boston amid the terrible tragedy occurring a few blocks down the street.
After a while the city send a few metro buses over to our area and parked them there for us to sit in and stay warm. Finally someone was able to find a bull-horn and give us some idea what to do. They wanted to take us to a larger open area so people could more easily find their families. We figured out then that we were close enough to our hotel (about 1.5-2 miles away) that we could walk there. And since the area they were going to take us to was further away and we didn't have any family to meet we decided to do it.
Everyone was so nice to us as we made our trek across the bridge over the Charles River and along the riverside to the hotel in Cambridge. Even the 3 or 4 girls from BU who were drunk as skunks and barely able to walk.
Finally made it to the hotel and did what everyone else was doing and sat glued to the TV watching the news and horrific pics and video coverage of the blasts. With much of the city being shutdown and having been told to avoid congregating anywhere in large groups we were all stuck having to eat at the hotel. The hotel wasn't really equipped or staffed for that kind of crowd so it ended up being almost 9pm before we got anything to eat.
A small price to pay really considering all the suffering that was occurring at that time among the victims of the blast and their families. We were glad we had eaten all that stuff during the race it helped tide us over but by 9pm we were pretty hungry and we snarfed down our hamburgers and fries pretty ravenously.
We received an email either late Monday night or Tuesday morning letting us know where we could go to pick up our clothing bags that we had no way to pick up on Monday. So Kim and I headed out in the morning to catch the train (they were running again by that time, other than no stops were allowed at Copley Station nearest ground zero).
Quite the scene as we came up out of the subway onto the street. Media people everywhere especially around the edge of Boston Commons. Also police, swat, National Guard and other law enforcement type personnel everywhere along with armored vehicles.
We made our way to the area where they had our clothing bags and were surprised and happy they also handed us our finisher medals. Lots of media in this area as well and we ended up being interviewed a couple of times, once by some Dutch news outlet and I'm not sure what the other one was.
It was kind of eerie to look down Boylston street and see it pretty much devoid of any people but still untouched in many ways with all the garbage and debris from the race still there. All the other streets outside the ground-zero area had been completely cleaned and showed no sign of the race.
Later that day we were able to do a lot of walking around the city including the Freedom Trail. What a great experience, not just seeing the historic areas of town but seeing the outpouring of love and concern from the Boston residents. We were stopped by so many different people (us marathoners were easy to spot with our blue & yellow BM shirts and jackets) and asked how we were doing and seeing how sad but resolute these bostonians were/are about everything.
So many of the people we talked to were so concerned that everyone outside Boston now has a bad impression of the city and we won't come back again. We let them know how much we loved our experience with the people of the city and how we look forward to coming back - hopefully in 2014!
Finally made it home late Wednesday night. Always good to get home and back to Family.