Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Boston Marathon...through the eyes of a support leg

We are being honestly blessed with sunshine and great temps today...not too hot...not too cold...a little different seen from the brutal dry heat that was the 116th Boston Marathon on Monday.

I had been planning on running a few miles with my running buddy Chris, as this would be his second marathon and he was killing his training for it - no seriously, I could barely keep up during his 21 mile training run (and I was only doing 10.5!).  Although I would have loved to be training for this too, it just wasn't in the cards this year, and it is a good thing I wasn't the one slated for the full 26.2, as I had a bachelorette party on the schedule for the weekend of the marathon, and I was going to have less than ideal nutrition and hydration going into this.

This last piece turned out to be a negative for anyone planning on even being outside on Monday, let alone running 10, or 13, or 26.2 miles....you see, I received a frantic call Tuesday morning (after checking the weather Sunday evening and seeing a nice low 60s and cloudy in the 10-day forecast for race day), I barely had a chance to say hi when I hear "did you see the weather report for Monday?", to which I cooly responded, "yeah, I did, it looks like it is going to be close to perfect running weather!" Well, I was wrong and when I checked the information I heard next (high 80's and sunny), my jaw dropped a little, before I remembered that this was still almost a week out, and weather changes all the time....right?

Wrong...the weather advisories started on Friday, as everyone was heading to Boston to pick up their bibs and settle in before the race, Chris forwarded the next one to me, with an even more intense urgency, this time telling those who were running for charity or who were not seasoned runners should think about deferring until the next year's race.  After speaking with Chris, he told me he was going for it, and he had until just before the starting line to make his final decision.

I thoroughly enjoyed my bachelorette plans Friday - Sunday, trying not to think about the onslaught of heat that was to come on Monday.  Sunday and Monday morning were spent trying to re-hydrate, but not over-hydrate,  and trying to get some healthier foods into my system - with the weather predictions, I needed to be physically ready to help Chris, so I wouldn't be another worry to him any more than the situation already would be.

Monday morning I watched the pre-show to the marathon, the announcements and starts of the wheelchair division, elite women, and then elite men.  As the first and second wave of qualified runners started their journey through the already soaring temps (high-80s at the final starts), I started my journey to the halfway point of the race.  I took the commuter rail out to mile 13 (Wellesley Square) and watched in awe as these amazing athletes kept plodding along in front of me - some showing signs of the heat and some looking as if they had just started out!  I actually spotted both Dorothy and SkinnyRunner at the halfway point, both looking strong, despite their internal battles.  It was a sight to behold, and I was happy I had chosen this spot to join in with Chris.

After a couple of hours of watching and waiting, I spotted Chris and jumped in in step with him.  He said the heat was hurting him and he was having a slow race, to which I told him not to worry - everyone was having a slow race, even the Kenyans finished 10 minutes later than they had last year.  I think this brought a brief smile to his face before his determination and focus on the race ahead of him returned.

He told me he had been running until the water stops and then recovering his heart-rate with a fast walk until beginning again - I told him he is lucky the weather is so shitty, or I would have turned into drill-sergeant mode and made him run more.

Mile 15 his calf started cramping and we slowed to a walk.  He told me he didn't think it was a great idea to continue and that he might just stop.  I told him it wasn't a great to start, but he was out here now and he could finish this.  He trained so hard, and I know how bad he wanted that finish line.  We walked for a little bit then would pick up the pace, at the water stops we would walk again for a bit, and then pick up the pace.  He took time to slap the crowd high fives, we took in water at each aide station, and dumped some over our heads, he ran through these incredible human car wash things - as well as hoses and hydrants - to keep cool.  There was barely a cloud in the sky and the sun was just beating on our backs.

We made it to heart-break and kept a brisk walk pace up the devil, we didn't talk a ton (well he didn't, I don't know how to shut up), but there wasn't much to be said - it was hot, really hot - there were runners dropping every mile, it was enough to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

We each took a "shot" of beer from the BC frat guys, we enjoyed popsicles and fruit along the way.  The crowds at BC were insane, I have never seen anything like that - Chris and I ran the fastest we had the whole second half as we slapped hands and cheered back with the crowd.  This feeling alone solidified my need to run this race myself one day.

We ran into a group of friends around mile 23, the same spot I was planning on jumping off the course and into the bar, but I told them I was going to continue on - I could tell Chris needed that, he needed it to keep going, he needed to keep sane.

The walk/jog continued for the next couple miles, but so did the cheers - the closer we got to Fenway, the closer we got to that Citgo sign, the closer we got to the finish - the crowds just got louder, bigger, more intense.  My heart was beating out of my chest from excitement, not exhaustion - the smile on our faces couldn't be replaced.  When we got through the Fenway crowd and past mile 25, to the turn up towards Boylston, Chris turned back on the jets and said this is it - we are running to the finish.  I tried to duck out, but he told me I was coming through with him and that just made the whole 13.4 miles we ran together worth it.  The finisher's shoot of Boston is something unlike anything I had ever experienced - even a few hours after the winners finished, the area was packed...the cheers were roaring...

We finished with huge smiles and walked the half a mile trek to the family area - collecting waters, food, his medal and space blanket along the way.  After meeting up with his wife, mother and mother-in-law and decompressing a little, we wondered into a close bar and finally sat down.  We enjoyed a nice cold Samuel Adams 26.2 (brewed especially for the marathon) and finally breathed in cool air, took in the sights of our bodies, soaking wet with sweat and water, and who knows what else, our legs covered with paper cup debris and salt.

I just keep thinking how proud I am of Chris...of all the runners....no, athletes...that finished on Monday - some with huge PRs, and some just barely crossing the line - but all of them faced the brutality of the heat and conquered it.  This is a marathon for the books, and I am so happy and blessed to have been a part of it...if only as a support leg for a friend.

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Did you watch/run the 116th Boston Marathon? What was your favorite part?

The crowds - never in my life have I experienced the feeling they evoked!

Would you have deferred your entry due to the severe heat and medical warnings?

Honestly, had I had a number - after the training and dedication put into the race, I would have run it

3 comments:

  1. What a great friend Chris has in you!

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  2. Your running experice is wonderful and injoyable.

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  3. this is a GREAT post and im so happy you were there for Chris and helped him push through to an unforgettable finish line feeling :) the crowds at Boston sound so amazing! it really just sounds like a surreal experience :)

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