Apr 18 2006

My Experience At The Boston Marathon

I ran in the Boston Marathon on Monday.  I was an official entrant – #20778.  I did not time qualify – instead I ran in the charity program for the Michael Lisnow Respite Center.  Several of my friends made financial contributions as did Amy and I.  This “disclaimer” is an “asterisk” for those of you out there who don’t feel that those of us that run for charity are “official runners” in the Boston Marathon.

With that disclaimer out of the way, I had an amazing time.  In my quest to run a marathon in every state by the time I’m 50, Boston was the seventh marathon that I’ve run and the third in the past six months.  I’m beat and have decided to take the summer off to recover fully, train, get a deeper base (my base is currently 30 miles / week – I want to get it up to 50 miles / week), drop some more weight, and get mentally psyched up for the next one.  Of course, knowing me, I might just sneak one in this summer.

I treked out to Hopkinton the night before with my friend Ilana to spend the night at her friend’s the Gould’s.  I feasted on Annie’s Mac and Cheese and waffles (Ilana’s pre-meal dinner), watched the West Wing, and then went to bed early.  The Gould’s house was comfortable and quiet (thanks Hunter) – I got a solid night’s sleep and was up around 9am.  The marathon didn’t start until noon (and I was in the second wave that didn’t start until 12:30) so I had a nice leisurely morning.

Cathy took us to the Hopkinton State Park where we grabbed an old yellow school bus to the starting line.  The race was extremely well organized – all of the charity runners were in the back of the second wave so we started behind everyone that had qualified by time.  I crossed the starting line around 12:45.

The day was perfect – 50 degrees and cloudy.  The sun broke through occasionally, but there was a cool breeze so it never became uncomfortable. 20,000 runners is a lot – there was a solid wall of people in front of me making their way down the two lane road through Hopkinton and Ashland before finally opening up a little bit at Framingham.  Everyone talks about the downhill start of Boston – it’s more like a hard downhill followed by five miles of rolling hills with a net elevation loss of about 400 feet.

I’m slow to warm up on my long runs – I usually start feeling good at six miles.  Unfortunately, I fell into the trap that so many do at the Boston Marathon and went out about a mile a minute faster than I expected for the first 10k.  When I hit the Framingham train station, I felt tight and uncomfortable and forced myself to slow down for a few miles.  The second 10k is always the best for me and I cruised through to the halfway point.  The Women of Wellesley lived up to their billing and made Amy (my wife the Wellesley College alum) proud.  I couldn’t help but speed up as I high fived 1000 or so screaming / cheering women. 

The third 10k is my toughest – I end up in a lonely zone no matter how well trained I am.  I was catching up on Coverville episodes on my iPod Shuffle when Show 190: The Covered Side of the Moon started.  As I hit a good groove, a young kid (probably about 5) jumped out on the course with a hand full of pretzels at exactly the right time.  The combination of the pretzels and strange versions of Dark Side of the Moon got me to the base of the Newton Hills.

I’m not sure what got me to the top of Heartbreak Hill.  I don’t really remember it.  I do remember seeing Art Mellor of the Accelerated Cure Project for MS and I’m sure I surprised him when I stopped and gave him a big hug.

There was one more nasty hill after Heartbreak around Cleveland Circle.  The words that went through my head are not safe for PG-rated blog posts (thankfully this one isn’t PG rated – but I’ll spare you what went through my brain.)

Around mile 23 I saw the famed Citgo sign (which Amy and I lived under for three years when we lived on Bay State Road near Kenmore Square.)  I looked up five minutes later and it was still out there in the distance somewhere.  At this point my brain was mush, the people on Comm Ave were an abstraction of human life forms, and their cheers were like wind at my back, and the Citgo sign didn’t seem like it was getting any closer.

I eventually passed the Citgo sign.  As I went under Mass Ave and then turned onto Hereford I felt a seventeenth wind and kicked it around the turn on Boylston Street and the last 200 yards across the finish line.  Official time – 5:07:40.  Given that I ran Miami on 1/29/06 in 5:00:53 and never feel like I really recovered, I’m very pleased. 

Congrats to everyone that finished, including many friends like John Greff (Sequel VC partner – 3:42), Tom Mullen (frat brother – 3:15), Lon Sunshine (frat brother – 3:40), Sue Burke (Amy’s tennis coach – 5:41 – running for Multiple Sclerosis), and of course – my marathon buddy Ilana Katz (Feld Technologies employee #7 – 4:15 – running for Liver Cancer.)  Oh – any everyone else!

The Boston Marathon is an incredible experience.  I’m proud to have been part of the 110th running, and am honored to have been able to run for the Michael Lisnow Respite Center – thanks Nick and Shana for your initial sponsorship.