"The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people."
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Boston Marathon was NOT silent!
I never aspired to run the Boston Marathon. It wasn't a goal of mine. I never trained for it, planning and hoping for a BQ. It's not because I lacked an interest in Boston, it was because I lacked an interest in ALL road races. Boston wasn't in my blood because I'm a trail runner and I didn't belong in that community.
After the tragedy unfolded at the finish line in 2013, I gained a new perspective that shattered my earlier perceptions about the Boston Marathon and the differences in our respective running communities. The bombings reminded me that we're all runners and we all have a binding connection in this sport, without regard to distance or running surface.
Like runners all over the globe, I ached for the victims of the 2013 bombings. That singular event changed history and brought the entire running community together in a way that has never been seen before.
I chose to line up at the 2014 Boston Marathon so I could show my support and respect for the victims, the sport and the amazing city of Boston.
Lots of Security at the 2014 Boston Marathon
Several months prior to registering for the Boston Marathon, I had the good fortune of meeting Pat Canonica while I was working the mile 28 aid station at the Wasatch 100. Pat and I got talking when he passed through my aid station and I was getting him fed and hydrated. Through this brief encounter on the side of the mountain, Jo and I received an invitation to stay in his home during the Boston Marathon, and also to take advantage of the first class transportation they arrange to the start line and from the finish line. They also put on a huge pasta party at Pat's house on race weekend. It seemed like Fate!
I kept in mind that ultra runners have a tendency to say all kinds of crazy things during races, so it was hard to measure the level of sincerity when he extended the invitation. But like it or not, that dude was having house guests during the Boston Marathon because I had witnesses at the aid station that would back up my claim that I had truly been invited. I'm pretty sure that would have held up in court if needed. As it turns out though, Pat was very sincere and proved to be an amazing host!
Race morning was very relaxed for me and I snoozed in my comfortable seat on the bus until the runners for Wave 1 were called to the start line, shortly before 10:00 AM. The BAA moved us through the corral loading process in a surprisingly efficient manner, especially considering the high level of security at the race start.
Leaving Athletes Village
I positioned myself near the back of the first wave because I didn't want to get tied up in the mess that was pretty much guaranteed up front. After enjoying the National Anthem and a pretty cool flyover, the race was underway.
View From the Back of Wave 1
Here was my plan for the race:
1. Find beer on the course. It HAS to be easy enough to find "race beer" in Boston.
2. Kiss Wellesley Girls. Maybe all of them.
3. Don't get knocked over by the "Amateur But Think I'm a Pro" at the water stops.
4. Finish before dark.
Yes. I had a conservative race plan. It's not like I was in contention for the win, so what else is there?
I ran the first few miles at a pretty brisk pace and got wrapped up in the noise and celebration that surrounded the race course. I was in awe of the massive turnout and I loved the enthusiasm of the spectators.
If I had a dime for every high-five I gave out, I could retire today! It was unreal.
I let out a laugh every time a spectator yelled, "GO HAM-UH!!!" or, "YOU GOT DIS HAM-UH!!!". Without my name being visible, they could only address me by acknowledging my sponsors name, HAMMER. It took me a while to realize that's what they were trying to say.
I found my first advertised beer stop around mile 8. Don't get me wrong, I saw a lot of beer coolers and people drinking beer along the course, but I wasn't desperate enough to actually panhandle for beer at that point. By mile 9, my scruples may have dictated otherwise, so this beer stop came just in time.
I peeled off the course and accepted a plastic cup of beer. I peered inside the cup and immediately handed it back, saying, "Dude, I'm a full grown man. Fill this to the top"...which they promptly did. Then I handed it back two more times with the same request, before settling in.
I don't think they actually expected any of the runners to "hang out" with them during the race and they started to get a little antsy, reminding me about the ongoing marathon as I was attempting to drain their keg. These guys shouldn't start something if they don't intend to finish it.
After I had my fill, I gave proper thanks and aimed my shoes toward downtown Boston.
Wellesley! For those of you that don't know, the town of Wellesley is the home of Wellesley College, which is an ALL GIRLS SCHOOL. Following strict marathon tradition, the girls from Wellesley College line the streets and kiss the willing marathon runners as they come by.
I was initially tentative because this is where Hillary Clinton went to school, so the quality of the young ladies was somewhat suspect. Nonetheless, I went into it with an open mind.
The First Sign I Saw Pretty Much Confirmed My Fear
At my age, kissing college girls sounds pretty interesting, especially without the threat of jail time or any other civil action being brought against me. I was game.
Eager Young Ladies
Jo and I had discussed my race plans, and specifically my intentions at Wellesley. I explained that I would spend no more than a half hour at the college. She thought that was probably too much time, considering my other goals for the day (she's always looking out for me). We entered into prolonged negotiations and eventually agreed that 8 minutes would be appropriate.
I set my watch when I came into Wellesley.
I slowed. I mixed and mingled a bit. Truth be told...I'm a pretty picky guy. I left Wellesley with a few minutes to spare.
Point to Ponder: If you're a male runner and you suffer from low self esteem, I would encourage a trip through Wellesley during the Boston Marathon. It'll definitely boost your ego.
We were approaching the middle of the day and the course was getting pretty warm. There is virtually NO COVER on the Boston Marathon course and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.
I needed to find another beer stop, STAT!
Well...I'm down for 2 out of 3
As an avid trail runner, I have a bad habit of staring at my feet when I run. For Boston, I was trying to remind myself to pick my head up so I could enjoy the sights along the course. Ultimately, I would fall back into the comfortable routine of staring at my feet until I remembered where I was.
At one point as I jerked my head back up, I saw a familiar looking runner just ahead of me and I sped up to catch her. I pulled alongside my friend, Sarah Reinertsen, and hung at her shoulder until she looked up and registered who I was. We stopped running, gave each other a quick hug and then recruited a spectator to take a picture of us on the course.
I've known Sarah for a while but hadn't seen her in over a year. It was awesome to run into her on the Boston course. She's an incredible athlete and the total embodiment of strength and courage.
Sarah...Total Badass and Hero
I crested the top of Heartbreak Hill before I realized I was climbing it. I was tipped off by some signs that spectators were waving in the crowd. I literally stopped, turned around and checked it out from the top. Not what I expected at all. I may have even felt a twinge of disappointment.
I glanced at my watch and suddenly realized how much time I had been wasting. I wasn't concerned about my finish time, but I really didn't want to be out there so long that people began to worry about me. I hurried down the course, heading toward Boylston Street.
Coming Into Boston
When the giant CITGO sign came into view, I knew we were close to the finish. The frequent mile markers were also a dead giveaway.
By this point in the race, the crowd was completely insane! People were stacked 10 deep behind the barricades, screaming at the tops of their lungs. I had never experienced anything remotely similar in a race.
I was just smiling and in awe of the entire experience.
When the finish line finally came into view, the noise intensified. I was moved by the signs that read, "Thank You For Coming Back to Boston". That was the prevailing sentiment at the finish. The locals wanted the runners to come back and celebrate this historic race with defiance, reverence and respect. The finish line was filled with emotion, as much from the spectators as the runners. It was a surreal spectacle.
I crossed in 3:48:17, which isn't remotely speedy for me, but speed wasn't on the menu for the day. As it relates to my time, my only regret is that I didn't take more time on the course to thank the crowds and volunteers along the way.
The 2014 View From Boylston Street
For me, it was a bag of mixed emotions. I went into Boston, knowing this would be my final road marathon. That reality forced me to recall the days, in the not-so-distant-past, when running a marathon was my ultimate goal as a runner. This was less than 4 years ago, before I even knew trail and ultra running existed. Crossing the finish line at Boston was a culmination of that chapter in my life and I couldn't envision a better chapter to end on.
I try not to take running too seriously because it sucks the joy out of a sport that has done nothing but bring me immense happiness. Running should be fun. It should bring happiness and health into the lives of the people that seek it out and relish in all it has to offer.
The 2013 Boston Marathon briefly threatened our ability to find that happiness. The 2014 Boston Marathon served to cast those thoughts to the side and helped to reinforce the reality that our community of athletes and supporters are well suited for adversity and challenge.
After a brief rest and reuniting with my beautiful bride, we made our way to Jacob Wirth's Restaurant, which was a short walk from the finish line. As runners walked through the door to the bar, the entire restaurant would erupt in cheers and applause, bathing the runners in love and respect. It was a truly touching scene.
Unwinding After the Race
I'm extremely pleased that I ran the Boston Marathon. It's an experience unlike any other and I wish all runners could have experienced the special event that 2014 turned out to be. It can't erase the pain from 2013, but it will definitely go a long way toward healing the community that it tried so desperately to harm.
For me, it's back to the trails! We're coming into the busy season and I feel like I'm ready to do some good things.
Thanks for taking the time to read about my Boston experience. I hope to see many of you on the trails soon.