I am proud to have finished my third — and most grueling — Boston Marathon on Monday.
In the months leading up to the race, I was worried that an injury to my right foot, which had diminished my training, would stop me from running the demanding race. I had not run a marathon since October in Colorado and only had run one 20 miler (with stops and walking breaks) mostly along the flat Trinity River since then and obviously this was not enough. I thought about not showing.
But Boston is my favorite marathon and I felt like I had to at least try. The superb organization, fascinating history and raucous crowds make this race a genuine thrill. It is every recreational runner’s dream to run this race.
Part of its allure is that it is the oldest continuous marathon in the world. The race was started back in 1897 with a field of 15 competitors, several of whom had just come back from the rebirth of the Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens. The world famous race is held every Patriots Day on the third Monday of April, a state holiday which celebrates the start of the American Revolution with the battles of Concord and Lexington that took place nearby. And New England loves its Patriots!
Further, this is the only race in the world — outside of the Olympics — that requires a runner to qualify by rigorous race times. I’ve somehow run a marathon in each of our 50 states and the State of Israel and qualified to enter Boston in 40 of those.
Early on Monday morning, I hiked from my hotel across the Boston Public Garden and lined up for an hour-long bus ride. I chatted with a nice young man who was 25, the age of my daughter, who had earned one of the charity-raising spots. We then hiked up to the local high school and waited.
The weather was warmer than predicted and there was not a cloud in the sky. It was already about 60 degrees and pretty humid and windy. I stayed under a tent and chatted with runners from all over the world, then walked about a mile to the starting line where we all waited in our corrals. I moved back so I wouldn’t start too quickly.
At around 11 a.m., the gun was fired and we began our long journey with cheers that would become deafening.
The first few miles are mostly downhill, which is hard on your quads. My dry fit cap was already soaked with sweat by mile 3 and several people were hosing us down. The crowds, especially the Wellesley College co-eds with their demands to be kissed, urged us on and kept us entertained. In retrospect, I was running too fast for my fitness level and the heat looking at my my first half time, which was excellent.
But by the time I hit the three hills and the infamous Heartbreak Hill between miles 16 and 21, I was spent. I started to run/walk, which I never do. I later learned that it was 73 degrees. I cramped and stopped to release them. It was hard to move. But I was determined to finish and trudged on. I passed several medical tents where people were dropping out. I have never had to quit in any of my previous races and didn’t plan on starting today.
My finishing time was my slowest one ever, with only the infamous Chicago Marathon in 2007 that was cancelled midway through due to the heat to compare. But considering my insufficient training, I felt like I had given it my all — especially when I almost passed out after crossing the finish line and was wheeled into the medical tent and learned that my blood pressure was dangerously low. So all things considered, 4:27:11 was a good time, with the average marathon time for all men — not just old guys like me (I’m 61) — being that.
Oh, the photo was taken at the finish line six years ago.
My favorite moment was seeing that 21 Boston bombing survivors finished this year, some on prosthestic legs, demonstrating their amazing achievement over tragedy. Bravo to you all!
It was an honor to have run this amazing race and I can’t wait to return.