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Monday, April 19, 2004

Boston Marathon 2004

So I just completed my first Boston Marathon. Overall I would say it was a very worthwhile experience, one for which I am very glad I participated in.

My official time was 3:55:59. Unfortunately the starting mats didn’t pick up my chip as I crossed the start. Perhaps because I wore my own NYC Marathon Chip and the BAA wanted to spite me. When I stopped my watch after crossing the finish I had the unremarkable time of 3:39:36. Not even close to breaking 3:30, which I thought, should be a moderate goal. I just somehow managed to gut it out to beat 3:40 in the last 100 yards. I couldn’t believe it took me 16 minutes to cross the start. I won’t do Boston again unless I qualify. My non-qualifying entry provided me with a number so high that I had to line up so far back that you couldn't even hear the starting horn.

The entire race is completely different from NY. Everyone starts in a long line on a relatively narrow street. Runners line up in corrals that start at 1-1000, 1001-2001, etc. You can't move up as they make sure everyone stays where you are supposed to line up. I wound up standing next to one unfortunate person who was separated by about 20 of his running mates because his bib was off by 1 digit.

I spent the first 15 miles just passing runners. The race is almost completely on suburban roads (except for the Boston finish). The roads are narrower than one side of 4th Avenue in Brooklyn. It was very difficult to pass people. I had one older crank who got upset when I passed between him and his running partner. I said on your right to the guy about 3 times and he couldn’t give me the courtesy to shift over a bit. I was completely boxed in and could find anyway around him. So I wedged between them and he hit me with his arm on his arm’s backstroke. He yelled some expletives at me, but I managed to remain calm and continue my run. After all, I was wearing my swell Boston Marathon NYFlyer singlet and to retaliate would show poor sportsmanship, plus I wanted to act as an ambassador of the club.

The crowd was very loud throughout the entire race. Some stretches of the course though had no spectators at all. I found it a bit strange, as it appeared to go from packed with screaming people to suddenly devoid of humanity. Those quiet stretches were a welcome relief as it was very loud at times. The fans are almost on top of you the entire time. Which wasn't so bad, especially when they gave you oranges... very refreshing in the heat.

At one point during the course, when spectators were sparse, it appeared from ahead that the crowd was particularly loud. So loud in fact that I found the approaching noise ominous. I mentioned this to the runner next to me and she asked me if I knew why. When I told her that I have no idea, she informed me that Wellesley College was just ahead. The noise I was hearing was from all girls screaming. This was still a half-mile away.

I found this section of the marathon to be very enjoyable. It appeared as though thousands upon thousands of wild screaming girls were lined up along the right side of the rode. Several girls were holding up signs declaring a kiss to any runner that would come over to them. I found this offer quite tempting as any red-blooded straight American male would. It wasn’t my desire for breaking my PR that kept me from stopping for such a wonderful offer. In the end I decided that I better continue through this section of course to minimize the loss of hearing I was sure to suffer should I linger around any longer than absolutely necessary. As it was, my right ear hurt was still ringing for a mile or two after I passed the college.

If that was my best spectator moment, then the couple of pathetic moments of the race were when I heard spectators chanting "Yankees Suck". I found this just unbelievable and a source of misplaced angst and a blatant reminder that Boston is a city for second places. How pathetic are some Boston Red Sox fans? Here they are watching the perhaps the most renowned marathon in the world and the best thing they can say is Yankees Suck? How much in denial are these people? Won't they ever realize that disparaging another team will never win them a World Series? They should concentrate their efforts on some introspection to figure out how they can improve themselves, rather than hoping for misfortune for others. The Boston Marathon is a sport completely unrelated to running but some fans choose to celebrate it by highlighting their poor sportsmanship.... this being the hallmark of Bostonian bitterness.

I found Heartbreak Hill to be not so bad and overrated. I would much prefer Heartbreak to the 2 trips through the Harlem Hills during the heat of the August Manhattan Half-Marathon. It wasn’t grueling like I heard and I found it was actually a welcome relief as I got to use different leg muscles.

I made it through 21 miles in relatively good shape. The blisters that I started to develop on mile 4 were by then numbed out and I was cruising at a steady pace. My overall pace for the race was slower than NYC, but much steadier. My HR was also right at 156-158 throughout. At the NY, my HR dropped a lot in the last few miles as my legs shut down. My legs still started to die late in the race, but not to the degree they did at NY. Next time, I will make sure to get some more 22-mile long training runs in.

After the race, you had to walk a bit to get your medal. The finish area was very crowded. I walked past the weak and invalid just past the finish line and got my toasty warm thermal blanket. Next some dude placed my medal over my head. The best part of having such a high number was that my baggage bus was the first one after the finish line. I had to walk a few blocks to get my hotel’s shuttle bus. I got tired of waiting, so I figured I earned a cab back to the hotel – really I earned it as I found 20 bucks along the course. Once at my hotel, I admired my blood blister (it looked like a lava lamp) took a nice warm bath; I was too cold for an ice bath, popped some vicodin and took a nap.

As a coda to this story, the BAA website at first listed my Official and Chip times as the same. Which is completely impossible, as I would have had to start right at the mats with the elite. A couple of days later I noticed that my Chip time was changed to 3:35:07. A momentary jump for joy swept through my body as this meant a PR for me at the marathon distance. Could I have forgotten to stop my watch? Had I started it too soon? Something didn’t seem right. What could account for the 4-minute difference between my watch and the BAA Chip time? I called BAA to ask and it turns out that if they missed your Chip when you crossed the starting mats they based your starting time on the corral in which you were assigned. They state they know how long it took for runners in my corral to reach the start mats. Oh Really?

So if anyone asks my time, I will give the official BAA times. However, I will not declare it as a PR as I know in my heart it couldn’t be.


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