Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bleeker Does The Boston Marathon

This Monday, I had the pleasure of joining 25,000+ runners for the 112th Boston Marathon on a gorgeous sunny day. Much in thanks to running with friends and my first “costume race” (as Bleeker from the movie Juno), it was another memorable run from Hopkinton to Boston. This annual pilgrimage continues to be one of the best 26.2 mile parties around, and my fourth visit was as much fun as my first.

I was greeted at my hotel with a surprise package, and it didn’t take long to figure out the gold headband, shorts and tube socks addressed to “my Bleeker” was a costume as the nerd track star Paulie Bleeker from the movie Juno (you know, the one who knocks up the main character). My wife Christi is obsessed with the sweet, lovable Bleeker, insisting he is “the new Jake Ryan” (for those of you who oogled over the hunk from the movie Sixteen Candles as a teen). She still gets teary-eyed thinking of the scene where Bleeker runs off the track after winning the 800 meter to quietly cuddle Juno in her time of need, complete with track spikes in bed. Geeks who run are sexy? Well heck, I’m in! But would anyone else get the costume? I guess we would find out on Monday…

(Go, Bleeker!)

I showed up a day early to watch the Women’s Olympic Trials on Sunday and cheer on Cassie Henkiel from Austin, TX. Cassie is a world-class athlete, a good friend, and the local Austin coach that keeps Kristin Armstrong and others in shape for Boston. Cassie did very well despite “losing her legs” about half way through, and the pink-clad support crew from Austin went nuts at every lap (the t-shirts that said "Kick Some, Cassie" were a nice touch). Deana Kastor also put on a fantastic race, winning in 2:29:35 to make the Olympic team along with Magdelena Lewy Boulet and Blake Russell. One from Mammoth Lakes, CA, one from Oakland, CA, and one from Pacific Grove, CA - California runners rocked the Trials!

(Cassie shreds the Women's Olympic Trials)

(An aggressive field tackles Beacon Hill)

After the Trials, I stopped by the Convention Center to get my packet and the cool new t-shirt for 2008. I said my howdy’s to everyone at Team Injinji, whose booth was buzzing with curious runners. I also had the good fortune to speak with Dick and Rick Hoyt, two of the most courageous athletes I have ever met. For those of you who haven’t heard of this pair, Rick Hoyt has cerebral palsy and is a quadriplegic and Dick is his father. Rick’s affliction hasn’t stopped them from competing as a team in hundreds of triathlons and road races together, including many Ironman Hawaii races and 25 Boston Marathons. Yup, you read that right – they have done 25! And tomorrow would be 26. As Dick told me, “Rick is the athlete, I’m just loaning him my arms and legs”. Wow - talk about a defining role model for being a father! Rick is also a college graduate (Boston U), has his own apartment, and is a gifted writer. To hear them speak about their accomplishments with such humility is very inspiring.

(Me with Dick and Rick Hoyt)

I rolled out of the Expo and made my way to Fenway Park to catch the Boston Red Sox/Texas Rangers game. I’m a newbie to the baseball scene, so this was quite a treat to visit the historic Fenway. There I learned why Boston fans cheer so loud for the marathon – these people LOVE their sports! The guys next to me were watching the Celtics and Bruins game on their cell phones while drinking beer and cheering on the Red Sox. Just can’t get enough!

(Beer and baseball!)

The Red Sox had a classic come from behind win (see video below). I had always thought baseball would be slow paced, but there was nothing dull about a bottom of the 8th inning, 2 outs, full count, bases loaded moment with Casey at bat (I kid you not). When the Rangers walked a run in (which would be the winning run for Boston), the place exploded and made it impossible for me to hold the camera. I’ve never experienced anything like it. A Red Sox come-from-behind win, Olympic Trials, and meeting the Hoyt Ironman legends - the Boston Marathon hadn’t even started, and I was already having sports overload!

The morning of the race, I donned my red and gold Bleeker costume and headed down to the buses at the Boston Commons. In Hopkinton, I would be joining Kristin “Kik” Armstrong and Paige Alam for our second run at Boston (we did it back in 2006), as well as Courtney Houston from Austin, TX, taking on her first Boston. It’s impossible not to have fun with this crew, and with no pace goals we were certain to have a day of fun and laughs.

On the bus ride out, I ran into Injinji teammate 19-year-old Michael Hayden, fresh off his age group world record 50k at Mad City (3:45). He was still feeling last weeks race (Diablo was still stinging me as well), but he was hoping to clock a 3:10. We caught up on races and tips, his experience racing the Mad City tundra, various ultra gossip, and the top contenders for Western States this year. I thought those who overheard us might think we were nuts, but I was pleased to find out that a bunch of them had tried ultras in the last couple of years. The sport is definitely spreading!

At the race start, Kik and Paige greeted me with orange t-shirts that said “Paulie Bleeker rules”, so obviously some conspiring had occurred. ;-) I stripped down to my outfit, but I didn’t stand out much among the throngs of colored runners. Just when I thought nobody would notice me among the masses, two guys behind me said “you’re the cheese to my macaroni” (a classic line from the movie). This was going to be a fun race!

(Courtney, Paige, and Kik are ready to roll)

Boston Marathon race numbers indicate your qualifying time (my 2:57 at the Napa Marathon was good enough for #2193), as well as which corral you start in. Since we were all running together, we had to all jump into the “big number” corrals, somewhere in the 17,000 range. We found ourselves among the true heroes of marathons – the folks who aren’t built to run, don’t find it easy, and worked damn hard to get here. Thousands were running for charitable causes or in memory of loved ones, lifting the corral in a rising tide of hope and compassion. Each courageous soul was in a fight for the long run (literally), and with this collective show of force it’s hard not to think these diseases don’t stand a chance.

At 10:30am, we began our descent down into Ashland. The day was perfect – high 50’s with a slight breeze. We cruised along at a 9:20/mile pace, shouting back to the awesome locals who were 3-4 deep on both sides for miles. The theme song from Rocky and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” were being blasted from stereos all over the place. One family was creating a “glove tree” from all the discarded gloves, and they told me some years there can be hundreds by the time the race ends.

(The glove tree)

It didn’t take long before Paige started weaving her way up through the crowd. Paige is a born leader, and we all just stepped into form behind her and snaked our way through the crowd. If she spotted a group of kids giving out high fives (or especially a retirement home, church, or row of wheelchairs), we would make our way to the sidelines and slap some palms. I told her “that’s great you’re giving some love”, but she just replied “giving? Heck, I’m getting it big time”. That’s Paige for ya.

Occasionally I would hear “Go Bleek!”, or the Boston-accented “Oh my gawd, it’s Pawlie Bleekah!”. There is definitely a hoard of Juno fans out there. Awareness of the costume skewed young on the demographic scale, and that made me wonder about the gorgeous ladies of Wellesley College at mile 12. It’s either going to be nothing, or I’ll be lucky to keep my clothes on. ;-)

As we made our way into Framingham (mile 7), I recognized the smiling face of Sister Madonna Buder, another hero of Ironman. She is the Helen Klein of Ironman, setting records well into her 70’s and still going for it even after some 200-odd triathlons and 13 trips to Ironman Hawaii. I asked her if she had ever run Boston before and she said “oh, sure…about 25 years ago”. How cool is that? Look out Helen, she’s coming for ya!

(Sister Madonna Buder is all smiles)

The temperature got up into the 60’s, and everyone stripped a layer or two. Paige was wearing her “Go Cassie” shirt from the day before as a base layer, so everybody started yelling out “Go, Cassie!”. Paige loved being Cassie for a day. My costume was holding up well too. As cheesy as the nylon shorts were, they are definitely breathable (probably best if I just leave it at that). We passed a bar called The Chicken Bone that was yelling out for Scott D, so I stopped to say thank you and get a pic with The Chicken Man himself. The BBQ looked delicious, but I thought it best to stick with Gatorade for now. I just love that the craziest biker bar on the whole course was cheering my name!

(The Chicken Man!)

(Getting love from the biker bar)

Mile 8 was a special one for Paige and Kik, for they had promised to dedicate it to their eight-year-old children, Laney and Luke. Paige had her Blackberry with her (which was constantly going off with text messages of support from family and friends), so she gave their classroom a call and they got to speak with their kids. They let the Mommies know the whole class was running a mile at the track today to dedicate back to them! That put a HUGE smile on their faces, and the pace picked up on the wings of (little) angels.

(Kik slaps some high fives along the way)

We entered Natick (mile 9), and a smiling young woman came up to me and said “LOVE the Bleeker costume! Your wife is my hero”. Ali is a student in Colorado that was born in Boston, and she had quite a story herself. Her parents watched Allison Roe win the Boston Marathon in 1981 while her Mom was in labor, so they named her Allison Rowe. Fate brought her to run Boston as her first marathon, and here she was having a fabulous time. When she heard I was an ultrarunner, she asked “Have you run with Tony Krupicka? He’s a good friend and we did cross-country together”. She gave me a knowing smile when I let her know I was hoping to meet him at Western States this year, but suspected that I would at most see 30 seconds of the back of his head at the start. ;-)

(Kik and Ali)

The familiar sounds of the scream tunnel at Wellesley could be heard around mile 12, and I braced myself. We also picked up Katie Love, another runner from Austin, TX, who hadn’t quite gotten herself fully healthy yet, but wasn’t going to qualify for Boston and miss all the fun so she settled for the second half. Together, we ran through the scream tunnel where I heard “BLEEK!!! COME GET A KISS!!!”. Who am I to deny the locals? I’ll save you the details, but let’s just say my breath smelled of beer and froshies for the next mile. I was so stunned I forgot to take a picture! Bleeker loves you back, women of Wellesley!

(Kik blows a kiss, Courtney charges the hill, Katie is all smiles)

Soon after Wellesley, Courtney came flying by after taking a pit stop and having to weave through thousands to catch back up. She was still going strong and having a fabulous time. We caught up to two large men running in Speedos (and not much else), and I said “I dare you to go slap that guy on the ass-“…I didn’t even have to finish my sentence and Courtney gave one of them a good enough smack that he jumped about a foot in the air! I laughed so hard that I just about fell over. I’m sure they would have been mad if it was anyone other than a tall, gorgeous Texan woman. Instead they just glowed red, cheeks and butt cheeks alike, and made small talk.

The town of Newton (mile 15) brought the hill country, which elicited groans from many, but was a welcome relief to my trail-trained legs. A women screamed for me to come over – “Bleeker! Hey, Bleek!” - turns out she had seen the movie some 30 times, and thought the costume was great. She didn’t think others were going to get the joke, so she whipped out a big black marker and wrote BLEEKER across my chest, gave me a peck on the cheek, and said “I sure hope I find my Bleeker someday”. My wife was right – Paulie Bleeker has some serious fans!

I was sure to hit the Hash House Harriers beer aid station at mile 19, where they loaded me up with a couple of beers and sang a drinking song as I chugged away. Per usual, it hit the spot and I charged up Heartbreak Hill, giving a wave to the John Kelly statue as we went by.

(Getting my beer at the Hash House Harriers aid station)

As we hit the top of Heartbreak, Kik said “where’s the beer aid station?”. I told her it was opposite the water station she stopped at, and she looked over her shoulder and contemplated running back! Oops, my bad – I should have guided her to where the “Beer gives 100%” sign was. I figured this was easy to remedy and stepped up to the next frat party and pointed to the gorgeous blonde who needed a beer. They snapped into action, calling back to the keg to “get a beer for Bleeker’s girl, pronto!”. I ran the beer up to Kik and Paige, who slammed it right down and hit the downhills with a new infusion of liquid courage.

(Paige, here as Cassie, is all smiles in the final stretch)

The hills at mile 21 were tough of Kik and Courtney, who both started to fight cramps and quad soreness. Ah, yes – let the negotiation begin. We’re all too familiar with the “legs, we had a deal” or “you promised me you wouldn’t do this” conversation that sneaks under your breath in times of need. Rebellious muscles can be tough negotiators! We took a few short stretch breaks, but nobody was going to quit. Good thing, because Cassie the Coach was at mile 25 and just the thought of having her see them walk (and the amount of intervals they would have to do upon return) made them pick up the pace! We did get a photo with Cassie before closing in on the last mile. Before we knew it, we all finished just under four hours in 3:59:23, and immediately made our way to the Four Seasons Hotel bar for celebratory cocktails.

My slowest marathon yet, and quite possibly the most fun I have ever had. I was super-proud of the Texas girls for rallying through to the end and doing it with ear-to-ear smiles. Michael Hayden ended up running a near even split for 3:01 (a PR), and surely could have gone faster. That kid is getting fast! We heard from other runners that Robert Cheruiyot had won his 4th Boston in 2:07:44, and Dire Tune won the Women’s division in a hotly contested race. Lance Amrstrong finished in a fast 2:50 and change, but with a whole new respect for the downhills (btw, if you want to see Kik interviewing him in a hilarious video, go here).

(Further proof that all Texas women are gorgeous - that's Larry King's mug shot in the background...apparently he has passed some bad checks in his time)

I called Christi to let her know her Bleeker was doing fine, and the costume was a huge hit. After a short nap and shower, I joined the Texans one more time for dinner at The Beehive and a round of drinks at Alibi, a prison-themed bar at the new Liberty Hotel. Both are great stops if you’re heading to Boston. By midnight, we were exhausted from a weekend of thrills, adventure, and new stories to keep our friendships close. I already can’t wait to get back!

- SD


  1. scott,

    it was a pleasure meeting you in Boston. the way you handle yourself with your fans is very classy



  2. GREAT report on Boston, Scott! Loved every minute of it. Next time I go back, I'm doing all the fun stuff you did (well, maybe not the Bleeker costume, although how cool was that)!?

    I had the pleasure of riding the bus to Hopkinton w/ Paige, Kristin and Courtney. Very nice women, indeed! I think I horrified them though when I emptied my bladder on the bus (into a plastic bag), but that's probably TMI already!

    Anyway, Boston 2008... definitely a good time had by all. Thanks for the wonderful report. :)

  3. You sure know how to have fun! Great report!!

  4. looks like you had way too much fun in Boston again! That Bleeker outfit was awesome.

  5. Now that is waaaaaay fun!

    When I ran Boston I was also gunning for a new PW (personal worst) and achieved my goal by:

    -having a beer and pitstop with a guy dressed in costume as a pregnant drag queen (he was about 6'4)

    -met Uta Pippig mid course and we stopped for a photo op

    -a hug and a kiss and another beer from a burly Boston U frat boy

    When I got home and all my running geek friends and family asked me how I did...I told them of my PW and many photos and they just shook their heads...

    Glad to see you get it and make a great Bleeker! You may have to bust that one out for future races!

  6. Scott!

    You're the man. The Women of Wellesley desverve nothing less!

    I've never thought a marathon could be that much fun.

    Clearly trying to set a PR is missing the point.


  8. One small comment Scott to an otherwise great post: Your comment about being in the 17th corral among the marathoners who "aren't built to run...." comes off as patronizing at best. Runners in that corral would have run qualifying marathons realtively the same as (~10 minutes slower) your pal Kristin's to qualify. Would you say she's "not built to run"?

  9. To the anonymous poster who didn't leave their name:

    I didn't mean for the phrase "not built to run" to be patronizing. If anything, it was a sign of respect. Everyone in that corral earned their slot, either by qualifying or raising money for charity. I was impressed by all the different body types and running styles, and the stories they had on their road to Boston. For some runners, qualifying comes easy and is a given. I got the impression that everyone in corral #17 worked their asses off to get there, and that's way cool. That's why I call them the "true heroes of marathon".


  10. Still sounds patronizing, but nice attempt. And by the way, Lance's 2:50 is not "just under 3 hours". Sour grapes????

  11. Sounds like a great Patriots Day!

    Personally, I feel that I didn't give the Newton Hills the respect that they deserved, as they kicked my trail running butt... Should of looked for the beer aid station!

    See you at Quicksilver in a couple of weeks!


  12. My Boston was nothing like yours but I wouldn't change a thing :)

  13. Awesome report and some great sightings!

    One day...ONE day...I will get to experience Boston too. Hopefully.

  14. Scott, This is a freaking hilariously funny and fun race report! You definitely have a huge talent in running, and then reporting on it in a humorous "fashion." I ran Monday, too, so it brought me right back to the good times in Boston this past weekend. What a trip! Congrats!

  15. Anon -

    You are right about Lance's time, and I should check my facts. He ran a 2:50:58, which is damn fast for any course.


  16. I agree with Anon.

    Kelly S. Nichols

  17. Great Post and Race review....I was not there this year but always enjoy the day watching friends online..The womens olympic trials where amazing to see. Your spot on taking in a Sox Game it was a real hoot to be there in 04(we ran for the hoses that was hot)Yankees/Sox..that day..

    I enjoy your blog since it reminds one to enjoy life and have fun out there....


  18. Scott,
    That was nice report and a great way to run a marathon. I am not built to run either but not in the least offended by your remarks. In fact, some of us take a great deal of personal pride for fact that we don't look like runners. I thought your report was classy. Now it's on to WS training for you, probably best you didn't hammer your legs into submission the pavement anyway! Good luck this spring and summer.

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  20. Great report (and photos) as usual; I always read your blog to get a perspective on some of the races I run (usually PCTR runs). Also, as a Boston rookie I didn't know if making out with the Wellesley girls would get me cheered or arrested, so I let it be. I guess for future reference I now know that it's safe to take that detour, but that I should bring breath mints along too!

  21. Now I know my problem, next marathon I'm dressing up as Bleeker. If you can be Bleeker and get a PW of shy 4 hours, then I ought to get some improvement in my time with a Bleeker outfit.

    On a side note, with all your praise for Injinji, I set aside my fashion standards and picked up a pair. They take longet to put on then normal socks and they felt weird for the first few miles but after a few hours on the trail, the toe freedom became oh so exhilarating.

    Now if you can only get Injinji to design a toe sock to replicate Bleeker's tube socks. Then I’ll be all toes in!

  22. Will - if you look closely at the pic, you'll see I cut the tube sock tops off and put them over my Injinjis. ;-) Thanks for stopping by!


  23. Hey Scott, Happy Birthday! (I just saw it posted on the ultra listserv)

  24. hey scott, i've never seen your blog before but i enjoyed this post regarding boston.

    i too ran boston this year (my first), and it was quite possibly one of the most memorable racing experiences i will ever have. your coverage helped me immortalize my experience there so i will never forget it :)

    i'm going to have to read your postings more often...

  25. Happy B-Day!

    Excellent race report, as always. So what's the NEXT costume to wear? Please, oh please tell me you'll dress like the Chicken Man at WS! *LOL*

  26. Thanks for the birthday wishes, everyone! I had a great day. Took the day off, saw a movie, and Sophie did her best to sing Happy Birthday (the 20 minute live version).

    One more year before jumping into the Masters...better make the most of it!


  27. Bleeker! I love it! Congrats on finishing the Boston marathon what an accomplishment! I have just begun training for the Boulder backroads marathon in Sept. However, I tore my IT ban almost three weeks ago. after speaking to a wide range of people i was told to completely lay off my leg. I find this so annoying as i am not getting any physical exercise. Do you have any advice for me?

  28. J -

    Whoa, tore the IT band! That sounds pretty serious. I would stick to the doc's advice as much as possible. When I had some IT/knee issues last year, it helped to swim regularly (and do deep pool running). I felt like I was getting a good core workout and keeping my fitness up without the pounding of the runs. Be sure to ask your doc though, and good luck!


  29. Awesome post as always Scott. It's clear you had a great time! The most frequent thought I had while reading was, "Wow, Scott must have the coolest wife ever!" Seriously...and Jake Ryan? Yow! So pass on the big thumbs up to Christie from me for enabling your awesome experience on all fronts. :)

  30. Happy Belated Birthday. You definitely know how to party it up when you do that fun run in Boston! I think you should keep the Bleeker look. I answered your tag, but since I was multitagged, it only counts as 1/3. More to folllow. See you at Quicksilver.

  31. Hi! Like your wife, I, too, am obsessed with Paulie Bleeker. I'm running bay to breakers in SF this weekend and I was wondering if you could tell me where your wife was able to find gold nylon shorts and the headband/wristbands and tube socks? i found the track shirt, but i'm having so much trouble with the other elements of the "uniform." Any info is greatly appreciated! thanks!

  32. Dianne -

    Christi found everything online. She said she searched for "gold running shorts" and ended up buying through She got the socks and headband from American Apparel. The shorts are the hardest part, but keep looking...


  33. Great blog Bleeker. That Kik has some amazing smile....


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