I felt a deep appreciation for this Boston, my 6th, for it nearly didn't happen. Just a week ago I crashed on my bike when I slid in the rain trying to avoid a rock in the road, and in one instant hit the pavement, crushed my helmet, destroyed my bike, and bruised up my back and left butt cheek enough to see my peak fitness get put on the shelf. Oh, and did I mention sexy? Nothing like asymmetrical swelling in the butt to drive women wild. I've spent a few days ass up on the bed, and it appeared to be healing quickly with rest/ice/elevation. I wasn't able to run all week, so I toed the line at Boston with that unique sensation of not knowing if a finish was in my future or not. Beers yes, pictures for sure, but finish, who knows?
The days before were the usual pandalerium, with all of Boston feasting on the Patriots Day long weekend. the only ones missing from the party were the hundreds of European runners stranded at home from the volcanic ash that stopped all jets the last few days. We toasted them in spirit. I had a pre-race dinner with fellow trail running warrior Sarah Syed and her Mom, sharing any Boston tips I could for her inaugural run.
I joined Laurie and the Injinji gang to work the Injinji booth at Expo, and had a chance to meet Bobbi Gibb, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon in 1966 when she snuck on the course and clocked a 3:21:40. Her new book, "To Boston with Love", chronicles a passion for love and nature that led her to running ultras long before her Boston victory. And get this - she got married in my home town of Woodside, CA! She could even recite my home trails by name. How cool is that?
Race morning found a welcome break from the rainy weekend, with enough blue skies to coax 500,000 spectators to line the course from end to end. Sarah and I both made it in time to get pre-race massages in the Athlete's Village (still the best kept secret), and I met a nice pilot from American Airlines from Chicago taking a break from his four girls for some marathon fun. With a quick sprint to corrals, I made it just in time for the countdown. 3, 2, 1 and we're off!
My pace was so slow, I easily got passed by 1,000 runners in the first mile. Yup, I was one of "those guys"! But as long as the strides were short, the pain in the ass remained only a pain in the ass. Among those passing me were familiar faces of Jason Jones, 24-hour superstar John Geesler (a prep run for the NYC 6-Day run next weekend), Roy Pirrung (doing a double marathon), Michael Wardian (actually, he was in front of me the whole time no surprise), and Kevin Sullivan (supposedly in running retirement...busted!). Ultrarunners are everywhere!
At mile 2, one of the local rabble-rousers handed me a beer and I was happy to oblige. In all my Bostons, the ones where I took the time to enjoy everything it had to offer were the most memorable, so why stop now?. It was fun to keep a mellow pace and reflect on all the world, local, and personal history of this race. It is the 2500th anniversary of the Battle of Marathon (which originated the distance and the legend of Phidippides), the 114th running of the Boston Marathon, and every street corner seemed to remind me of running with my Dad last year, donning the Bleeker costume, with my friends Kik and Paige, or the many folks I've met along the way. So many great memories!
At mile 4, I ran with Sam Morris from Laurel, MD, who was staying right on a 3:15 finish pace. Sam was new to running, but had that natural stride of an all-around athlete and the watch-like consistency of a military man. We passed the time sharing stories, meeting people, and getting high fives from the kids as we came through Natick.
I grabbed another beer at mile 11, as we heard the famed scream tunnel approaching. I always enjoy watching the men check their hair and breath as the long line of beautiful young maidens approach - although it's not necessary, I'm sure the hundreds of Wellesley girls are appreciative of a little extra grooming. My favorite sign this year was "kiss me 'cause I majored in kissing!". I took a short stop to give/get some smackeroos, and immediately clocked a testosterone powered 6:20 min/mile. Ah, the sweet seduction of drunken youth.
As we entered the hill country, we got the benefit on a nice tailwind breeze. Sam decided to pick up the pace a bit to get closer to his 3:15 goal, so I wished him luck and watched him mountain goat up Heartbreak Hill. The Hash House Harriers aid station was fully functional this year at mile 20, and beer #3 made it official...I was running buzzed, much to the Harriers delight. I realized this when I took a PowerBar gel and washed it down with a Sam Adams (yuck). Probably best to cut back or this was not going to end well. Remember kids, do as I say, not as I do! (ahem)
The final stretch after Boston College had a wonderful tailwind, and I used the opportunity to pick up the pace a smidge. My strides were still fairly short, like a Chi-running robot, but anything more felt too risky. I slowed to chat with Jason Jones, who is also doing the Boston/Big Sur/Miwok triple, before hitting the final 5k. The Citgo sign appeared in the distance, and the road began to fill with cramp-induced casualties. I slapped as many backs as I could to give encouragement.
The crowds went wild as we pulled onto Boylston St and made the final stretch into the chute. I finished in 3:18:10, good for 4203rd place. Another great race in the books! It felt like the first finish all over again, and I thanked my body for holding up.
I hit the post-race massages, and they did a good job of loosening up my back and glutes again. In an odd turn of events, I would get a phone call later saying that one of the medical advisors was convinced the bruising indicates a broken tailbone and I should get x-rays asap. How is that possible? I don't think you can run a marathon with a broken tailbone. Only an idiot would try something like tha-...fine, fine, back to the hospital. ;-) But I don't think I'll mention Big Sur on the calendar for next Sat. I mean, it's not like we use our tails or anything.
My thanks to the great people of Boston for another awesome race!