Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Glorious Day At The 2016 Boston Marathon (Thank You Hamstring)

Streak running can make you do stupid things. Once you have mentally decided you are going to try to do a race X amount of times, you often find yourself making questionable choices along the way. Not quite “streaking” bad choices (that’s when you go naked), but bad choices nonetheless. This was going through my head as I was icing a sore hamstring on the way to the 120th Boston Marathon, which was to be my 12th in a row. Really, Scott? Icing a sore hamstring on the way to a marathon? That sounds like an “I told you so” moment with dismal outcomes just waiting to happen.

 My passion for Boston expertly defied logic at every turn. The weather prediction of sunny and 65 degrees only shoved more kindling for my dubious fire, and I was soon grasping for justification like a hungry monkey. I’ll just do a casual run….yeah, that’s it. A casual run. And I’ll wear a compression sleeve that will fix everything (conveniently forgetting my own advice not to add anything new on a race day). I’ll do it because it’s the 50th year since the first woman, Bobbi Gibbs, ran Boston, and they told her it was impossible. Girl power! By the time I swept through the energetic Expo with my good friend and first-time Boston runner John Heltzel, the passion flame was high. Logic didn’t stand a chance.

(It was all about honoring the women this year)

(John Heltzel, my friend of 40+ years, is ready to tackling his first Boston)

(Goofing off with Jorge Maryville and Ian Sharman

(Alex Varner and the SFRC crew in Corral #1)
So at 10am, I found my way to Corral #1 (bib #731!) and crossed my fingers. I was just in time to see Ian Sharman heading up the street (he was running the course backwards, then turning around and running the race, where he clocked a 2:49!). Jorge Maravilla and Alex Varner were also there among a cluster of San Francisco Running Company tank tops. We all reveled as the Elites were announced in front of us – 10 guys who have gone sub-2:06 including 2x winner and defending champion Lelisa Desisa (who just went 2:04:58 in Dubai), 2012 winner Wesley Korir, course record holder Geoffrey Mutai (2:03:02), and more…and the Women were already five miles ahead, led by 2012 Olympic gold medalist Tiki Gelana. Varner summed it up perfectly, saying “wow…it’s amazing to hear credentials like that…these guys are truly the worlds best”. And with the gun, we were off!

 I was going by feel, but was definitely the slow guy in the corral (or the one behind us for that matter). I kept the elbows in and let runners slither around me. My body felt good at a 6:40 min/mile pace, so I just stuck with it. The crowds were huge this year, much in thanks to the perfect weather. The bluegrass band at Ashland (mile 2) was rocking out, and we soon stopped our incessant passing and found a groove.

(The runners take over Hopkinton!)
By mile 6, my legs were loosening up and the 6:40 min/mile pace felt pretty good. I got my annual picture with Santa Claus, who recognized me and said “let’s get another picture! That’s quite a collection you are building”. He had the Red Sox jersey on today, which seemed fitting. It was right about this time we started passing the 2013 bomb victims who were racing this year, out in blade prosthetics and wheelchairs to reclaim the course. And here I was complaining about a hamstring? They got pats and atta-boys from everyone going by, and a few tears of courage as well. In fact, it almost felt like the Boston Marathon was back to normal.


(Now that's what I call a hands on guide)
(The weather pushes past 65 degrees)
The Scream Tunnel (mile 12) could be heard a town away, and the runners lined up for high fives, kisses, or the other side of the street to stay clear of the madness. I got my smooch, and once again accidentally clocked a 6:00 min/mile. Such a boost of energy! My head swirled with memories of Boston’s past…Wellesley girls in ponchos on rainy days, my Dad’s spontaneous “I dated a Wellesley girl once” story when we did Boston together, and the ever awkward sight of an old Italian guy going down the line like a wedding procession and kissing every girl. Yet the Wellesley ladies keep smiling!

(Scream Tunnel!)
The Newton hills (mile 16-21) were the warmest spot on the course, and the 70+ degree weather was creating some casualties. Me and another runner tried to catch one dizzy guy, but couldn’t keep him from taking a header into the crowd. Yikes! Sorry about your picnic. I took it easy on the climbs, knowing my hamstring would prefer it, and it’s the best way to deal with the heat. The Boston Hash House Harriers were out in force, so I grabbed an ice cold cup of beer and joined them before cresting Heartbreak Hill.

(Sean Meissner siting)

(Getting a beer with the Harriers)
 A familiar headwind caught us in Brookline (mile 23), but it was nice to have a slightly cooler wind. I checked the times at the mats, and it appeared I was still doing 6:40 min/miles! The hamstring was holding up just fine. I passed a few hundred runners, but still managed to get passed by a guy in an elf costume and a blind runner with their guide. Always good to get an ego check.

(The finish!)
As we turned down Boylston, I reveled in the normalcy that had returned to this great race. 2016 already felt more like the Boston I knew than the strange chapter of the last three years. I cruised into the finish in 2:56:09 and my 12th Boston was in the books. Just as I was high-fifing, a guy stepped up to me and said "didn't you take a picture of my blister in 2013"? Sure enough, it was Liang Wu running even faster this year! How random is that?

(Liang Wu, circa 2013)
(Liang at the finish in 2016!)
It didn’t take long before I was at the Beantown Pub getting a burger and beers, sharing stories with friends both old and new, and learning about the epic stories of Boston, 2016. Lemi Berhanu Hayle (2:14:45) led an Ethiopian sweep with his win, and likely a spot on one of the most competitive Olympic teams in running. The Women's winner, Atsede Baysa (2:29:19), gave her trophy to Bobbi Gibbs, the first time Woman finisher. Wow, even more epic Boston stories! How could I not come back? I began strategizing immediately for #13.

My thanks to the Race Directors and world-class volunteers for another great Patriot’s Day weekend. And a big thanks to my hamstring for hanging in there! Congrats to all of you runners, in particular the first timers. Hope to see you again.


  1. Santa, Beer, Elfs and kisses..sounds more picnic like than a Boston. All this and a 2:56, Wow!! Keep going strong into your bakers dozen!

  2. Always enjoy reading your blog. It was my first time to Boston and what an experience! No other city comes out for a Marathon like this city. Like you mentioned.... The Beer, Wellesley, stereos blasting, trampolines, and just plain fun. I'm impressed you did 2:56 with all the playing around. This race reminded me of why we run. So often we are caught up on PR's, BQ's,and obsessing over minutia for every race. In the end enjoy yourself, the experience, and the people around you is what matters most. Keep running....

  3. Darn! Other than briefly interrupting your lunch the day before in the Beantown, I never got to say hello properly. Like I said though, if you ever do London, look me up! 2017 GFA places open in a little while if you're interested... (-:


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