Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Rebel Run at the 2017 Boston Marathon

The 2017 Boston Marathon was my 13th consecutive running of this iconic event, and once again, the experience exceeded all expectations. There’s nothing quite like this quintessential American road race that consistently conjures a unique recipe of new and familiar, struggle and breakthrough, and story-building experiences that are nothing short of magical. It wasn’t my fastest Boston by a long shot, but has already become one of my favorites.

(Feeling fast!)
(My Mom enjoys playing tourist at the Boston Tea Party Museum)
My co-pilot for this trip was my Mom, Dr. Diane Dunlap, who has somehow gone nearly 75 years without experiencing the rush of a big city marathon or Patriot’s Day weekend in Boston. What? Who’s Mom is she anyway?!? (ha, ha) But as we all know, bringing fresh eyes to a favorite city has a way of presenting a whole new perspective. Mom definitely did not disappoint on that front.

Within hours of her arrival, we were at an April 15th protest at Harvard Square demanding that President Trump release his taxes. The protest wasn’t on my original agenda, but as soon as she asked, it did feel like Boston was a perfect place to yalp the voice of freedom (Huzzah! As they would have said in the 1770’s). My Mom has spent much of her career as a college professor helping students find their voice, and in our hometown of Eugene, OR, campus rallies are so common the protest signs are made of dry erase white boards. Yet in all this time, I’ve never seen her fire burn as bright as that stoked by the kerosene-soaked tinder of Trump. She even posted to Facebook live during the demonstration to unite with her sisters in New York, Maryland, and more…yeah, Gramma D! It was fascinating to exercise our right to demonstrate on the very grounds that birthed our nation from similar passion centuries ago.

(Who you calling chicken?)
(At Haavahd Yahd)
(Sam Adams, my man!)
A few hours later, we were dressed to the nines at the movie premier for Boston - The Documentary at the plush Boch Center Wang Theatre (with a live performance of the original soundtrack by the Boston Pops, no less). Pre-event dinner and drinks at the Local Crossing provoked so much deep conversation, it was 1950 by the time we found our seats. The documentary was amazing (highly recommended!), giving my Mom a perfect intro to the history and personality of a race that has survived 121 years. She was eager to experience marathon Monday, especially with Katherine Switzer back 50 years after she broke the gender barrier by entering herself in the race as “K.V. Switzer”, and now once again donning her original number, #261.

(At the premier for "Boston - The Documentary", with live orchestra!)

(E. Bunny makes an appearance)
Sunday found us playing tourist, grabbing coffee and green tea roasts at Ogawa Coffee (so good, we went there every morning), throwing tea crates into the Boston Harbor at the Boston Tea Party Museum, spending a whopping $12 on Old Navy sweats for me to wear to the start (and donate), and grabbing a Sam Adams at the local pub. It was flip flop weather (~86 degrees), and we could see the nervous faces of runners throughout the town. This was definitely going to be a hot one!

(This guy will likely go deaf from the cheering)
(Hanging with the Alaskans in Corral #1)
Race morning cooled a bit (~65 degrees), but heat and humidity would clearly be a big factor. This wasn’t an “A" race for me, but instead was the last long run before the Avenue of the Giants Marathon in a few weeks. On the way to the race start, I made the decision to take it easy today and try not to overheat.

(And we are off!)
(OMG, so funny)
Corral #1 had different ideas, and as we headed from Hopkinton to Boston at 10am, Strava was already pinging me with Top 3 personal performances in the first 5 miles. Whoops! I crossed through the first 5k in 19:45, and in the first 10k in 39:30, well ahead of a casual pace (casual for me is 3:05-3:10+ marathon pace, and this was closer to a 2:45 marathon). But as we approached Natick and Wellesley (mile 10), I was dumping water on my head and grabbed every Otter Pop I could find (thanks, kids!). The heat beast was ready to rumble.

(Matching floral outfit was the wise choice today)
(Santa was there once again, and we got our 13th consecutive photo!)
(Check your form!)
As the Scream Tunnel of Wellesley approached (mile 12), some ladies holding up a sign quoting the movie Magic Mike (“the law says you can’t kiss…but I see a lot of lawbreakers out there”) made me a rebel in every sense of the word. If my face wasn’t hot red already, it certainly was now! I downshifted my pace to 7:30 min/miles to try and get my testosterone-infused core temp back into a reasonable range.

(Scream tunnel! The sign quotes Magic Mike - "the law says you cannot kiss...but I see a lot of lawbreakers out there")
(Boston College means beer time)
We had a slight tailwind, but that just meant the air was hot and stagnant until we crested a hill or changed directions in the Newton hills (mile 16). There was a collective sigh with each breeze, and from chains of runners hitting the firehoses and haz-mat tents along the way. Heartbreak Hill had its fair share of walkers this year, but the crowds got everyone moving with their encouragement.

(Locals more than happy to beer me!)
I grabbed a beer from some good folks at Boston College (mile 21), which put a huge smile on my face to brave the final slog. I held out my hand and counted 261 hand slaps (go K.V. Switzer!), just enough to bring the Citgo sign into range (mile 24).

(Citgo sign, there you are!)

(Ben Beach completes his 50th consecutive Boston, a new record)
Boylston lifted my spirits with its deafening roar, and I slowed to embrace every breath, every step, and the angelic hum of thousands of people screaming their lungs out. Soon enough I crossed the finish line in 3:07:47 (2,419th place), feeling good, but glad to be done. Boston #13 was in the books! I fell into the arms of a volunteer massage therapist, who pushed twitching dehydrated cramps out of my calves and sent me on my way with a smile.

(2:27 marathoners Michael Wardian and Matt Flaherty celebrate at the finish)
(With Jean Pommier at the finish)
(70-year-old Katherine Switzer with an impressive 4:44)
Although I thought the conditions were tough, I ran into a lot of runners who defied the heat to clock spectacular performances. Jean Pommier (2:44) finished 2nd in his age group, while Michael Wardian (2:27), Jorge Maravilla (2:24 for 30th!), Matt Flaherty (2:27), and Jon Kuehler (2:39) all crushed it. Alex Varner (2:34), Mario Fraoli (2:47), Erin Beck (4:34), Paige Alam and Kristin Armstrong (4:34) also did well in adverse conditions. At the professional level, the Kenyans swept with Geoffrey Kirui (2:09:37) and Edna Kiplagat (2:21:52) taking the wins, and American runners turning in incredible results with Galen Rupp (2:09:58) taking second and Jordan Hasay (2:23:00) taking third in her first marathon, and the men taking 6 of the top 10 spots.

My Mom braved the crowds of Boylston to see the pros finish, citing it as one of the grandest experiences she has ever witnessed (and sacrificing a toenail from all the walking, which seems a perfect marathon spectating result). We joined up at the Beantown Pub for dinner where she actively engaged with marathon finishers about stories of the finish and the history she knew. I was so proud! We all cheered as Katherine Switzer crossed the finish on the TV, looking as fresh as she did 50 years ago. Last stop was the Carrie Nation speakeasy for a nightcap before going facedown on our hotel beds a few hours later, exhausted and fulfilled from a truly American experience.

My thanks to the directors and volunteers of BAA for yet another great race, and a big congrats to all the runners who got through the heat to find that finish line. If you haven’t done this race, you should…and we will see you there! To my Mom, a huge hug and thanks for a perfect weekend, and making this annual pilgrimage more iconic than ever!

 See you on the trails… Scott


  1. Great recap, congrats! It was a tough day out there. You did an amazing pace. Glad I got one freeze pop after the faster folks had gone through.

    LOVE the latte art, which place? I'll put it on my to-do list for the - hopeful - next time I run Boston.

    1. Latte art was provided by Ogawa Coffee, whose barista trainer won the world championship latte art competition in 2012 (yes, there is such a thing). This is a popular coffee-snob chain in Japan, and Boston is their first US outlet. If "flights of java tasting" and "roasted green tea lattes" are your thing, definitely check this place out! Yummy breakfasts too.

  2. Hey Scott, I'm the fan girl who chatted with you in the hotel lobby on Sunday. I love your race recaps, you're the perfect blend of serious and fun. Not all runners are that way. See you at the Avenue in a couple of weeks!

    1. Awesome to meet you, Karen! I hope you guys had a good race and visit to Boston. Looking forward to checking out your home turf!

    2. We did. Before you head up next weekend, check on the condition of 101. It's currently buried under a big rock slide near Leggett and you might have to take I-5 up.

    3. Thanks for the tip! And I looked up your results - nice job to both of you at Boston!


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