Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Boston XV - A Fountain of Inspiration At The 2019 Boston Marathon


There are few races that fuel the soul of a runner as deeply and consistently as the Boston Marathon. The rich history, great performances, wild card weather, and unstoppable energy permeating from first time runners and ever-cheerful volunteers/spectators always draws out our best. This cauldron of inspiration cannot be explained, nor contained, only experienced and permanently absorbed. It has now pulled me back for fifteen consecutive editions, and the 2019 race (my "Boston XV") once again exceeded all expectations. The perfect closure of my American chapter before we begin our European life adventure. 

(Picking up the race bib - Corral #1 this year!)
I had a loaded Patriot's Day weekend ahead of me as I stepped off the plane on the Saturday before the race. First, a chance to meet some soon-to-be colleagues at adidas, where I will be employed when we move to Austria in late May. Then to the 5th birthday party of Like The Wind magazine, the most original and artistic voice in the running world today, to meet founders Simon and Julie Freeman and their cadre of collaborators and see some running-inspired art. I only had enough time to stop at the Expo to get my bib (#574!) and watch Tiger Woods make his extraordinary comeback at The Masters at one of the Expo booths. So many great vibes of courage and redemption, it was easy to shrug off the forecast of crazy thunderstorms rolling in for race day. With all this inspiration, how could we be stopped?!?

(Runners watching Tiger's historic 5th Masters)
(Meeting Simon Freeman, co-founder of Like The Wind magazine, in person)
(Runners listen to guest speakers at the Like The Wind birthday party)
(Slothie, my stuffy travel buddy who always finds his way into my suitcase,
is far more interested in the Game Of Thrones Season 8 Premiere)
Race morning found us boarding the buses in torrential rain and flashes of lightning, but with an expected forecast of clear skies within hours. Would we make it?!? It would be close, so we all dressed for every possible outcome. For those of us who were here last year, the 60+ degree temperature was already a huge improvement over the hypothermia insanity of 2018. 

The bus ride to the start was, once again, a great way to meet runners from all over the world and hear their stories. Ismael from Egypt started running after rehab from hip surgery and now found himself at his first Boston just two years later. Becky from Minnesota was on her second Boston, looking for some redemption after last year. Fred from Florida was running his way to spiritual and physical health post-divorce, back at Boston after a 10 year hiatus. Matt from Ohio took the new Boston standards as a challenge to shave five more minutes off his PR, but had trained so hard he had his sights on a solid 25 minute improvement (which he would get!). Each story of triumph and courage more powerful than the next...I could listen to them all day. 

By the time I found Corral #1, it was obvious I had massively overdressed. The rain had stopped, the temps settling in the mid-60's, and Hopkinton was hot and humid...the siamese twins of exercise-induced heatstroke. I made the decision early to run at cruising speed, and just enjoy the ride. At 10:02am, we were off! 

(Overdressed in a motorcycle rain suit and muck boots...can't be too careful after '18!)
(Nice and warm in Corral #1)
(My buddy, Bob Weinhold, finds me on the NBC TV coverage...taking pictures, natch!)
(And we're off!)
It was a tad warm for us non-acclimated runners, but perfect weather for cheering and spectating. No surprise, Boston was out en force at every stop! I gave high fives to the kids of Ashland, recognizing a few of them as the toddlers who once held out orange slices in these very same spots. Santa was there in Natick, per usual, and we got our 14th consecutive selfie! I was sure to put in a good word for my girls, and let him know of our new Austrian address. ;-)

(Santa is looking good!)
The women of Wellesley were in full force (mile 12), and we could hear the scream tunnel sirens for a solid mile before, pulled us in like a tractor beam. I leaned in to exchange a smooch, and then saw something I couldn't believe - a sign with my name on it! "All Day Long I Dream Of Scott Dunlap"...that's it folks, I have officially jumped the shark. I suspect fellow athlete and Boston runner Shannon Hogan and her clan were behind it. Such a unique thrill, thank you! ;-)

(Love you, Wellesley!)
(DUDE...NO...WAY!)

I crossed the halfway in 1:26:54, comfortably on a sub-3 pace despite all the photo shenanigans. As I settled into a rhythm for the hills of Natick (mile 15), I stared down at the three stripes in the center of the road that lead us to the finish....those three stripes will certainly be leading me beyond Boylston this time!

I got my annual beer at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill (mile 20), and weaved through the carnage of walking runners in the final six miles. The sun had come out now, and those few extra degrees seemed to be enough to bring dozens of runners to a stop. I opted for lots of water on the head, knowing the adidas Ultraboost 19 shoes and Injinji toe socks would drain well and keep my feet from getting thrashed. The heat wasn't stopping three runners in the M60-64 age group that were all within 100 yards around me, tactically eyeing each other for the first move...it was going to be a sprint finish! We made the historic left onto Boylston and the M60+ warriors all dropped the hammer, leaving me in their wake. Now THAT'S how you finish Boston!

(Past the new memorial)
(Home stretch down Boylston St)
(The finish!)
(The awesome volunteers set me up with medal #15...so glad they had a sunny day for once!)
(My volunteer masseuse gets my calves back in shape...still the best kept secret at the finish line)
I crossed the finish line in 2:56:48 for 1953rd place, all smiles, and plenty of fist bumps all around. The streets were filled with the roar of 100,000+ spectators, cheering runners in by the hundreds now. What a fantastic day!

I soon found myself sharing fish and chips and beers with other finishers and family, watching how the professional races unfolded. Lawrence Cherono and 2-time champion Lelisa Desisa ended up sprinting the final stretch, before Cherono edged Desisa out by only a few seconds (2:08), and Kenneth Kipkemoi a few seconds later. The closest podium in history! Americans Scott Fauble and Jared Ward both had epic races, hitting the 2:09 standard and placing 7th and 8th, respectively. Wow! Worknesh Degafa had won the Women's race (2:23), with Jordan Hasay making the podium in 3rd (2:25), and Desi Linden in 5th (2:27). Once again, very impressive efforts all around.
(Lawrence Cherono edges out Lelisa Desisa in the final yards of the closest finish in Boston Marathon history, epically captured by Neil Powell)
As I numbed up my legs with one last celebratory cocktail, I found myself screaming at my phone as my friend Chris Devine slogged his way through an injured 5-hour marathon to get his first Boston medal. Winners, finishers, comebacks...it's pretty amazing what we can accomplish when we set our minds to it. Thank you, Boston, for giving us the grandest of stages! My next adventure is a big one, but my confidence is now #BostonStrong. 

(The XV Beacon hotel is happy to help me ring in my 15th finish)

(One more in the books...wunderbar!)


2 comments:

  1. Great attitude to running Scott. I'd love to be this relaxed when running sub-3. I randomly came across your blog last year and your Mt Charleston race report has led me to fly to LV this weekend (from Hong Kong) in search of my own sub 4 min mile equiv (<2:40) - so just to let you know your story had global reach. All the best, Mark F.

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