Monthly Archives: April 2013

Boston Marathon

It’s impossible to write a race report for Boston and not think about what happened after my race was over but before so many other people’s races were not. But I think part of getting back to normal, to living, is to be proud of what I accomplished that day. Not to treat the day as though nothing else happened, but to remember it for all that happened, the awesome and the awful. I’ve been trying to piece through my thoughts about the terrible things that happened, but what about the rest of the day?

It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning
Shoes and medal
The marathon is, so far, a singular experience in running for me. So often, a marathon is early in the day with only the hardiest of fans (often friends and family) lining the course early on. My previous marathons were often spent with a feeling of being alone (not lonely, just running alone or around 2-3 other people). Sometimes this feeling was just because my day was not going the way I wanted it to, sometimes because there were actually no other runners around, and sometimes there was no one there to cheer you on. At Boston this was never the case. At Boston, there is always someone there, running with you, cheering just for you (or so it seemed). It’s the Boston running community. It’s the Boston community.

Given that I was in wave one, given that I am a stickler for doing as I am told, I woke up at 5 AM, took my time getting dressed in race clothes and pajamas, grabbed a bagel, two bananas, some water and jumped on the T to get on the buses to go Hopkinton. Yes, I was early. Yes, there were still 4 hours before the race would start. But given my previous history with a terrible stomach, I wanted to make sure that I was hydrated, rested, fully finished with my morning duties, and with good thoughts about race day in my head. So it was that I arrived in Hopkinton with hours until race time, hundreds of port-a-potties to be used, and scoped out a place to lie down, eat my food, get hydrated, and relax. And that’s precisely what I did.

As race time approached, I knew I had to use the bathroom one last time. I dropped off my gear bag, but didn’t know if there were port-a-potties at the start (pro-tip: there are!), so waited in line, and was finally ready to head to the start with 15 minutes to go. Jogged my way through the hordes of runners in my wave and future waves and got to the start with a couple of minutes to spare. And this is where my memory of the day is not as clear as I would wish it would be. But I remember the important parts.

The Marathon
Here’s what Steve said to do before the race and how I feel like I did:

  • Run the tangents – Not fully possible
  • Don’t come off of Heartbreak too fast, wait until you get through Cleveland Circle and on to Beacon St. before thinking about taking up the pace. – There was no pace left
  • Your first mile should be the slowest. – It was the slowest of my first half? Does that count?
  • Bring snacks/hydration with you out to Hopkinton. – SUCCESS!
  • Sit as much as possible in Hopkinton. – SUCCESS!
  • Poop as much as possible in Hopkinton. – SUCCESS!
  • Run steady and enjoy the first 16 miles without doing anything crazy dumb. – Partial success? I don’t think I did anything really dumb. My splits over the first 30K are pretty much bang on consistent.
  • Strap it on and get tough once you hit Lower Newton Falls and climb over 128/95 – that’s where the race begins. – This is where I realized I was going to be able to run up every single one of the Newton hills (which I had never run before).
  • The hills aren’t all that hard…yeah, you’ll lose a little time, but nothing serious. – That’s the truth. In fact, the finishing downhills after the uphills are worse

3:00:04. Via the splits tab, I didn’t realize I was being so consistent for the first 16 miles (all miles within 8 seconds of each other). My first five 5K splits were all within seconds of each other.
40K in
I don’t remember much specifically about the first few miles, or about the race in general. I remember male runners jumping into the woods after the first downhill to pee. I remember enormous cheers as we passed the roadside pub in Ashland. I remember reaching the 8K mark (where I had turned around the week before in my tune up) and thinking the rest of this is unknown. I kept thinking to myself: “I’m going too fast. I need to slow down. My legs didn’t feel light all week. My legs feel heavy today.” And yet I churned out mile after mile at around the same pace, running in a still enormous group. I saw my parents in Framingham, and I’m pretty sure I gave them a wave before they realized it was me. I saw a runner drop his cap, turn around and charge back into the group to get it (why?!). I was overwhelmed by the cheers at Wellesley, and then shocked when I heard a thud and realized a Wellesley student had fallen over the barricade. I got cheers from friends and friends of friends and totally random people. I saw my parents again at mile 16 (though I wasn’t expecting them to be where they were). I kept waiting for the start of the hills, then crushed it up over 128/95. I saw the RaceMenu gang at the top of Heartbreak and figured the hardest part was over.I gave just about every BC student a high five as I cruised down the hill. I had a cheering section coming around the bend in Coolidge Corner (which I would still be hard pressed to find on a map). I was tired on Beacon and failing at calculating my expected finishing time. I stopped running for a few seconds. I thought I might be a Canadian marathoner for a while. I had friends at 40K, when I was in a bad place, cheering me on. I couldn’t catch my breath in the cold shadows of Boylston. I finished and I thought I would cry from physical and emotional exhaustion. I shivered through waiting for my gear bag, then hobbled around to meet my family at Parish. And the rest of the day I’ve written about and am still coming to terms with.

Many people have asked if the 4 seconds bother me. Even before the bombs went off, the answer was no. Now even more so. The time is as it is because that’s what unfolded over the day. Every choice we make on race day can go a million different ways. Sure, I could have gone a bit slower in mile 1, but maybe I’d feel the same at the end. I could have pushed through all of the pain, but maybe I end up a mess. That’s not to say that it’s random or it’s impossible I could have gone faster. Next year I will. But there’s nothing about those three hours I spent on that course that I’d want to change.

April 15, 2013

Collecting thoughts here. Many I’ve posted elsewhere but am duplicating here

April 16, 2013 AM

April 16, 2013 AM

April 15, 2013
I’m sure I will write a race report at some point, but for now: Boston, I love you.

My parents, my brother’s girlfriend, and I were waiting for lunch post-race. I decided I was too cold and wet to stick around waiting for a table, so we decided to walk back to my apartment where I could shower, get warm, and change into NOT pajamas. As I showered, I realized how little of the race I remembered and how I would have a problem writing an in-depth race report. When I got out of the shower, I got a text from my brother in the Hancock Tower telling me about the explosions before I had even seen anything on twitter. And with that, the events of the day have overwhelmed the day’s event. We don’t know who decided to place two (or more) bombs, detonate at least two of the bombs, why he/she/they did that, what the motivation was… we know so little about the cause, but we know so much about the reactions of those there to provide assistance and comfort to the wounded. The first responders have been just amazing: running into the exact things we run away from. We’ve seen this before, but I’ve never seen it so close.

I was home when it happened. I am uninjured. But I am still shaken. People’s lives torn asunder, just an hour or so after I’d left the area (as we neared my apartment, I was told that it was 2:30, only ~20 minutes before the first explosion). I’m alternating between exhaustion and sadness. I can’t continue to watch the news coverage, but I can’t not watch it (though I could do with less repeat of the footage — often graphic — of the explosion and immediate aftermath). But it’s all just so tragic and sad.

I love Boston. I love the city and its people. I love the Boston Marathon. I’ll be running again next year and every year I can.

Old State House April 16, 2013

Old State House April 16, 2013

April 17, 2013
I don’t mean for this to diminish what has happened. Not at all. It was terrifying and sad and senseless. I ache: physically and emotionally.
I walked through Government Center last night, on my way to meet Gregory Soutiea for a beer (or three), past what seemed like the entire Cambridge MA SWAT team, past Army EOD trucks, all in a hope to get back to some sense of normalcy. I was on the phone with my dad, and he asked, as so many have, if we, if I, will ever feel safe again. And the truth is I feel no less safe today than I did Sunday, or Monday as I was running. Perhaps there was more that could have been done on Monday to prevent what happened, but I doubt it. Assholes with guns and bombs and terrible thoughts in their heads and hearts are hard to stop and hard to predict. Like so many acts that instill us with terror, it appears at once both targeted and random: targeted towards society as a whole, but random in its selection of victims. I am incredibly sad, often on the verge of tears (both in pride of all the good that everyone performed in the immediate and not so immediate aftermath and sadness over the lives ruined and lost and forever changed). But I don’t feel any less safe. I refuse to feel less safe.

April 18, 2013
The week after a marathon is usually a week of recovery, and often mental recovery, but not in this way. It’s a bit disjointed to feel so affected. I was about a mile away, already finished, showering, and ready to celebrate the day when the bombs went off. But I have friends who had just finished, friends and family who hadn’t yet finished, friends and family who had watched me finish and walked through the same crowds. Every time I thought “I’ve check on everyone I know who is running” I realized I knew 5 more people who were running, who might have family there. And that speaks to how tight knit the Boston running community is, and how tight knit Boston is as well.

I wasn’t planning on buying a marathon jacket. After all, it’s just a marathon. I’ve never bought race gear except for after I’ve finished my iron distance races. But then the explosions happened and, I suppose, selfishly I want something to say, “I ran this. I was there that day. I support the race, the city, and the people”. And so I contacted City Sports yesterday, learned they still had some jackets, and asked them to hold one of the ones they had left. And then I started walking.

As I have so many times the past couple of days, I’ve walked across the Longfellow Bridge from Cambridge into Boston, through Beacon Hill, and between the Common and Public Garden. I’ve turned down Boylston a number of times, and despite it being open all the way to Berkeley Street, I can’t make it past Arlington yet. At some point, Boylston will be opened completely, and I’ll walk down it, past the spots where lives were changed and ruined. But for now, it’s a bit to fresh to continue down the street.

This is not to say that things aren’t returning to some sense of normal. We’re remembering to also focus on the joy of raceday, the application of all of our training to the race, the cheering of Wellesley and Boston College and Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline and Boston. We won’t forget, but we will recover.

Deep center at Fenway

Deep center at Fenway

April 21, 2013
The end week was, at its core, surreal. Glued to the tv, to twitter, to The Globe trying to pick up any piece of news I could.

I spent Saturday afternoon at Fenway with some friends. Friends who had come to the marathon to watch me and their other friends running. We had avoided serious physical harm that day, but Matt and I, I think, still feel the effects pretty openly. “Do you ever wish you were at the finish line?” The obvious answer is no. But I think it gets to a deeper seated question (or two): what gives us the right to feel so impacted by the explosions despite not being there when it happened? And secondarily, what would we have done if we had been at the finish line? As to the second, I hope I never have to find out. To the first, I think, we’re allowed to be impacted. We should be impacted. Matt’s a lifelong Massachusetts resident. I’m relatively new here. But we’re both members of the running community. This attack, as it was, was an attack at everything we held dear: running, Boston, our friends: all of our communities. It does matter why the attacks took place, but even without that knowledge, it is still hits very close to home. It hits home.

They always said it took 15 or 20 years of living here to feel like a real Bostonian. Or, this past week.
Scott Kirsner

Time does not, cannot heal all wounds. There are some wounds that can’t be healed. But for those wounds that will heal, the healing has started. Life begins to return to a more normal reality.