|The 2002 Boston Marathon - One Runner's Race
This is what running Boston is all about...
The writer may not have won Monday's Boston Marathon, but he ran his heart out to a 361st place finish and a new PR. He sent this email to his friends and we put it up here because it sums up the feeling of accomplishment that comes with really training and running hard and it gives a good glimpse of what it was like on the Boston course in the middle of it all...
Note: Ted Marzilli is a friend of mine and he ran a fantastic race on Monday. He's been training like a crazy and shooting for a new PR in this race that he has run 7 times. I know that he didn't mean for this letter to make it onto the web to be seen by thousands, but I couldn't resist - JE
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This email should clearly be filed under A) Shameless self-promotion or
B) Delete / Trash. But, in the end, I can blame the endorphins. If you do not
have the patience or desire to read through it, the skinny is: 2:48:16 -
that's a 6:25 pace and a new PR (personal record).
Standing at the start line for the first time in three years, I felt as
though everything had come together - my ribs (backpack mishap) and knee
(nightstand mishap) felt completely healed. And mentally, I could barely
wait to start the run. The weather was forecast to be 70-80 degrees - a
runner's nightmare. But at the moment, it was still overcast with
temperatures in the 50s. Maybe the cloud cover would last a few more hours.
Boston is a fast field, and I was swept up in the moment. My first two
miles were under 6:15, but then I settled into my rhythm and fell into what
felt like an easy 6:20 - 6:25 pace. At times, there was a fairly strong
headwind. Unfortunately, there are not many big guys who run at my pace, so
there was no one to hide behind to block the wind. I tried to put it out of
my mind, and just focus on running a steady pace. And I did hold this pace,
mile after mile, heading into the Newton hills (miles 17-21). I was feeling
strong. And I felt that if I just worked my way through the hills, I could
still emerge on the other side feeling relatively fresh for the final
descent into Boston.
I knew that this is where the race really begins. And I knew that I would
pass a lot of runners on this stretch - runners who either were unfamiliar
with Boston's topography or who were simply starting to succumb to the
pain. I also knew that crowd support could really help with the struggle up
the hills - and spectators tend to respond to runners who look strong.
Sure, they will cheer for the guy who looks like he is really struggling.
But in general, most spectators are not impressed by some guy who resembles
David Byrne plucked out of a 1980s music video, sweaty, panicked, asking
"How did I get here?" Most spectators really want to see the guy that looks
fresh, who looks like he knows how he arrived, and has a plan to make it
home. I put the pain aside and put on my game face as I turned onto
Commonwealth Avenue to face the hills.
And the crowd responded. Sometimes it was just the blurred roar of hundreds
of people screaming at once. But often is was a single voice telling me
"You can do it!" or "Looking good!" or "Way to push the hill!" These folks
made me feel like they had a personal stake in my outcome. And they really
did help share the burden of running up those damn hills!
When I made it to the top of Heartbreak Hill, I knew that the PR was mine
to lose. I felt strong. I had slowed only marginally going up the hills.
Now I only had to hold my pace and not do anything stupid (e.g., cramp,
trip) between here and the finish.
My first post-hill mile was a 6:19! I couldn't help but smile. I felt like
I could run this pace for the entire day. There would be no wall to hit, or
run through, today. I tried to take in the scene running down Beacon Street
towards Kenmore Square. The Citgo sign perched above the square, the city
skyline, the brick walk-ups lining Beacon Street - and all the people.
Maybe they could see in my face that I had my PR in sight. They seemed to
know. Maybe their smiling faces were just a reflection of my expression. I
felt like I was just coasting towards the finish.
When I took the final turn onto Boylston Street, and could see the finish
line, the size of the journey hit me. And the event began to overwhelm me.
I kept my glance to the right, trying to blink the tears out of my eyes so
that I could make out my folks, who I knew were somewhere in that mass of
people. Before long, I spotted my dad's white hair leaning against the
barricade, smiling and waving at me. And my mom next to him, taking a photo
that I know will capture no part of me whatsoever. I waved and then
returned my focus to the finish.
I think this may be the first time ever that I crossed the finish of a
marathon with a smile on my face. As I turned to shake hands with the
others who had finished near me, I saw the smiling face of my running
teammate, Kent, who had finished about 15 seconds behind me. He had
improved upon his PR by about eight minutes. As we walked through the
finishing shoots, leaning against each other for support, alternately
grinning with accomplishment and grimacing from occasional leg cramps, the
sun emerged from behind the clouds, and I felt the wind at my back for the
first time all day.