Monday, April 15, 2013
A Race! Boston Marathon 2013
8:19s | 26.2 miles | 42~48°F
Today I ran the 2013 Boston Marathon. I completed it in 3:37:59 (8:19s). Definitely not one of my faster marathons, but at least I got to finish!
I’m actually writing this entry on Sunday, April 21, 2013, and backdating it. I’ve just gotten around to writing it, after a tumultuous week of news surrounding the tragic events that happened about an hour and ten minutes after I finished the marathon. So some of the information in this entry may seem futuristic relative to the publication date.
Official Stats per BAA.org
Bib No. 5653 (Wave 1, Corral 6)
|Pace||Projected Time||Official Time||Overall||Gender||Division|
Unofficial Stats per my Garmin 610
The day started off with relatively ideal conditions. It was mostly cloudy but the sun was peeking out. It was cool but not too cold, with a forecast for the race to get up to about 56 degrees — optimal for me. I was at the runner’s village with Elizabeth Corkum, who was also running it, set to pace her friend and running teammate Cip. They weren’t able to rendezvous at the village because of poor cell phone signal and low cell battery, but eventually found themselves in the corral. Elizabeth’s more remarkable stories of the day are here: Ode to Boston | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
I wasn’t feeling all that great this morning, which is generally a good thing for me in terms of racing because I tend to do fairly well when I feel bad in the morning. It was mostly a less than comfortable feeling in my digestive system but nothing that really terrified me. I wasn’t sure how I’d race today. I had not really put much strategy into the race this time, relying mostly on my 2011 Boston Marathon experience when I ran 3:15:16 (7:27s). I did not think I would achieve that level of performance this year; instead, I estimated I’d finish around a 3:25.
I ended up in Corral 6 in the first wave, which started at 10am. My impromptu strategy this time was to do a bit of research: I recalled how fast these first miles leaving Hopkinton could be, even without effort, so I decided I would run slowly out of the gate to see what that might do for my later effort. This included slapping kids’ hands on the right side of the course, which I thought would help to slow me down a bit. In my first miles I was mostly in the mid-7:10s without much effort, with a couple of slowdowns when I took a bathroom break during the 4th mile and stopped to loosen my laces in the 5th mile after having an intensifying tingling sensation in my left foot. The sensation didn’t relent so I decided I’d just see if I could deal with it while running and see if it would go away. It eventually did — I think sometime during the 10th or 11th mile. (I wondered if hydrating myself had any impact in the tingling going away because the loosened laces didn’t seem to help!)
My pace started to slow around the 8th mile, going into 7:20s territory and then quickly moving up past 7:30s up to an 8:00 for my 15th mile. During this time, I ticked off one of my things to do : get a kiss from a Wellesley girl or two. I found a spot where I thought I could get kissed on both cheeks by two girls. I got one kiss and quickly left. It was only after then that I realized that it was more the point to kiss a Wellesley girl than by kissed by one. Darn! Well, maybe I’ll try next time.
Once I ran 16 miles, I saw the game change for me. In my most recent training runs, I’d been able to get my 16-mile runs down to close to two hours, and here I was hitting that just about on the button, just a few seconds to maybe a minute slower than that pace. But from this point I realized that’s when things will get really tough with this race (what with the Newton Hills just ahead, plus the challenging last 10K), so I wasn’t expecting myself to hold to that pace, especially since my recent training had tapered too soon quite accidentally from being trapped in an unrelenting work schedule. Sure enough, it was after this point that my splits changed from sub-8:00s to ultra-8:00s, ultra-9:00s, and even ultra-10:00s! (There was one notable exception on the fast and exhilarating downhill off of Heartbreak Hill when I ran a 7:53.)
As far as the Newton Hills, the first one seemed the longest. The next two are a bit of a blur, with the downhills of these three seeming quite long. If I’d had more energy for these hills, I might have tried to shave off some time on these downhills. The fourth and final hill, Heartbreak Hill, indeed starts at the traffic light with a little bump, and concludes at a curve where I think there’s another traffic light. I was crawling along but didn’t stop. It was really fun getting some energy back on the long downhill out of Heartbreak Hill.
The Citgo sign is a welcome sight implying that you’re really close to the finish. You see it from a bit back then you don’t … and then you do. This second time you see it is more promising. However, there is a highway overpass of a very steep grade at this point in the race (steep to me at this point, that is!), so that’s to be remembered. From 2011, I remembered how hard all of the remaining hills were to me but this time they were a little less difficult except for this one. I was really drained for a lot of this 2013 race at the end. Crawling along in the ultra-9:00s and 10:00s, I wanted to stop but kept myself motivated enough to put one foot in front of the other and by reminding myself I’d only be running about 18-20 minutes more.
Elizabeth’s boyfriend Chris was near the end of the course, so that was also a motivator for me. He didn’t know exactly where he’d be so that was going to be a bit of a challenge for me to pick him out, so I didn’t lose too much energy trying to find him. He was going to be positioned near the underpass inside the last mile — this underpass below Massachusetts Avenue was across the street from our hotel, The Eliot. In the end, I missed Chris, and I continued on toward the Hereford turn and then to Boylston.
On Boylston, I picked up my pace just a bit, with my strategy being to sprint only once I hit the last cross-street, Exeter. I came upon an older man running in front of me whose shirt claimed he was 60 or so, and not wanting him to beat me, I made sure to pick up the pace enough to get by him. When I hit Exeter, I turned on the gas, and I ended up robo-sprinting through the finish line.
Since it was so helpful in 2011, I did the same this year and held the hands of some volunteers while I walked the intersection to get water. I picked up water, Gatorade, a heatsheet, medal, and other nourishment, all moaning a bit with my calves really aching. Once I accumulated all of my stuff, I decided to rest my legs a bit by stepping each one at a time on the lower rail of a security gate, with a volunteer making sure I was okay. I was, though I was aching. I then made my way over to the buses to get my bag, then off to the family reunion area. At some point I called Chris to triangulate with him. I decided to head over to his general area on Massachusetts and Commonwealth.
The route wasn’t as direct as it could be because of the road closures, so I hacked my way a bit in our hotel’s general direction. I ended up being near the finish so I turned down I believe Exeter and ended up very near the finish line. I was walking along the south part of the race, right in front of Lord & Taylor. It was in front of Lord & Taylor that I encountered a disturbing mass of people, pretty much sealed in like sardines with almost no room to move. The sidewalk was packed with about 3-6 rows of people watching, with only about two rows of people getting by near the wall of the store — and they were hardly moving. We would take babysteps every few seconds. I had two thoughts around this time: 1) if a bomb went off here it wouldn’t be pretty, and 2) why are there not police officers regulating the flow of people here? It was definitely unsafe. Where I was ended up being I believe diagonal from each of the bombs that were to go off minutes later.
Eventually I freed myself from the pedestrian traffic and made my way along Boylston. Lots of “Congratulations!” were uttered to me as I’d walked from the family reunion area, and they continued even to this point. I reached Hereford and all this time I’d been looking to see if I’d see Elizabeth and Cip finishing, but given what Chris had said about their time I figured it would still be a while. I thought about turning down the west side of Hereford but there looked to be so many people, I didn’t really want to endure navigating another mass of people. So I kept going along Boylston until I got to Massachusetts Ave., and I saw Chris waiting for me at Commonwealth.
We talked outside the hotel there at the corner for a bit. Chris said Elizabeth and Cip had just passed by, and sure enough soon after we got simultaneous text messages alerting us that they’d finished. It must have been three minutes later that we heard an enormous boom. I only remember one boom, but Chris remembered two. I looked to the police officers there who were regulating traffic and they seemed to look at each other, but we all carried on a moment later as if that-was-that. While it did sound like an explosion, I didn’t know the city very well so I figured it must have been loud sound on a construction site or something. It sounded like a dump truck hitting a pothole, which is a very loud sound. However, it sounded about ten times louder than that.
Chris went off to grab some lunch and I went up to the hotel room. Chris had left the TV on and I was watching The Talk on CBS and nourishing myself when suddenly breaking news came out. That sound I’d heard indeed was an explosion. In fact, it was at the marathon. Early reports were of limbs. It didn’t sit well. I first thought it must have been some tragic explosion of an oxygen tank at a medical tent. It wasn’t long before I realized it was something else.
Eventually I got a call from Elizabeth from Cip’s phone. Elizabeth hadn’t been able to reach Chris and since her cell phone battery was dead she had to use her friend’s phone. She said she had just finished about three minutes prior and had to run away. She was definitely in a state of excitation and I remained calm and asked her to remain calm. I figured it was all over — of course I didn’t know but I didn’t doubt that. She explained that the route back to our hotel was cut off now, so she would go to Cip’s hotel near Boston Common (the other side of the finish line from us) where she could also recharge her phone. Chris, who’d just gotten Elizabeth a burrito, was with me before he decided he’d see if he could walk over to her hotel to get her. He did, and meanwhile I got out messages that I was safe to those I knew who knew I was running. I did that nearly the entire time Chris was gone, when he came back with Elizabeth.
It is about there that my story ends. The only eerie thing for me is that I was on Boylston minutes before the explosions, but I just don’t recall how long before. I’m guessing it was about ten minutes before. The next eerie thing — I described as “chilling” — happened to me two days later when news got out that they had footage of one of the bombers laying down a backpack … footage taken from Lord & Taylor. When I heard Lord & Taylor mentioned, it hit me a bit since I’d been there. I remembered how packed it was, how some people were standing inside the glass entrance presumably out of the crowds, and how empty the store seemed despite being, I believe, open.
I ended up fixating on the news, staying in bed all day Friday from about 6:50am until the capture of the second suspect late that night. I was interested in the news. I don’t think I was traumatized by the events, but the last two nights (Friday and Saturday) I’ve dreamt of bombings and even a bombing at a race. I think that must be more from the impression of the news than the actual events, but I can’t be sure. I’ve had some other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder but I don’t really think I exhibit the condition, just more a confluence of things in my life coming together around the same time as this. We’ll have to see how this continues to unfold.
So that was much of my 2013 Boston Marathon experience. Wild. Marathoners in the last five months have been through a lot. From the cancellation of the 2012 NYC Marathon and the bad blood toward marathoners Hurricane Sandy sponsored, to the bombings of the 2013 Boston Marathon and the support its marathoners got, such an apolitical activity as marathoning seems to have become political. I’m hoping it’s only a blip in the history of marathoning and that marathoning can get back to its normalcy. Before the bombings, marathoning had long had a symbolic value, but after these bombings its symbolic value has increased manifold.
To see photographs from my 2013 Boston Marathon, click here.
To read an article from the Times Ledger in which I was interviewed about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, click here.
For a second article appearing in the Times Ledger, along with some photographs I provided, click here.