April 21, 2010

Race Report: Boston Marathon, Part 1

I got to Boston around 6pm on Saturday night, and took the Silver Line bus followed by the Red Line T to meet up with my friend Kristen, with whom I’d be staying. I was so impressed by the airport’s accessibility via public transit: it takes about 1.5 hours to get home from JFK, but it took only about 30 minutes to get from Boston Logan to the restaurant where Kristen and I were meeting for dinner. Kudos, Boston MTA!

Kristen and I met up in Harvard Square, and went to one of my favorite Boston restaurants: Cambridge One. I had never been to this particular Cambridge One (there are two locations, one in Fenway and one in Harvard Square), but I was so psyched to get my favorite pizza again. It’s ultra-thin crust, personal-sized, and they have a ton of different styles (meaning topping combos) that are totally delicious. I was sad to see they got rid of my absolute favorite pizza (lobster, corn, cilantro, and asiago cheese – no red sauce, just cilantro oil), but happily settled for my second favorite (mushrooms, roasted onions, and asiago). Kristen opted for one topped with arugula, and we both got yummy drinks (my favorite is the demi peche, which is beer mixed with peach flavoring). The perfect topper to a great day of running in Charlottesville!

The next morning, we overslept and missed the blogger brunch meetup (so sorry girls!), but made it downtown to the expo by 12:30. This expo was huge – reminded me a lot of NYC, but packed a little closer together. There were tons of yummy samples though, which made it all better. I am a huge fan of the new energy ball things that PowerBar has come up with – I gorged myself on so many of those that I barely had room for lunch! We said hi to a few “celebrity” running friends (Dane Rauschenberg and Bart Yasso), both of whom were really nice and happy to see me, and even got to meet Kathryn Switzer (who is the reason that women today are allowed to do the Boston Marathon!). Overall, I was happy with my time at the expo.

From there, we went to my favorite kind-of-fast-food restaurant: B Good. B Good is unique in that all their ingredients are sourced from small farmers, and they have pictures on the walls telling about the families who produce the meat, the potatoes, the ice cream, etc. Plus, everything is a bit lighter than you’ll find at McDonalds: baked fries, grilled burgers (without tons of oil!), etc. Kristen and I split an order or sweet potato fries, which took care of my carb requirement, and I thoroughly enjoyed my turkey burger, though it left me a little stuffed. However, that didn’t keep me from stopping at JP Licks’ for some delicious ice cream on our way home! I got a small dish, but because I asked for half and half of two different flavors (noodle kugel and cake batter), they gave me a monstrous portion. I spent the next hour or two feeling totally stuffed and a little sick to my stomach. Oops!

While hanging out at Kristen’s, I got an e-mail from Betsy (EatDrinkRunWoman)’s husband, Matt, who was organizing a race called the Hopkinton Hop (please go check out the site – he’s hilarious and explains the gist of the race in a much better and much funnier way than I ever could). I had told him several months ago that I would maybe do the double (and asked for the bib number 52.4 in recognition of it), but now he was sending an e-mail to see if any of the registrants had come to their senses. I had planned to skip the Hop once I decided to do Charlottesville, and called Matt to tell him so… until I heard that there was another marathoner, Jess, who was planning to do both. Never one to be bested at feats of crazy marathoning, I now started considering it.

My legs felt totally awesome, and how amazing would that be if I ran three marathons in one weekend and two in one day?! I hadn’t yet made my shirt for the race, but it would be pretty fun to put something on the back like “I already ran from Copley to Hopkinton at 4am this morning!” on there. Kristen, who has been my best friend since high school, is used to my crazy ideas and knows how to deal with them quite well – humor me for a while, but in the end be clear: “Don’t do it!” I mulled it over for about an hour, waffling back and forth the whole time. I realized that one of my biggest reasons for wanting to do it was because it would mean I wouldn’t have to sit outside in Hopkinton in the cold waiting for the race to start – I’d be running and staying warm. However, I’d have to get up about two hours earlier in order to finish before the handcycle athletes started the race. Plus, the Hop wouldn’t count as an official marathon (it doesn’t fit a lot of the criteria used to determine if a race is legitimate), and that was frightening. If Boston had been first and I could have run the Hop after, I would have been a lot more tempted to do it, but I worried that if I finished the Hop and then couldn’t complete Boston, I’d be stuck without Massachusetts and would have to extend my 50 state journey another month until I could do the Stone Cat Trail Marathon. No way! Besides, I knew my mom would kill me for doing the Hop, and I didn’t want to incur her wrath. Ultimately, I decided to just stick with the regular (and somewhat boring) day of just running 26.2 miles. Ho hum 🙂

After we hung out at Kristen’s for a while, my friend Adam picked us up and drove us to the (free) pasta dinner. While the NYC Marathon’s pasta dinner is to be avoided (pricy, chaotic, and not that good), I thought Boston did a fairly good job with it. We had VIP passes that were supposed to allow us to skip the line… but it turned out there was no line at all. They were that efficient! There were tons and tons of buffet stations with servers offering macaroni and cheese, ziti with sausage, cold pasta salad, regular salad, and bread. But best of all – there was free beer and wine as well! I was really impressed that this spread was available at no cost to all the runners (though I realize the price of a Boston bib is pretty high), and even more impressed that we didn’t have to wait to get it. Great job, BAA!

From there, Kristen and I said our goodbyes, and I headed to Adam’s for the night. We watched some movies while I laid out my race gear and used a permanent marker to write all my wording on my shirt (the front with “LAURA” and then “48th marathon, 1st Boston!”, and the back with “Quest to become the youngest female to run a marathon in all 50 states… 6 to go!”). I had been yawning since about 8pm, so by 10pm, I was ready to hit the hay. Race day tomorrow! Eeeeee 🙂

I woke up feeling totally refreshed and ready to go… Boston, here I come! I had been dreading getting up at 6:15am, but as it turned out, I woke up a million times during the night, excited about the race, and ultimately got up for good five minutes before my alarm went off. Lately I’ve been really good at doing this – Sarah Bernhardt, look out.

I grabbed the T near my friend Adam’s apartment and it came fairly quickly. However, I was surprised to see that there weren’t any other runners onboard. I started to worry that maybe I had messed up the start time – I thought I was supposed to be at the buses at 7:30, but maybe it was 6:30 and I had missed it? Fortunately, some runners got on a stop or two later and I breathed easier. However, when I got off at the Boylston stop, about half the runners stayed on the train and half got off. Again, I wondered if I had done something wrong, but another runner assured me that I was in the right place, and pointed out that some runners were meeting their friends at area hotels before heading to the start, so maybe that’s what those people were doing.

I arrived at the bus line safe and sound, and found it ridiculously long – I’d estimate at least a quarter mile because of the way it wrapped around Boston Common! Luckily, it was extremely well-organized, and it was only about 15 minutes before we were at the front of the line and boarding a bus. I made a bunch of new friends in line, most of whom couldn’t believe the frequency with which I run marathons. However, I felt very guilty admitting that I hadn’t actually qualified for Boston (my company is one of the major sponsors so they had gotten me an entry). I hoped that I wouldn’t spend the whole race apologizing and feeling bad that I wasn’t among the semi-elite who had BQed! It was definitely a different setting than any other marathon I’ve ever done – everyone was an experienced marathoner, and everyone was used to really fast times and had very ambitious goals for the race. I didn’t announce any kind of goal for myself – I was hoping for about a 4:15, but that was so slow compared to everyone else’s goals that I was ashamed to admit it 🙂

The drive to Hopkinton was pretty short, but the one lane road off the exit was totally congested so we ended up on the buses for a while. I for one was thrilled – we weren’t in any danger of missing the start, and more time on the buses meant less time waiting outside in the slightly cool day (I think it was high 40s at this point). There was an unexpected twist though: despite the forecasts calling for the day to be totally overcast, the sun was actually shining brightly… and of course, I had left my sunglasses back at Adam’s apartment. I was a little mad at myself for not just wearing them on top of my head just in case, but I figured it would be okay. The other runners took my lack of sunglasses very seriously though, and seemed appalled that I didn’t even have a hat to shade my eyes. You all know me – I come unprepared and don’t stress too much about it, but I guess others aren’t quite as low-key, particularly for a race like Boston!

One event of note on the bus: when we were stalled in traffic while waiting to get to the start, a few people had to go to the bathroom, and ducked off the bus in order to go in the woods. I was really surprised – it wasn’t going to be THAT long till we were at the start, and it seemed very public to get off the bus and go in the woods with everyone watching out the windows. The first person to jump off and do this was a girl, and when she got back on the bus, everyone cheered for her and joked about how it was a “Pee”-R. Thanks, but no thanks – I stayed where I was and just planned to brave the portapotty lines at the start!

When we got off the bus at Athlete’s Village, I was really happy to see that there were volunteers welcoming us and wishing us good luck. Definitely a nice touch! A lot of runners were still ducking off into the woods, but I had heard that the police were ticketing people they caught doing that, so I continued to hold out for the portapottys. The BAA really did a phenomenal job of getting a ton of toilets this year – when I joined a line, I only had to wait for 3 people ahead of me (about 5 minutes) before it was my turn. Nicely done, BAA!

It was definitely a little bit cold still, and at first I wandered into the tents to see how warm that was, but I ultimately decided I was better off outside in the sun – it felt great on my legs. I looked for people I knew (Maniacs, 50 Staters, blog buddies, etc), but didn’t see anyone so instead made some new friends around me. After only about 30 minutes, they started calling wave 2 to the start, and off we went!

The baggage buses seemed very well organized, but I wasn’t going to be checking anything so I headed right on past. There was a guy giving out blue shoelaces with the Boston Marathon logo on them, and I took a few to tie into a cute little bow in my hair. Fun! Meanwhile, I fell in line with the crowds moving toward the start, continuing to chat up other runners and make friends along the way. A few people pointed out my yellow drop bag and noted that I was supposed to already turn that in, but I replied that I wasn’t dropping anything – I was just using it to store my throwaway stuff (extra heat sheets, a magazine, some water, etc) until right when I got to the start. I had a little bit of trouble walking with the heatsheet wrapped around my legs, but my top was staying decently warm. Last year, my work gave away a lot of Boston Marathon gear after the race that I managed to snag. However, it all said “Boston Marathon 2009” on it, and I never felt right wearing it since I hadn’t run that race. This was the perfect opportunity to put the jacket to good use – it would warm me up well, I could throw it away without any qualms about wearing it again, and I knew some lucky volunteer at the start would love to have it.

When I got to the corrals, I discovered there was a problem: there were already hundreds of people in each one (each was supposed to hold 1,000 runners), and despite having a number that allowed me access to corral 25, there was no room in the corral for me to enter! There was a huge mass of people at the official entrance to the corral, but a bunch of us slipped in through a gap in the fencing so that we could fit in. Maybe not the perfect thing to do, but we DID belong in that corral so I didn’t feel too bad about doing it.

After about 10 more minutes of waiting, they announced that the race was starting… but no one moved. I assume the corrals ahead of us had similar situations where they were too full and had to let extra people in before letting the next corral go forward. When we finally did start moving, it was definitely a little hike to the start… but there were volunteers wishing us luck all the way. Finally, we reached the banner marking the start – the race had begun!

Click here for part 2


6 thoughts on “Race Report: Boston Marathon, Part 1”

  1. Can’t wait to hear the rest of your race report!

    One of my best friends lives in Boston and whenever I visit we go to B.Good! LOVE IT! I always get (split) the sweet potato fries and one of the baked chicken sandwiches with cheese, avocado, lettuce, & tomato! YUM!

    1.5 hours to JFK…wow! I did the 5k race there last weekend and was surprised to find it only took me a little under an hour. Where in Manhattan do you live? I live in Midtown East and catch the E train at 53rd/3rd pretty easily!

  2. I live on the border of UWS and Midtown West, so I have to change trains, which is why it takes so long. A lot of the time when I’m coming home, I just get off the E train and then take a cab from there (about $8) instead of transferring and walking!

    Last year, when the E train was being all difficult in the summer with maintenance, I allowed 2 hours to get to the airport and planned to get there 1 hour before my flight… and was still on the subway when my plane took off. That’s how I ended up with the “12 hours in Anchorage” story – I had to take a totally different flight!

  3. Doing the Hop before the official marathon is totally nuts, so I can understand why you were tempted. If it were any other race besides Boston…yeah!
    Can’t wait for the 2nd part.
    So cool that you met Kathryn Switzer!

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