Boston, Patriots’ Day, Monday, April 15, 2013
Patriots’ Day, Monday, April 15, 2013 is a day we won’t forget. Much has been eloquently written about the day after 2:49pm. Below are my experiences prior to the tragedy.
For me, this Patriots’ Day was my third running of the Boston Marathon. As I did the previous two times, I dedicated my run to the battle against Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, which afflicts my 11 year old son William. I run in support of PPMD’s “Run For Our Sons.” Of the many reasons why I run, this is most meaningful. Anyone who has run for a cause they believe in so deeply will tell you it gives you wings.
It is a calling.
The Journey to Boston
Unlike many who are fortunate to run the marathon for charities, PPMD is given no race entries so donning the Run For Our Sons green at Boston must be earned individually through hard work and sacrifice. For me, that has meant an almost daily commitment to running and training, which I’ve continued for over 4 years now.
Last year, in the heat of the 2012 Boston Marathon, I failed to run my required requalification time. So, despite living 10 miles from the finish line, the road to Boston had to go thorough Sugarloaf Maine five short weeks later. For me, Sugarloaf was a good race but, as is typical in a marathon, it got very tough. During the last miles I turned myself inside out to keep pace and reminded myself how important it was for me to have the opportunity to run again for our sons at Boston. The searing pain in my legs was nothing compared to the heartache of living with Duchenne in our lives, so I carried on resilient to the pain. It was temporary. In the end it took everything I had to requalify under the new and harder standards. I had just 4 seconds to spare.
Fast Forward to the Winter of 2013
Having just come off a nice Fall of increased mileage I gave myself a very simple training plan: at least 50 miles per week, a long run on Sundays, a mid-week medium-long run, and some sort of weekly speed session only if my legs felt healthy. For the long runs I joined the Melrose Running Club’s weekly “Sunday Long Runs” training series, which was invaluable in getting me through some nasty weather. This simple plan proved it’s worth as I improved my half-marathon time by a minute on a more challenging course in just two months. I entered April feeling good. All systems go.
The Excitement Before the Storm
As with previous years, William and I took advantage of the Marathon Expo for a fun Saturday in Boston. Sunday I prepped my bag and tried to get a good night sleep. Monday was an early rise, then a comfortable bus ride to Hopkinton with the Greater Lowell Road Runners. Pulling into the Marathon Village quickly brought back just how special the Boston Marathon is. It’s truly international. Runners from all over the world are gathered. You hear so many languages and see and meet so many interesting runners.
I entered my coral with very little anxiety, I just wanted to soak it in and relax. I chatted with some of the runners around me, took some sunscreen that was being passed, and quickly found myself underway.
Miles 1 – 10: Unlike in 2011 I was going to take the start easy and held back to conserve energy. With some concentration I ran as calmly as possible. Goal pace never felt so good. This turned out to be a great opportunity to soak in the magnitude of the event and the endless line of runners stretched out up the road ahead.
Miles 10 – 13.1: Despite the ease in my pace I could feel a pressure growing in my gut. I kept on running at goal pace despite the growing discomfort, all the while hoping it would be transient. I hit the half marathon requiring a 46 second negative split to meet my goal. Considering how fresh my legs were I was still running conservatively. Unfortunataly the growing pressure in my gut was causing increased concern.
Miles 13.1 – 16: These miles were trying. I found myself trying to balance pace against the growing distress in my gut. At mile 15.5 my gut won and I was forced to take a seat in the port-a-john at a medical tent long enough to feel a little better again.
Miles 16 – 21: Coming out of the port-a-john, having lost time, I sensed I would soon be running on the edge of what my body was willing to allow for the day. I did some math and realized the half marathon time I would need to run to meet my “A” goal was out of reach and soon started focusing on secondary goals. Perhaps a PR (“B” goal) was still within reach, so I ran strong but cautiously through the Newton Hills.
Miles 21 – 23: By mile 21 it was apparent that the still ongoing distress in my gut was causing new problems. It prevented me form drinking enough water or eating enough gels since mile 10. I was becoming dehydrated and not sweating much. Also, the tightness in my abdomen was causing my left hip to seize, my running form was suffering, and I was hurting. Perhaps if I focused on good leg turnover a requalifying 10 minutes faster than my BQ standard (“C” goal) was still within reach, so I tried to visualize myself on a strong training run and kept moving.
Miles 24 – 26: By this point the ripple effects of my distressed gut had taken over and I was experiencing pain through my entire body. I had slowed down another 30 seconds per mile and, despite the growing urge to be sick, I was mentally trying to imagine just jogging a 5K. I was running a very fine line between decent forward progress and complete shutdown. At this point I knew I wouldn’t requalify by more than 10 minutes. Perhaps I could finish with more than 5 minutes to spare? Some quick mental math told me as long as I didn’t stop I’d make it.
Last 0.2: Despite how bad I was feeling at the end of the race there is always something magical about running down Boylston to the finish. It’s a slight downhill that gently coaxes you to the finish. The crowds are deep, from the barriers to the buildings. It’s a unique experience. Imagine taking a bat at Fenway. Realizing my “D” goal of finishing over 5 minutes under my qualifying time was safe I held my head up and soaked it all in during that last stretch reminding myself not to take the experience for granted.
For the third time, at 1:12:34pm, I was a Boston Marathon finisher, this time in 3:08:50.
|Splits (GPS Interval)|