Sunday, April 19, 2015

Shipping up to Boston

This weekend has been a long time coming.

I was a sophomore in college when I ran my first marathon, and qualified for the Boston Marathon for the first time. Friends at school seemed to make a big deal of it, qualifying for the Boston Marathon, and I think I got a little hyped too. It was too late to run Boston the next year, but after an aborted attempt to make the W&M team, I signed up. I have no recollection of what the process was like. I’m sure that I didn’t sit down at my computer on the day registration opened to ensure that I would get in, I just didn’t realize that was the way that things worked. I found an expensive hotel that had a 3-night minimum, and booked rooms and tickets for my parents at the end of February. For comparison, I booked in August this time around, and signed up within the first 10 minutes of registration.

I had an excuse for waiting. My dad insisted that he was going to fly us to Boston himself. Once my mom put her foot down and said she wasn’t getting in an airplane with him at the helm, I was able to book. I remember when we landed, standing in the terminal, my dad looked around at the vast, open tarmac bordered on one side by the Atlantic Ocean, and he said to us that he was glad we flew commercial, that the airport was much bigger than he expected it to be.

2004 was an adventure trip. I thought that I’d reached the pinnacle of the running world (or at least the world to my own abilities as I perceived them.) We got there on Friday night and went to Legal Seafood, because that’s where my mom wanted to eat. I went to the Expo on Saturday and Sunday, getting autographs and photos with Frank Shorter, Khalid Khannouchi, Carrie Tollefson, Jen Rhines, Alan Culpepper, Jorge & Edwardo Torres, Greg Meyers, and anyone else that I could find. I waited in line for this stuff! My dad and I walked by the Snickers Marathon Bar tent a hundred times and brought back 30 pounds of energy bars. I bought a jacket, a t-shirt, pants, and shorts! This was IT! This was my opening ceremony for the Olympics! I was having a blast! I took pictures of everything, as though I’d never been to a real city before and never would again (to be fair, I don’t think I’d ever been to a real city before, outside of D.C.) We went to the pasta party, my parents drank beer, and I wore my brand-new Boston Marathon jacket. We walked around Boston Commons. What foolish mistakes…

The race started at 1pm that year, and the buzz around town was how hot it was going to be. My mom went with me that morning, once the sun was up, so that I could board the bus to Hopkinton. My gear-check bag was bigger than my son. At the Athlete Village in Hopkinton, I sat in the sun and melted while looking for my roommate’s mom, who promptly told me to sit down and get into some shade. Once the race time started to approach, I remember that it felt like a blur—just like in my first marathon. All of the sudden I was on the starting line right before the gun went off and I was running. Now, if you’re reading this, you’re probably expecting things to go poorly based on the description of how I spent my time the two previous days. If you’re thinking that I ran like crap, you’re exactly right. I went out there and I suffered. It was hot, the race was long, and I was tired. I don’t have to go into great detail—if you’ve ever had a bad race from start to finish, you know what it felt like. I went out more conservatively than I’d planned because of the heat, but then I just never bounced back. My goal was to run 2:48, and I finished well over 3:00.

I’m actually surprised, given my tendency to remember things like this, how little of the race I remember without relying on photographs. I finished and was taken to the medical tent, where my parents retrieved me in a wheelchair. I couldn’t take the wheelchair with me out of the finish area, so I got the boot and we headed to the nearest T station. The T still used tokens at the time, and when my mom went to buy the tokens for the three of us, the security guard let me through for free because I was a marathon finisher, wearing my tinfoil blanket and finisher’s medal. I didn’t even have the ability to put on any of my clothes afterwards, nor did I want to because it was so hot out. We got back to the hotel and I sat in my bathroom crying from the pain. Luckily I had a handicapped room (for some reason), so I had a large shower and there was a telephone in it. When my parents called to check on me, I just told them I couldn’t move. Everything was chafed. Everything was sore. I was sunburned.

Seeing how I approached the whole weekend with tremendous zeal, it’s not surprising that my parents and I had purchased tickets to the post-race party at some bar. Feeling bad about the cost of the tickets, I managed to go to the party and had my first legal alcoholic drink with my parents before promptly returning to my hotel room for a restless night of physical pain and emotional distress. My parents stayed at the party and had a very nice time (as I think they did the entire weekend.) The next day, we went sightseeing! We went to Harvard and the Reggie Lewis Center! They went back to the hotel to pack and I went to visit a friend of mine at her dorm at BU. Looking back, I wonder what in the hell was going on? What was I thinking?

After Boston, like many runners, I swore off the marathon. I went back to school and tried to make up for lost time on having fun. Hanging out with my girlfriend and her friends who were graduating, celebrating friends’ 21st birthdays, going to the King & Queens Ball (why??), just having a great time and not running. It would be 7 months until I even thought about running another marathon, after Chris Healey ran 2:55 in Richmond. My competitive spirit got the best of me, not wanting to have a PR that was so much slower than that of my peers. I ran Shamrock the following spring and haven’t looked back since. I’ve run 11 marathons since I last ran Boston, but now I’m back. I’m older, wiser, and more prepared to handle the task before me. I won’t make the same mistakes I made then, and I’m confident that I’ll come away in a better place.

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Race Photos