After months of training, through the dark and cold and windy winter, some of it tedious, some of it while injured, some of it while concussed, here I am at last: Racing Day - The Boston Marathon
As expected I wake up before my alarm. My wave doesn't start until 10:40 a.m. - a little late in my opinion, and yes, I know that Boston used to start at noon, but I'm a morning runner, and I like to be running by 7 a.m., 8 at the latest.
My husband and daughter are still sound asleep - the miracle and blessing of blackout curtains and happy souls. My soul is antsy and anxious. I head down the hall of the motel, down the elevator, to grab my morning coffee fix. I don't care how hot it's supposed to be, I gotta have coffee before I run. I pour myself two tall cups. Better too much than too little.
By 8:30 a.m. we're in the car. Off to Hopkinton State Park about 7 miles from the motel. I anticipate traffic. There's none. That's a very pleasant surprise. We drive through the shaded, cool forest to the runner drop off point situated beside a peaceful lake. The morning is already warm - really quite beautiful if you aren't planning to run a marathon. The sun is bright and the sky is entirely clear and still. It rained last night, so there's moisture rising up from the earth. I bid farewell to my family and head for a yellow school bus. Runners file on. It's a quiet, somewhat subdued crowd.
I chat with my neighbor. He's run Boston several times, and NYC, which I'll be running for the first time this coming November. I stick with him for a while as we make our way through Hopkinton to Athlete's Village. There are runners everywhere. It's about a mile walk from the shuttle drop off to Athlete's Village. My mileage count is going to be fairly hefty today.
We get to Athlete's Village and part ways wishing each other good luck. I park myself in a shady spot on the cool wet grass. It feels nice in the shade but the second I step out into the sun, I cringe at the harshness of it. I try to chill for a few minutes, apply gobs of sunscreen and drink, eat, drink some more, stretch...breathe deep. I close my eyes and try to just listen. I'm having a hard time absorbing the reality of where I am. I've been envisioning this time for weeks now. And yet I find myself strangely removed from the situation. My body is here, but where has my mind gone?
Wave two is called to the starting corals. Wave one is off...Wave three (my wave) is next.
Out of nowhere I hear my name - it's one of my Marathon Bar Teammates, Michelle - who I've never met, but she recognizes me. She clearly has her faculties about her. We head to the porta potties, then return to the shade of a small building where her running group has set up camp. One by one the group dwindles as we make our way to our designated starts.
I begin my final preparations: Tape my foot, put on fresh socks and shoes, swallow a couple Endurolytes and a Clifshot and, scavenging water from nearby half drunk bottles of Poland Spring water, I mix a packet of HEED into my water bottle. It's more concentrated then I'm used to, but I'm gonna need it. I drop off my bag at my designated bag-bus, and head for the start.
A river of runners threads through Hopkinton for the .7 mile walk to the starting corals. The town's people offer water (in exchange for signing a guestbook) and barbeque. Eww. Nothing like the smell of singeing flesh wafting though the steamy morning air to get you psyched to run 26.2 miles. We march down the road, the sun at our backs, already burning into our skin, burning into our resolution. A woman next to me says to no one in particular, "I sort of wish I had deferred". I look at her, feeling more than a little sympathetic and reply, "All you need to do to defer is to not go over the starting line. If you've picked up your bib and don't start the race, you're automatically deferred". "Really!?!" she says. "Really?" I almost regret telling her. I think, damn you BAA for doing this to us. I can see in her eyes fear and confusion. She doesn't know what to do. I don't really know what to do. I'm here. I guess I'm going to run this thing. I feel a measure of disbelief that this is actually going to happen. I'm here and yet I'm not here.
I'm within sight of the start. I'm in coral 2 so I make haste to get ahead of a lot of people between me and where I need to be, and I've got 2 minutes to do it. I run up onto lawns, across driveways, behind spectators comfortably seated on plastic lawn chairs. We are directed like cattle into our corals. I feel an urge to "Mooooo". I stand in a tiny patch of shade, watching the time tick closer to 10:40. I look around me and say "Why do I feel like we're being led to slaughter?" "I was just thinking that." says a woman standing just behind me. Those within ear shot giggle a nervous and somewhat resigned agreement.
I hear some words over the loudspeaker, but nothing is really registering. And then there's the gun. We begin to run. I'm trying to take it all in - I'm here. This is the start of the Boston (freaking) Marathon. What am I feeling? What am I thinking? I know not...
And as we cross over the start I am reminded of the speech that Shakespeare's Henry V delivers before the Battle of Agincourt:
To be continued...
- "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
- For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
- Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
- This day shall gentle his condition:
- And gentlemen in England now a-bed
- Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
- And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
- That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day."