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Monday, April 19, 2010

Boston on the Brain

As I sit here staring at the computer waiting eagerly for all the post-race reports to come in from all those that ran Boston, I decided to keep myself busy by replying to Jill's Monday Brain Exchange question:

BOSTON! (How Appropriate!!)

Do you get excited about the Boston Marathon? Have you ever ran or do you hope to one day run in the race? Will you watch today and if so will it be watching in person, on TV, on the computer? Do you have anyone special running this year? Any great Boston stories to tell?

Answer: Yes, I get excited about Boston! I can't help it. My love-hate relationship with the Boston Marathon all started on that fateful Patriot's Day in April of 1993. I was a Junior at Boston University, and I did what all the students/locals of Boston do on Patriot' s Day, use the Boston Marathon as an excellent excuse to drink at noon on a random holiday that seems only to be celebrated by the citizens of Boston. I couldn't believe we had a day off from school for Patriot's Day and had an even greater excuse to party!
I will never forget watching all the runners come through Kenmore Square that day. I was instantly enthralled. I couldn't stop cheering! I was so amazed at all the people running and so very proud of all these strangers. I couldn't believe how I was feeling, but I instantly knew I wanted to be one of them. At the time I ran primarily for fitness reasons. I really couldn't afford a gym as a student so I use to run on the school track around the football field. I don't think I had ever even run more then 30 minutes at a time, but I just knew I had to run this marathon one day.
During my last year of college, I entertained the idea of running the marathon as a a bandit. However, I was sidelined by an accident (I was hit by a car, luckily I only broke my ankle and a rib). I soon graduated and moved back home, but the allure of the Boston Marathon continued to linger in my head for a while. As I became busy starting out in my career, I slowly forgot all about the marathon. Afterall, in the rest of the world, Patriot's Day is not celebrated and so the day just seems to come and go without any indication that 20,000+ people are out there running the streets of Boston.
Fast forward a few years. My boyfriend at the time broke up with me and I basically pulled a Forrest Gump. I just started running, and kept running. The only way I knew how to keep my mind off the break-up and to keep myself sane was to run, and so I did. The idea of running Boston re-entered my head.
I ran the Boston Marathon as a bandit in 1998, not having the slightest idea how to train for or actually run a marathon. I followed a basic beginner's program and I showed up at the starting line on Marathon Monday, at the back of the pack. I was so far back, it took me 12 minutes to cross the starting line, after all the registered runners had crossed. But I was oh so happy. I couldn't believe I was here! I was nervous, but even more excited! I had no expectations. I didn't even know what a "good" time was for a marathon. I just ran, with a walkman, and no watch. As I came into Kenmore Square, I became so overwhelmed that I cried. I couldn't believe that I was here and that I was actually doing this. I never felt so proud of myself in my life! It truly was the best feeling I have ever had, even to this day.
After that, I thought I would never run another marathon again. I didn't really have the urge to. In fact, I didn't really know people ran more then one. I thought it was something that people just crossed off their bucket list. I had never heard of a PR. I had no idea what a tempo run was. Hill repeats, speed work, what's that??
Then, I met a boy and fell in love. He was a runner and was going to run the NYC marathon. Ok, I thought I will run it too, why not? My training was similar to that of Boston. I really didn't know how to do it and I really didn't have any intentions about a time or any goals in my mind.
I was fortunate enough to get a number for the NYC marathon through someone who knew someone, who knew someone, etc.
So there I was at mile 22 of the NYC marathon. I was just trying to keep my mind occupied so that maybe it wouldn't notice the pain that was going on in my legs at the moment. As I was performing calculations in my head, I realized I could very possibly qualify for Boston at the rate I was currently going, and suddenly for never having given it a thought before, I wanted to qualify so badly! I mustered through miles 22-26 and as I crossed the finish line and looked down at my watch, I couldn't believe my eyes. I felt goosebumps come over me and felt my eyes tear up, I had qualified for Boston!!
So, still not really knowing how to properly "train" for a marathon, I trained for Boston the following year (I had deferred it for a year) mostly on the treadmill. Looking back now, I can't believe I ran 16 miles on a treadmill. Currently, I can't even run 4 miles on a treadmill without getting bored!! At the time, I was a weather whimp. I wouldn't run outside in the cold, so most of my training was done indoors, on a FLAT treadmill. I still had never heard of the concept of hill repeats or speed work. I had always just run ALL my miles at the same pace. Well, that did not make for a very good day come Patriot's Day 2005.
What an awful, awful, painful, painful experience that first "official" Boston Marathon was. I was so under-trained, and the "killer chain" of hills let me know just how poorly I had trained for this race. It whipped my butt, more so then NYC or the first Boston ever had. (I was now running at least 1:30 minutes/per mile faster then I had during my original "trot" through the burbs of Boston, so this time I REALLY felt a difference)
It was so painful, that it took me 2 years to get the courage up to do Boston again. The year was 2007 - the year of the falsely anticipated "Perfect Storm". Because of all the hype about the monstrous storm that was suppose to knock us all down as we ran through the streets of Natick, my running partners and I decided to go by the motto "Compete to complete", and that is what we did. We took our time and just enjoyed the ride. It was such a fun experience and this time around, heartbreak hill felt like a breeze. It was actually a very pleasant, pain-free day and I had such a wonderful time running with friends and enjoying the crowds.
In fact, I had such a wonderful time, that I have not run Boston since. Part of me wanted to go out on a happy note, kind of like retiring when you are on top. However, part of me knows that I never fully accepted the challenge that the Boston Marathon course has to offer, and so in some ways I feel like I failed.
And so there is my story about my love-hate relationship with the infamous Boston Marathon. To this day, I constantly go back and forth about whether I will ever get the courage up to face this course again. Most days I have the mind-set "been there, done that" and I have no desire to muster up the energy to do it all over again. But then, there are days like today, when I can't stop thinking about the damn thing, and I am envious of everyone else that was there at the starting line today.
Ugh!!! Damn you, Boston Marathon. I hate (I mean I love, I mean I hate, I love) you!!!


  1. Although I do not agree with running as a bandit for any race, I do love this story!!! I am so glad you wrote it all out, even if it is long.

  2. Wow, this post was great!!!! I loved your story and your desire go back and conquer. You have to do it again!