Friday, April 24, 2015

It was a wicked pissah!

In the days leading up to the Boston Marathon, as the forecast worsened, text messages flew among my friends.

"What are you wearing for the race?"

"Rain jacket or no?"

"Do you think we can finish before the rain starts?"

"Is an east wind a headwind or tailwind?"  (It's a headwind.)

"Freaking.  Out.  Ugh."

People often wonder what about the marathon is so addictive.  It's punishing, unpredictable, and the most amazing experience when things go right.  I've had a few races where a lot of things went right, but it's what goes wrong that keeps me going back for more.

The Boston Marathon in particular has been a real challenge for me.  With each of the four times I've run it, I've learned something more about the course and about myself.  There are some runners who do really well in Boston--my coach Maureen Roben has told me (more than once) it's a fast course, if you run it smartly.  Some of those smart runners ran the race last Monday and did very well, despite the conditions.

Me?  I'm still learning and hope to be a smart runner one day.

Before the race I kept reminding myself that I've run three rainy marathons, and two of those were among my best.  It was reassuring; maybe too reassuring.  Because that third rainy marathon, the one that wasn't among my best, the one I kept pushing out of my mind, there was a stiff headwind during that race.  Just like what was forecasted for Monday.

The Boston Marathon for me this year was slow.  It was cold.  It was wet.  And it was windy.

But it was also the Boston Marathon, a race that is always a uniquely memorable experience.  A race that I'm always thankful to be running.  The volunteers were as friendly and full of smiles as ever. The spectators, though fewer in number than previous years, were as loud as ever.

And I learned that people in Boston love their moms.  A lot.

I wore warm clothing to Athlete's Village, which I planned to discard either in the start corral or in the early miles.

I was able to shed the flannel pants before the race began, but was too cold to lose the shirt.  And I ended up wearing that soaking wet cotton shirt for the entire race.  It was heavy.  It was uncomfortable.  It left a chafing rash.  I definitely should've braved the cold and ditched it.  (Maureen's comment:  "Cotton is rotten.")

But the spectators loved it.

All along the course I ran to cheers of "Go, MOM!"  At Heartbreak Hill I heard "Spank that hill, MOM!"  Passing through Boston College, "I love you, MOM!"  (Moms of BC students, your kids might be a little homesick.)

And my fellow racers were equally jubilant.  It was as though the crazy adverse weather unburdened us all of time goals and we ran just to have fun.  We sang together the songs that blared along the race course like a bunch of drunk hockey fans.  Sweet Caroline alone carried me for miles.

If you judge a race by the wattage of the smiles on the participants rather than times on the finish line clock, you'd have to agree this year's Boston Marathon was an unqualified success.

As for my time goal?  Well, I finished a little bit faster than last year but still well short of what I trained to run and how I expected to perform.  Each year since 2013 I've left Boston feeling like I have unfinished business there, and this year is no different.

So I guess it's time to do like Shalane--eat a donut and get back on the horse.  "Because I don't feel like ending on this note, with this Boston."

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