It was the best of times, it was the worst of times - may not be up to Dickens standards but that sums up my Boston 2013 experience. An amazing few days of challenge, joy, comradeship and great running based fun and then the cold hard reality of living in the 21st Century where mindless morons think they can change the world by blowing people up. This blog will mostly be about running - it’s what I do, but it’s also the best of times and the best of people.
The good stuff first - anyone who gets the chance to run Boston should do so. One of best running weekends I have had (and there have been some good ones). It’s hard to over stress how high profile the marathon is in Boston, it takes over the city in a way that few other marathons do. Its 2-3 days of running based activity. The race itself is run on Patriots Day a special public holiday only in this state - but many locals call it Marathon Monday instead, its that important.
The Expo is huge and right bang in the centre of town and a good feature is a program of seminars on the race, running , injuries etc. Great and really informative. I was lucky enough to attend one by Team Hoyt (and also saw them on the course on Monday) www.teamhoyt.com who are two amazing inspirational athletes. They were doing their 31st Boston after fighting to get in (Boston has aged based qualifying times and the organisers originally insisted that their time be based on Ricks age rather than Dicks). Have a look at the website - amazing athletes and inspirational men.
Sunday was taken care of with Boston 5km. The last mile or so of which was the last mile of the marathon course. Great way to get lots more people involved in running and lots of the families of marathon runners took part. It was also my first ever 5km so a PB regardless :-) of 21:21 tried not to overdo it considering the 26.2 the next day.
Marathon Monday - a blur! Its a point to point race so bussed out to the start 26 miles away on yellow school buses (very Simpsons) and chatting to other runners you start to get some sense of the awe this race is held in - it’s pretty much the only race you can’t just enter but have to qualify for and some US runners spend their entire running careers trying to get a BQ (Boston Qualifier). But everyone was just brilliant and in that not sure if it’s an American thing or just a runners thing so open, supportive and chatty.
Clockwork organisation with 3 waves of runners going off at 20 minute intervals and 9 pens in each wave. I was in wave one but wanted to enjoy the race rather than go flat out so moved back to pen 9 and it was great! Loads of room to run as everyone sped off on the 4 miles of downhill at the start (before some in wave two started catching me up at about half way).
High fived so many kids I thing I have High Five hand or some such disease. Had a vest on with BOSH run but clearly from the left side people couldn’t see it all so was a bit confused at calls saying come on Josh - took me about 3 miles to work out it was me they were cheering for! Great crowd support. The race goes pretty straight through 5/6 towns and in each community the locals were out in force. It was a great contrast with the more sporadic support in-between and then the noise of the towns.
Course is flat and straightforward mostly so plenty of opportunity to chat and take in the sights. Mile 12 is a great sight! Runs through Wellesley a small town with a girls college in it. They line the street cheering and shouting holding signs asking for kisses - "Kiss me I am desperate" etc - I did my patriotic duty with the two "Kiss me I am British" signs.
Mile 17 or so sees the first turn of the course (yep you have been on same road entirely till then) and the start of the few hills on the course. Nothing major apart from the 17 miles before them! I was running well and consistently but reasonably within myself until the bottom of Heartbreak Hill (so called after in an early race one runner passed the leader and tapped him on the back to say Hi - they say it broke his heart). Unfortunately this was also the point that the Gatorade decided to violently disagree with my stomach and I took a little rest in the porta johns! Moving swiftly on!
Rest of race was ok but hard work for me. Moving onto Boston was good and about 2 miles out going passed the Red Sox stadium who had a special early game so the crowds could come out and support the runners. Towards the famous Citygo sign which never got any closer, a right then a left and the home stretch. Jog down the home track for a 3:40 and some change. A great day out, emotion race and so glad to have done it.
Would have been nice to leave it there. On way back getting random strangers saying "great job"" etc turned into confusion and then shock as the terrible news unfolded. We had all run past that very same spot in the last hour or so and it was horrible. Runners pulled together, some went straight to A&E to give blood, others lent mobiles to people stranded or did what they could. We stood around in the hotel lobby for ages just too shocked for words waiting for the rest of our group. All were thankfully safe but many weren’t allowed to finish (which everyone understands) and some were cut off out in remote locations and didn’t get bussed back till 8:30 or so the locals in these towns were amazing. But the organisers did a brilliant job and in very difficult circumstances coped well.
How anyone can target a marathon but more than that the placement of these devices had to be designed to hit the old and young to tend to congregate at the finish to see dad/mom finish is totally beyond me. Shocking, sickening and inhumane.
I have been asked if I am going to do London on Sunday - the answer is an unreserved yes! A marathon is an amazing experience of ordinary people doing amazing things. Its a great example of the good in all of us either the runners or the thousands who come along to cheer, shout and encourage total strangers. It shows what’s good in humanity and that’s far too precious to lose to some mindless moron.
So I will continue marathon running and would like to say a huge thank you to the people of Boston for letting me take part in this historic event and to wish them well in their healing. My thoughts are with the families of those who died and the victims still in hospital as they come to grips with their injuries.
(and sorry it almost turned into war and peace)
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