Sunday, April 20, 2014

Boston Marathon 2014: The Day Before

To take the start line of the Boston Marathon, you need one thing and one thing alone.

It isn't the ability to run fast or fast relative to your peers.  That helps you qualify.

It isn't the ability to endure or persevere through pain.  That helps you train to finish.

Even if you are fast enough to qualify or have the pain tolerance to finish a marathon - Boston has one other requirement for entry.



Entry fee.  Flight.  Cab fares.  Hotel.  Dinners.  And bargain basement deals are not exactly common this weekend.

If you haven't qualified based on time, you can always find a way to get in, if you raise thousands for charity (but let me be clear - I have nothing against this - at least it is for a good cause).

Now, I have heard there are ways to do Boston on the cheap.  One solution I've heard is to stay in a fleabag motel out in New Hampshire and hitch a ride with a local running club.  Less extreme is to crash on a friend's couch in a studio apartment in the city, take the T to the bus pickup to the start.

I did not do either of these, so I have joined the sea of humanity at the Hilton near the Convention Center.  As one of the "barely qualified" types, I take no givens that I will get here again so I've sucked it up and forgotten all about the $$$ - no point letting that get me down and ruin the weekend after three honest attempts to try to qualify.  What is spent is spent.  Now time to enjoy it.

Flight:  we arrive at RDU airport and the group of passengers waiting for the airplane generally looks like the most fit selection of people I've ever seen on a single plane.  These days many people run, but this group looks particularly "fast" with their sinewy bodies and athletic jackets in various bright colors.  We all look like we haven't eaten a proper meal in weeks, when in reality, I feel like aside from running all I've done is eat this past winter.  I say hello to group of fellow runners from the Bull City Track Club.  When we arrive in Boston, we make plans to meet up at the expo.  Megan jokes that running is like high school and now "you're in with the cool kids and I'm the one holding you back."  In reality, Megan and her dad planned much of the weekend for me - dinner Saturday and Sunday, brunch today.  They seem to live for this type of stuff.  All I have to do is show up and run the damn thing.

Boston is buzzing this weekend as expected.  Runners are abound everywhere in this town.  We are easy to pick out of a crowd, we are all wearing Boston Marathon jackets in various colors from various years, mostly with the Adidas signature three stripes on the arms.  Last year's blue and yellow looks like the classic.  I feel like a n00b wearing this year's version - a bright orange jacket that will be great for directing traffic at some point in the future and ensures that I have little chance of getting run over by a car this weekend.  But I am sporting this thing proud all weekend long - if anything because it feels like New England - cool and windy, which will be great for running tomorrow, so long as the wind is at my back most of the race.

Me at the expo with 36,000 of my closest friends
This year Adidas decided to go with the "visible from space" look

Naturally, it feels busy this weekend.  A halo of emotion with a slight bit of tension surrounds Boylston Street.  Having never been to this part of town before or run the race, I can still sense what last year's scene may have been like.  Mile 26 is an odd combination of relief, confusion, and pain in any large marathon event, and add a tragedy or massive disruption into the mix and it becomes absolute chaos.  If I have one hope for tomorrow's race, it is that it is a safe one for everyone involved.

Flags at half mast at Boylston and Hereford, the last turn of the race

Hunting for beets:  important order of business after dinner on Saturday was finding cans of beets.

My diet the last 5 marathons leading up to the race was something like this...

Shamrock 2001:  Red Bull, Chick Fil-A and cheap beer - limped to a 3:50

Chicago 2002:  Michelob Ultra and Atkins Diet until a massive carbo load the night before - went out like a rock star, staggered to a 3:17

Richmond 2009, New York 2010:  nothing special, lots of GU chomps during the race themselves, 3:25 and 3:09 respectively

Ridge to Bridge 2012:  IPA the night before, salt tablets and canned beets the day of, 3:01!

Clearly something worked in the last one (ok, maybe it was more the mileage and training), so I swear by hops, salt, and beets now.  We try the Trader Joes across the street - the store is swarming with hipster couples and runners late on Saturday evening - but have no success.  I am struck by an irrational fear that every other runner has caught onto the secret and have visions of a beet and banana shortage throughout the city - 36,000 runners swarming Boston like locusts devouring all the gluten free/organic/healthy food in town.  Thankfully we find a Shaws down the road and stock up, they had plenty of cans of beets left.  Nobody wants to eat them anyway.  They are pretty gross after all.

Prepared for burning 3000+ calories tomorrow

With less than day left, cans of beets in tow and good weather on the horizon, all is well.  Now I'm just staying off my feet and saving my energy for the course tomorrow.

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