Tuesday, April 19, 2005

And so, with a gimpy awkward shuffle, I gingerly exit the sport of marathoning.

But first, obsessive self-reflection. There's lots to say about my trip, but let's cut to the chase and talk about the Boston Marathon itself.

I had nearly convinced myself that I didn't really have a time goal for this race. My training had been sub-par so I was just going to try and enjoy the experience, as much as one can enjoy 3.5 hours of running. I had read articles about the marathon and spoken to several people who had run it before and they all said the same thing: there's nothing else like the Boston Marathon, so savor the experience.

"I will!", I told myself, "I will savor this race! I'll swish it around in my mouth and suck the marrow right out of it. Delicious, it will be!"

The night before the marathon I did my final preparations. I decided to leave many of my electronic crutches behind. I put away my MP3 player and my heart monitor. I wasn't going to run this race as a slave to my heart rate or the beats-per-minute of my running music. I was going to immerse myself in the environment, and be in the moment, and all of that other zen crap. I refrained from saying "Ommmm", but I was going to be one with the Boston Marathon.

Logistically, there's a lot that's awkward about the race:

1) It takes place at noon. Most runners are used to doing their long runs in the morning, because every other big marathon in the world takes place around 8:00am. Not Boston. Last year this resulted in 85 degree temperatures during the race.

2) The starting line is in a small suburb outside of Boston with few hotels. Runners are warned over and over that the only guaranteed way to get to the starting line on time is to take the official buses from Boston. Runners are assigned to a bus, which start leaving Boston at 6:00am, 6 hours before race time.

3) The course very vaguely follows the route that Paul Revere rode in 1775 to kick off our war of independence. Paul had a horse when he covered the route.

My bus was scheduled to leave at 7:45 am, so I had to get up at 6:30 that morning, which still felt like 3:30 to my California-tuned brain. After packing up all the food and liquids that I'd need to consume before and during the race, I made it to the bus loading area to find the longest line I've ever seen in my life. This line was HUGE and there wasn't a roller coaster or Super Bowl tickets at the end of it. The line slowly fed runners into a neverending stream of school buses. It looked like a soylent green sausage packing factory.

The line took an hour, but eventually we were on. Conversation was excited and people all around me were discussing their race strategies. Soon folks settled down and as the drive dragged on, my fellow bus riders seemed unusually focused. Many had their heads pressed against the seat in front of them, or were staring into space with a pained expression. I quickly realized that everyone was suffering from the same ailment I was. I had last pissed at 7:00am and had been sucking down Gatorade ever since. This was not pleasant.

After a full hour on the bus, we eventually arrived at our destination in Hopkinton. I emerged from the bus, hunched over in an effort to keep the urine from squirting out of me. The lines at the port-a-potties were already long, so I lurched over to the nearest tree and let out the longest stream of piss I've had in nearly 20 years. In a word, "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh".

It was now 10:00am, and I spent most of the next two hours doing food/fluid input/output. I'd eat while I was standing in line for the port-a-potties, then kill 10 minutes by aimlessly walking around, and then do it again.

Eventually it was time to line up. My starting position (assigned based on your qualifying time) was nearly half a mile away. I made my way through the crowd, mentally reviewing how I felt. In the days before the marathon I had noticed some nagging injuries and I considered how they felt that afternoon. My left achilles heel was hurting. It had bothered me a fair bit during my last short training run. Also, my right hip had been suffering some weird ailment for a few weeks. I was actually limping as I entered my starting area. This boded poorly, but there was a good chance these injuries would numb up after a few miles.

I stretched for the last few minutes and waited for the starting gun to go off...

(more tomorrow, but the management summary is that I didn't win)


Lisa said...

Doesn't matter if you won or not, I'm amazed anyone can run a marathon at all. Looking forward to the next update.

And I see my cats didn't have to carry you across the finish line.

Mike said...

Lisa, I didn't even see your cats! I'm beginning to think that their offer wasn't serious.

Lisa said...

I think after being awake for 20 minutes of the day they fell asleep from utter exhaustion and missed their flight. Maybe next year...