May 6, 2011

Boston Marathon Race Report, Part 1

I'll have my race photos from the 2011 Boston Marathon soon, so maybe this is a good time to dip back into Blogger, which seems to have changed a lot, and summarize my trip.

Jan and I drove down to Boston on Saturday May 16th, arriving around dinner time. I had booked an inexpensive hotel on the outskirts of Boston so on Sunday we still had to drive into the city to pick up our race kits.

We spent Sunday morning driving (or trying to find) the race route. Jan initially objected too this because she'd raced Boston before, but I always want to know what I'll face in the race. Whether it's a tough section of road or just some interesting places along the way I can use as mental landmarks, it helps me prepare. As a result though we didn't get into town until midday.

Registration and the race expo filled the entire Hynes Convention Center. With 28,000 race packages to be distributed it was a massive operation. In spite of the crowds, or perhaps because of them, we managed to run into quite a few friends. We spent a few hours scavenging the picked-over race clothing displays, browsing the expo and chatting. Then we headed out to see the finish line outside the Boston Public Library on Boylston Street, paid our $35 parking and headed out to find some souvenirs. We should have spent most of the day back at our hotel resting, but we actually didn't get back until 11:00 PM after a late dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant.

We finalized out race day plans later that night. Nothing like leaving things hanging. Our plan, as much as by luck as by purpose, worked out quite well. At 7:00 AM we drove over to the Alewife station and took "The T" to Park Street station. We emerged on Boston Common at just the right spot and joined the mob waiting to board. 15 minutes later we were on one of the 400 school buses taking runners out to the start in Hopkinton. As we drove away we saw a long line of people approaching from the other direction that snaked back and forth across the park; they must have had some anxious moments waiting for their turn.

The trip out was relaxing, with everyone chatting about the race and their training experiences. We all took note of how long it took to drive to the start though, about 40 minutes at highway speeds. We were supposed to run back? Yike. When we pulled into Hopkinton we drove past the "Athlete's Village" and just kept going. With hundreds of buses still to come we had to continue about a kilometer down the road and walk back.

It was a cool sunny morning, but like nearly all the other runners we had brought warmer clothes with us. We had bags with our post-race clothes in them for the bag drop, but also planned to throw away some final items. I'd bought a cotton hadley sweater at Marshall's for $5 that I now regret discarding. Some of our new friends found a bin of discarded clothes at the Hopkinton Tennis Club and temporarily helped themselves. We all milled around for about an hour, drinking water, eating bagels and visiting the portable toilets.

I was at the front of the second wave, Jan was in the middle of the third wave. I had to make my way to the start about 20 minutes earlier, so we parted then. After dropping my bag at the transfer bus I joined another portable toilet line, where I chanced to meet one of my running buddies. I had to abandon my toilet plans though when I realized that I only had a few minutes to get to the start. I started hurrying forward and as I turned a corner I realized I was a lot further away than I thought. I started to run between people strolling forward for their later start, but I still needed to pee. When I reached the final set of toilets before the start, which had their own lines, I had to use the "emergency" method and join the dozens of men peeing against the back of the toilets.

Turning yet another corner I discarded my sweater and was finally in the race marshaling area. My corral had already left and as I ran forward on the open side of the street beside the starting corrals I had to blend in with what I think was the third corral, which was already moving forward. Thank god for chip timing.

Then like magic all the distraction fell away. I was over the line and racing on a perfect sunny Boston morning!

Listening to: Get In Line by Ron Sexsmith from Long Player Late Bloomer.

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