Twin Cities, here I come!
That’s my solace for yet another failed attempt to hit my elusive goal of 3:15. And I failed rather spectacularly, essentially “dropping out” (unofficially, because I finished the race) at the Half after a progression of increasingly frustrating miles, due partly to my lingering hamstring problems, and partly to missing the critical last 4 weeks of training. Before hitting the pavement in Boston, I hadn’t done a 20-miler in six weeks. And I paid for it, dearly.
I started with Susie in corral #7, and she quickly surged ahead (on her way to a PR 3:12!), while I was content to ease into the race. My first mile was a little slow at 7:39, but to be expected, given the crowded narrow start. I picked it up to 7:19 the second mile, and settled in to a steady 7:30 pace up until mile 8, when things started to go south. My pre-race plan with Mike was to hold onto pace from the start, and if I started to struggle too much because of the hammie, to stop racing and either drop or start jogging, rather than face the inevitable death march to the finish.
Miles 8, 9 and 10 were 7:40, 7:45 and 7:49, and when I hit mile 11 in 8:38, my race was almost over. My right leg was radiating pain all the way down to my ankle, and my range-of-motion was limited. Strange things start to happen with an altered stride; muscles you didn’t know existed begin their sneaky sabotage. I decided to give mile 12 one more try, just to see if picking up the pace might shake out some of the alien invaders, but my 7:25 at that point brought me dangerously close to the feeling I had right before my last meltdown, when I strained my lower hamstring tendon 5 weeks before the race. A tightness that prefigures disaster; hard to explain, but everything is just poised for a breaking point, and I decided it wasn’t worth the risk.
Hell, if I were 29 or younger, I’d’ve pushed on, but at 53 I’m trying to be a little less reckless. So I bailed at the half, and stood around for about 5 minutes trying to decide strategy, looking for Elda. I recognized her smooth, steady stride immediately when she came into view, and I jumped in and ran next to her for almost a half mile before reluctantly letting her go. She confided that her ankle (calf?) was angry, but it clearly didn’t stop her from an awesome finish, a PR at 3:23!
I thought I’d wait for Claire, Jana and Jamie to come by, but after 15 minutes of spectating, realized they’d started in the second wave (duh!). What to do? Jill and I had inspected possible escape routes in case of disaster, so I knew there was a T stop at mile 16. I jumped back in. Advice: if you intend to finish a marathon after breaking down, don’t stand around for 20 minutes! My legs were in agony; tight and sore. Some of it worked out after running a bit, but most of it stayed with me until the bittersweet end.
At mile 16, I asked a police officer to direct me to the nearest T. Up two stoplights and take a right. Well, two New England stoplights turned out to be another mile, and by then I figured I run at least until I saw Rusty at mile 18. I soldiered on, made it to 18, but didn’t see Rusty anywhere. What to do?
Caution, incline ahead. If I could just get up through the Newton Hills, I knew it was downhill to the finish. Why drop now? I was managing a respectable pace for an unofficial dropout, between 8 and 9-minute miles, so I hunkered down and galumphed in. Ironically, a woman just behind me had “Maggie” written on her shirt, and she must have stayed near me for miles, because I was unofficially cheered on by name for my coda. It helped that I could still do math, and I knew I could break 4 hours if I kept a steady pace.
By mile 24, my left foot threatened serious rebellion, so I had to bind and gag it and drag it forcefully to the finish. I limped in just under 4 hours, at 3:58:17, my slowest marathon since my first in 1998. As I stumbled towards the space blankets, Jana called to me, fresh in from running a 3:33 PR. Superb.
I had a great time in Boston, learned some good lessons, and got to see the course in a different way…really see the crowds, participants, banners, and environs.
— Viewing the impressive level of focus and strength during my 20 minutes of unplanned spectating. Ironically, I’ve rarely watched a marathon, and it was powerful to see lots of human bodies performing with an amazing level of endurance. It was beautiful, actually.
–Touring the Isabella Gardner Museum, with its stunning three-story subtropical greenhouse garden and eclectic collection of paintings, tapestries, furniture, sculpture and objets d’art.
–Hanging out with Jill in our Victorian row-house rooms in the South End.
–Walking around Boston. Heaven for a brick lover.
–Eating pizza at Ernesto’s in the North End. I have never eaten such decadent and delicious pizza.
–Having dinner with the coaching group at a friendly, super-efficient and tasty Italian restaurant on marathon eve. Meeting Elda’s parents!
–Feeling the wonderful level of running passion among marathon participants. It was palpable in the Expo, on the streets, and especially during the race.
–Hearing and seeing the exuberant crowds from start to finish, especially Wellesley, Heartbreak Hill, and the last 3 miles of the course. Astounding. I’d love to see a satellite photo of it.
–Finding out that Jill ran 3:09 despite her setbacks in training. Such heart and commitment.
–Running with Elda, briefly, after deciding to call it a day. I sneaked up on her and ran silently next to her for a few beats. When she looked over, she gasped and actually hugged me while maintaining pace. Wow.
–Sharing a post-marathon bottle of wine over dinner with Jill, at a great little local Italian eatery, then window-shopping on high-fashion Newbury Street.
–Appreciating the camaraderie, good-nature and dedication of our group. Go, team.