Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Thank You Boston

I have returned from a long and very hard trip to Boston. Yes, I completed my first (and probably only) Boston Marathon. Before I get into the gory details, I'd like to give my most heartfelt thanks to the people of Boston. The Richmond Marathon bills itself as "America's Friendliest Marathon". After this weekend, I'd have to say that the Boston Marathon gives them a run for their money. Despite some seriously adverse conditions, the people of Boston never wavered in their hospitality and the race went off without a hitch. Every effort was made to make runners comfortable in the nasty weather and after the race, I was congratulated by countless random citizens on the street. Thank you Boston, you made a tough race a wonderful experience.

As for the race itself... well, it was humbling. The night before, with every sign that we'd be blasted by severe rains, biting cold, and impossible headwinds, I resolved to just enjoy myself and treat it as a race against mother nature. This continued to be my attitude throughout the long and uncomfortable pre-race period. But when it came time for the race, conditions improved enough to fool me into thinking that I could approach it with my seemingly realistic training goal of coming close to a 3 hour marathon.

Boy, was I in for a world of hurt.

My difficulties started with an extremely restless night of "sleep". I'm not sure why I was so nervous when I had resolved to take it easy, but I guess that I was just apprehensive about how painful the experience of running in these conditions could be. All night long, I heard the driving wind and pounding rain against the window. In the morning, I awoke to cold and damp. The bus ride out was comfortable and I was lucky enough to get a spot inside the high-school gym to keep dry. But their was limited space inside the gym and I didn't venture out to eat a proper pre-race meal. I'm certain that contributed to my difficulties.

There was also the issue of deciding on what to wear. Still feeling the morning's chill, I opted for tights and several layers of wicking long-sleeve shirts. I suspect that I was over-dressed, though it was probably the least of my problems. And after I stumbled across the finish line, I wished I had access to even warmed clothes right away.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the course, the race is a point-to-point race, starting in the western town of Hopkinton and descending for a good part of the race until a series of nasty hills starting around mile 16. This also proved to be my undoing. Running downhill fills one with a tremendous sense of overconfidence. Yes, I had heard all the pre-race advice to take it easy in the first half. But as the race started and I felt comfortable with an aggressive pace, I failed to consider how badly my leg muscles would be taking the strain of down-hill running. By the time time the uphill section it, my legs were already locking up.

So how did I do? I finished 5,776th among some 20,000 or so competitors. My time was 3:31:00, just over 16 minutes slower than my Richmond time. After the race, I felt bad about this. But then I saw that even the winner -- Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya was about 7 minutes off his winning time from last year. Lots of people were seriously impacted by the conditions and I am belatedly proud to note that I beat my expected finish (as indicated by my bib number) by 785. So, I'll take it. I finished in grueling conditions. And I am glad that I can move on to other challenges.

(what those challenges are remain undefined... I need to get through the birth of our second child before setting any more aggressive goals)
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