“Am I in marathon heaven?”

What can I say about the Boston Marathon? “It lives up to its reputation,” that’s what.

This is my second trip, the first being in 2005. After my successful (!), but painful (!), California International Marathon in Sacramento back in December, I had decided I wanted to just run, not race, Boston. Don’t know when I’ll be back, so wanted to just soak up the details.

This race is so well done, and it should be: They’ve been doing it for 113 years! Buses with heat and bathrooms to the start line—great idea. Despite the huge numbers of runners, it didn’t seem chaotic. When the crowd surged forward, I thought, “Here we go, this is the big time!” Coach Steve calls Boston “the Olympics for the Every Person.”

Familiar sight within the first two miles: Lots of runners (male) relieving themselves in the wooded areas. Cold, crisp air, some wind, only occasional bursts of sunshine. Bye-bye 3M throw-away shirt. Later the bandana comes off, but the gloves stay on!

The crowds are fantastic. Several times I’d hear a huge roar and look around to see if a celebrity was nearby—but no, just us chickens. Lots of little hands thrust out for a high fives. You see oodles of signs: Go ___ (fill in name here). I am truly inspired by the blind runners and the runners with prosthetic legs. So many stories represented here today; so many individuals overcoming incredible barriers and adversities.

Quickly the little towns go by – After Hopkinton, there’s Ashland, Framingham, Natick…

You see lovely—but not showy—New England-style homes, very Americana looking to us Texans. In the towns, I noticed all the storefronts. Somewhere in this area, Dunkin Donuts was born. I eat some blocks, later some shots. Yuck. I’ve never liked race food.

At the 10 mile mark, I remember thinking, “Well, this would be a decent run,” but today, I’ve just begun. Soon the half approaches and the crazy Wellesley mile of screaming co-eds appears. They are loud and they WILL kiss you if you stop. One sign said: Will kiss males AND females! Nice distraction. Run on, run on. Nice day to run.

Not worrying about a goal time allows you to have brief conversations with other runners. I heard two women speaking in a language I wasn’t sure of. “Where’re you from?” I asked. “Germany!” came the response. “I’m from a foreign country too,” I said. Then after a significant pause, I added “Texas!” They looked at me quizzically, then one said: “Oh, you make a funny!”

Boston is definitely the Irish capital of the world, outside of Ireland. I handed a paper cup to a local chap and asked him if he would throw it away for me. “Show ah!” he replied in that unmistakable accent.

At the 13.1 mile mat, I am reminded why I love the half marathon so much: It’s a great distance! Now I have to do another one. I stopped in three porta-potty lines during the race – no behind-the-bushes pit stops this time.

Watching the crowds is good entertainment. Many offer orange slices, water, Kleenex, and other sundries for our convenience. Many are having fun-looking tailgate style parties in their driveways. The smell of cooking meat wafts through the air and I wish I had a sausage wrap instead of a Cliff shot in my fanny pack.

Legs feel fine, body is relaxed. It’s still chilly, so my gloves are mostly on. Wind in the face as I approach Heartbreak Hill – but no heartbreak for me, as I continue my steady pace up the two big ups. I think about how this point often makes or breaks runners.

One by one, the mile markers pass by. I hit 20 miles and am reminded this is where the marathon STARTS. Okay, a 10K to go. I’m feeling fine; legs still feel good. I think about the 6 months of rigorous Team Rogue training for Sacramento, followed by an additional five months of training to stay fit for Boston with Panther’s Riff Raff group.

We seem to be on Commonwealth Ave. for the longest time. I gaze at the apartment buildings along the street and amuse myself by looking at trees, bushes, and flowers. Many are the same as in Austin, just blooming two months later. Spring is cold here.

Some runners are experiencing pain by now. Limping, lurching — ouch, it hurts to watch. This is when force-of-will takes over. Glad I’m not in that situation today.

Clemmie (2)Finally, we make the turn onto Boylston Street and then to the area where everything is named Copley. The finish arch is up ahead and now the crowds are delirious with excitement. I speed up a bit to have a space of my own at the finish line. I smile a big smile and feel grateful I’m healthy enough to run the Boston M! Time: 4:40:49.

The volunteers are like loving, supportive angels ministering to the masses. Boston has the longest chute in the world. I asked about the medals, and one guy said, “It’s up ahead, about three miles.” I got my stuff and headed back to the hotel, amid many congratulatory greetings. I feel quite fine – none the worse for wear, actually.

I cleaned up and walked to the Barking Crab for some fun with fellow Rogue teammates. We ordered, then waited. I guess time was adding up. I hadn’t been able to force anything down after the finish, except some potato chips, which apparently wasn’t enough. Coming out of the restroom at the restaurant, I passed out cold.

I woke up with five men wearing medals and Boston finisher shirts peering over me. “Am I in marathon heaven?” I asked. After an embarrassing interlude with EMS (yes, my vital signs were fine) I choked down some crackers with salt and felt OK. Soon my broiled fish arrived and it was delicious. I was fine except for a red boo-boo on my forehead. (I think I hit the wall on the way down). Just a little drama – but that only adds to the lore!

When I’m a hundred years old (yeah, I plan to live that long), I’m sure these details will still be clearly etched in my mind!

Clemmie Cummins
Austin, Texas
April 20, 2009
Age – 59
Bib # 19709

[Clemmie Cummins is a wellness consultant with HealthyConnections, the City of Austin’s employee wellness program. Her story of her second Boston Marathon can be found on the Rogue Training Systems website.]