My Boston Marathon story starts on January 4th, 2011. That was the day I weighed in for “The Biggest Loser” challenge at work, and I tipped the scale at 300 pounds. That’s the most I have ever weighed in my life. At the time, I could barely walk three miles without stopping.
I spent the next nine months walking faster and farther, until September of that year, when I signed up for a 10K race. I tied for last place, but I finished, and was bitten by the running bug.
I then set my sights for Boston. I trained all winter, and when the day finally came to run, the temperature hit 90 degrees. At mile 16, I decided no good was going to come from pushing on, so I decided to “live to run another day”. Completely unsatisfied with the results of my first marathon, I immediately signed up for one in New Hampshire that fall. That marathon I completed, my first ever, in the pouring rain.
Now I was ready for Boston once again. I spent the fall/winter training like crazy for the race, and was very excited to run. I spent the weekend at the Expo in Boston, walked along Boylston Street, and envisioned crossing the finish that Monday. I couldn’t wait. Monday morning I walked around the Athletes’ Village, and got more and more nervous as the starting time loomed. When the race started I was filled with excitement, and was looking forward to a nice run to Boston.
I saw friends along the way, and stopped in Wellesley to see my wife and kids as they cheered me on. I remember turning onto Commonwealth Ave and dreading the four miles of hills to get through, but I was so determined to get through it, I pushed on as if it was the last race I’d ever run. As I made it up Heartbreak Hill, I noticed motorcycle police racing up the road, and I thought to myself that something must have happened up ahead, perhaps someone was hurt.
As I got to Boston College my phone rang (which I use as an Ipod): It was my sister-in-law telling me to stop running and to ask someone what was going on. I saw a spectator on the side of the road who quickly filled me in on what he knew of the situation at the finish line. I had five miles to go, but it was immediately clear that my race was over. I remember being angry I couldn’t finish the race, but that anger quickly disappeared as I got in my wife’s car and listened to the news. I was simply heartbroken over the events of that day.
This was my second attempt at Boston, to no avail. I did receive a finishing time (estimated on when they assumed I would finish) and a finisher’s medal, but it wasn’t satisfying. I wanted to run the marathon again, more than anything. So, when the BAA sent out an email offering to let me sign up and run again, I jumped at the chance.
I’ve spent the winter training, and now I’m ready for Boston attempt #3. I feel honored to have been invited back, and excited about being a part of it. I will admit, with all the excitement, I’m still a bit nervous as to how it will all play out. Whereas last year my wife and kids were going to go to the finish line to watch me finish, this year they will not. I will cross the finish line on my own (hopefully!) and take the train home. As much as I’d like them there, I’m not willing to take a chance.
At this point, it’s about finishing what I started, which is exactly what I’m going to do.
Race Day! As with the previous two Boston’s, my father-in-law picked me up at my house and drove me to Hopkinton. This year I had a friend with me, who flew up from Philadelphia after acquiring a number through his employer. As we got dropped off near the starting line, it was immediately apparent that things were different. I can’t remember ever seeing so many police officers and military personnel in one place.
Just to get into Athletes’ Village we had to go through a metal detector. Once in, however, it was how I remembered it. Thousands of people, all doing their own pre-race rituals. We found a comfy spot on the grass and stretched out. As the time approached to start running, the nerves kicked in yet again. I stayed with my friend at the back of Wave 4, and waited to get started. Once we crossed the starting line, my friend was gone (much faster than me) and it was just me, my tunes, and a never-ending crowd of supporters. I saw a few friends along the route, as I have in the past, and again stopped in Wellesley to see my wife, kids, brother, parents, co-workers.
Once past Wellesley a reality set in that I had a long way to go before I was done. My slowest time would be through the Newton hills, but I was so focused on finishing this year, I didn’t even realize I was on Heartbreak Hill until I was half way up it. As I got on to Beacon Street, I remember thinking I was really going to finish. At that point I was in my “walk-run-walk-run” mode, which seems to go on forever.
When I hit Kenmore Square I took out my IPod and started taking a couple pictures: 1 mile to go, 1 KM to go. As I came out of the underpass, about to turn on to Hereford street, I was walking slowly until a crowd to my left starting yelling my name (which was written on my arms) and encouraging me to keep running. I picked up the pace and they went crazy. From there I ran the whole way in, passing the same people I had been running with for miles. Even with the thousands of runners who participate, I found myself surrounded by the same 10-15 people for most of the race, and we had all made it.
I’ll never forget crossing the finish line and asking a volunteer if that was it. It took a minute to realize I didn’t have to keep running. There was a strange sense of uncertainty when I finished. I didn’t know what to do next, so I just kept walking down the street. I got my finisher’s medal, my hooded cover, a bottle of water, and I just wandered aimlessly, not sure of how far I would make it.
My wife then called me and told me she was in the family waiting area. A few minutes later, I found her, along with my friend, who had been there for two hours waiting for me to finish. My original goal was to break five hours, but by the time I got to Newton, all I wanted to do was finish. My official time was 5:29:17, which was good enough, because I made it.
My post-race recovery lasted all of two days, and then I was right back at it. A good friend of mine, who has run countless marathons, once told me that as soon as I finish my first marathon, one of two things will happen: either I won’t ever want to run another marathon again, or I’ll be signing up for my next one right away. Since Boston 2014 was my second completed marathon, I’m signed up for Philadelphia on November 23rd.
And the training continues…
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