Monday marked the 113th running of the Boston Marathon, 26.2 historic miles from Hopkinton, Massachusetts to the self-proclaimed hub of the universe. Laypeople may call it "the Boston Marathon"; to passionate distance runners around the world, it's simply "Boston". I had hoped to be there myself (enough people asked me about in the past month, for crying out loud!), but my faithful reader knows my tale of woe. Three marathons; three disappointments (and only one was a legitimate BQ attempt).
The Boston Marathon is the distance runner's Holy Grail. With its demanding but attainable qualifying standards, it creates an "elite" event for the recreational runner. It's like being able to enter the Masters despite being a 10-handicap golfer. Sure, the pros would tee off first, but you'd get your turn, and - if it all came together for you - you might just shoot the round of your life.
After holding a qualifying-exempt invitational entry form a couple of months ago (courtesy of a well-connected colleague), I decided I would continue to work towards qualifying. I'd like to claim to be a principled purist, refusing to compromise my ideals just to get to "the show" sooner rather than later. In reality, though, I decided that the experience of qualifying, of seeing the clock display less than 3:20:59 when I finish a marathon, may actually end up trumping Boston itself. I just didn't want to deprive myself of the experience. So, I participated in this year's marathon by volunteering at the pre-race Expo.
The Expo was a joyous occasion. Other than missing an exit and dealing with Boston crowds, parking and closed streets, it was nothing but a feel-good atmosphere, basking in the collective positive energy of a healthy, eager crowd of people who enjoy doing what I most enjoy doing. my job was simple: let people try on sample shirts so that they would choose the right size. I worked in the men's large/extra large section, and was surprised to see that Boston-qualified runners come in all shapes and sizes. Many a guy just stripped off his shirt, tried on the race shirt and chose his size. The women were - sadly - more discrete.
I met many of my virtual running friends, from all over the country. It was great to put faces to names. Karma abounded as I checked in with the volunteer coordinator, only to find "A muse" trying to find me. He looked just like his online photos, and I like to think that my lending him some arm warmers helped him reach his goal of 2:46 (a shockingly fast time; lucky the arm warmers did not disintegrate at that speed).
My fellow t-shirt sizer was a nice woman who admitted to running Boston as a Bandit (i.e., an unregistered runner), part of a dated tradition. She even planned to have her daughter pace her for the last 5 miles. Serious marathoners would generally find that behavior uncouth, but she was nice and plans to try to qualify for Boston for real. I made a couple of gently judgmental comments, but mostly let it slide. And, although I've been tempted, I haven't actually slept in my sharply awesome bright yellow Boston 2009 volunteer's jacket.
Race day proved to be exciting beyond belief, despite watching events unfold in a 4 square-inch screen via Universal Sports' online feed. Both the men's and women's elite races were exciting, with Americans Kara Goucher and Ryan Hall in contention the entire way (both finished 3rd). Yet, the real excitement for me came from tracking my many running friends. All told, I had about 25 or so people on whom I checked throughout the race. As with all running-related tales, their stories spanned the gamut from great personal triumph to abject suffering. One friend nearly ended up in the hospital after posting a PW (personal worst) time, which would - ironically - still qualify me to run Boston. Others had incredible PRs, as they etched their names into the historic register of our sport. Still others fell short of their time goals, but managed to get outside of themselves and enjoy the spectacle into which they'd earned their way. As one Boston Globe blogger wrote, "Think of Boston not as your final exam, but as your graduation ceremony". They runners had done all the hard work, and they were merely taking a 26.2-mile victory lap from Hopkinton to Boston, on the world's oldest continuously run marathon course.
Needless, to say, Boston fever has not hurt an aspiring qualifier's training motivation. I ran a little under 64 miles last week, thus averaging over 60 for the past 4 weeks. Sunday's long run was 20.2 miles, with 4 sets of MP, as follows:
- 2M = 7:41/7:42 (long, slight uphill miles)
- 2.5M = 8:33 (monster Sugarloaf replicator hill)/7:22/7:29 (pace for 0.5)
- 2.5M = 7:31/7:32/7:30 (0.5)
- 2M = 7:31/7:32
Average pace was 8:15/mile; average HR was 149. Had some weirds pains that came and went, including what may be my feet adjusting to new orthotics (an acute pain under my left arch made me think that the run was over after 5 miles).
Here's how this week is looking:
- M - 3.5M easy on TM; circuit/core/stretch
- Tu - 12M (with 4x400 @ 5K pace
- W - 12M, with 8 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon/evening
- Th - 6M easy (maybe with 4x100 strides)
- Fr - AM: 4M shake-out run; PM: 5K race (6+M total)
- Sa - 8M easy (trails)
- Sun - 20-22 (mostly easy, but maybe last 5 or so at MP) - that would be my 3rd consecutive week with a 20+-miler and 4th of the cycle
Total will be 70+ miles for the first time ever. If I feel great, then I'll do 60+-miles next week and then do a 2-week taper before Sugarloaf. If I'm feeling too tired, I'll back down and have a 3-week taper. This training cycle has been all about pushing hard while remaining flexible. So far, it's working out well, but I hope to know for sure in a little over three weeks.
Thanks for reading. -ESG