Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Yesterday saw the 113th running of the Boston Marathon, and what a great running it was!

The alarm went off at 5:00 and I waited while my runner went about his race day preparations. We left our friend's home in Somerville at 5:45 and drove into Boston over what I fondly call the "Salt and Pepper" bridge. As we headed toward Government Center, we saw empty yellow buses lined up for nearly a mile to the Boston Common. It was an amazing sight, another indication of the impressive race management machine that is Dave McGillivray, rather, DMSE Sports, Inc. (By the way, I've had occasion to e-mail Dave over the past couple of years, and each time I receive a response within 24 hours. I love that.)

Runners, carrying their bright yellow plastic marathon bags, were coming from every direction and slowly making their way to the bus-loading area on Tremont Street. They were early and appeared relaxed, as buses were running to the Hopkinton start until 6:45 a.m.

I wished Paul well as he set about on his virgin voyage of the grand-daddy of marathons. Of course his journey began months ago in October, when he comfortably qualified at the Mount Desert Island marathon. Today was about enjoying the ride! (I wish the ride I had to my viewing spot was enjoyable, but more on that later.)

Before he could get going, however, Paul had nearly three hours to wait at the start area. He ate some, walked around some, got some cold, and then tried to warm up some in the sun. Finally, time to get into the stalls. I can't tell his story, but I do know he made it to his stall in the nick of time on account of a porta pottie waiting line. He left in the first wave at 10:00, and took several minutes to cross the starting line.

My story gets good only after I arrived with friends and family at the 24-mile mark in Brookline's Coolidge Corner neighborhood. Getting there, madly, was no fun. We took the 'T' from Cambridge to Park Street in Boston where we had to change lines, and were unable to board at least ten trains because they were too full. Aaaargh! Of course, the Red Sox game was scheduled to begin at 11:00 and throngs of excited spectators of both sports were vying to get to their start on time.

We arrived in time to see the wheelchair athletes in progress, the women's lead pack, the male leaders, and all the fabulous runners thereafter. Mile 24 is on a downhill, which was fairly evident in how the runners took it; some were inspired while others grimaced with the continuous pressure of the descent. Mile 24 is a tough place to spectate because runners are often more done than not.

The women's race was amazing. Kara Goucher was in the front seat of a pack of six women! They virtually flashed by us, but I went on to imagine what the next two miles were going to look like and feel like. Holy cow! What a fantastic race, and the finish, as we know, was thoroughly dramatic. THIS is what I love about the marathon. So much transpires from mile to mile.

The men's race was less exciting but no less amazing. Deriba Merga was all alone, looking absolutely unscathed and with an established lead that was going to be impossible to take away. He had it. Then came Daniel Rono and Ryan Hall, shoulder to shoulder. I noticed that Hall's arms were down, appearing tired, and I worried about his chances to take charge. It panned out as it did. What a great effort.

There are so many details I could share, but I'll spare you. I do want to comment on a couple Maine runners before closing: Sheri Piers for starters. Sheri, from Falmouth, is so inspiring and such a treat to watch in action. She was alone, moving right along in complete control, and smiling as if she was thoroughly enjoying the ride. What joy! She finished in the 11th spot.

Matt Dunlap, also living in Falmouth though originally from Farmington, works at Peak Performance. Last October, he finished his first-ever marathon in the number two spot, at the Peak Performance Maine Marathon in 2:37, but, he hurt his ITB. Matt was forced to take time off and I know struggled to regain his health. Yesterday, when he passed at 24, he gave me that 'pained, panicked look' that I know quite well. It says to me, "I'm doing it, but I'm not really quite sure how." He ran his first Boston in 2:38. Matt rocks.

And saving my best for last, Paul Toohey ran his first (and he said, maybe his last) Boston Marathon in 3:27. He did not see us in spite of our cow bells and cat calls, so I quickly jumped in to let him know we were all there rooting for him. He seemed pleased to hear this and said he felt some sore.

I thought I was late getting to the family meeting area at the finish, again, a terribly crowded train, but in fact, we met right on time. The poor guy had to walk several blocks back to the 'T' at Park Street, but it could have been worse as we walked through Boston's Public Garden and the Common.

Runners ruled the day yesterday in Boston. They were everywhere after the race - sharing their stories, hobbling along, leaning on loved ones, resting on the grass, and I dare say, still enjoying the ride.

No comments: