Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Two Cents After One Trip To Boston

It's just over three weeks away, meaning the culmination of those training for Boston is here! Before I ran Boston for the first time, I read lots of different takes and opinions on the course, and all of them highlighted different things.  Different personalities see different things, and it was good to get a consensus. With that in mind, I thought I would throw in my two cents about my take on Boston.

Getting There.
Flights are expensive, but then the price of the hotels make the flights look cheap. I found one of those “rent a room in my house” websites and got a nice room, sort of like a B and B, for less than a hundred dollars a night. We had a great host who cooked for my wife and I and gave me some local pointers. It was in Cambridge, and I walked around the campus of Harvard and took what I call” The Good Will Hunting Tour,” which ended when I banged on the glass of a restaurant window yelling “Do you like apples? Do you like apples?  Well, I got her number. How’d you like them apples?”

It was nice to stay away from the main marathoners drag, since I was around them enough for the expo and during the run, but needed some space. Having runners in front of your nose all the time just constantly reminds you of the event, and plus you’re with the same group in a different city that way rather than venturing outward which is what I wanted.  The Boston subway system is incredible. The city is quaint, not the claustrophobic crowded feel of a Chicago and just seemed a little more ‘green’. Boston, you  all have reasons to be snobs.

Getting To The Starting Line
If it's your first Boston, I think you are cheating if you don’t take the buses but instead take a private bus. Potties on the bus are for wimps. Wake up, and go stand in line with the massive MASSIVE crowds by the subway stop like the rest of us.  Man is it a sight to see. Lines of buses from horizon to horizon and a mass of crowd everywhere.  Do get there early, especially if you are in the first wave.  I have wondered many times who was the last person to get on the bus and how they must have pooped their paints in nerves over not getting to the start on time.
Waiting in line for the busses. This picture doesn't do it justice.

A Survival Kit
Yes, I suggest bringing a disposable survival kit. A black bag to sit on to keep your arse dry, some food to eat if needed, and all the little comfort items you may need to prepare yourself before the run. Packing your breakfast if you want because there’s plenty of time to eat it. The bus ride is long since there are a lot of stop and go’s waiting to drop you off.  The crickety bus ride really exposes how far you will actually be running and gives you lots of time to socialize with random people or meditate and ponder on your event, or just take a nap if you really are the running Zen Master.

When it’s time to go to the corral and wait, this to me is what really felt different than other races. Just a bit more majestic the buzz that comes from the start with helicopters and then jets flying overhead, the Boston Marathon Banners, and the reality of waiting to take off on the biggest most famous race on the plant. Of course, my feelings could be based on what it personally meant to me to be there at that moment.

Waiting to be summoned to the start
The Myth of Hills At Boston.
I was very surprised after hearing all the stories about the hills at Boston. What I found was there are no hills, but in fact, the course IS hills.  When I hear hill I hear a flatland approaching a hill and then getting flat again.  The whole course is always on an incline or decline, which is what surprised me despite seeing the elevation chart many times.  And the neat thing is you can thus see forever in front of you, and the whole mass of runners makes you feel that much more a part of the community.

But, none of the hills is that daunting in terms of its steepness, but a few are strategically placed by some marathon guru to test if you really want to finish.  When I close my eyes, I have more horror at that small little hill at mile 25.5 at the Chicago Marathon dubbed “Mt. Roosevelt.”

The Crowds: My take on the difference of the crowds at Boston:
 The crowds at Chicago are four to ten deep and cheer for its marathoners with all their heart. The crowds at Boston are ever present as well and seem to be cheering for themselves during the marathon. It seems they are cheering for their city, and for all that they created, and they are happy you are there to see it and be there with them.  They don't just want you to hear, they want the whole world to hear that they are Boston, and hear them roar.

Learn the history
I didn’t study it thoroughly, but did read through quite a few descriptions of the distinct and differing neighborhoods you will run through trying to get back to the city from Hopkington. My description wouldn’t do justice the many different ones out there, but just know that, maybe due to it being a straight shot, it has more distinct neighborhoods than other circular courses (I do New York in November so expect it has this same feel.)  It is like venturing through different worlds as you go, my testosterone does remember the screaming Wesley girls, I remember a “biker gang,” and I remember wishing I memorized the exact number of hills leading up to “heartbreak hill.” I really wanted to know as my thighs were getting pounded if I was at the end of the inclines or was there another one on the horizon. Not sure if my fuzzy brain would have been able to remember and recall anyways, but a sign that said “Welcome to HeartBreak Hill” save me and  was such a relief so I expanded the last bit of ‘hill energy’ I had to get to the top and ready to roll down to the finish.

Boston Virtual Course Tour Link 

Did The Sox Win?
You are a Red Sox Fan for the day. No matter what. Be a geek about it. Pay homage to Carlton Fisk and yell randomly to people “But did the sox win? Did the sox win?” Makes you as cool as the other side of the pillow.

The Boston Marathon not in Boston.
Only a portion of the course is in Boston, a very small portion at then end.  This makes the Boston section seem so roaring.

Pray to CITGO  Pray pray to Citgo
I had heard in advance about the Citgo sign looming in the sky as a sign that you are near the end.  And yes, when you see it it will warm your heart and pump fresh blood to your legs.  And I swear as you get closer to the finish, with a solid but relatively sparse crowd, you can hear the finish from miles away, until you finally make that final turn onto Bolyston street and your last strides before crossing the blue and gold banner.

I now love CITGO gas.  Or, as one famous boston baseball player who tried to hit the ball out of fenway park, See It Go.

This runner has some major CITGO love

Bring A Ring To Give To Your Wife At The Finish.
Well, in my case, our ten year anniversary was 5 weeks after the run, so it worked out perfect.
Yes, I carried the ring with me through airport security, hid it from my wife over the weekend, and then tucked it into my zippered shorts and carried  it with me over 26.2 sweaty mucus filled miles and gave it to her near the finish. I had this whole image of kneeling down and presenting right on the blue and gold finish line strip, but….

Stay longer…
I Love walking around a city a bit after the race.  Great way to help in recovery, no more worries about your time and the event, what's done is done.

After the Boston I finished, I was able to walk, and my wife was happy as could be  since this romeo gave her an anniversary ring at the end of the event
We went to the coolest sea food shop ever in the north end called The Daily Catch.  They cook your lobster or whatever meal and then just bring the pan right to your table as the dish. There’s a chalkboard menu, cash only, maybe 4 tables and 20 seats in the place.  The Daily Catch

This meal was delicious, but later on that night, I chased it down with a Quarter Pounder w/cheese. True Story.

There were no bathrooms in the place, but they had an agreement with the cigar bar across the seat, so I went over there and it looked like a Sopranos casting call. Expensive suits, men with leers on their faces surrounded by woman in Vegas like outfits, an aura of “I’m a clown, you think I’m a clown? I amuse you?”  floating above each and every one of them.  I tiptoed to the bathroom over the legs of ‘made guys’ to the tune of Don’t Stop Believin.
"Excuse me (cough) where's the bathroom?"

Lastly - Buy as much Swag as you can.  Get the jacket, even if it’s ugly like it was the years I ran. I grabbed the jacket, a short sleeve T, and a winter hat, but wished I got more.  Who knows when I’ll be back.



LBTEPA said...

I'll never BQ (marathon PB 5.54) and I live in Australia so I'll most likely never spectate at Boston but I can just see it from your writing! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Loved it!!

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