Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My Boston Marathon Experience

Boston this year will be very special for me because I will be participating in the Armchair Division. I have a great shot at placing in my age group.

Sure, I could have really used the $100,000 grand prize but me and the BWS have these DEEP GLUTE injuries (I don’t ever want to go camping with ANY of you guys again) preventing us from competing. This is what I recall of last years 111th running:

I got to Hopkinton real early to ensure I had a nice piece of muddy ground to lay down on before the rest of the sea of humanity arrived. I then walked about four miles to the Main Street starting line in my muddy soaked sneakers (feeling the start of my first blister) and waded into my designated starting area. The aroma was a pungent blend of Urine, Ben Gay and Aspercreme. The triple-action Gold Bond Powder was beginning to kick in (don’t have to worry about THAT itching anymore). About a mile in front of me was the starting line.
Knowing I had a great distance to travel (before I even reached the start), I began elbowing my way to the front of the corral. Even before the singing of the star spangled banner had ended, I picked my moment…. I trampled easily over a pack of 7 year old Cub Scouts who were not paying attention behind them. The gun went off (finally) and I jockeyed for position with 2 Grateful Dead groupies jogging in front of me. They were raising money for medicinal marijuana research! Anyway, they had great snacks.

A guy in a wheel chair ran over my foot! This was war! He was pretty easy to tip over and really looked much smaller on the ground. Practically helpless I thought to myself, then I realized he didn’t have a bib. (oops)A spectator. I don’t know exactly what I was doing on the sidewalk. I should have helped him back up but I really had to get to the starting line before my gel pack wore off.

I picked up the pace, looked up and saw a couple of Kenya toothpicks streak by me at approximately 35 mph. "Losers!" I yelled in their native tongue. I was pacing off a guy in a cow costume. I knew they’d fade long before we did!
Once I found my stride, I was on fire! I ran like Pre (well, actually more like pre-Pre)! I was able to keep that up for nearly 100 yards!

That's when my right knee flared up as if I'd been whacked by a baseball bat. It was my IT band snapping like a rotten racketball gut. No problem, I thought, I'll just tough it out. By the time I reached the first mile marker I had tripped over my shoelace (should have tied that thing better) and twisted my ankle. I started breathing kind of funny. You know that asthmatic "gasp-wheeze-gasp" sound I sometimes (ok always) make when I go out too hard?
I then settled in. Assuming the slow, steady posture of the long-distance dude! I had somehow made it to the five-mile mark in Ashland. I high-fived the guy in the cow costume, swung my hand out to grab some water but missed and somehow accidentally punched myself in the face. The force of the blow caused my nose to bleed quite profusely. It was all over my face (along with some snot) and my shirt. That’s when I noted the overhead cameras. Marathon Photo was snapping my picture! Frustrated and dizzy, I ran right into a motorcycle cop. I managed to scramble away before he could cite me for resisting cardiac arrest.

By now my carbo-loading (but spicy) pasta and seafood dinner was really paying off but then again my Jose-Cuervo-loading experiment was having the just opposite effect. I became distracted by what I first imaged was a scoop of ice cream deep in my chest but then I thought it was more reminiscent of a sour cream potato chips. What ever it was launched itself from my left lung onto the street. I was thinking how nice a porta-potty would be right about now!

Near the halfway point is just about the time you start to feel like quitting (again). Then you hear a chorus of cheers that crescendos to an almost-deafening roar as you approach Wellesley College. The Wellesley girls are famous for their nonstop cheering and "Kiss Me" and "Marry Me" signs, each of which have been motivating runners for decades. That's a stark contrast to the beer-swilling and less coherent but still somewhat motivating Boston College students near "Heartbreak Hill," between miles 20 and 21.

I started to get excited when a chorus of girls began chanting “Show us your tits!, Show us your tits!” Now, I’ve been married for just about 16 years. I didn’t think I’d let myself go that badly. I Thought, what the hell, I’ll ablige them. I lifted my shirt and showed off my bloody nips, and rotund belly and hardly noticable man boobs. Just then I noticed it was the guy in the cow costume they wanted. He flashed his udder! Click, click, click…..go figure. Another Marathon Photo moment! We were both prominately featured in that one. Arrrghhh!

Halfway up Heartbreak Hill, I was gripped by the sensation that an angry badger was trying to claw his way into my chest cavity. Fortunately, I was only choking on a Power Bar that I found on the road. OK. Time to get serious, I gotta ditch this cow! I switched the Garmin to kilometers for a while to make it seem like I'd covered more ground. Wow! My pace in kilometers is impressive!

This was about the time, I came across Matt Stevenson having a similar afternoon. Things were getting a little fuzzy, and I really couldn't say where I was. Matt didn’t want to even admit he knew me. I was a mess. Some guy ran up to me, noticing my IVS tee (you could still read it with even with all the blood and snot) and started talking about the Morton pumpkin thing. He had a pony tail and looked kinda like a cross between Rosie O’Donnell and Paul Revere. I haven’t ever seen him around town but I’ll never forget the face. Was I there yet? Nope.

I have no recollection whatsoever of Miles 22-25 except my buddy, the Big Willie Style appeared out of nowhere. I thought he had decended from the clouds. He looked like Jesus to me! To this day I still feel funny cussing around him. No shit, honest story.

I must have regained consciousness with about a quarter-mile to go because I distinctly remember the ghost of the legendary Johnny Kelley (#1 now and forever) tapping me on the shoulder and yelling at me to "keep going, kid." OK maybe not.

Hypothermic, with a bloody nipple, no toenail on the right big one, I crossed the finish line! Me and Big Willie decided this was our ABSOLUTE LAST MARATHON EVER! I then tried to hail an ambulance back to my hotel room. No luck. When my wife caught site of me, she tried to hide her head behind the program she was reading but my kids gave her away. I really can’t blame her. Something decidedly un-sweat like was streaming down my leg, blood flowed from my right nipple and snot was encrusted on my face. I would eventually regain a full range of motion in my pelvis.

So that's my story. What really makes the Boston Marathon unique is that not everyone can run in it. Except for a handful of charity entrants, all runners must meet an age-graded, gender-specific qualifying time to earn a spot on the starting line. Somehow I was lucky enough to qualify. And when you train all year - or in some cases for several years - to earn a qualifying time, it makes the race a time-tested badge of honor for those who make it. Congrats Guys! Enjoy your day.

No comments: