In light of everything that happened at the Boston Marathon this year, I couldn’t decide how to write this post, or to even write one at all. Despite the personal accomplishment and significance of the race itself, the cloud hanging over the event for so many others in Boston, the running community as a whole, and around the world can not and should not be forgotten. With that in mind, I want to recap the everything from my perspective, chronologically, to capture the emotional highs and lows of the weekend.
We arrived Saturday after an early morning flight and went straight to the race expo to get our packets full of goodies and buy way too much official gear.
Colin and I each picked up a hat, t-shirt, and the status symbol of Boston Marathoners everywhere: the jacket. The expo itself was packed.
After the expo we walked back to the hotel where I promptly tried on all my new gear.
Pretty sweet, huh? That’s actually the finisher shirt that everyone gets, not the t-shirt I bought, but you get the point. Later in the evening Ev and I went on a little date before calling it a night. We were exhausted and it was only Day 1.
Sunday morning Colin and I set off for a “shake out” run around the Charles River. I felt a little sluggish, but it was good to stretch my legs after flying the day before. And it was a good thing we burned a few calories, because we had an awesome brunch full of burgers and doughnuts in Cambridge.
After brunch Colin and I went on a photoshoot near the official race finish line in our gear.
And some solo work.
Colin left us to rest and Ev and I went on a walking tour of Boston. We stopped in Boston Common before continuing on to the North End. Along the way, and the entire weekend, runners took over the city in their marathon jackets.
We only had one destination in mind: Mike’s Pastry! We battled lines and crowds to get the goods.
But finally we made it to the front and loaded up! Yes I’m holding two boxes and a cannoli.
The peanut butter cannoli was the perfect pre-race snack. Totally justifies waiting in line!
We walked back to the hotel before Evelyn and I joined Colin, Brittany, and Brit’s family for a big pasta dinner. Before long we were getting ready for bed, just a few short hours before waking up for the big race! Which brings us to Marathon Monday.
Colin and I were up at 5:15am to get over to Boston Common and hop on a bus to the start. It was just under a mile to get in the long (and growing) line.
The official way to the start is on one of the hundreds of school buses. It’s wild to see the train of buses, with police escorts, make their way from Boston all the way out to Hopkinton. After a 30 minute wait in line, the generally quiet bus ride took another hour to let us off. At this point there’s only one way back to Boston…
The Athletes’ Village is the staging area for the 27,000 runners, and it’s a confusing place. There are thousands of incredibly fit individuals wearing top-of-the-line running clothes spread out looking homeless — lying on cardboard mats, using rolls of toilet paper as pillows, wearing trashbags to stay warm, surrounded by porta-potties.
Colin and I grabbed some coffee before making our way over to take some cheesy, must-have pictures next to the “Welcome to Hopkinton” sign.
From there we hopped into the bathroom line where we met up with fellow Austin runner and coworker Rich. We waited and chatted, chatted and waited, and finally made our way over to the bag drop before making the 3/4 mile walk to the starting line. Just before the starting gun the crowds press in and the energy builds into something indescribable. Here’s what’s behind us.
And what lies ahead.
And then, before I knew it, I was running the Boston Marathon.
Start – 10k
The first five or so miles are bad news for anyone trying to run a smart race. They’re straight downhill and, when you get caught up in the crowds, you find yourself going much faster than planned. Any Boston veteran will tell you to take it easy and save your legs. As a Boston rookie I can tell you that that’s impossible.
Right near Mile 2 we passed a biker bar. The parking lot was packed with black pants, leather vests, motorcycles, and beer. That really set the tone for how great the crowd support would be. The miles ticked by way faster than we wanted coming in under 7:10 min/mi.
10k – Mile 13.1
The course levels out a bit by the 10k mark and we settled into a still-too-fast 7:15 min/mi for a few miles, knowing full well the barrage of hills coming up soon. You can pinpoint exactly when the road started to incline because our pace dropped back a little. This is where not having a specific time goal comes in handy. We just rolled with it.
At Mile 12 we were approaching the affectionately named “Scream Tunnel”. The ladies of Wellesley College flood the sidelines screaming nonstop for presumably hours. They’re well known for their “Kiss Me” signs and unparalleled excitement.
They gave quite a boost when we were fading a little. Shortly after, we hit the halfway point in 1:35:13, on target for a 3:10-3:11 finish. Now that would be something. But we’re only halfway done.
Mile 13.1 – Mile 20
Time to do work. The halfway point of a marathon isn’t really the halfway point. It’s where the race starts. For Boston this is extra true. We uneventfully made our way toward the series of hills that, looking at the elevation chart, is some sort of a joke.
The course plummets before forcing you to stair-step your way up four hills. It was during this descent where our legs took a beating. The way up the first hill Colin suggested we dial it back a bit and I happily agreed. With each up and down we were getting closer, closer, closer to the hill.
Mile 20 – Finish
Mile 20 marks the famed Heartbreak Hill. To be honest, at this point the incline wasn’t as bad as the way back down. The pounding from the downhills really took its toll on my feet. Right at the top of the hill I saw my aunt cheering runners on. I stopped for a quick picture before heading down through Boston College.
Let me say, with all the hype surrounding Wellesley’s Scream Tunnel, Boston College blew them out of the water. It was louder, more crowded, and more energizing. I left my hand out for the entire length of the BC cheering section and must have hit 200 hands, easy. Just the boost (and distraction) I needed to forget about the pain that was setting in.
After Mile 24 we heard someone yell “Hey Mikey and Colin!!” and gave us a high five. We spent the better part of half a mile trying to figure out who it was. Turns out my sister’s friend was watching and somehow recognized us and snapped a great picture!
With only a few turns to go you can see the giant CITGO sign off in the distance.
And after that, one of the greatest sights you ever did see.
Ev, Brit, and the whole gang were cheering us on around Mile 25.5! Even with the finish line so close we stopped to check in and get a “congratulations! now go! you’re almost done! yay!” kiss. We turned onto Boyleston Street and ran side by side toward the finish.
I clocked in at 3:17:39. Darn tootin’ good if you ask me considering the tough course and we were “running for fun”. My third fastest marathon to date in fact.
And that’s about where my race report would end. But not for this race.
Colin and I battled through the throngs of other finishers, all wrapped in mylar (space) blankets, making our way along the finishers’ chute to get our medals, food, and gear bags. We had crossed the finish line around 1:20pm.
While slowly making our way through the crowd of runners and spectators all trying to meet up with each other, I was texting with Ev to find out where to find them. Since they were at Mile 25.5, it was too hard for her, Brittany, and Brit’s family to fight their way down to the finish. We went back and forth trying to coordinate a meeting spot until we basically met outside our hotel a half hour later.
We went up to our room to shower, pack, and check out of our hotel before going out for an epic post-race pizza. Around 2:50pm, while we were at the front desk checking out we saw two dozen or so people frantically run down the escalators in the lobby and out the doors to the street. We casually finished checking out and started walking to Brit’s parents’ hotel about three blocks from ours, and away from the finish line.
Between the blare of sirens I overheard someone on the phone say that the race was stopped. I interrupted his call to ask what happened and he said he thinks there was an explosion near the finish. We quickly made our way up to meet Brits’ parents and started to figure out what had happened on the news.
Here are the runners on the course who were stopped before they could get down to the finish line.
From outside our hotel window I recorded an officer announcing to the crowds that they had to evacuate the area.
We have all now learned that there were two bombs planted and detonated near the finish line. I won’t get into the details of what has been reported countless times, as I only want to include what was seen from my own perspective. With most of the Back Bay area under lock down, no cars were allowed in or out. We rebooked our flights from 7pm that night to 6am the following morning and everyone settled into the one hotel room. I can’t say thank you enough to Brittany’s parents who never thought twice about taking Ev and I in. The Eliot Hotel also needs a big thanks for being so accommodating, including ordering and picking up some pizzas for our whole group and delivering them to our room while there was still so much unknown outside.
Here’s a little map I put together for context.
Thanks again to everyone who had us in their thoughts while so much was still unknown. We are grateful to have avoided most of the chaos and that everyone we knew in the Boston area that day is safe and well. It certainly puts a cloud over an otherwise fun, happy, unforgettable weekend. Now we must remember, like so many have already said, that this will not change who we are; it will only make us stronger.