Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Special Race in Boston

I’m feeling pretty good about the race I ran on Sunday, Boston’s Run to Remember, a Half Marathon that honors fallen police officers. This year the race took on a special meaning, after the Marathon Bombing. I had signed up to run it back in February, long before the events of April, but after the bombing I was so glad to be running in this race.

I very seldom run the same race twice, in fact, this may be the first time that I have ever done so. I often think after a race that I would like to run it again, but there are so many races to choose from, somehow repeating a particular race just hasn’t come up, until now.

This race is at a perfect time for me. I’m far enough into my marathon training that it is not difficult to add a little half-marathon speed training to the mix in order to be ready. And it’s far enough away from the marathon proper that I don’t need to worry about recovery time eating into my marathon training.  So back in February, feeling energetic and ambitious I signed up for this race again.

The last time I ran it was in 2010. We had just moved to New England the previous fall, and I really didn’t know where I was in Boston while on the race course. This time I hoped to be able to recognize the various neighborhoods as we passed through.

When I ran the race in 2010, the worry was heat. I believe the high that day was 76F, pretty warm for a race. This time it was rainy and cold, 39 degrees at the start. I’ve had enough cold race starts by now that I wasn’t about to risk freezing while waiting for the race to begin. I had a nice windbreaker that I didn’t mind sacrificing to the race cause, so I wore that over my running clothes until right before the starting horn went off. I also decided to break with my previous marathon tradition, and wore a warm, long sleeved bright yellow top, instead of my usual short-sleeved pink top. This turned out to be a good choice. I never wished that I had on short sleeves throughout the entire two and half hour race!

We lined up for the start in front of the Seaport World Trade Center on the Boston Harbor. Before the race began, the race was dedicated to Sean Collier, the MIT police officer that lost his life while trying to capture the marathon bombers. And there was a moment of silence for everyone that had lost their lives or were gravely injured in the bombing.

At the beginning of any big race there is a bit of sorting out that goes on as people establish their pace and get spread out. For once I managed to stay with my goal pace fairly consistently at the beginning. As we ran past Government Center and across the Longfellow Bridge I began to realize something. There were a lot, and I mean A LOT of people wearing Boston Marathon shirts and jackets in this race. I knew that after the bombing this race had sold out quickly. The race directors said that they got over 3,000 entries in the week after the bombing! But it didn’t occur to me just who those 3,000 runners were. They were Boston Qualifiers, people running to complete a race in Boston where they were not allowed to complete one a month ago.

The race left Boston proper and ran along the Charles River, past MIT, to Cambridge and back. I really liked this part of the race when I ran it before, and I liked it again this time. It’s quiet and scenic, and pretty flat too! And as an out-and-back, its always fun to cheer the race leaders as they are heading back toward Boston, long before us slower runners get to turn around.

In front of MIT there was a line of policemen with their hands out-stretched. I joined many other runners in high-fiving all of them and saying “thanks”. It was pretty emotional; I was kind of choked up by the end of the line. I didn’t care if it slowed me down for a bit; it was worth it.

After turning around and heading back toward Boston, my old nemesis, the urge to pee, started to become a real problem. I just won’t stand in line at a porta potty during a race, no matter what. I wondered if I would end up wetting my pants; I certainly hoped not. I started looking for trees or bushes that might work. Along the Charles was the only semi-rural part of this race. If I waited until we were back in Boston there wouldn’t be any other choice but to hold it or stand in line.

Finally I saw a boathouse by the water that looked like it might provide a bit of cover for a lady in need. I glanced around, didn’t see any policemen and dashed for the side of the building. I hoped the people on the other side of the river wouldn’t notice me squatting in the bushes, but by that point I really didn’t care. Unfortunately I probably lost a minute or more off my time with that maneuver. I think I need to stop drinking in the morning two hours before a race instead of just one.

The end of the race was really fun. I felt good, and I knew where I was the entire time, which made me feel like Boston was slowly becoming MY city. We ran down Charles Street in Back Bay. I noticed the chocolate shop where we bought truffles once on a tour. I saw the Paramount Diner where we ate breakfast, the hotel where Sarah and I ate dinner. We ran around the Public Garden, down Boylston, down Commonwealth, Tremont and Washington.

Crossing Atlantic Ave, right before the Longfellow Bridge, I started looking for Lee. He had said he would try to come watch me at the end, but I didn’t know if he would really come with the weather so cold and wet. But, at the corner of Atlantic and Seaport, there he was! He picked up both dogs and I gave Harper, Cosmo and Lee all big kisses! It was so much fun to see them, and it really gave me a boost there at the end.

I had plenty of energy left for a bit of a kick at the finish line, which always feels good. And as I was running down Seaport they started playing my favorite Arcade Fire song so of course I sang along.
I was pleased that I ran this race safely, remembered to eat my GU packets at the proper times, had fun, and posted a decent time. I was annoyed with myself for having to pee and for hitting the lap button instead of the STOP button on my watch at the end. At least I remembered to hit SOMETHING on my watch.

A half marathon is just not anywhere near as difficult as a full marathon. Its funny now to think back to that first half marathon in HongKong, how intimidating it seemed to run that far in a race, how impossible it seemed at the time to even think about running a full marathon someday. Now running a half marathon seems if not easy, at least not scary at all. I hope I can run this particular race again next year. It was pretty special.

The race results were very revealing as to who was running in the race this year. A similar time in 2010 (when I was 58) put me in the middle of the 50-59 age group results, number 11 out of 19. This year at age 60 my time put me toward the end of the 60-69 age group, 27 out of 33. The top 10 in my age group all ran times under two hours. That’s darn fast for anyone; let along a bunch of old ladies! It was all those Boston Qualifiers. So more power to them, but I hope next year they all get to finish their marathon so the competition for this race won’t be quite as stiff!


  1. That sounds like an awesome race to be a part of! Don't you love those lessons mother nature decides to teach us during a race? :)

  2. I really doKate! You never know what the weather is going to do on race day....part of the challenge, and the fun,sometimes anyway!



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