The Boston Marathon
April 21, 2003

by Papa Bear

Click on an entry to jump to a particular section:

Genesis: The Three Year Plan
Exodus: Qualifying for Boston
Leviticus: Taking a Break
Numbers: Training for Boston
Deuteronomy: The Boston Marathon

Revelation: Results


Genesis: The Three Year Plan

I

n April of 2000 I ran my third Boston Marathon (see: "Reflection on Boston"). I was 57 at the time.
(Photo of Ann and Pb finishing Boston 2000)
Ann and I finishing Boston in 2000
After that race I was beat and tired of both training for and running marathons. My friend Ann had put it succinctly after we finished that race together: "Why would anyone want to do this more than once?"

So I resolved that if I were to run Boston again, it would not be for three years - not until 2003. And I would run my qualifying race in the Fall of 2001. This gave me a year and a half before my next marathon and then another year and a half before returning to Boston. This plan allowed me plenty of "down time" from running and should revive my drooping spirit.

Of course I was assuming I would in fact qualify at some marathon 18 months in the future. But there was an added benefit to this plan that would help me do that: I would turn 60 in late 2002, so my qualifying standard for the 2003 Boston would be 5 minutes slower (3:40 to be precise) even though by running in the Fall of 2001 I would have just turned 59. Every year of age and every minute of finishing time counts for a lot, let me tell you!

Another factor was that I was planning on taking an early retirement in 2001. This would allow more time for important activities like running without employment getting in the way.

Thus occured the Genesis of my Three Year Plan to return to the Boston Marathon.


Exodus: Qualifying for Boston - The Dublin Marathon, October 29, 2001

I

n January of 2000 I happened to read an article in Running Times magazine by Andy Palmer and Jonathan Beverly (see "Base Camp: First Step to Your Peak"). Now I have read dozens, if not hundreds of articles in running magazines giving advice on the "best way" to train for this or for that. But this one stood out: for one thing it stressed hard work over the long term, not a quick fix. And I knew Andy quite well: he had directed the Maine Running Camp for many years and had given me many helpful training suggestions over the years. His philosophy of running and training had always struck a deep cord in me.

This article seemed a perfect plan for my marathon training which was coming up in the fall. As the article said: "If we are patient enough, even once in our lives, to take ourselves through the full training process, we will see results beyond our expectations, results which will provide benefits for the rest of our running lives." Well, that sounded good enough for me, so I took the advice in the article and developed a plan from it for myself. Basically I laid out 26 weeks of training starting around the beginning of May. I cut the schedule outlined in the article from 6 days of running per week to 5, and scaled back some of the more agressive mileage. I then talked to Andy that summer at Maine Running Camp and he helped me tweak the plan a bit and added the suggested workouts for the last 10 weeks - the peaking phase. What we arrived at is shown in this spread sheet. Now I had a plan.

(Andy passed away tragically last year while running in North Carolina where he and his wife Zika were developing a state-of-the-art training center. He was well loved by all who knew him and will be sorely missed in the running community)

Now that I had a plan, I needed a fall marathon to run. I decided Dublin, Ireland in late October would be ideal. It has a good reputation, Dublin is a beautiful city, the weather could be expected to be cool, and my wife and I could make a vacation out of it - visiting some long lost cousins in Ireland after the race. I talked my sister and her husband into the idea of a vacation in Ireland and we suddenly had a great plan for a family trip.

In March I retired from my job and was raring to get going. But fate, in the form of a pulled calf muscle in mid-March, had other ideas. I was told by the doctor to stay off the leg (no running) for a month. So I added a new phase to my plan - "rest". This was undoubtedly a blessing in disguise. I rested well, stretched a lot, and by the time I got started again my legs felt fresh and I was ready for serious training.

My training throughout the summer and early fall went very well, and I was ready for my peaking race - The Philadelphia Half Marathon on September 16th. Unfortunately disaster struck New York on September 11th and everything that had been so important before, now seemed to just not matter very much. Nevertheless, I decided with trepidation to go down to Philly and run the race. It was a physical and emotional trauma, but whether from my physical training or my keyed-up emotional state, or perhaps both, I ran what was probably the best race in my life at Philadelphia (see my 2001 Philladelphia Half report).

When we finally boarded the plane for Dublin a month or so later my state was not quite so peaked. The malaise that
(Photo of Pb running Dublin)
Looking good early in the race
at Dublin
had set in on September 11th had infected my will, and physically I felt "flat". It was probably a matter of peaking too soon coupled with the traumatic events of the recent past. But we nevertheless had a great time in Ireland both before and after the race. As a family trip it was a great success (see photos from my Ireland family trip).

At first the race unfolded pretty much according to plan, but I made the strategic mistake of shooting for a 3:30 rather than the necessary 3:40 needed to qualify for Boston. I guess my performance in Philadelphia had suckered me into over reaching in Dublin. I felt the affects of this agressive pace in the second half and had to stop repeatedly to stretch my over-tight quads. Then at mile 25 I almost blew it! I looked at my watch and misread the time (the watch showed "3:29:41" but I thought I saw "3:32"). I figured with only 8 minutes to run 1.2 miles, I was out of the running! I just about gave up and started to walk, but then I thought I should at least try to look good for my wife and family waiting for me near the finish. So I picked it up and pushed on, and to my great surprise saw the clock at mile 26 showing 3:39 - about 2 minutes left to make my goal. I could still make it! I gave it my best and crossed the finish line at 3:40:35 - just made it! From this near disaster I guess I learned an important rule of marathons: don't try to calculate your finish time late in the race! Just keep running!

I was a bit disapointed in my time, but I was Boston bound! Halleluia, the Promised Land!


Leviticus: Taking a Break from Running - Hiking 700 miles along the Appalachian Trail

E

ver since the time while I was in high school when I first heard of the Appalachian Trail (or as we call it, the "AT"), it had an attraction for me. Put on the back burner while I was in college, then in grad school, then when I got married and helped raise a family, and on through my working years, the idea of hiking the trail was always there, dormant. Finally in early 2001 I took an early retirement, and the idea of doing some real long distance hiking came to the surface again. But first I knew I had a marathon to do to qualify for Boston, so I let the idea wait for another year.

After my Boston qualifier in Dublin in the fall of 2001, the idea of hiking now moved to the forefront. I found a hiking partner, Bill, whom I knew as a runner from my running club. Bill had also recently retired and was an ideal partner. Unknown to me, Bill had been doing sections of the AT for some years and we agreed that we would try to do most of the trail starting from New Jersey north to Maine, over the spring and summer of 2002. This was approximately the northern third of the AT and was a great big chunk to suddenly take on.
(Photo of group climbing Mt. Madison)
On the AT in New Hampshire's
White Mountains
There are some who hike the entire trail in one season, taking from four to six months to do it. But being a "thru-hiker", as they are called, held no attraction for me, so Bill and I became what are called "section hikers". We laid out six sections of about 150 miles each, and planned to hike for about two weeks at a time throughout the spring and summer. Thus we would maintain a semblance of normal home life by getting back between sections. Our wives were very supportive of this plan (thank you Joy!) and we were off.

Some schedule changes reduced the number of sections we did to five, and unfortunately a broken ankle that Bill sustained in early September meant that he had to skip the last section, which was through western Maine. Fortunately I had a partner for that section as well: my daughter, an experienced hiker herself, came in from Oregon to do the last section with me.

The hiking was exhilerating and is an experience I regret having put off for so long. But life goes on and there's plenty of the AT, and lots of other trails waiting for me, so I expect I will be doing plenty of hiking (along with running of course) into the future.

For a complete set of reports of these adventures, including lots of pictures, see the Appalachian Trail Reports on my web site. There's lots of good stuff there and if you are a hiking afficianado or a wannabe (or just plain curious), you will enjoy these naratives.

Then came late September 2002 and the last hike, ending in the middle of Maine, was done. I took about a week off and then I remembered "Oh, I have the Boston Marathon coming up next April. I guess I should start doing some running!"

Sheesh! No rest for the weary. There oughtta be a Law!


Numbers: Training for Boston

A

t the point in late September when I was ready to get back to running, I had done next to no running for 4 months. The only exception to speak of was the late August weekend when I was part of a team at the Hood to Coast Relay (which goes from Mount Hood to Seaside Oregon, and which, incidently, is truly awesome!). And boy, was I out of shape for that!

But having finished so much hiking, particularly the last 200 miles or so which is very mountainous, I figured I'd be in great shape to get back into running. Wrong! I just couldn't believe how tough it was to switch back! Throughout October and November my log had entries like: "Aches and pains", "Sore right heel", "Sore, especially in rt heel/achilles", "Heel bothered me", etc. You get the idea. It seems that fit as I was, the hiking muscles are just different from the running muscles. By the end of October I was barely up to 15 - 20 miles per week.

Time was passing and I knew I needed to get serious, so I decided to make a plan and stick to it. I would "officially" start marathon training the first week in December, which would give 20 weeks of structured training till Boston. Recall that for Dublin, I did 26 weeks of structured training, and started out at a higher mileage point at that, so this would be tough going.

I decided to use a training plan similar to what I had used for Dublin, but eliminate the so called "peaking" phase where I did hard speed workouts (intervals). For this marathon I would do base training, AT workouts ("Strength training"), and then jump right to the the tapering phase. I knew that skipping the speedwork would probably not have more than a small affect on my race, since they say 80% is due to base training, 10% - 15% is due to AT workouts, and only the last 5% - 10% is due to speed work. Well, I'd be more than happy if I could get to 90%, so this seemed the best way to get the most out of my truncated schedule. (BTW: here "AT" stands for "Anaerobic Threshold", a technical running term, not "Appalachian Trail".) One result of the reduced training time available is that I could schedule just four 20 milers (which many would consider more that enough) as compared to the eight 20 milers I had done in training for Dublin. But that was the way it had to be, so I wasn't going to worry about it.

Here is a detailed record of my training, starting in December 2002: Training Schedule. When the spreadsheet comes up, you may have to click on the "Training Schedule" tab at the bottom of the page to get that sheet. Note also the "Journal" section which gives a day by day account of where I trained and how I felt, what the weather was, etc.

As was the case in my training for Dublin, I was on a 3 week cycle: hard - hard - easy. The truly tough weeks came in the strength phase, where I was doing 12 mile tempo runs, 12 mile hill workouts and 20 mile long runs for 2 weeks in a row, and then again for two more weeks in a row after an intervening easy week. (A 12 mile tempo run is actually 4 miles easy, 4 miles hard, and 4 miles easy. Similarly the hill workouts were 4 miles warmup, 4 miles of hills (8 repeats on a long hill), and 4 miles cool down.) These weeks had some of longest weekly mileage totals I had ever done, several at 58 miles and one at 64 miles per week. I could never had done this while I was working. You just need the time to rest and recover from these miles without the stress of a day job!

In the middle of it all was my peaking race, in this case the Brooklyn Half Marathon. This was the only point in my entire schedule where I would get any sort of validation as to how I was doing. In fact, Brooklyn was the first race since the Dublin Marathon that I had run hard-out. Many folks like to race frequently, and thus get a lot of feedback on how they are (or perhaps aren't) improving. But my training regimen would not allow that. There is just too much risk of getting side tracked by injury. You must trust that your training is working or you'll be lost. Well, I trusted, and when I got to Brooklyn it went very well. I finished in 1:41:40, a 70% performance level, 7th in my age group. This was a real confidence builder and allowed me to finish my training with a good spirit and with the knowledge that I was well on track.

One downside from Brooklyn however, is that I never completely recovered 100% from the hard effort. From that point on during the final weeks of training, I experienced occasional pains and soreness, especially in my right hamstring and right adductors. I had a nagging fear that this would come back to haunt me in my marathon.

The other thing to note is that this was a very tough winter to be training on the roads. We had much more snow than in recent winters and it was very cold much of the time. And as is always the case in winter, there is limited daylight hours for your training. No, New York City is not Achorage, Alaska, but still for a New Yorker, it was tough to get out there day after day, week after week. But there was one amazing positive note about this year's miserable winter - for the first time in many years, I didn't catch one cold all winter! How about that!

Finally in early April, I was happy to enter the tapering phase of my training, 3 weeks prior to Boston. The weather was getting milder, and at last I could rest and recover so my legs would have some energy when I got to Boston. My Numbers were all in a row and I felt quite confident.


Deuteronomy: The Boston Marathon, April 21, 2003

F

or days I had been checking the forecast on Weather.com for what to expect in Boston on marathon day. One day it would forecast showers, next day cloudy, then again showers. Finally a few days before the race it settled down to cloudy with temperatures in the 50°s. Great! That is ideal marathon running weather.

My wife and I took the train up to Boston and I picked up my stuff at the expo on Saturday. Then on Sunday I met a dozen other New York Flyers for a scrumptious pasta dinner at Papa Razzi's in the Back Bay. Sunday was warmer than forecast and was partly sunny, but still the forcast was for partly cloudy and cool weather for the marathon the next day (the Boston Marathon is always on a Monday).

Early in the morning on marathon day, I looked out the hotel window and saw clear blue sky. As we took a shuttle from the hotel over to Boston Common to get the marathon bus, the weather was actually getting quite mild. After the long ride to Hopkinton when we found our way to the staging area, I realized we had a real problem. The temperature was already close to 60°, the sun was bright, and many folks were just laying in the grass in the hours before the start to suck in the warmth. It was really quite pleasant, but I knew that was a recipe for disaster, so we found a spot inside the cooler tent. Five members of the Flyers (Charles, David, Megan, Gregg and myself) had found one another in the tent and we were discussing strategy, mostly how to cope with the weather. Put away the gloves! Put away the long sleeve throw-away shirt! And get out the sun block! This would be a scorcher. The only consolation was that the air seemed relatively dry. High humidity would have been a real killer.

By the time I got to my corral (where we line up for the start of the race), the temperature was around 70°. I kept inside my garbage bag, not for the cold (it wasn't), nor for the rain (there wasn't any), but as an attempt at keeping in the shade till the last minute. There were mostly women in my corral, probably a result of the qualifying standards (my qualifying time of 3:40 was the same as that for open women). It seemed that there were more women in the race this year than ever before, which is a great thing. To think that it wasn't until 1966 that a single woman ran the race and not until 1969 that they were allowed to run officially!

Since I had bib # 13730 (out of about 20,000 entrants) I was quite a ways back from the actual starting line. After the gun went off (no, we couldn't actually hear it; we were too far back) we ambled slowly for about a half mile and finally got to the starting line in about 9 minutes. Although in your "official" finishing time this delay counts as part of your time, they also record when you actually pass the starting line and publish your "net time" as well. This is usually referred to as your "chip time" since all timing is done by means of a small electronic transponder that you wear on your shoe. This is how they verify that you actually ran the entire course and allows them to publish on their web site your progress along the course.

(Photo of the start)
The Start of the 107th Boston Marathon
in Historic Hopkinton, Massachusetts

My goal for the race was to do a 3:40 - the same as my qualifying time. This comes to about 8:20 per mile. My strategy was to take it easy in the first 3 or 4 miles so I wouldn't blow my quads on the steep downhill section, and then gradually move up to an 8:15 pace and hold on. If I faded slightly towards the end I would still have a little cushion to make my goal, and if I didn't fade, then who knows, I might do something in the 3:37 ballpark.

When I finally did get to the starting line, the amble had become a run, and I was on my target pace from the very start. I started well, at about an 8:20 per mile pace. The beginning miles are steeply down hill and I could already feel my quads taking a beating.

One amusing sight along the route about a mile into the race was a large "Entering Brookline" sign on one side and an equally large "T" sign (which signifies a subway stop) on the other side. Those who don't know the Boston area were probably just mystified by these, but for those who do know the city, it was quite amusing. Brookline comes at around mile 22 and there's not a T stop for about another 15 miles! Don't we wish!

Lene passed me around mile 2 or 3. She was on track for a good race, so I wished her well and stuck to my pace.

A little before mile 4, I suddenly got a sharp pain in my right lower calf, and I thought I was doomed to drop out - a muscle pull or something similar. I slowed, and the pain became just bearable, but it stayed with me the whole race. It took me about four or five minutes to slow and adjust my pace until I thought I was going to be able to continue. This was a very scary time for me. After nearly six months of hard work I didn't want to drop out so early in the race - or to drop out at all for that matter! Eventually it became just another pain in the mixture of sensations late in the race. My mile split for this mile was 8:18, which was actually my fastest mile in spite of my slowing down after the injury. So maybe I had really sped up quite a bit without realizing it, and that had contributed to the sudden problem. I will never know.

At around mile 6, as we were passing through Framingham, Art passed me and I told him about my calf problem. He still had an extra shirt on, but soon the heat would get to him. For myself, I had started out with just my singlet and wore a hat for sun protection. Soon it became too hot to wear the hat, so I stuffed it into my belt and trusted that the sun block I had applied would do the trick. Even though the course traverses a mostly rural and suburban route, there is very little real shade along the way.

Just after mile 8 in Natick, my family was out there to cheer me on. But due to the dense crowds, I couldn't spot them, although I saw a few of their neighbors. I waved (hoping this would get their attention and they would call out).
(Photo of Pb at mile 10)
Around mile 10
Later they told they saw me fine and assumed I was waving at them. So it goes.

At mile 10, there was an official photographer in a fire department "cherry picker" above the course. I pretended I was feeling good and put on my best face for the picture. Again at mile 12, Barry was taking pictures for the Flyers, and again I tried to look good. I actually gave him a "thumbs up" signal. What was I thinking?

The crowds were among the best I have seen in my four Boston Marathons. What was a burden for the runners (the warm sunny weather) was welcomed by the spectators. Lots of kids were out giving high fives to the runners. Occasionally the smell of a barbecue wafted its way across the course. It was one 26 mile long party - for them! There were crowds even between some of the towns where spectators are usually sparse.

Through these middle miles I could feel the affect of the sun. But I hydrated pretty well and kept cool by dumping water over my head. Meanwhile my calf pain faded into the background of my consciousness.

Just before mile 13 we pass Wellesley College and a wonderful thing happens. In fact, it has been happening at this spot for over 100 years. The college girls are all out, literally hanging over the barrier and screaming like banshees with arms extended to encourage the runners. The sound can be heard a half mile away. This is the traditional "tunnel of screams" and provides a great lift to the runners at around the halfway point in the race. Descriptions are inadequate - you have to be there to fully understand it. Like coming off the Queensboro Bridge onto First Avenue in the New York City Marathon, it is one of the 2 or 3 greatest experiences a marathoner can experience anywhere in the world, at least for those of us who don't expect to win the Olympic Marathon!

We next pass through the lovely center of Wellesley (a very upscale town) which somehow seems to have less shade than any other place. This is where you really feel hot on a day like today.

At around mile 15, the course passes through Newton Lower Falls. Here we actually cross over the upper part of the Charles River. It's hardly 5 or 10 yards across here, a mere reflection of the beautiful, wide Charles River as seen from the Back Bay section of Boston or from Cambridge.

At around mile 17 the Flyers had set up a cheering section. Unfortunately they were on the other side of the road from what I was expecting, so I didn't see them. But they saw me - in fact they were in contact with a friend in NYC via cell phone who was tracking my progress and that of my team mates using the BAA web site (everyone could be tracked using those chips). I was told later that when they saw me I looked very troubled. The fact is, I had missed seeing my family at mile 8 and now I could not find my team mates here, so I was worried I would miss my rondezvous with my friend and fellow Flyer, Vicky, who was planning to jump in here and help me out by running with me.

But right on cue, Vicky suddenly appeared out of nowhere and started running along side of me. I was relieved - big time! We had set up a list of times so she could tell me what pace I would need to get to the finish under my goal time, but knowing I was behind schedule due to my calf and due to the weather, we promptly forgot about that. I said maybe a 3:45 was doable, but the main emphasis was on constant pacing over the hills and beyond. Finishing time became secondary.

From mile 17.5 to about mile 21 there are three hills, known collectively as the "Newton Hills", the last of which is the notorious "Heartbreak Hill". These couldn't come at a worse point in the race, since this is where you generally run out of energy (or "hit the wall", as we say). We made it up the first one fairly well, holding roughly to a 9:00 pace. There is then a mile or so of gently undulating road where you are never quite sure if that last undulation was one of the "real" hill or not. You know there are supposed to be three hills, but when you are out there it seems like four - or maybe it's six - or maybe just two.

At around this point I started to widthdraw from the world into my own interior world. I was focussed on one thing - moving my legs in the forward direction! What
(Photo of Pb around mile 15)
The tough late miles
had been a chatty conversation with Vicky when she first joined me (I actually cracked a joke as we ran up the first hill) became more and more one way. Vicky would talk and I would just nod in response. Instead of asking her to get some water at a water stop, now I would just point. An amusing sign of my gradual loss of cognitive function (a fancy way of saying "I was losing it!") was my remark to her at mile 20. We had just finished a hill which I thought was the last one, and I said: "Well, the hills didn't seem so bad this time around". She didn't say anything, but she told me later that but she knew the worst was yet to come.

Just after mile 21, the "real" last hill was there in front of us - Heartbreak Hill. As we struggled up (actually I struggled up, Vicky just loped along easily) my legs were crying out "stop, stop, I can't go on", but with encouragement from Vicky I slogged on. After cresting the top, I tried to let my legs recover on the flat area as we approached Boston College, but it seemed like the recovery took longer and was less complete after each successive hill. This was my slowest mile, a 9:26. Otherwise I was holding to a fairly constant pace between about 8:50 and 9:10. Not too bad for me at this point.

Just then I heard the cry "Richie, Richie!". And there at the side was Coach Cliff. His shouts gave me an added boost just when I needed it most. Thanks Cliff! Another "lift" I got around this point was that I passed a runner from the CPTC (a New York running club consisting of mostly very fast runners). It's not often I get to pass one of their runners. I guess today even some of the fast guys were having their troubles.

As we passed each mile marker in this final section, Vicky would offer some encouragement. At mile 21 she said "OK, you have just a 5 mile loop of Central Park left". Then at 22 she said "Just an easy 4 mile inner loop of the Park to go". And at 24 she said "Just a bit more than a loop around the Reservoir". Thanks Vicky, this helped keep me going. Around this time the water I was pouring over my head was washing the sweat and sun lotion into my eyes, which stung. Vicky would grab a paper towel from somewhere (yes, sometimes even off the ground - we weren't fussy at this point) so I could wipe my eyes.

Another amusing thing unfolded in the last 3 or 4 miles. A woman running near us had her name on her shirt: "Aileen". Over and over we would hear someone on the sidelines yell out: "Go Aileen". Now Vicky's middle name is Eileen, and she sometimes goes by that name, so each time she heard this she would momentarily think: "Wow, how do they know my name?", then she would smile and realize it was for the other runner.

These last 5 miles should be easy going, but it doesn't feel that way at this point in the race. We move along Beacon Street through the city of Brookline along a relatively flat route amid very dense cheering crowds.
(Photo of Pb near Kenmore Square)
Looking a little beat around mile 25
In some parts of Brookline the crowds pushed in from both sides of the street and you are channeled through a corridor of noise. It was really very supportive.

Then a little before mile 24, you pass over a slight rise in the road and there in the distance you see it - the Citgo sign. It may seem strange to someone unfamiliar with the course, that one of the important milestones in running Boston is when you can see a big sign advertising a gas station. But the Citgo sign has been a landmark on the course for years and it's right before the start of the last mile at Kenmore Square. It's like in the NYC marathon, when you finally see the trees of Central Park as you come down Fifth Avenue. It means you're going to make it. The home stretch is in sight!

Just as you get to Kenmore Square you pass over a slight rise which is the overpass that crosses the Mass Pike. This last "hill", hardly noticeable if you were to walk or drive over it, feels like a killer, coming at the 25 mile point. To add insult to injury, the road surface briefly changes from asphalt to concrete. Boy, does this kill your aching legs!

At this point another friend, Bill (no, not the hiking Bill), jumped in, and both friends ran with me to the finish. Bill snapped a few pictures as we ran along, some of which are shown on this web page. Since he was literally running next to me, these are nice closeups (the pictures are nice - but I wouldn't say that I looked so nice at this point). Both Bill and Vicky had been talking via their cell phones as we moved along the course so he knew just when we would arrive. Don't you love technology? You can't get away from it even running a marathon!

With the end in sight (figuratively), I managed a reasonably strong pace for the last mile. My friends were going to cut out somewhere near the end, but I asked them
(Photo of Pb, Vicky and Bill turning onto Hereford)
Turning onto Hereford Street
with Vicky and Bill
to cross the finish line with me. The extra encouragement for the last few blocks would be welcome, and I also wanted to share some of the excitement of crossing the finish line with them. Unlike New York, where they drag you off the course if you try to cross the finish line without an official race number, here in Boston they don't seem to mind. I guess when you've done this as they have for over 100 years, you don't sweat the small stuff.

Near the end you are running along Commonwealth Avenue, which has a park along the center between the two lanes and is lined by rows of gorgeous 3 and 4 story town houses. Then you turn up Hereford Street and down Boylston Street. The character changes dramatically, with busy urban store fronts, office towers, and the massive Public Library followed by the beautiful and historic Trinity Church facing Copley Square. For these last 5 blocks along Boylston Street, you run down an avenue of cheers which is literally deafening. It is truly a very emotional experience.

I finished strong and then immediately had no energy or mobility whatsoever. It is amazing that you can go from full out running, to barely being able to walk in the space of a few yards. My friends helped me along the area after the finish line where I could get water, food, my finisher's medal and finally my baggage. Then it's changing into my warmup clothes, finding my way to the subway and eventually getting back to my family who were anxiously waiting. These simple steps can be pretty onerous when you're exhausted, can't think coherently, and can hardly walk. My friends' help was a godsend.

(Photo at the finish line)
At last The Finish!

So I guess there's a Second Law of Marathons: get someone to help take care of you after the finish.


Revelation: How Did I Do? and What Did I Learn?

O

ne of my friends asked if I had a "fun race". No, I did not have a fun race, but it was a satisfying one.

I did well, especially compared to many others. I felt I got through it as well as any marathon I have done, although my time was off my target. Shooting for 3:40, I managed a 3:49 - close! My overall pace was 8:45 per mile and (rather unexpectedly) I was 65th out of 500 in my age group. Not bad!

To do well in any marathon it bears repeating again and again that you must do a solid job of training, or anything you do or don't do on marathon day is for naught. That said, in getting through the miles, particularly the last miles of a marathon, intelligent pacing, hydration (water intake) and energy supply are essential. My hydration worked rather well in spite of the weather. I took water at every stop but drank only a very little at a time. More often than not I poured half the water over my head. Energy wise I also did well. I never hit the wall, but only slowed a bit towards the end. I took a Power Gel just before the start, and again at miles 7, 13 and 20.

But the other huge factor in getting through the last miles as well as I did, was the help I got from Vicky. I can imagine that the urge to stop may have been hard to resist if she had not been right there with her help and encouragement. It's more than the fact that she would encourage me so I would keep moving on - it was almost that I would be embarassed to stop with my friend right at my side. You just want to look your best and do your best in front of those you love. This kind of help can be just as important (or more so) then your water intake and energy supply. Remember what saved my qualifying race in Dublin was the desire to do well and to look good for my wife and family that last mile.

Click on the spreadsheet again, this time for the final results and the splits for each mile and each 5k. (You may have to click the tab at the bottom of the page for the "Results and Splits" sheet.) The charts included tell the story of the slowly falling off of my pace, but without any abrupt crashing. There was really no "hitting the wall".

Looking at the splits, you might ask "What happened in mile 17? Isn't the first hill a mile later?" Well, in fact there really is a hill in mile 17 rising from Newton Lower Falls and up over the I-95 overpass. It actually rises almost the same amount as the traditional "first" hill which starts at the fire house where the course turns right onto Commonwealth Avenue. This is a fourth hill that most people forget about. The other big spike in the splits was at mile 21, which is Heartbreak Hill, and that makes perfect sense.

So what about that calf injury? It looks like it was a mild strain of the lower Soleus muscle. There was some internal bleeding, evidently exascerbated by running 22 miles more after the injury, resulting in some swelling and skin discoloration - a bit like a bruise, but red instead of black and blue, and without the soreness at the surface you would expect from a bruise. At first I thought it was sunburn, but the skin didn't hurt at all like it would from that. I have to admit that it's at the same place where I pulled the muscle in early 2001, and it's the same spot that bothered me off and on during my hiking, and it's the same place that was most often sore when I started getting back into running last fall. So perhaps this should not have been unexpected. But since I breezed through the Brooklyn Half at a considerably faster pace with no problems, it did catch me by surprise here. What I should I have done? Of course - rest, strengthening, stretching - you know the formula. Did I do all those things? Um ... no, sorry. I guess I rate stretching along side of flossing my teeth: everyone says you should do it, and you know you should, but you never quite find the time. But this time I promise I'll really work on it. Yes sir, stretch, stretch, stretch every day. No more tight calf muscles! (I also promise to floss regularly.)

One problem I did not have was overly tight quads. Since 1998 I have done 4 marathons (Humboldt Redwoods, Niagara Falls, Boston 2000 and Dublin) and in all of them I had to stop and stretch my quads repeatedly in the later part of each race. This time I had no such problem. One theory I'm toying with is that my hiking had built up the muscles of my legs in such a way that they were actually in better balance. So I lost one with my calf but I won one with my quads! I guess that's another sort of balance!

And what about those nagging after-affects of my Brooklyn race (hamstring and adductor soreness)? Never had a problem! This just shows that when you worry about what's going to happen in a marathon, you usually worry about the wrong thing, and something else takes you by surprise. So why worry!

My only other real injury (aside from the expected soreness) were some gory looking blisters on the bottom of my left foot. Vicky and Bill were impresssed when they saw them as I changed my shoes, but to tell the truth, blisters may look bad, but in a few days (after you "pop" them) they heal pretty quickly. For completeness I guess I should say it looks like I'll also lose a few toenails - an occupational hazard for long distance runners.

I was asked "Do you think you could have made your goal if the weather wasn't so warm?" Good question. I would say not necessarily - don't forget my calf injury. In fact on this particular day, my sore calf may have actually helped me, by forcing me to slow down in the early miles. If I had kept to my more aggressive early pace, given the heat of the day, I may very well have crashed completely in the later miles. Some of my friends did just that. Hypothetically I may have been able to hold onto an 8:30 pace all the way to the end on a cool day (except perhaps for the hills). This would have shaved off maybe 5 minutes. But it's better to forget these "what if" games. I'm happy with what I got!

I still feel a little stiff and sore now as I write this. Like you're s'posed to, I guess.

So what's next? Some hiking in a couple of weeks and some easy running. (And of course I'll look after that calf muscle). Am I planning another marathon? Please don't ask me that just now!

Maybe in a while I'll get a Revelation for another plan.


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