Tuesday, April 21st, 2009
I ran the Boston Marathon once before, in 2000, and remembered little about the actual run. I could recall being very, very cold while sitting on the ground for several hours at the starting area, a.k.a. the “Athletes Village,” and then hearing women at Wellesley scream at the halfway point, and then peeing in my shorts near Boston College at mile 20 due to the long lines at port-a-potties and learning that I should never wear light-blue shorts because they reveal a dark wet spot for all to see. I crossed the finish with one of my slowest times ever. Also, I spent 80 bucks on the official Boston Marathon jacket whose colors that year were orange and black, and I rarely wore it because the oddly stiff, tall collar gave it a Dracula-goes-sporty look.
Nine years later, when I realized our Spring Break family trip to D.C. would put us on the East Coast at roughly the same time as the 113th Boston Marathon, I figured it was worth a detour and an extra two days of travel to give Boston another try. No other big-city marathon boasts of such tradition and crowd support, or of the camaraderie of tens of thousands of runners who must run fast enough to qualify for entry. I had worked darn hard to reach my personal goal of qualifying for Boston under the men’s qualifying time (sub-3:10), and I felt I had earned a “fun” marathon — that is, no finishing-time pressure, just a chance at a heady, hearty training run suffused with all the history and legend that the famed course has to offer.
Boston, here I come!
We arrived and I paid $90 at the pre-race expo for this year’s official jacket, which is royal blue with neon yellow trim and has a tighter fit and brighter sheen than the Year 2000 version. I wore it around town, as did at least 10,000 others who probably are also the types who buy concert T-shirts and wear them during the concert, and Morgan commented that we all looked ready to board the Starship Enterprise.
On race day, the official organizers must have contingency plans that figure in a high likelihood of bus breakdowns, Nor’easter blizzards and mass riots — all happening simultaneously — for why else would they require runners to catch the busses in Boston in time to arrive at the starting area in Hopkinton at least two to three hours before the 10 a.m. start? I joined the masses on the edge of Boston Common, not far from our hotel, at the relatively late time of 6:45 a.m. I didn’t mind, though; I actually looked forward to the 26-mile drive on the big yellow school bus, for past experience told me that this is the most social time of the pre-marathon ritual. Like nervous kids heading off to sleep-away camp, we relieve the tension by swapping stories from years past and making predictions about the experience to come. Friendships tentatively form with each exchange of names and email addresses. The whole drive-to-the-starting-line tradition made me recall the words grandly repeated during our U.S. Capitol tour the prior week: E. Pluribus Unum — out of many, one. We come from points all over the country and globe, but on the bus we share a destiny; we become one tribe.
I eagerly awaited the discovery of the comrade, the potential soul mate, whom fate would place me near. (more…)