Race Recap: 2013 Boston Marathon
This isn’t my normal race recap. Due to the bombings at the Boston Marathon, my recap isn’t the regular run-down of the race but will involve personal reflections, many of which are stream of consciousness. My feelings on the explosions are still forming. I’m so mixed with emotions and overcome by the gravity. Something I love and have loved for many years was attacked. The world’s most famous marathon is supposed to be sacred, but then again sporting events have been targets for a while, including the 1972 Munich Olympics.
My thoughts are with the victims, of course, but also with the many runners who weren’t allowed to finish. I don’t know how I would react if I was prevented from finishing a race due to such an occurrence. These runners are the older and slower runners, many of who had to raise thousands of dollars for charity in order to run. In a way, I am reminded of the New York City last year, which I was registered to run and had raised money for a charity that helps destitute Holocaust survivors (the Blue Card); outside events forced a change in plans and made national news. Hurricanes are different than an attack, but the resiliency of the running community amazed me: after New York was canceled, many runners delivered supplies to storm victims and after running Boston some runners ran an extra two miles to donate blood at local hospitals.
Boston was my 100th race day and 22nd marathon since I began racing in 2004 with the Marine Corps Marathon. Thankfully, I finished in 3:19, giving a little extra kick at the end to finish in under 3:20. My race fell apart in the 12th mile when a thigh injury I sustained the weekend before resurfaced pulled me off my sub-3 hour pace. But, I was pleased to finish with a course personal best, as last year I finished in 4:07 in a year with extreme hit, hitting almost 90 degrees. Yet, none of this really matters as I write this. While Laura and I sat in the airport waiting to depart for DC Monday night, “Mad World” played. Something about the tone of the song combined with my fatigue from the race and I broke down and cried. I cried for the victims; I cried for the race; I cried for the runners; I cried for the city; and I cried for myself.
And as I reflect, some of my friends and relatives that checked in on us, said they were so happy that I’m a “fast” runner, because I was finished ninety minutes before the blast. I’ve never been so happy to be a “fast” runner. My family was watching the race right where the finish line explosion detonated, but since I was done near 1:20 PM and the bomb went off around 2:50 PM, we were long gone. In fact, since Laura and I had a 7:30 PM flight, we left Boston quickly to get a bite at Town Spa in Stoughton near where my folks and sister, brother-in-law, and niece and nephew live. Last year we stayed in the city for lunch and had we done that this year, getting out might have been difficult. Plus, we flew out of Providence which was simple and no problems – Boston’s Logan was probably a zoo.
The first message came in from my cousin EJ who came with my friends to the Sox game on Saturday (Sox won in the tenth). He asked if we were okay and that is when our phones blew-up, for lack of a better term. We were touched that so many people contacted us out of concern.
I can only imagine how Molly is feeling and thinking. She’s almost five and likely will forever remember today. My sister seemed pretty calm about it all things considered.
Laura and I arrived Friday night, just around midnight. I confused our flight’s time and thought it was 10 AM on Saturday when it was actually 10 PM on Friday. I have no idea how I was convinced that it was a morning flight. Our friend and neighbor, Taylor, watched Sammy.
Saturday, I saw Auntie and then Auntie Maryann drove me in to the expo. We had fun picking up my packet and buying my official jacket. She then dropped me off by the ballpark, and EJ, Rob from college, and Billy from my running club enjoyed a beer and some lunch. We had a good time at the game as the Sox won!
Sunday I polished up my thesis and submitted it as the draft was due. I was actually pleased that I planned ahead and had it mostly done so that all I had to do was proofread and revise a few sections. I took Sunday very easy. My Mom made her pasta sauce and we enjoyed a carbo-loading. Then, we went over to Julie’s house where I stayed since she lives a few exits from the starting line. It was nice of her to host me and drive me.
Two of my uncles lost their battle to cancer in 2012. Before the Boston Marathon in 2012, I stayed with Uncle Evan Raine and my Auntie Sheila in their home in Milford, a town that borders Hopkinton. I recall that we watched the Celtics (they won) and he sat there in pain just trying to be comfortable. We had a good talk and he could tell I was worried about the race since it was going to be hot. He predicted I’d finish in 3:17 – I would have loved a 3:17 last year or this year! He passed in June. My Uncle Ronnie Berger before the race gave me some towel that is good at staying cool and wet. I wasn’t going to carry the towel, but it was a nice gesture. My sister embroidered their names on the back of my singlet with ZAL in Hebrew (of blessed memory) and a penguin for Uncle Evan (he traveled a lot and took a tiny penguin with him on their journeys) and a golf ball for Uncle Ronnie who loved the game. My uncles literally had my back. At one point during the race, I called upon them for help and to show me a sign. In retrospect that sign was that I never considered dropping out seriously (my family might have still been at the finish line), and we were out of there and safe before the incident. I believe they looked out for us.
Actual Race Recap:
The morning went as normally as any race, I suppose. I took my picture by the famous, “It All Starts Here” sign in Hopkinton, found a port-o-potty, and took a seat on a metal bench. I arrived near 7 AM and had some time to kill. Derek, who I met while running the Pocatello, Idaho, marathon, found me and we passed the time. He left before 9 AM to meet up with friends. I spoke with him and he is fine.
When it was time, I lathered up with Vaseline and Body Glide, packed my warm-ups, took a discarded hoodie that someone had left, and proceeded to the starting corral. I hit the bathroom again, ditched the hoodie (it was a St. Louis Cardinals jacket that was fine except the zipper was broken), and got into corral five. In the corral, I noticed I had to go again, but that would have to wait. I ran into a friend who works as a lobbyist on the Hill, Vince, and we chatted before the gun went off. When it did, we walked forward – there were too many people to start running. Richard from my running club was there as well. We went over the start line and the race was on!
About a mile into the race, I pulled over to go to the bathroom in the woods where several other men were relieving themselves. I figured it was best to get that out of the way while the race was crowded and it wouldn’t severely affect my time, plus I didn’t want to think about going anymore. Right after the Ashland town line, I looked to my left at a restaurant where my friend Steve Zukoff was – he is in my fantasy league – but I am not sure if I saw him since it was so crowded. I trudged on into Framingham feeling pretty good, holding a solid pace that kept me on course for a sub 3 marathon. At the 10K mat, I was doing just fine.
Natick was a different story. I started to feel my right thigh and quads but hoped it would be fleeting. No such luck, and around mile 11, I began to slow my pace to something manageable. I hoped I could hold a 7:00 and see how that worked. When I entered Wellesley, I was already in pain. The sight of the coeds offering kisses made me smile (I didn’t stop for a kiss this year), and after their Scream Tunnel I moved from the right side of the road to the left where I hoped to see my Cousin Jessica who was there last year (I didn’t know she was on a flight to see my Aunt where she lives in Las Vegas). I believe I crossed the half in around 1:32, but I knew I would not be having a negative split.
I backed off quite a bit once I entered Newton in preparation for the series of hills that destroys personal records and culminates with the nasty “Heartbreak Hill.” My goal was simple: don’t stop running – no walking! I race a pace I hoped to hold. As I ascended Heartbreak, I saw my friend and former colleague, Lisa, who I ran to and high-fived while she screamed my name and took my picture. On the downside of the hill, I tried to get my legs back and trudge forward. I hear someone in the crowd on the left side of the road cheer for the Yankees and saw that it was my running club Alex – she is a huge Yankees fan. I hollered her name and she cheered for me.
Around the 35K mark, somewhere in Brighton or Brookline, I thought about giving it a good kick to the finish. I reasoned that I could run 7K in thirty minutes and re-qualify for Boston with a 3:10. All I needed to do was hold 7:15 or so. My legs joined me for about 100 meters before telling me that would not work if I wanted to finish, so I retreated to my goal of not walking and finishing respectably. It was around there that I ran past my fellow DC Road Runners Club mate, Matt Anderson, who was running and walking. He’d pass me, then walk, then pass me again, then walk – but I lost track of him. Truthfully, I just focused on the approaching Citgo sign and finishing. As I passed Fenway, it dawned on me that a reasonable mile would give me a 3:19 – just shy of 3:20. I tried to hold it together and not walk – 3:19 and not walking was my new goal. It took a kick to get me down the final mile and then stretch. I looked left to see where my family was – no idea the danger they were in had they stayed – and saw a waving and smiling Molly on Rich’s shoulders along with Laura and my folks. I crossed the finish line as my watch displayed 3:19:41 – and then wheezed and moaned and limped what felt like another mile as I got shivers. I had to get my bag to call so I could meet up, and we decided to head out of town for lunch. They came to Back Bay where I was seated and talking to a couple from Salt Lake City. I told them I’d run in Pocatello, Idaho, flying into Salt Lake City, and also St. George’s, Utah.
My race was not my greatest marathon. My personal best is 3:04:54, but I have to tell myself a 3:19 is a respectable time. I was going for sub-3, but there will be other marathons for that. It was such an emotional weekend, and I’m sure there will be many future reflections. For now, we rally around the city and the slogan: Boston Strong – damn right!
This is the back of my running singlet. The names are of my uncles, Evan Raine and Ronnie Berger, who both lost battles to cancer in 2012. The Hebrew is an abbreviation that means, "Of Blessed Memory." The penguin is for Uncle Evan who loved to take a toy penguin in his world travels; the golf ball is for their love of golf. In the second picture, I'm with Auntie Maryann, Uncle Ronnie's widow, who came with me for packet pick-up at the Hynes Convention Center.
My college buddy, Rob Dubman, my cousin, E.J. Kropp, and my running club mate, Billy Mathis, just before entering Fenway. The Sox beat the Rays 2-1 in ten innings.
While I was in the runner's village, Mom, Dad, Laura, and Molly took the train in to watch the race.
|One mile to go!|
|A great view from Rich's shoulders!|
|A picture of my niece, Molly.|
|Rich took this of the Israeli and American flags.|
|Finishing in 3:19 and waving to my fans.|
|Laura takes a picture of my finish.|