So my day started out at 5 am in Sharon, MA. Got up, had my oatmeal, English muffin, and some OJ. Packed the rest of my gear and got dressed. My brother in law took me into downtown to catch the shuttles and the sight of some 25000 runners lining up for the buses was something to witness. I somehow managed to find my co-worker Aaron in all of that madness and after a brief wait, we were on a bus and heading towards Hopkington. I rested a little on the way out, but once we arrived, time seemed to fly - wait in line for the porta-poties, eat a bagel and a banana, GU up, add H2O, and we're walking towards the start in some kind of twisted death march.
At the start once we start going, it is a sight to behold. Boston seeds the runners based on your qualifying time. Out of 26000 runners, I had the 4945th fastest time. Heading down the first hill and watching the 4000+ runners in front of me was amazing. The first mile was slow, but I had expected that. The crowds... wow... lined up the entire first mile. There really were only a few gaps along the entire route where there wasn't anyone on the side cheering you on.
Through the first 5k, everything is perfect. I'm on pace and it feels easy, I don't foresee any problems, so I stay relaxed and keep chugging along. In hindsight, I may have moved through the throngs of runners a little too much in the first 5k. The adrenaline and excitement of the day can do that to you. If anything, I felt like I was trying to hold back the first 15k. Somewhere around the 10k mark I ditch my gloves (so sad) and fortunately will not need them. I pulled down my arm warmers, and kept them on knowing that I'd need them later with the winds and cold air.
Approaching mile 12 I noticed these bright orange signs posted up on telephone poles. "Go Eric! 4945" they said. It was Andy, at least in the form of a sign. He'd gone to a CVS after a Greatful Dead concert, grabbed some paper and markers and put signs up in the wee hours of the morning. Andy being Andy, he did have Sox tickets, but wanted to put his touch on the marathon for me.
At 12.5 you begin to hear "the scream". All the runners know what's coming, but for a half mile, you can hear the screams get louder and louder until you hit mile 13 at Welsley College. The Welsley girls are a tradition. Kiss me, kiss me I'm a senior, kiss me I'm a virgin. For some people, this short stretch has taken them minutes to get through as they work down the line kissing the co-eds. The screams are like the sirens in the Odessy. I have Aaron along with me at this point and we keep on moving through this never ending line of screaming girls. For a moment I felt like the Fab Four...
Halfway through I'm feeling pretty good at 1:25. This is the fastest I've ever gone through 13.1 miles. I try to ease back a little knowing that in about 3 miles I'll start to face some challenges as the course begins to have some hills.
I find it rather ironic that the first of the 3 hills (Heartbreak Hill) starts just as you go past a hospital and a fire station. Prior to this point, I felt a slight twinge on my right IT Band. This is not a good sign, so I dial back the pace knowing that I can pull back and still get in under 3 hours. My old HS coach Steve McChesney said that was a smart move and probably saved the marathon for me. If I hadn't, the last few miles would have been a miserable death march.
As I crest the first hill and begin to recover, I see my family on the side. Beth's mom Betty, sister Carol, and niece Sarah are all there. It was a brief reunion, but a much needed one. The second hill is the hardest physically, the third the hardest mentally. But you know that it's all (relatively) downhill from there. 5 miles to go and time's ticking away...
By this time, the crowds are amazing. The occasional person crosses the course, some with latte's others with a case of beer. In both cases, I'm jealous. I've had to pull back up my arm warmers on the hills. As we get closer to Boston, the wind gusts pick up and it's a little colder out. The crowds over the last 5 miles are sometimes very deep, as you get closer to the last 5k, they are endless and loud, each cheer willing your legs forward to that magical 3 hour mark.
As the CITGO sign grows in the distance you know that soon the pain will be over and you can stop, but for now you must press on. Especially in the group where I'm at. The crowds know that you're close to being under 3 hours and they cheer everyone on. Runners are stopping around you, some walking, some grimacing, I know how they all feel. I've been there before, it's not a fun feeling.
Things are a bit of a blur at this point. I'm exhausted, tight, hurting physically and fighting mentally. With 2 miles to go, I do feel a sharper twinge on the right ITB again, but I must will my legs to keep going. I know I'm starting to lose ground and might be cutting things a little close. I pass Fenway Park, my Red Sox inspiring me and giving me a boost.
I pass a sign that says 1 mile to go. This is it, dig deep and leave nothing in the tank. I approach the last right turn and then the final left turn and now the finish line is in sight. I check my watch and know that I have to forget about the pain and push it. My tank is on empty, all that is left is guts. The crowd is pulling me to the line...
As I approach the line I raise my arms in victory. I have done it. I ran the Boston Marathon. I hit my watch after crossing the second timing mat. The time reads 2:59:57. Officially it was 2:59:53. I can't even begin to process the emotions right now. I just want to keep moving, slowly, painfully for water, gator aide, food, more food, blanket, medal, FOOD...
After I retrieve my bag the first order is getting warm. I'm sure the videos of people trying to get dressed after a marathon have to be entertaining. I finally decide that sitting on a curb might be the smart thing to put on my sweat pants and change shoes. I don't even want to see my feet right now. The right shoe is tighter than normal... yeah, that's going to look pretty.
I call the Buffster. She's so ecstatic! For one, she's glad I'm done and that I'm OK (she really hates this distance), but she's also so happy that I broke the barrier. Sub-zero baby! Our own little joke. She'd been watching online and following my chip timing the whole morning. Mom was very emotional which was to be expected.
Beth, Malcolm, Carol, Billy, Alan, Dan, my BAC teammates, co-workers, family, and in spirit, Dad and Dan W. I know I did all the hard work and preparation for this, but you guys were my support crew, my inspiration, the voices that helped me push through when I needed you.
Thank you all for being a part of this.
The damage is minimal... probably lose 2-3 toe nails, one really bad blister on my pinky toe, an ITB that will require at least a week off. The memories will last a lifetime. I can now say that on one blustery day in Boston that I broke 3 hours and finished 1329 out of 26000+ runners. The top 5%.