After running Boston in the historically horrible heat of 2012 I was very reluctant to come back. A few years later though, I was enticed. I had forgotten how hard the course was and was excited by the buzz and possibility to run again in the most noble of running races. I trained my face off and BQ’d in Paris last year, which gained me entry.
Abbe and I, along with Dougie and Danika, arrived Saturday at lunchtime via the train. Cousin’s Matt and Shannon (who were up from North Carolina to watch the race) joined us.
Our next order of business was the Expo. The weather was perfectly Spring like, 50 to 55 degrees and sunny. It was very well organized and I was at my bib pick-up counter easily. A funny conversation took place while getting my bib though. The girl who was looking over my credentials (Runner Passport and ID) looked at my very seriously and said, “Is your license expired?” I kind of had a panic moment and said, “Um… no?” She handed it back to me along with my bib. I then looked at my license, in red at the bottom it said ‘Expires in 2022.’ Why you gotta mess with my head lady?
We ran into my friend Beth and she told me to watch for her by the Citgo sign on Monday.
Then, I went and purchased my 2016 Celebration Jacket, a fun tradition. I tucked it away in a bag after, only to be worn after I finish the race.
We had dinner at Union Oyster House that night. It was awesome. We had on non-race bibs.
Sunday felt very anti-climactic due to the fact that I had my bib and everything I needed for Monday. It could just be a ‘fun’ day to do whatever. We started off with a shakeout run. I parted with Abbe, Danika and Dougie at Boston Common once I hit 2-3 miles. They continued on for another 8.
We went to Barking Crab for lunch where Matt, Shannon and Greg joined us! I love Barking Crab and find it necessary to visit it every time I go to Boston. It was gorgeous out, so we wandered around Boston harbor before deciding to go to the Boston Tea Party museum and re-enactment. It was highly entertaining. So much so that we ended up going to a pub, Mr. Dooleys, for some traditional irish music. The guys in the band at one point asked who in the crowd is running. I raised my hand and in an irish brogue he laughed and said, “Ya, you look like a runner.” This befuddled me, as I really don’t think I look like a runner.
Dinner was to be had at Scampo, an amazing italian (obviously) place built in an old jail. I choose lasagna as my meal of choice. Abbe and I took off right after dinner due to the whole ‘race’ thing the next day. I was so mad though, because Dougie and Danika went to the bar next door and Commissioner Bratton and the Chief of Police… for NYC, were hanging out!
Look how dumb and happy I am on race day. I thought the temperature was going to be fine!
I grabbed a coffee and set off on my 30 minute walk to the buses. It was so peaceful.
I got to sit in the front seat of the bus, which was fun. I felt like the Battalion Commander of a bus full of troops ready for battle. Once in base camp I was immediately spotted by my friends Rowland and D. We laughed a bit at how it was going to hit 70-75 degrees. A PR today would be challenging. We camped out on some boxes and chatted for an hour before making our way to Wave 1 start corrals.
By now it was hot and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. For those not familiar with the Boston’s challenging course, one aspect is that there is no shade the entire way. A sunny day means it is on you the whole 26.2.
At 9:50 two Blackhawk choppers cruised us, which was pretty sick. Then… the start gun.
We blasted off at a 6:15 pace, which I slowed down to a 6:30. We were in a tight pack, typical for Boston.
As we hit the 5K mark I was feeling good. When we hit the 10K mark I was not. The heat was really settling in and the sun was annoying me. Some crazy bad vibes started running through my head. I wanted to quit.
15K mark… “Why am I doing this. This is so rough. Everything hurts and my body is on fire.”
Then, I thought about how my cousin Libby and my Aunt Jen were in Wellesley cheering and I got excited to see them. They live in Boston. I was in Boston, that’s right, that’s where I was. This wasn’t some race I signed up for on a whim, I trained my ass of last Spring, harder then I ever had in a running race, to get here. I had no intention of PR’ing, this was supposed to be about the moment.
‘Dial it down Baker.’ I thought. I dropped my pace to the 7:30 range, splashed two cups of water into my face and looked ahead.
Once we hit Mile 10, I remembered this time to move to the far left of the street so that when we passed the Wellesely girls my ears didn’t explode. It is seriously so loud that your ears rattle. It’s the loudest thing I have ever experienced. Even as I passed them this year on the far left it was painful. A few of us looked at each other and kind of laughed, pushing forward.
The town of Wellesely is pretty big and the streets were packed. I was chugging along with blurred vision. Off in the distance on the right though I saw someone jumping and waving. It was Libby! I ran right at her to give her a high five, but she was coming in for a hug! I warned her, “Libby I am crazy sweaty!” She didn’t care. We laughed and I high fived Aunt Jen as they told me to get moving again!
I had 10 mile to go before I would see any friends again.
At this point I noticed a strange and annoying phenomenon taking place. As we would enter the aid stations a few guys right in front of me would come to a dead stop go get and then drink their water. Buddy, this ain’t your first marathon so what’s your deal? This started happening at every aid stop! I made a new plan to enter them towards the back for safety as a few times I almost destroyed a few guys.
We hit the hills at mile 18, which really aren’t that bad, it’s just where they are on the course that sucks. After the second hill a guy, pretty beat up looking, said to me “Was that Heartbreak?” “No man, sorry, Heartbreak is closer to mile 21.”
I really enjoyed the cheering from Boston College this year. They were loud, but also very supportive in their cheering, if that makes any sense.
I was excited to see Heartbreak Hill as my quads were basically destroyed from all the downhills. My legs could use a break on a nice steady uphill. My pace for the last 5 miles was fluctuating in the 7:30-8 range.
Knowing that now the course would level out I put my head down and picked up my pace a bit, each step more painful as I went along. I don’t remember being in more pain in another marathon than I was now. Of course, if I go back and read some old race reports I am sure I will see that last line repeated a few times.
I could now see the Citgo sign in the distance. I hopeful reminder of all my friends that told me “I’ll be under the Citgo sign at mile 25!”
As I approached I saw Abbe, Danika, Dougie, Greg, Matt and Shannon all screaming! I stopped and gave some high fives.
Pressing on I then saw Elizabeth who was cheering like crazy!
Next up, the GCR Cheer squad in full effect, who captured this image.
The right turn, followed by the left was more epic then I remembered.
With the finish line off in the distance, I got emotional. I had done it. I had made it to this moment in time. “Thank you Boston, it is an honor and a privilege.”
Running down the center of the street with crowds roaring I though about the Boston Marathon as this epic beast, one of the toughest in all the lands. Today it had won, as I was all used up as I crossed the finish line.
I really felt like I earned the medal on this day.
After finding Abbe we all made our way back to Mr. Dooleys Pub (I really liked it). Guess who happened to be working just up the street? Our dear friend Maura! She popped in for a cider and to celebrate. I was very unlike my usual post race self. It took me a good hour to get my act together. Like I said, I got my ass kicked and it showed.
We checked in on our other Battalion teammate Kelly, who had finished. Congrats Kel!
We hopped a 5:30 train back to the city, where we did some more celebrating of course.
Boston is to me the pinnacle of the marathon. It took me four years to get to my first, and my second was no easier. The challenge of getting to Boston itself is what makes the experience so rewarding. Everyone you see running fought that very hard battle to get where they are. They earned a spot in the show of shows, the Boston Marathon.
Boston inspires others. At certain points during the weekend both Abbe and Dougie said “2018. In 2 years I will be back here, this time running it.”
I believe in them. See you in 2018 Boston.