Thursday, April 19, 2012

First Reactions From Boston

"You don't need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows" - Bob Dylan

So, I'm here I am sitting in the Atlanta airport, waiting for my connection back to Birmingham. It is one day after the Boston Marathon and I am returning from a long weekend visiting my family and grandchildren in Boston, that surprisingly coincided with the Boston Marathon. In my last RWA post, I wrote about my feelings of the Boston Marathon and had no intention of writing about my Patriot's Day, spent standing and cheering on the sideline....but my plans seem to go in another direction often, whether I'm running a race, doing a training run, driving home, or planning dinner, so here are my reactions and observations.

From last Wednesday, the weather forecast gradually increased it's prediction of what it would be on Marathon day from a slightly warm, but acceptable 67 degrees, to a scorching 88. Apparently, the weather service looks at all available data and then pretty much throws a dart at a target that gets larger as you approach T minus 1. The fellows who sit in big chairs and direct the organization of the marathon were afraid of another 2006 Chicago Marathon fiasco in which the race was halted midway through due to the heat and nearly caused mass chaos. They decided two days before the race that anybody who has picked up their bib at the Expo and doesn't start the race, can defer their entry to 2013. They'd have to forfeit their entry fee and pay again next year, but essentially, you have another year to train. Most runners standing at the starting line always have the thought "If I only had another month to get ready...". Well, here's your get-out-of-jail card to have another year to get ready! Of course, most of these runners (except for the 2000 charity runners) are seasoned veterans from miles far off who have invested a lot more than the entry fee, and probably have put in a long training run or two in conditions far worse than moderate heat. But, I'm not going to diss anyone who didn't feel safe doing the run, and I read in the paper that initial indications are that only 457 folks took up the "Too hot to pass up" offer.

I filled a cooler with bottles of ice water and a couple of cloths soaked in the ice and headed up to the course with Michael and Adam (son & grandson). I positioned myself just past the 23 mile mark in Coolidge Corner a little before first female runners came by. Now, I must say that after WALKING less than a mile to this vantage point, I was sweating! It was 79 degrees and was only 11 o'clock...two hours before I expected Ken, my best friend from Alabama. Folks, I hate cold and I love heat, but this was HOT and having run a couple of these runs through hell, I knew I was about to see marathoners as I had never observed.

First came the females - I won't name most names, because I'll get them wrong, and this is not meant to be a race report, but a report of the racers. Two came down the little Beacon Street hill stride by stride, but looking in their eyes I could see they were trying to focus on just themselves...three miles out is way too far to surge, and besides, surging was a strategy long left on Hearrtbreak Hill. About 30 seconds later came female #3 and she looked like she was losing some nuts and bolts in the heat with her head and shoulders bobbing side to side. Being the astute all-knowing veteran marathoner, I declared to my son "She'll be lucky to finish!" She held on for third! The first 15 of the females (and also the males) have just their names on their front bibs and their number on their back bibs. It was interesting to see when the front numbers began coming (the not-so-elites). Some were having good races, while every once in a while came another "name bib" who was not having their best day, or 2nd best day, or even their 15th best day.

Next came the elite men (who started 28 minutes behind the women). Runner #1 was Matebo who had about a 20 second lead on the quickly fading Kisario, who in turn lead Wesley Korir by close to 30 seconds. To me, the first 2 guys were reeling from the heat. Looking at their faces, I felt that they might be thinking the same thing I think about at this point "Oh God, just 3 more miles...hold together, hold together". Of course, they were thinking this 6 minutes per mile faster than I think it. Anyway, Korir looked so steady...not necessarily fast, but in control...sweating like a pig, but in control...two runners in his sights and in control. I made my second prediction..."He's gonna catch them". I wound up 50% in predictions. Korir would win in 2:12, nine minutes behind last year's winning time, but he finished Magna Cum Laude from the school of "Run smart. Run your own race. Run even pace". The Kenyan method of marathoning is to insert some crazy surges during the race to break apart the pack. Today, in hot Boston...At Hot was no place to throw in surges and run your body temperature up another notch or two. Korir simply ran his race and said "See you in the parking lot, boys".

Following the leaders came the masses...over 20,000 of them, each with their own stories, and each with their own reactions to the pie in the face Mother Nature had thrown at them. The further back in the pack, the further back their eyes appeared in their sockets. These runners, many turned walkers, had left Plans A, B, & C way back in Newton and now were trying to complete Plan K - just finish this damn race! And finish most of them would. We were three miles from Boylston Street. I handed out some ice and gave two an ice cold rag. I poured a whole bottle of Ice water over one runner and wished I had a truckload more. I've been where they were and knew how much an understanding aid from the crowd means, so if I helped one or two for just a short minute, that was my Boston marathon.

A little behind schedule, but still standing upright came Ken. I don't think I've ever seen him so whipped. But, he was in a good mood because he understands you have cards dealt to you like this and you just finish the game and play your best hand another day. An ice cold drink, an ice cold "Al Bath" and Ken was off towards downtown. Not his best, but he has a Boston Marathon medal around his neck. Good on ya, Ken!

So, they're calling for me to board the flight home (where it's 59 degrees!). Another year of Boston Marathon memories. Not necessarily from the side of the barricades I really want to be on, but I did feel like I was part of the greatest marathon in the world (my opinion of course, but don't even think about debating me on this one).

OK, time to put my seat in the upright position and put my tray table up and locked. Soon, I'll be back in Birmingham where I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

1 comment:

Geoffrey said...

Hey Al! I kind of chuckled when I read this. I mean, really? They offered a postponement of running the Boston Marathon if the participant felt 88 degrees is too hot? And people did it? Sure hope it's not 95 next year!