Monday, May 31, 2010

Boston's Race to Remember - half marathon

                                          (photo courtesy of race website)

Yesterday, Sunday 30 May, I ran my first official half marathon.  My previous 2 were run on my birthday, and on World Run Day, and rather than pay the fee for an official race, I donated the money to charity instead.  Admittedly I had not done much training for the race on Sunday, and I had signed up for it about 2 weeks ago, in the hope that it would inspire and push me to challenge my limits.  I do not recommend this to anyone, as this is a terrible strategy, but I desperately needed to do a race, which would make me feel that anything is possible.  I managed to get in a couple of early morning runs,  and 2 long runs of 8 and 11 miles respectively.  No hills, and no fartlek training.  My goal was to run, and finish the race.
On Saturday morning Stuart and I drove down to the Seaport World Trade Centre to pick up my race number.  There was a small expo, and a huge crowd of people.  On race day, there were more than 8000 people.  We also signed up as bone marrow donors, and were entered into the international database.  this was something that I had been thinking about for a while, and had already discussed with Stuart.  Both of us were blood donors, but after the BSE or mad cow disease in the UK, Stuart was not allowed to donate anymore.  On moving to the US, the same is true.  Since we have both lived in the UK and Europe (which had both BSE and TSE), the US will not accept us for fear of variant CJD.  So it was really good to have the opportunity to register on Saturday.
I wanted to run in shorts yesterday, but opted for capris at the last moment, and I think it was a wise decision, since I like to cover up when it is particularly hot.  The best running decision I ever made, was to wear my Camelbak 1.5L hydration pack.  I usually drink a lot, and the weather has been rather warm here in Boston - on average around 80°F everyday.  Well, Sunday morning, Stuart drove me down to the  race start, arriving around 7:30ish, and already it was 84°F!  After the national anthem, we were off.  I stood near the back, since I knew my pace would be around 12m/mile.  By the time we set off, I was already sweating profusely.
It was a hill start, and we ran over a bridge, then another.  I had a few quick sips of water after that, and heard people asking when the water stop was coming up.  The first one came up around mile 2, and there were so many people just standing there, drinking.  I ran on, towards another bridge....Boston really is quite hilly!  Anyway, at this point the sun was beating down mercilessly, and people had started walking.  I passed a few, and then we over the Longfellow bridge, down Memorial Drive and continued to Harvard University, before doubling back, this time cutting through Back Bay, passing Boston Common, up down Commonwealth Avenue, and back to the start/finish.
The highlight of my run, was on the way back up Memorial Drive, as I neared Harvard Bridge and looked up, I saw Stuart standing there.  It was so unexpected, that that, and a combination of the incredible heat, made me burst into tears!  Let it be said, it is hard to run, cry and breathe at the same time!  It stopped as suddenly as it had started, since immediately beyond the bridge, was another hill.  All in all, I counted around 5 water stations - too few for such a hot day.  I stopped a couple of times to have some gatorade, and throughout the race there were people who were collapsing with either heat exhaustion, or a liquid overdose.  I guess it must be quite difficult to know how much to drink at a water station, especially when your internal thermometer has gone haywire.
The miles flew by.  I did not suffer, I just got through them.  One after the other.  I knew I did not have a hope in hell of picking up the speed, but that was not what this race was about.  I ran all the hills, and yes, it did feel good passing all those people walking up them.  Sure, some of them eventually sped past me, but that was fine.  I truly felt that I ran my own race.  Around mile 11 my hip joints started feeling a bit achy, so I walked for a bit, had some gatorade, then ran on.  At mile 11 and a half they felt seriously achy, and I thought of Paavo Nurmi's quote on my blog - the bit about muscles being bits of rubber.  Well rubber bounces, just like muscles  and nothing can really happen to them.  I am not running fast enough to injure anything, so why stop?  That got me to mile 12.
The last mile my darling pussycat Mr Jones, got me through.  Stuart had recently taken a day off, but had a conference call with Geneva.  He went into the bedroom to take it, and closed the door shutting out Mr Jones and Toffy (our other pussy).  Naturally Mr J. wanted to get in and no amount of coaxing could get him to stop trying to open the door.  Not even an offering of catnip.  He looked at it, licked his lips and turned back to the door.  That will power and determination was amazing to see.  He wanted Stuart - nothing else.  Well, I thought, if he could do it, so can I.  And I breezed through mile 13 and the point 1. I crossed the finish line in 2 hours and 40 minutes, and I was so pleased that I had started and finished this race!  There were  no more medals, as they had taken entries on the morning itself, and had therefore run out.  Hopefully they will post me one.
After a bottle of water, and some stretching, I took a leisurely walk to the T, and went home.  After a shower, a banana and 2 boiled eggs, I fell asleep.  Afterwards I read on the race website that someone had moved some of the cones, so that the runners missed a water stop.  There were other snafus as well, and these are currently being addressed by the race director.  Well, today saw a nice walk as my hips are still a bit stiff, but I am hoping to go for a run tomorrow morning!    More about the race nutrition in another post....I am in need of some more rest....


  1. Well done for finishing in the heat! That is always difficult. I enjoyed the cat part. My cats (3) wait outside for me every morning when I go for my run.

  2. il mio inglese non così buono come il tuo italiano, ma da quello che ho capito è che ti sei allenata molto poco per questa mezza... comunque l'hai terminata e tanto basta, hai imparato la lezione.... ;)

  3. @ Johann....yes, I am learning to run in heat and humidity this the past I have run good learning curve! Yes, cats are very good like that.....

    @ Yogi...hai capito benissimo! Eh si, non aspettavo miracoli, ma posso fare molto meglio.....infatti, voglio fare una gara in Italia, perche' andro' a trovare gli amici fra bei tempi, correvo con la polizia di stato a Siena.........

  4. quindi sei italiana? giusto per capire.... :)

  5. Allora, si. Sono nata a Citta' del Capo, d'origine Indiana, e ho vissuto in Italia per tanti anni.....poi sai, come sono queste cose....allora, sono diventata cittadina della gloriosa repubblica Italiana. E ci tengo moltissimo...... sopratutto a votare! :-)

  6. caspita, che background cosmopolita che hai....

  7. Well done. I liked hearing what helped you through the tough points. Thinking of the cat trying to get into the door....excellent analogy.

  8. Thanks Christina, it was a long hot day......but it meant a lot to me, since this year has been so iffy!