With the heat we’ve been experiencing the last three weeks, it’s hard to imagine 35 degrees, a 35 mph headwind creating a 21-degree wind chill, and nonstop heavy rain totaling 2” for the day – but that’s exactly what I and 30,000 other runners experienced two months ago on April 16, 2018 while running the Boston Marathon!
The Boston Marathon is to a runner what the Super Bowl is to a football fan or the World Series is to a baseball fan. The April 16, 2018 event was my fifth Boston Marathon, having run Boston previously in 2005, 2007, 2011, and 2014. It was also my 33rd marathon overall to go along with four ultra-marathons.
This year was the 122nd running of the world’s oldest annually-contested marathon. From its humble beginnings on Patriots’ Day in 1897 when ten of fifteen runners who started the race crossed the finish line, the Boston Marathon has grown into one of the country’s premiere athletic events, inspiring viewers and drawing professional and amateur participants from around the world. Besides its history, prestige, tradition, and pageantry, Boston is also special for a marathoner because you have to qualify to enter. Qualifying times are set according to age and gender, so there’s a sense of accomplishment at qualifying for the 26.2-mile Boston Marathon before the event even begins.
The Boston Marathon is run on the third Monday in April: Patriots’ Day. Patriots’ Day is observed in New England as the anniversary of the beginning of the Revolutionary War. It’s a state holiday in Massachusetts, making it possible for hundreds of thousands of spectators of all ages to line the race course between Hopkinton and downtown Boston. The energy, cheering, encouragement, high-fives, and entertainment all along the route make it feel like a 26.2-mile-long parade.
The point-to-point route, which passes through several historic towns, is demanding for the runners with most of the first sixteen miles being downhill at a 4-5% grade including 8% at the beginning. Downhill may sound easy, but it is very tough on the legs and makes it easy to recognize the runners at the airport the day after the race. They are the ones walking like Frankenstein! The sixteen miles of downhill is followed by a series of four rolling up-hills, culminating with famed Heartbreak Hill near Boston College during mile 20. From a car, they may not look like big hills, with a 5% grade; but with 20 miles in your legs, the hills feel mighty big. Add to that this year’s 35-mph headwind and heavy rain, and you’ve got yourself an unforgettable Boston Marathon!
In addition to the historic villages, the route passes Boston College and Fenway Park where an early Patriots’ Day Red Sox game normally gets done just as the runners are passing the stadium. Unfortunately, this year the game was obviously rained out. Near the halfway point, the runners pass the famous “Scream Tunnel” at Wellesley College, where the coeds scream their support and encouragement for the runners – a deafening roar that can be heard from over a mile away.
I ran my first Boston Marathon in 2005 in honor of a very close friend who was battling the blood cancer, multiple myeloma. I wanted to use the distinction and fame of the Boston Marathon to help me raise money in her honor. Due to the overwhelming generosity of hundreds of friends, family, and even strangers, over $5,000 was raised for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society that first year in 2005.
Unfortunately, her courageous battle ended January 11, 2006. I decided I wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon one more time and returned to Boston to run in her memory on April 16, 2007, raising another $5,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in her memory.
But it didn’t end there. Following another Boston in 2011 in which I raised another $5,000 to recognize what would have been my friend’s 50th birthday, my mom was diagnosed with leukemia in 2013, and I raised another $5,000 in her honor prior to the 2014 Boston Marathon.
On May 8, 2016, Mothers’ Day, my mom passed away, three years after her diagnosis of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), which led me to my fifth Boston Marathon this spring to run in Mom’s memory. My fifth Boston Marathon raised the total amount of money raised for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to $25,000, making the Boston Marathon much more than just a famous, historic marathon for me.
Due to the weather conditions, we didn’t take a lot of pictures, but here are a few:
Pre-race raingear over my custom Leukemia & Lymphoma Society race day shirt.
Cold, wet runners being awarded finisher’s medals by volunteers just beyond the finish line. (I’m the one with the black hood in the center of the picture.)
Happy to have this one completed. Reunited with Mary just beyond the finish line.
All dried out, but still chilly, the day after the race in the Boston Common, which is a short three blocks or so from the finish line. Dating from 1634, the Boston Common is the oldest city park in the United States.