My marathons

Photo by Colleen Sullivan at the recent Hunter’s Run (I have no photos of my marathons)

My Marathons

This week I researched about my two Boston marathon runs, and learned that in 1986 and 1987 only about 6,000 people ran, so my jumping in at the end of the pack even without a bib was accepted. My first discovery was that on race day one cannot get dropped off at the start. It was a couple of mile walk from where the streets were closed to get to the start. Downtown Hopkinton so many people doing things with bandaids and creams, while I had none and no idea I needed them – so I worried that I just was not ready. I walked to the very end of the crowd, and assumed a place to await the starting gun. When we heard the gun we all started to jog, but since no one ahead of us had moved, we had no where to go. It took ten minutes to get to the starting line. I figured I had just given the elite runners a two mile head start, but I was just thrilled to participate in the same event as them.

The sides of the course at the start were memorable for being littered with discarded sweatshirts and clothing. Again, I had none to toss – more concerns.

The course starts downhill from Hopkinton, but although we were now jogging, there were so many runners so crowded together, that you could not pass anyone – it took two miles before the crowds thinned enough to where you could start to run your own speed. Give the elite runners another mile advantage.

1986 was cold and rainy, good for running. I was coming from my first marathon and my first road race ever in Conway, NH the prior year where I was so slow I did not see another runner or spectator for the second half the race. The crowds all along the way in Boston were welcoming. After the race I recall being so cold I tried to keep warm wrapped in my plastic reflective blanket under a ceiling light in the Harvard Bookstore Café on Newbury Street where I was meeting Deb to get a ride home. The next day I did as I was taught, walking down stairs backwards since it did not hurt as much.

1987 was one of the hottest races ever, 87 degrees with 96% humidity, I learned this week. I was too naïve a runner to know it was even an issue, but I got an instant education when I looked over my left shoulder into the huge Army tent at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill and glimpsed through the open flaps the expanse of cots full of runners connected to IV’s. The IV’s really scared me, but I did not know what to do with the information. Fortunately, I had logged a lot miles in my over winter training, so I had a strong run.

That winter there was a snow on the ground most of the time. So most of my road work, done after work by myself in the dark, took place in the Newton Cemetery where I could run safely with my Golden, Charlotte, instead of on the snow banked city streets. That winter I became convinced that the mausoleums actually had lights because of the reflections I saw off the marble. I do have one vivid memory that winter of my friend Scott Bock, who ran Riverside Community Care where I was on the board and with whom I also ran at times, yelling at me from his passing car about being risking injury for running through foot deep snow.

At the time I lived in Newtonville near mile 19, and my niece, Christine Louis, from my first marriage, who was living at my house, jumped in to run with me at Newton City Hall, and ran with me to the end. That was a real mental lift to have a companion for the hardest part. It also kept me from just stopping and walking home. At the finish, despite not having a bib, I was handed the reflective plastic warming blanket runners got, because of the mess I must have looked, but the dispensing volunteer started to hand one to Christine only to pull it back because in an instant he recognized that she had run only 7 miles instead of the 26.2 that earned a plastic sheet.

1987 was my best time, 3:45, but I was disappointed as I thought I should have been faster, based on my training. I could run 8 minute miles forever, and was also pretty easily doing 7 minute miles when pressing. My three marathon career times were 5:54, 4:45, and 3:45, so I bragged that given my rate of progression if I ran two more times I should win. But I never even achieved my own personal goal to not still be in Wellesley when the race was won.

When I stopped running enough to run marathons, I missed it deeply every year when the Boston Marathon came around again. Less so as the years of running less accumulated, but this year as I isolated with COVID and watched the Boston Marathon I recognized that the desire to run another marathon is still strong in me. Time to start logging my miles – day 1 today, 2.5 miles.

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