“IT ALL STARTS HERE”
That’s a sign put up on April 18, Patriot’s Day, in semi-rural Hopkinson, Mass. — for the start of the annual running of the Boston Marathon. It’s perhaps the world’s most prestigious marathon. It was my ninth Boston Marathon — and almost surely my last. And it was memorable, in good ways, and not so good ways. Read on. . .
The first picture shows me at the Boston Common, a short walk from our hotel. I’d soon board a bus to Hopkinton, sitting next to a nice man from California. We had lively conversation, each of us a trifle nervous, he because he was about to do his first Boston, and I because — hey, I’m 81. There were only seven octogenarians in the entire field, including two women.
The weather was grand. Clear blue skies and coolish temperatures. Arriving in Hopkinson, I walked immediately to the “Hawaii House,” so dubbed by runners from Hawaii. A nice resident of the town, with an affection for Hawaii, each year welcomes Hawaii runners to his home/business office on Main Street, steps from where the marathon begins.
The race starts in three waves. Naturally I was in the last wave, populated by slower runners. (When you starts means little or nothing. A chip affixed to your running number starts your personal “clock” when you cross the starting mat. High tech!)
The Boston Marathon is famed for, among other things, its very steep downhill in the first mile. Cautious runners, like me, put on the brakes in steep downhills. The infamous “Newton Hills” come in the second half of the race. Obviously, those hills provide a different kind of challenge!
In the first eight or so miles, I felt good, even confident, and managed to do the first half in 2:28. If I had doubled that, I would have had a respectable time. But well before getting to the infamous Newton Hills, I found myself walking. Never, ever before have I walked in the first half of any marathon.
At the famous “Heartbreak” Hill, I looked for Margie along the left side of the road, waiting with friends. There she was! She took one look at me and asked me — begged me! — to drop out. I may have been tempted, but only for an instant. She gave me a fresh bottle of water, and a hug, and I continued on at a semi-fast walk.
Then, at about mile 22 I realized some people were passing me on the right. So I moved over to steady myself and take a brief break. But when I reached out to a temporary barrier put in place for the race, it collapsed — and so did I! A nice policeman came immediately to my aid. A wheelchair was summoned and I was wheeled to a nearby medical tent. They took my my temperature and blood pressure and inserted an IV. That stop reinvigorated me! But perhaps more important, I was inspired by the kind, caring aid of the medical crew. I asked if it was OK for me to get back on the course, to walk on to the finish. You’re good to go, they said. So walk I did, at as brisk a pace as I could manage.
When I spotted the CITGO sign in the distance — it’s familiar landmark — about 3 miles from the finish, I figured, hey, I’m going to make it! I stepped up my pace and soldiered on. But what really lifted my spirit was seeing the “1 mile to go” sign. Hey, one mile is nothing, right? After a quick right turn I knew I would soon be turning left onto Boylston Street and the finish!
Part of my inspiration came from recalling that along Boylston, on my right, I would be passing the temporary bleachers where in 2013 two bombs went off, killing three people and injuring more than 200. I said a quick silent prayer as I ran by those bleachers. (I was about a mile from the finish in 2013 when the bombs went off.)
At the finish, I was struck by how there were still cheerful volunteers to greet me and other stragglers, giving us each a thermal blanket and goodie bag, including things to munch on.
After Margie found me in the family reunion area, we walked briskly back to the hotel and a shower, then on to dinner with our Heartbreak Hill friends.
Thank goodness I was allowed to finish!!