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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Boston Marathon, Part 2

During every marathon I run, I always tell myself that what I am doing is absurd and this has to be my last one. I'm 0-5 so an average day at the plate for Dean Palmer back in 2001. These BM posts will hopefully cement the stupidity of running extreme distances voluntarily with other idiots into my memory before the pain wears off.

I woke up at 6 AM Monday morning, which was hardly unusual for me except for being in a fancy hotel in Boston Commons. Something that The Omni offered which I appreciated was a second wake up call fifteen minutes later. Amazing the service you get when you pay $200 for an approximately 200 square foot hotel room. I got my shit together as quickly as I could and checked out, ltaking my orange plastic bag issued to runners for stuffing their belongings in and checked before the start of the race and leaving my duffel bag of belongings at the front desk so that I could come back and shower before heading to the airport.

I stepped out into the cold rainy morning and headed a block down the street to the bus pick-up area. This was a massive line of yellow school buses sitting in the right lane of the street filling up with runners lined deep behind each bus door. When the buses filled with runners they pulled away and within a minute or two were replaced by another long line of empty buses and the lines continued to move forward. I stepped onto my bus and headed straight to the back seat, just as I did in middle school. Why? That's where a young man can have access to the best window to write 'shit' or 'fuck you' backwards into the condensation for trailing cars to read.

For some reason the trip to Hopkinton seemed to take a really long time, maybe an hour or so. This was partly due to the bus driver stopping at a rest stop on I-90 to take a piss (or a shit--there's just no way to know for sure). When I finally walked off that bus it was 8:40AM. I stepped out into a giant field surrounding a high school football field and track that was supersaturated with rain. Runners were crowded together like refugees underneath a few of those big outdoor event tents. When I got there they were already packed to the gills so I just kind of drifted around looking for a bagel, powerbar, and some water. I really wanted a coffee but I knew that would be a bad plan...didn't want to be spending any unnecessary time in the portable shitters. How pathetic.

At around 9:15 the loudspeaker announced that they wanted runners wearing certain bib numbers, including my trusty 5052, to head to the buses to turn in our tagged bags of belongings and then make our way to the start area. They must have had a thousand fucking portable shitters there but it wasn't enough. Runners, disgusting primative beasts that they are, pissed all over the place outside whenever there was any semblance of a blocking object in at least one direction. I joined about ten other shameless assholes in pissing on the wind screen of the fences surrounding some tennis courts. At one point in the race I saw someone squatting about five feet back from the road for the purpose of crapping out poop. Bunch of neandrathals with stupid little sidecut shorts.

The weather for the race was forecast to be the worst in the 111 year history of the Boston Marathon, and Sunday evening there was no reason to think otherwise. Fortunately, weather forecasts are occasionally wrong and Monday was one of those occasions. Don't get me wrong, it still sucked miserably, but it wasn't the forty degree day with downpouring rain and 25 mph constant wind that was expected. As a result, there were a lot of overdressed dickheads lined up on Main St or whatever it was in downtown Hopkinton. I started with a knit hat that I later tossed into a trash can. I ran wearing sunglasses to block the wind and rain. Holy fuck, is anyone else bored right now?

The running part of the race started out OK and got progressively more painful as I inched towards Boston. There were hardly any flat stretches on the course--it was just up and down little hills the whole way. By the time I got to 'heartbreak hill' I was so dead from all of the hills leading up to it that I wasn't even sure if I was on it. Somehow I made it to the finish with a net time of a few seconds over three hours, twenty-two minutes, and that's when I really started to hate the race.

What do marathon runners want to do at the end of a race? The Boston Athletic Association thinks that they wouldn't mind being forced to walk another mile or so without getting a chance to sit down for a second. When you cross the finish line, you are forced down a street like a farm animal going to the slaughterhouse. First you have to walk past the bottles of water, then you get the opportunity to enjoy more delicious lemon-lime gatorade--like you didn't get enough the last three and one-half hours, then a volunteer tapes a 'heat sheet' around you. If you don't know what that is, you should feel good about yourself. You know those balloons kids sometimes get at fairs or parties with pictures of cartoon characters on them that are made of that thin metallic material? Heat sheets are made of that stuff. Maybe they keep you warm if they are tightly wrapped around you, but if you happen to be in an extremely windy place like the finish area of this race, all the damn things do is blow into your face. At this point, I had to be close to a quarter mile past the finish line and my hamstrings were killing me. All I wanted to do was sit down and get shot up with whatever pain killers were used on Barbaro. But no, I wasn't to the slaughterhouse yet. Next, I stood waiting in line for a volunteer to take the chip off my shoe (the volunteers, incidentally, are amazing people...I don't know why they do what they do, but they can never be thanked enough for it) and put a loser medal around my loser neck. Then we were forced to walk past food tables with bagels and bananas and such before finally getting to the massive line of buses containing our bags of belongings we checked at the beginning of the race.

The bus labeled '5000-5500' was one of the last buses in line and when I arrived at it there was a large group of tired assholes waiting for volunteers to call out their number and toss the bag out of a bus window to them. When I finally got my bag, I sat down on the curb and put my sweatshirt and athletic pants on and then started walking to the nearest T-station to head back to my hotel for a shower. While on the T, I realized that my jacket was not in my belonging bag and would have to go back for it after I showered.

At the hotel I got my duffel bag from the front desk and headed up to the designated shower room for the returning runners who had already checked out. What, does 'designated shower room' sound gay to you or something? While the runner ahead of me showered, I picked out some dry clothes and noticed that I had forgotten to pack up my toiletry kit that morning before checking out of room 449. So I had another thing to track down before heading to the airport.

I ended up finding both the jacket and the toiletry kit and made my 4:45 flight back to DC.

Lessons I hopefully learned:
- running 26.2 miles sucks, just like it did the other five times I did it.
- I paid upwards of $500 in total costs to have the privilege of experiencing extreme pain.
- The logistical issues that come with running a marathon out of town are no fun do deal with.

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