*FULL DISCLOSURE – this one’s gonna be on the longer side, with lots of pictures and stories to go through. But if you know anything about this blog, you know the Boston Marathon’s pretty much the showstopping event of my entire calendar year, so what else did you expect?*
When I went home for Christmas break last semester, I wasn’t 100% sure I’d be running the Boston Marathon this year; even though I needed a training goal on the horizon to keep my running motivated, and even though two of my best friends from my hometown were making their inaugural outings this year, there was still a lot to be said about taking it easy for my last semester of college… sleeping in on weekends, without subjecting myself to the brutal winter colds for weekly long runs: it had a nice ring to it, I’ll admit.
I really can’t describe to non-runners why I’ve commemorated Patriots Day the last three years by running 26.2 miles. Even though I usually elicit some concerned stares if I say I’m running for fun, I’ve come to believe that running a marathon is just about the most affirming, “I’m alive and loving it” activity you can hope to undertake. There are no self-esteem issues in the vicinity of the Boston Marathon’s medal-distribution area.
I’ll make no bluffs about it: it was brutal making it to this year’s starting line in Hopkinton. Meteorologists and chiropractors across the region will back me up on the assertion that this was pretty much the worst winter New England’s seen in over a hundred years (ever?), and there were more than a few mornings when I parted from my pillow like a doomed man on his way to death row.
But as forecasters began calling for some steady rain as Marathon Monday approached closer and closer, I smiled to myself with a sense of grim satisfaction that, “no matter how bad this might be, I’ve still seen worse.” Campus wished me plenty of “good lucks!” and “good byes!” last weekend, so once I’d packed my running shoes into my bag, it was time to head home to run in my third consecutive marathon. Several gallons of water and a few boxes’ worth of pasta later, I was all ready to go!
Accompanying me from Lowell down to Hopkinton (the start place of the race and the home of some of the friendliest, most hospitable, just generally awesome people in the entire Commonwealth) were two newcomers to the marathon game: my best friend and neighbor growing up, Nicole Hatem, and my Dad’s good friend Tom Beaupre. Tom traveled all the way up from Pennsylvania to run, and as you’re about to see, they both hit grand slams on their first appearance at the plate.
Side note: I’ve noticed from my last two Bostons that the crowds play an enormous role in determining how I feel over the course of the day. Since their energy and enthusiasm are a force I feed upon to make the experience more enjoyable, I’ve taken to wearing shirts that will gain some special attention; all I’ll say further is that it’s a VERY good time indeed to be a comic book fan.
No pics to show how I fared on the running community’s most infamous incline, but I’m happy to say that training here on the slopes of Mt. St. James DOES have its benefits! Similar to the weather, I chuckled as I powered along while runners around me succumbed one by one… compared to the hike up to the Hart Center from Williams Dorm, Heartbreak Hill’s got nuthin’!
Both times I’ve done Boston in the past, no matter how much fun I’ve had, there have still been sections where I was just done, when my body was screaming “STOP!” and I wanted the whole thing to be over. For some strange reason (but hey, I’m not complaining), there were none of those moments this time around! I kept on smiling all 26.2 miles, and, goaded on by a cryptic phone call from my Dad around Mile 22 that instructed me to, “keep up [my] pace…because [my] projected finishing time was looking really good,” I made it all the way onto Boylston Street without stopping to walk ONCE!!
I’d spent some of March this year in a walking boot, with some pretty serious tendon issues in my left foot, so my goal for a while had just been to make it the Hopkinton starting line in one piece; when that looked like it was a pretty sure thing, it was all I could then ask for to finish the race still on my feet. For a few years now, my bucket list goal had been to crack the four hour barrier for my finishing time – referred to as a “sub-four” day by my Dad’s running friends – but with that foot injury, I never thought for a second that this year would be the one to see that dream achieved. I’m thrilled beyond description, and still a bit disbelieving, to be honest, to report that I crossed beneath the Boylston Street finish arch in THREE HOURS, FIFTY TWO MINUTES!!! Yep, like the say – the 3rd time really is the charm. I don’t know whether it was the grueling training conditions this winter, the superhero shirts, the rain… for whatever reason, I just had an “on” day this year, and I’m going here on record now to rank this as my favorite Boston Marathon I’ve ever done.
Like I said before, I wasn’t entirely sure I’d be doing the Marathon this year in the first place. Dream finishing time and fantastic memories notwithstanding, I’m still glad I decided to participate in this year’s running, because I realized it was the last time I’d be able to complete it as a current Crusader. Starting back from my first race in 2013, the Marathon has played a huge part in shaping my identity, both on the Holy Cross campus and besides, and if you can forgive me for getting all sentimental and such, I wanted to wrap up my college experience with this nice sense of completion for my senior year. HC was definitely on my mind for a good portion of those almost-four hours, and I’m truly honored to have brought some Purple Pride to the greatest race in the world, one last time. I’ve never been more sure of anything than I am of the fact that I WILL be running Boston again in the future; maybe not next year, necessarily, (I’ve actually got my sights set on running the Disney Marathon next January!) but certainly at some point. For now, I’m just reveling in this latest experience, and deeply thankful to each and every single person who made it what it was. My four year race at Holy Cross is almost finished…time now to bring it home across the finish line.