Seventh marathon finish (second Boston finish); 5:00:44 overall timing.
The time was shortly before 4 pm, and as I walked into the America Ballroom of the Westin Hotel, I was greeted by a round of applause and high-fives from enthusiastic volunteers and staff members associated with the American Liver Foundation’s (ALF) Run for Research Team.
That’s when it finally crystallized with me; I had finished the 2012 Boston Marathon, 41 minutes slower than 2011′s performance in my first Boston run, but probably my proudest day as an athlete and event competitor.
The road to Hopkinton and back began in the same ballroom at 5:30 am with breakfast and the assemblage for the team bus to ferry us to the Athlete’s Village in Hopkinton.
Once there, I chilled out and sat in one of the tents to stay out of the sun and compose myself for the event.
During the previous two days, I’d been steeling myself for a challenging day on the Boston course due to the predicted mercury that teased us with an 89 degree day for Marathon Monday several times that weekend.
It was 64 degrees when I arrived at the hotel Monday morning and 75 when we were walking to our start corrals pre-event; it was already “hot” and the race hadn’t started yet.
Knowing that I started out too quickly pace-wise during my last two Chicago Marathon runs (average temperature 86), I decided to start out around 9:30 pace and see how I felt after the first mile.
Right before I reached my start corral, I teamed up with Michael Kim (pictured above) from the Liver Foundation, who I met during last year’s Boston run and we agreed to run together to start the race.
Race organizers were behind in getting the Second Wave off before us, but were on the dot in releasing Wave Three at 10:40 am; so we were off.
However, we were also “off” in our initial goals and expectations, with reality coming home early. The conservative 9:30 pace that Michael and I targeted for mile-1, was in actuality 9:50, followed by 9:57 for mile-2, 10:07, 10:07, and 10:34 in the first 5-miles.
Michael wore his heart monitor and it was off the charts, with numbers he normally reaches during half marathons, not the full monty. So we kept it real at the beginning.
However, by mile-6, I was getting a bit frisky and wanted to see what I could do on my own, so Michael and I parted ways.
Michael, however, had developed a bit of a fan base, carrying a water backpack that resembled “Yoda” from the early “Star Wars” movies. It was a lot of fun chatting with Boston runners who used Michael’s “Yoda” as an inspirational symbol in the early stages of the event.
On my own, I was faster initially, registering 9:37 and 9:25 pacing in miles 6 and 7. However, that’s the last time I registered sub-10 mile timing until the close of the marathon.
By that time in the event, we were approaching Noon and that’s when temperatures began to spike in Framingham and Natick, between miles 6 to 10. Reports indicate that Framingham’s high peaked at 89 around the time our start wave reached that section of the course.
The escalating temperatures created a 3-way vortex where runners were pummeled above from the sun, below from the hot road tar, and the middle as we kept moving forward.
Water and Gatorade stations along the marathon route were well-stocked and well-staffed by enthusiastic and engaged volunteers; their efforts buffeted by concerned families who lined the roads offering oranges, ice cubes, additional water, pretzels, and encouragement to the struggling athletes.
Two women pretty much saved my life with wet cloths at just the right time I’d needed them to wipe salty sweat off my brows before it caused eye irritation.
It was also great to see fellow DMers, Julie C, Luau W, and Mr. and Mrs. Daily Mile, Steve and Ally S on the course as well.
Steve also noticed at mile-16, what I already knew, that I was becoming dehydrated because my body was “dry.”
Unlike other marathons where I only conservatively used the water stations, I pretty much grabbed water at every station and religiously chomped on Shot Bloks with the 3-times sodium formulation every mile. I hate the taste of the “salty” Shot Bloks, but I didn’t experience cramping like I did at Chicago last October, so that strategy worked like a charm.
However, by the the time I reached mile-18, I was “done,” I simply couldn’t run for distance any longer or generate any speed.
So I ran 1/10 of a mile, walked for recovery, then repeated. It made things slower going for the closing miles of the event, but at least I was moving.
About halfway in the event, I met Megan, a fellow runner on the Liver Team, and we essentially traded places with each other (back and forth) on the course’s second half. Megan had a great attitude and was determined to finish, so we pushed each other and kept each other honest.
The closing miles after Heartbreak Hill were my “Gravy Train” miles last year, with the gentle downhill towards Boston. This time around, they were 5-miles that I struggled to close with the tedious “joggawalking” strategy I’d deployed in the second half.
But the miles advanced……slowly: 21 (Boston College), 22 (Chestnut Hill), 23 (Coolidge Corner), and 24 (Beacon Street).
After mile-24, however, we inched towards the Fenway Park area and I saw the historic Citgo sign and found some “gas.” Nothing ground breaking, but a sluggish 13 minute pace, quickened to 11:19 and I made a push towards Boylston Street.
My feet hurt, legs burned, and side stiches were killing me, but I’ve run this route before and I didn’t want to walk on the course any longer.
Eventually, the last street towards Boylston emerged and I knew I was 2/5 of a mile from the finish line, so I sharpened up and made my final push hitting Boylston with a full head of steam and not looking back.
My finish line close wasn’t as fast as last year’s 5:22 “Flyin’ Brian” close, but an 8:33 pace fueled with nothing ain’t bad.
Guess who was waiting for me at the finish line?
Yes, my Liver teammate, Megan who finished right before I did paced by her husband. Megan and I even shared the official closing photograph together before getting our medals.
However, once I received my medal and the flashbulbs stopped, I endured probably the most painful and frustrating 20 minutes I’ve ever encountered post-event.
I’m usually pretty “beat up” after marathons and half-marathons, but I could hardly walk post-Boston, ’12, wincing at every step, and looking for an open place to recover for a minute or so on the road to the ballroom at the Westin Hotel.
The memory of the warm and enthusiastic reception at the ballroom will stay with me forever and made the efforts of me and 179 other athletes on the Liver Team “worth the hurt” on 4/16/12.
Brian Adkins is a Chicago-based runner, marathoner, endurance athlete, writer, editor, essayist, and independent scholar. You can contact Brian at: firstname.lastname@example.org