Thursday, June 9, 2011

Racing to the Finish!

Okay, so in my last post I left Lynda and I at our water stop in Wellesley - about 13 miles away from the finish line. We needed to hightail it to downtown Boston in order to see my friend, Deb, finish the Boston Marathon.

The original plan was to leave the car in Wellesley, catch a train into town, and then walk to the finish. But the logistics of picking the car back up that night were proving to be difficult since a train would not return to that station after the race.

But we just needed to sit down and think about it for a minute. We both plopped our weary bodies into the car and looked at each other. Without talking we conveyed sentiments of, "What the heck just happened? and "Why do I feel like I just got run over by a truck?"

I do believe the first words spoken, although I'm not sure by whom, were, "Holy crap!" Then we acknowledged our lack of food, once again. We had some chips or something in the car and then came to the ironic realization that we were both thirsty and had nothing to drink.

Towards the end of our clean-up we noticed they were starting to open up parts of the streets. If they opened enough of the route to get us to our hotel in Newton we could catch the train from there and wouldn't have to deal with the headache of getting a cab to retrieve the car. We thought is was worth a shot and started driving behind the officials.

We progressed slowly, but I was pretty confident we'd make it. Once we crossed one of the major highways we'd be off the marathon route and home free. While Lynda was driving I was observing all the runners who were forced off the street and had to move to the sidewalks. All the water stops were packed up and no longer handing out those little paper cups I so look forward to when I'm running. I wanted so badly to just hang out on the side of the road so that each of the runners who were still out there could feel the same support their faster cohorts received. I am one of those slower runners. And I know all too well what it feels like when volunteers are cleaning up and I am still trying to reach that finish line. These folks still had about TEN more miles to go and they were all on their own. I saw nothing but determination in those faces. I would learn later that some runners wouldn't finish until 11pm that night. There would be no medals for them and no names announced over the loud speaker. They were pushing themselves for nothing more than the pride in saying, "I did it! I started something, and I finished it." I can't imagine what thoughts were bouncing around in their heads, what demons they were fighting, or what goals they had set for themselves. But I imagine there are some pretty remarkable stories from those runners who choose to finish the marathon on the sidewalks and in the bike lanes of Boston.

We made it to our hotel relatively quickly. The timing of when we finished and when the roads opened back up was just about perfect. Had we been staying any closer to the city we certainly wouldn't have been able to drive back. We hurried to the train station. I was surprised to see several people getting off the train who were wearing their finisher medals and sporting a post-marathon wobble-walk. Wow! We were almost 30 minutes from the finish line and these guys had already put their 26.2 miles in for the day. My mind drifted again to the runners still out there who had so many miles left to go.

Our train station was at the end of the line, which made it nice because it was easy to find a seat. But the train filled up quickly. By the time we got to downtown we were crammed into those cars pretty tight. We literally had to fight our way off the train when we reached our stop. People were just pushing in trying to get on and we were yelling, "we need to get off here" and no one would budge. It was not enjoyable. You had to physically shove people to the side and step over them to get through. Crazy!

Once we were downtown we headed towards the finish line. We knew we would make it now! The sidewalks were shoulder to shoulder people. It reminded me a lot of Bourbon St. in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. It was a fun, festive atmosphere. Everyone was friendly and cheerful. There was just A LOT of people! We continued to push and weave our way towards the finish. There was no such thing as personal space anymore. In fact, I'm pretty sure things got friendly enough that someone somewhere owes me a drink :)

Eventually we found a spot right up at the rail so we could see everyone turning the corner onto Boylston Street. I seriously could not contain my excitement. I was clapping and yelling for everyone. And it was super cool because I recognized many of the runners from mile 13.2. You would think they would all start to look alike, but that wasn't the case at all. Lynda started pointing out people she remembered too. It was highly emotional.

Then I saw her! I saw Deb! She was smiling from ear to ear. I was yelling her name, but it took her awhile to notice us in the crowd. She ran over by our side of the street and I had my camera all set and perfectly framed.....and then.....I hit the power button. Yep. I just turned it right off. Once in a lifetime shot and I turned the freakin' camera off. Deb didn't realize this and had to keep running of course. She was almost to the finish!

The guy next to me said, "I got a great picture of her." Which, to a normal person, in a normal frame of mind, would mean hey, let's exchange email addresses and you can hook me up with that great picture you got of my friend running her first Boston stinkin' marathon.

Nope. Instead, I blurt out a quick "thanks", tell Lynda, "I'm gonna go see her finish", and bolt off. I just left my friend there in the dust. Left Nice Camera Dude hangin' and thought I could run to the finish line on the sidewalk. Yes, I was delusional. I can see that now. But, at the time, I was channeling my inner action star and gazelle-running through the crowd with my feet barely touching the pavement. It was all very surreal. Sadly, what was happening in my mind and what I was able to make happen in real life were two totally different things.

I didn't make it very far when I realized the finish was much further than I thought. And Deb is much faster than I. So I really don't know what I was thinking. I was just caught up in it all. But I admitted defeat and looked back to see Lynda in the distance. That bright green jacket was mighty handy in situations such as this.

The plan was to meet up with Deb and some of her other friends at the Westin, so we headed that way. The rest of the night was more relaxing. We waited in a ballroom that the Liver Foundation had set up while Deb showered and got her massage. Later we walked to the nearest Au Bon Pain for a sammie with Deb and her husband, Dave. We were all ecstatic at the thought of actual food. Dave graciously offered to drive us back to the hotel so we didn't have to endure the train ride home. This decision also required that we forgo the post-race party. I was hesitant about this. I REALLY wanted to go. I could tell Lynda was on the fence too. But we were beat, and the thought of being crowded in the train with all those people in order to go to a party where we would be crowded with all those people was just not appealing. The private car ride to the hotel won and we called it a night.

I spent the next day in Boston sight-seeing with Lynda. Afterwards, we had an amazing farewell dinner with Deb, drinking some of those....

and then I left bright and early Wednesday morning back to Milwaukee. It was a whirlwind of a trip, but not one I will soon forget.


  1. Oh my goodness - I had goosebumps on my legs through this whole post. What a time! Seriously, what a fabulous, unique experience that had to be!

  2. It was pretty awesome. I'm considering doing it again next year. I don't know anyone running yet, but it was just so cool to be there!

  3. Wow Kelly, what a great report on the Boston Experience, I really enjoyed reading it.

  4. Thanks, Dee! I'm glad you stopped by to read it!

  5. good times! And you didn't even mention how close I came to murdering that water stealing volunteer.... LOL!

  6. Yes! The Water Theif! I just figured that was a whole 'nother story. I don't think she ever realized how close she was to her demise.

  7. What a great day that was for me. I ran Boston and had 2 wonderful friends there at mile 13.2 to hand me the best water of the race! Thanks for the posts and bringing me right back there. I can't thank you and Lynda enough for being there. I won't be running this race again, but I will always be a part of it and I will be volunteering for this water stop next year!