Boston Marathon 2011 :: Race Weekend

Marathon Weekend in Boston is like none other. To give you just a glimpse of what a big deal it is and how supportive this city is of its Marathon, here is the sign that greeted us in the airport baggage terminal.

Brad and I arrived in Boston around noon on Friday, so we had just enough time to check in to the hotel and grab a bite to eat before we hit the Expo for packet pick-up, which started at 2:00 p.m. Thinking the Expo would be relatively quiet this early, we took our sweet little time at lunch and mosied over the Hynes Convention Center around 2:00 p.m. (We also got a little distracted because over lunch, we received an offer on our house!) Would you believe there was already line wrapped all the way around the Expo entrance? This cracked me up and served as a friendly reminder that I was surrounded by 20,000+ other Type A people. I love runners!

The packet pick-up area was incredibly well-organized, as you would expect from an organization with 115 years of practice, although I’m confident that for the first several decades, it was never the spectacle that it is today.

The excitement in the air was intoxicating. Everyone was stopping to take pictures as they picked up their race bibs and tried on their finishers’ shirt. And, no one cared that you were holding up the line to get the perfect photo to update your Facebook profile. (Sidenote: I hated to put on my finishers’ shirt before I had actually finished the race, but this is your only chance to get the right size, so I had to set my superstitions aside.)

For me, the most highly anticipated part of Marathon Weekend was getting to meet all my favorite celebrities of the running world. Much to Brad’s chagrin, I already had a serious plan for making sure this happened. And, by serious plan, I mean that I brought books from home to get them autographed and had three different schedules printed out! Of course, like most plans, this one quickly got derailed when I spotted Kathrine Switzer at the Expo. This woman is a legend. It is due to her drive and determination that women became official registrants in the Boston Marathon and that the women’s marathon became an Olympic sport. Of course, hers was the one book I hadn’t brought from home, but she was more than happy to sell me a copy. She signed my book, signed Brad’s bib, gave me a lucky charm guaranteed to bring me a PR race, and gave us both race advice. She was unbelievably genuine and approachable. When I saw her again later day, she remembered my name and blew me a kiss for luck. It’s no wonder she is such a ‘connector’ in running circles.

Saturday morning, I got up super-early to get to Niketown for Kara Goucher’s one and only public appearance. Kara is a fierce competitor, and her commitment to run Boston until she wins is crazy and awesome – or maybe just crazy awesome. She trained through her first pregnancy last year. By the time her son Colt was three weeks old, she was running 60+ miles a week. On the day she ran Boston, Colt was 6.5 months old. Although she didn’t win the day, she still ran her personal best marathon. (Take that to everyone who said she was crazy to run Boston so soon after giving birth!) She gives hope to every woman who dreams of continuing to run while pregnant and after becoming a new mom. And, I felt the need to tell her that – no matter how silly it probably sounded when the words came out of my mouth.

The crowds and security at this signing were insane! The security jocks were yelling about there being no photos allowed. (I surreptitiously captured this one with my iPhone over a security guard’s shoulder.) They had attempted to form a line, but it quickly became apparent that the line wasn’t moving and the only people getting to meet Kara were pushing their way through the sides. At 9:00, I overheard one security guy tell another that Kara had to leave by 9:15 for a workout. I got out of line, snuck around the side of the store, shoved my way around a security guard, and caught Kara’s attention long enough to point out that I had brought a copy of her new book from home. She graciously signed it; I said my cheesy thanks; and I was on my merry way. The fact that I was willing to push a few buttons to get what I wanted was a huge personal triumph. I credit this to the spirit of Marathon Weekend. If I could bottle up this feeling, I would be a billionaire!  🙂

That afternoon, we went back to the Expo for the Kristin Armstrong book-signing. The craziness of the expo on Friday was multiplied by a factor of at least 25 on Saturday. If you find yourself in Boston for the Marathon, I highly recommend going to the expo on Friday. There are no lines. There are more free samples. There are more smiley, non-worn-out faces. But, I digress…

I had been looking forward to meeting Kristin Armstrong for weeks. Her blog, Mile Markers, was a huge inspiration when I started my own blog last year. Her words speak to me week after week in ways I cannot explain. I was thrilled to meet her, chat briefly about how she was feeling about the upcoming race, and get her to sign two books for me – mine and one for a dear friend who shares my admiration. I wish Kristin and I were friends in real life. The End.

With our bibs in-hand and the stalker portion of the trip complete, it was time to get ready for the race.

On Sunday, Brad and I got up early for a short shake-out run in Boston Commons and then loaded up on a bus for a course tour.

Being at the start line was so surreal. I may have freaked out a little bit. But, I’ll never tell.

Next, we toured the course, which I highly recommend doing if it is your “first Boston,” as they say. The elevation profile does not do this course justice. Not because of the famous Newton hills that come in miles 16-21, but because the entire course is on rolling hills – very rolling hills. Our tour guide had run over 25 Boston Marathons (I think) with the first dating back to the mid-1960s. He was full of hilarious stories and marathon trivia. {Kudos to Marathon Tours for putting together such a great event.}

The bus tour ended appropriately at the finish line, where we took one last look at the fate that awaited us tomorrow and snapped a few obligatory finish-line photos … so that I could update my Facebook profile, of course!

We had dinner with some training friends across the street from our hotel, and went back to the room early to get ready for the big day. {Kudos to Golden Adventures for making the hotel and pre-race dinner arrangements so easy.}

It’s a good thing I had gotten in some long naps and slept well on Friday and Saturday nights because I barely slept a wink on Sunday night!!

I was wide awake long before the alarm went off at 5:45 a.m. on Marathon Monday. And, then, it was show time!

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About Beth

Wife, daughter, big sis, aunt, friend, attorney, runner, cyclist, amateur chef & aspiring photographer. Thanks for keeping up with my life on the run!
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