WELL, THE MARTIANS WENT HOME. It was too cold for them. So Earth is safe for another year.
In other good news – I completed the marathon and qualified for Boston!
Yes, I’m really pleased! But at the end of this post, you’ll see another example of the sense of perspective that seems to accompany the ups and downs of my running life.
Officially, my required qualifying time for Boston 2017 is 3 hours 40 minutes. But faster runners get first crack at registration, so the more I beat that time by, the better my chance to get an actual spot in the race. I wanted to beat my required time by at least 10 minutes, to leave no doubt.
Just one problem: a finish of 3:30:00 would be over 20 minutes faster than my previous best, the 2012 Ann Arbor Marathon. But I’d goofed around and taken pictures at that one. With the hard training I’ve done this winter, I felt confident I could do it. I even set my planned pace to 7:45 per mile instead of the needed 8:00, to give myself some extra cushion.
Like at the Richmond half last year, I divided the race into stages to break up the monotony of the run and give me some mid-race recovery. Each stage I would run three miles at an 8:00 pace, followed by three miles at 7:30. The final 2.2 miles would be at whatever I had left.
I arrived at 6:30 a.m. for the 7:15 start. I warmed up with an easy mile, and after a quick pit stop (no lines – yes!) I was ready to go.
Conditions were, shall we say, interesting. I’d been hoping to wear shorts, but with a wind chill under 20 degrees, it was not to be. At one point the sun came out and it seemed to be warming up, but soon after the wind picked up, the clouds came back, and the snow started to fly. I ran through at least three good-sized snow squalls during the race, at times strong enough to barely see ahead. On the other hand, there was no danger of overheating.
The first two stages (miles 1-12) went right according to plan, and I hit the halfway point at just over 1:42:00. At this point a few things conspired to slow me down a bit. First, I was, naturally, starting to get tired and sore. Then I ran uphill into the wind for a couple of miles. At last we turned around and I had the wind at my back. What a difference! I also got a boost when we joined up with the half marathoners for the last six miles. Running with other people does make a difference, especially if you can pass some of them. Just one of those mental things.
When it came time to start the final surge to the 7:30 pace, I couldn’t do it. It took all I had to maintain 8:00. Over the bridges, up the last hill, and then we hit the half-mile downhill to the finish. The last few hundred yards seemed to take forever, and I didn’t have my usual finishing surge, but I got across the finish line, breathing and upright, in 3:26:50.
“That’s Boston, baby,” I said to the race director as we slapped hands in the medal area.
“You’ll remember this race in more ways than one,” he said.
Boy, was he right, although not the way either of us thought. Once again, my lack of attention to myself post-race came back to bite me. I’ll spare you the gory details, but let’s just say I spent quite a bit of time huddled under a blanket by the gas heater in the registration tent, pale and trembling. Finally it dawned on me that I might want to change into the dry clothes I had in my bag two feet away. And I should have tried to eat something right afterward, regardless of how my stomach felt. Next time, next time.
And just in case there was any danger of my getting an unhealthy level of pride in finishing in the cold and snow, I met a guy at the pre-race expo. He’s one of those who felt the need to run a marathon in all 50 states, which he finally completed in Hawaii last year.
“What was the hardest marathon you ran?” I asked him.
He thought for a minute. “That would be Colorado,” he replied. “It started at 7,000 feet, everything over 8,000 feet was in snow, and I had pneumonia. The fever broke the day of the race, and I decided as long as I was there, what the hell.”
I’m not sure which is more crazy – that story, or that he had to think about it first. That’s runners for you, folks.