Tag Archives: Boston

So, What Did We Do In Boston Last Week?

We’re back from five days in Boston (plus one in Manchester, NH) where we did a lot of touristy stuff and I snuck in a marathon. More on that to come, but I’m a bit rushed getting ready for Trail Marathon this weekend, so here are some quick highlights from our trip.

(Note for the TL;DR crowd: If you get the chance, do it. Go to Boston, run the marathon (or cheer someone on), and make time to take in some of the area’s 400-year history. If you want more details, read on!)

Location, location, location

We stayed at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge, across the Charles River from downtown Boston and about a 5K away from the Expo and finish line. We enjoyed our stay there and we’d recommend it to anyone traveling to Boston.

Need to walk or run? Step out the back door and onto a paved path that runs along the river for miles. Watch university sailing clubs and crew shells practicing with the Boston skyline in the background. Or go the other way and run through several pretty parks on your way to:

The Navy Yard – USS Constitution and Cassin Young

 

Nowhere else in the world, as far as I know, can you walk on board a warship that’s been in continuous service since 1797. Old Ironsides was in drydock undergoing repairs, but still open to the public. It’s crewed by active duty Navy personnel, some in period costume and some in modern uniforms, who give lectures and performances on and below decks.

The Cassin Young is a WWII destroyer berthed behind the Constitution. It too was open, with retired Navy sailors giving tours. It’s less well known, but equally deserving our respect, serving in the war and surviving two kamikaze attacks. By visiting both we got a sense of what things have changed in warships (armor, weaponry, food) and which have not (living space). But perspective came from some visiting submariners, who walked through the tiny crew’s quarters, marveling, “So much space here!”

Freedom Trail and Freedom Tours

If you’re walking in downtown Boston, you may see a line of red bricks running down the middle of the sidewalk in many places. These red bricks mark the Freedom Trail, which runs from Boston Common to the Bunker Hill Memorial and to the Navy Yard, through parks and historic neighborhoods along the way.

You can walk part of the trail with a tour guide in period costume, who will take you to several historic buildings and one of the first graveyards in Boston, whose remains include Samuel Adams and Paul Revere, among others. You’ll also hear tales about early Boston, from the patriotic to the gruesome. For instance: what question did native Bostonians ask suspected spies during the War of 1812? And what did they build on top of the old hanging ground on Boston Common? (*)

Boston Harbor Tour

This is a 90-minute narrated boat tour of a good part of Boston Harbor. We passed by modern art museums on the waterfront, went by several islands each with its own story, and saw the really unusually shaped buildings that process the waste that keep the harbor clean. The top deck of the boat is open, which would have been great except it was chilly that day, so we went down into the lower deck and looked out the windows. Touristy? You bet. Worth it? Absolutely. I’d do it again.

Confession: I forgot what this building is. But it was fascinating at the time!

Food

While Boston is full of great restaurants, anyone visiting should not fail to visit one in particular: Legal Sea Foods. The clam chowder is so highly regarded it’s now served at every Presidential inauguration. The first time I went there was during the Big Dig, when roads were torn up everywhere and the wharf was nearly impossible to get to. But I did, and sat outside at sunset sipping a cappuccino and watching the fishing boats come in. Today I-93 runs under the city rather than above it, the harbor is clean, and the restaurant is as good as I remembered. Save up for lunch or dinner there, even if you’re don’t particularly like seafood. You’ll like it there.

And don’t forget the dessert!

And Then There Was Chocolate

We flew home from Manchester, New Hampshire, avoiding the crush at Logan Airport and happening across one of the best chocolatiers in the country. I’m going to save that story for another time. It’s worth its own post.

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Coming soon: what was it like to run Boston for the first time? All will be revealed. Stay tuned!

(*) I just might give you the answers in an upcoming post.

Back to the Marathon!

WELL, THE BUG FINALLY BIT ME.

The Boston Marathon bug, that is.

Now wait a minute, I hear you say. Isn’t the Boston Marathon the ultimate goal of every runner? How can you not have run it by now?

Yes, it may be hard to believe, but up until now I had no desire to run Boston. There are plenty of other races that I enjoy very much, and many more that I am considering doing some day. Besides, I’m much more of a trail guy. I’ve now run 12 ultras (50K or longer) with more to come, but only two marathons to date.

The 2015 PR Fitness Boston Marathoners.

The 2015 PR Fitness Boston Marathoners.

Now, running Boston is very popular in the PR Fitness running group. Every year 25 or more of us end up going. This included 2013, the year of the bombing. Fortunately, no one in our group was among those killed or injured. Nor did it scare any of them away from running it again. I proudly participated in a large “Boston Unity Run” in our area later that year (see this post) but still didn’t feel the desire to join the big dance.

The 2013 Boston Unity Run. Boston Strong!

The 2013 Boston Unity Run. Boston Strong!

So what changed my mind? I’m not really sure, but a couple of things helped.

In December 2016 I turn 55 and join a new age group, and I thought it would be a fun birthday present to myself to run Boston in 2017. And I also think it would be fun to be part of the whole experience – the tradition, the history, the crowds, to tackle Heartbreak Hill and cross that finish line. And I’d get to wear that cool Boston Marathon Finisher jacket.

And exactly the right colors, too!

And exactly the right colors, too!

So, for one more time at least, I will be stepping off the trail for a bit, and running one of those short races – the road marathon.

Actually, make that at least two marathons. To get into Boston, you need a qualifying time based on your age group, in a marathon that has been certified as a Boston qualifier. The Martian Invasion of Races in Dearborn next April will be where I attempt to qualify. I’ve signed up, and my training has already started.

For my age group in 2017 (55-59) I will need to beat 3:40. And the faster my time, the better the chance I have of getting a spot. But if I don’t qualify then, I have until next September to try again.

What are my chances? Hard to say at present; my Chicago time (first marathon) was 4:12. My second (Ann Arbor 2012) was 3:55, but I ran that one casually and took photos. But based on my half marathon time, I should be able to run a 3:30 or better. I guess I’ll find out. It’s going to be an interesting winter!