Boston Marathon Makes Forest Hills Runner Want to Die

I'm not going to say I called it, but...actually, yeah, I called it. Some of you may remember that I was worried about the Boston Marathon being too warm as far out as 6 weeks before the race. Turns out, it wasn't just warm, it was brutally hot: I was just looking for the high temp at race time and found a quote from the Boston Athletic Association's medical director, Chris Troyanos, who said, "[Before], I looked at this as a sporting event. Now, I look at it as a planned mass casualty event." So, there's that. In all honesty, the BAA warned me that this was going to be a beast. They kept me well apprised of the situation, from the first email that basically said, "It may be warm. You should familiarize yourself with heat cramps, exhaustion, and stroke," to the final one that said, "If you have health problems of any sort, you shouldn't run. If you aren't an elite runner, you shouldn't run. You, Ara, as a charity runner, are exactly the demographic that we are trying to keep from running. PLEASE DON'T RUN. In fact, we're going to do the heretofore unheard of and allow you to defer this year's acceptance to next year if you want. Seriously. Don't run." But since I found their warning to be a little wishy-washy, I decided that I could handle it.

It was, by far, the most unpleasant race in which I have participated. I knew it was going to be an ugly day when I broke into a full on sweat on the walk from the holding area to the starting line. I thought that I was being smart and started the race 45-60 seconds slower per mile than I would have in good weather. I thought that it would be enough to keep me going, but man oh man, was I wrong. I was pacing along with one of my classmates for the first 10 miles. At about 6 miles (about the place we saw the first person collapse and need emergent medical attention), we looked at each other, decided our current pace was unsustainable, and slowed down even more. By 10 miles in, my heart rate was 185, and I let my buddy go (he finished in a VERY impressive 3:35), and decided right there that this marathon had become a completion challenge for me instead of a race. From that point onward, I completely changed my attitude. Instead of racing, I did a lot of walking, drank a lot of water and gatorade, accepted a lot of opened candy from strangers (the Otter Pops that I got from the crowd probably saved my life. No joke), and hung out and talked with family and friends wherever they were on the course.

I want to give shout-outs to some people. 1) Spectators in general: the spectators of the Boston Marathon are, invariably, awesome. I just assumed that since it was a hellish experience for the runners, that the spectators would be a little less prevalent. I mean, it's a different game for them, too. Typically, Cicely and my mom have to get coffee to stay warm at their first stop of the day. This year, THEY were sunburned and dehydrated by the time I found them in Framingham. But the truth of the matter is, this year, people were even more awesome that usual. Homeowners along the course had sprinklers and hoses out to spray water. I can't tell you how many different people offered me water/ice/Otter Pops (see above), and without them, there's no way I would have made it. Even though, there were water stations at EVERY MILE along the course, it was nowhere near enough. The fans, from the sedate and family-focused folks near the start, to the rowdiness of Wellesley and BC, were superb. 2) Random Stranger I stopped in Wellesley Center to have him text my adoring family to let them know I was ok. 3) Random Stranger I stopped 20 minutes later do do the same, since I had accidentally sent the first one to MY phone. Helpful. 4a) Cicely and my mom: they were troopers. They camped out at mile 7, mile 18, and mile 24 to cheer me along. Without their awesome support (and an excuse to stop running) and their cooler full of ice cold towels, I probably would have bailed. Thanks guys, I owe you. 4b) FHR cheering section: I think it was at mile 24. I know it was after my legs started cramping and before I thought I might actually die (A couple brief episodes of chest pain, shortness of breath, pounding headache. No biggie.) You guys were awesome. The picture says it all: despite wanting to die, I'm actually smiling.  Actually, I just looked at the photo again.  Smiling may be a bit generous for the expression on my face.  I think it may be more of "I think I can see Death and am growling at him."  But seriously, FHR, you're awesome. 4c) All the other people I saw on the course: you're awesome too, but if I start listing you, I'm sure to forget someone who I deliriously stumbled past.

You know me. You know that I can be a slight bit competitive and that to me, finishing time matters. This was a growing experience for me. I expected to finish somewhere between 3:00-3:10. My actual time: 4:39. And here's the kicker, I'm happy with it. Granted, I'm totally bummed that the weather was STOOOPID hot, but given that, I'm totally happy with my time. To put it in context, the elite athletes were roughly 10% slower (Men's record finish of 2:03:02 last year, 2:12:40 this year). In fact, the Boston Marathon record holder, Geoffrey Mutai had to drop out this year due to some heat related medical issue. In my mind, that means I beat him. Or at least didn't end up with heat stroke, which is a victory in itself.

Posted on April 26, 2012 and filed under FHR Updates.