Boston Marathon 2014: I Signed Up


Well, this morning I signed up for the Boston Marathon 2014. No, I’m not entirely sure I love the race and there are lots of pros and cons, etc. But, it’s hard to feel like I did what I went to do last year and certainly it’s hard to feel like there isn’t unfinished business, like I don’t need to go back. Lots of unresolved issues.

I don’t necessarily even believe in the idea of closure. I’m actually pretty convinced it’s something “the media” made up at one of our media secret meetings where we all decide we’ve got it in for Sarah Palin. Still, every time I had some version of this conversation it just kept adding up, piling up, and pushing me back:

Someone: *super sad voice* Ohhhh, you were at Boston? Wow. How was that?
Me: *stare at them*
Someone: You must have been already finished when everything happened, right?
Me: Well, not exactly, I didn’t finish.
Someone: Oh wow, were you stopped on course?
Me: Um, no. I sort of dropped out before anything happened, unrelatedly.
Someone: *stare at me*

Because I am a failure. Because I couldn’t even finish the race, when I had every advantage to do so, when I could have just been a little tougher, while other people died or had their legs blown off or saved each other just to give me the chance to run it, to create the event and the opportunity. I failed them. And, I know that’s not exactly true, but it’s a little bit true. Who am I to have not finished.

Even the registration form for the race argued with me about the improbability of my experience. It asked: Is this your first Boston Marathon? No. How many Boston Marathons have you completed? 0. “You have entered an impossible value. Please go back and revise your answer to the question.”

Sigh. I am, evidently, an impossible value.

I could say that I signed up for next year because I don’t want “them” to win, but (today, Sept. 11, of all days) I don’t actually really believe that. I don’t think it’s a zero sum game and as long as we insist it is, then it will be. Then, there will always continue to be an us and a them. And, anyway, I don’t really know who “they” are or how “they” didn’t sort of win when we put a major city on lockdown to hunt down one 19-year-old. So, no, I’m not going back to Boston to prove that I’m not afraid and I’m definitely not going back because of a desire to participate in aggressive shows of patriotic fervor. I’m not going back because I can make things better for the people who are still struggling in the aftermath, my presence can’t do that for them (though donations maybe can help). I’m going back because I have a race to finish. I going back not because of the bombing, but in spite of it.

Back to the Track

Numbers never lie.
Numbers never lie.

Yesterday, I got it into my head I needed to do a track workout to test out my legs, even though I haven’t been to the track since I hurt my foot running on it two months ago. I was hoping that the 5K last weekend was a fluke, what we refer to as “breaking the seal” — that terrible pain/performance your first race back and after which you always do far better.

But, I wasn’t optimistic.

Originally, I was going to get up and bike to the community college for a group track workout of 400s in the morning. But, I hate waking up and I slept poorly (again), so when my alarm went off I just rolled over. This was at the massively early hour of 8:15 a.m. That actually worked out, because I ended up having to knock out some work when I did get up at 9:30 a.m. But, it left me on my own for track.

I went back and forth and back and forth, even heading out for my run at 6 p.m. (a time I had set in my calendar as go time), without being sure if I was going to run on the track or just around the neighborhood. I made it to the track. I went back and forth some more at the track, without being sure if I was going to run the full workout I had in my head or bail halfway. It didn’t help that my arms are still so sore from the Crossfit debacle that I can’t bend them fully.

My plan was: 1 mile, 2 x 800m, 2 x 400m – descend as you go. That was as much detail as I got into. I tentatively thought I should run the mile at 10K pace and descend from there, to test out the idea of racing the Memorial Day 10K in a week. But,if I ran anything under 6:30 I was going to be shocked. (Hell, if I run the 10K at 6:30 pace I’ll be surprised.)

Apparently, I am either not as out of shape as I think or the 5K really did break the seal or I have some inherent speed but no endurance.

I ran a 6:14 mile and felt fine, followed by two 3:02s, and then an 86′ and 85′. All without much trouble. This is insane.

And, then, my “buddy” showed up during the 400s and wanted to talk about Boston. It may surprise you to find I am both tired of people going ‘Wow, that’s crazy. How’d it go’ and also that I dislike talking to people while I’m running in general. I go to the track once a month at random times and he always shows up and wants to talk. I think he thinks we’re friends. That’s almost weirder than how fast I ran.

Boston non-finishers will get to race Boston Marathon 2014. I kept emailing BAA back and saying I didn’t count as a non-finisher, because my lack of finish had nothing to do with anything that happened — and I didn’t want a finish medal or time or special treatment. It looks they got it, since this only applies to those who reached the halfway but couldn’t finish.

Winner: Injinji Socks

Since none of you guessed that I would drop out of Boston (you all evidently have more faith in me than warranted), I wasn’t totally sure who would be our massive giveaway winner of the Injinji socks.

Injinji socks. Yeah, they look stupid, but inside your socks no one can see.
Injinji socks. Yeah, they look stupid, but inside your shoes no one can see.

But, I think, technically, whoever guessed the slowest time would be closest to not finishing, right? And that would be Bri with her 3:16:30 guess — which is still quite far from how long it would have really taken.

Bri – email me and I’ll send you socks!

Despite CNN saying otherwise (and what hasn’t CNN gotten wrong), interest in running Boston 2014 is actually at an all-time high. [Because I may need to take six months off or get surgery to fix my foot, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to qualify for Boston before September. And I want to go back next year and finish what I started. Then, I realized my Chicago time from October qualifies me (!), so that’s one problem solved.]


Boston Marathon: Race Report (or How to Reconcile Things)

(Note: OK, yes, shorter posts again soon. Sorry.)

I’m back in California now and here things are less as singularly-focused on possible attacks — fewer police obviously, fewer evacuations and transit shut-downs. There’s also less of the ‘we’re all in this together’ thing here outside of the running community. In Boston and on the endurance sports internet, everyone wants to know how they can help and how they’re all going to stand together and not be afraid, but I don’t know, fear is ok sometimes. There’s been lots of insisting on wearing race shirts to represent and show solidarity, lots of going out for 4.09 mile runs (because that’s what the time clock said) or 26.2 miles or the 5 miles left that people weren’t able to finish.

These kinds of things are not really my kind of thing. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with them. You should do whatever you feel you need to do, but I have a hard time with those sorts of public displays. It’s not that I don’t appreciate a good rousing insistence that we will come back stronger and it’s not that I haven’t teared up more than a few times, but if I think about what would help me if I was one of the people in the hospital or one of the people who’s loved ones had died, then I don’t think it would be a bunch of strangers running. But, maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know.

There is a memorial tribute shirt being sold by Adidas with all funds going to the One Fund Boston, or you could just donate to One Fund Boston — which is supposed to go directly to the people who need the help the most. Or, maybe you can ID these ‘persons of interests’ for the FBI. Not that any of those things would necessarily make me feel better. Maybe running would.

So, basically, I have mixed feelings. Those mixed feelings extend to the actual race as well, before everything went to hell. I feel bad that I dropped out. Everyone after kept asking me if I finished and when I finished and did I not get to finish because they stopped me, but I kept having to say, ‘No, I just quit.’

I didn’t love the race, though. I wasn’t wowed by the crowds and I felt miserable most of the 10.5 miles I ran. It was sort of like when everyone told me I had to race the Wildflower Triathlon, it’s soooo much fun, so I did and hated it and didn’t sleep because of all the crazed yelling and just kept thinking, ‘I’ve seen drunken crowds before, this isn’t that exciting.’ But, I didn’t even make it to halfway in Boston, so now I feel like I have to finish, I need to give it a second shot.

Here’s a picture of Rachel and I before the race at Hawaii House:

I look like a midget.
I look like a midget.

The cortisone shot worked. My foot didn’t hurt — though it may come back and I may have to deal with that at some point (it even started to twinge from all the walking around in Boston). But, what did hurt during the race was everything else.

I had thought the first half of the race would be easy. I am fit and the first halves of marathons are always suppose to be easy, right? And I think everyone kind of agreed that the wheels were going to come off sometime between 15 and 20 miles and I’d just have to hang on. The question was how much and when.

But, Friday I went for a four-mile run, with a couple strides and a mile slightly faster than race pace, and was crippled with pain the rest of the day: hamstrings, glutes, IT band. While I limped around Saturday, I started to suspect I might not be able to do this.

It seems not having run outside in four weeks other than a few 20′ runs to test the foot, left me not totally prepared to run outside.

I don’t love the whole EXPERIENCE of big races like this. It’s fun, but never puts me into that race zone/killer instinct place — which I was definitely counting on to get me through things. I caught a ride with Rachel in the morning after sleeping 45′ that whole night and hung out in a fancy mansion for 2.5 hours. That kind of hanging out, without a real warm-up, throws me off. I sort of started to doze and zone out. And, I couldn’t figure out what to eat. I don’t know. I just felt weird.

I started running right on pace (7:06s and 7:08s) and staring and staring at my watch. I probably should have felt the crowds more and gotten into, but I felt nauseous from the beginning. Sometimes the best races you never feel good. At least that’s what I told myself, but by mile six I was running 7:15-7:20s and having a hard time doing that. It wasn’t hard the way trying to run a 5K is hard, but I was pushing way too much for six miles into a marathon and I knew it. I stopped staring at my watch and decided I needed to just run a more sustainable pace if I wanted any shot at finishing, so I did a few miles at 7:30-40. But, it didn’t help. My feet were burning the way your feet burn after 20 miles. My hamstring felt like it was ripping and my IT band on the other leg was pinching in my knee. My legs felt like lead. Basically, I felt like how the last six miles of a marathon feel — but I was only eight or nine miles in.

I even thought about how everyone says it’s such a great experience and you should just enjoy it, so I thought I’d just finish and have fun. I ran another couple miles even slower, but I wasn’t having fun. At 10.5 miles I bee-lined to the med tent, stopped, and said, “I want out.”

I think this was at 10K, when I realized this was not going to end well.
I think this picture was at 10K, when I realized this was not going to end well.

I think if I hadn’t missed the couple of long runs I had on my schedule or if I had only had to water-run and Alter-G for 2-3 weeks or if I had gotten the cortisone shot earlier and had more time to get my legs under me or if the race was shorter, maybe I’d have been able to pull it off. I felt really bad about myself after because I’m pretty sure I could have gone a few more miles at least, maybe I could have slogged out a walk/shuffle finish in something close to four hours. But then I’d have gotten to the finish maybe 30-45′ later than I did, which wouldn’t have been good either, in any way.

I’m not sure what to do now. I can’t decide. I have mixed feelings. I feel like I should run, but I don’t know if I want to. I don’t know if I should try and capitalize on what was some very good fitness four weeks ago or if I should just rest. I haven’t done anything since Monday; Tuesday I was crippled from running the 10.5 miles (which suggests that yeah, my legs were not ready for a marathon).

I don’t know. I’m sort of at loose ends.

Heading Home

Bags go unclaimed after the race. From Slate.
Bags go unclaimed after the race. From Slate.

I’m about to head to the airport and head home. Brian and I – since we had nothing else to do – went to Paul Revere’s House yesterday and walked part of the Freedom Trail, but at least one of the landmarks was being evacuated when we got there. So, it was a weird outing.

There’s still some odd details of the events I’m not quite following (and obviously bigger picture things, of course), like how one girl said she was able to get on the subway an hour or so after the attacks but before they shut it down, yet ten minutes after the explosions the stop we tried to enter was being evacuated, or how news reports keep saying it happened just after four hours into the race. Four hours into the race was just after 2 p.m. I was standing there just after 2 p.m. I would have had to have walked through that devastation and not noticed. It was really just after four hours into the race for the people that started at 10:40 a.m.

It also turns out a lot of the news reports from Monday — news reports from very credible places like The Associated Press — were just wrong. Not in a fear-mongering, panic kind of way. But, just wrong. Like, cell phone service didn’t get shut down; it just sucked with all the people trying to make calls. I know, of course, that news reports immediately after events are notoriously unreliable, but when The Boston Globe says that police are saying they’re safely self-detonating a third found bomb at such-and-such intersection after clearing the area, why wouldn’t I believe that? (It wasn’t true, apparently. But what is truth.)

In the aftermath of most disasters, I find myself on the side of logic and calm rationale thought. Let’s not jump to conclusions, let’s be reasonable, no declarations of coming back stronger or staying united at the same time we descend into finger-pointing and racial profiling, let’s all just do what we can to help each other get through this. But, this time, I found myself getting annoyed with the heavy-handed condescension from people in other places to be reasonable and not jump to conclusions and remember that so many people die around the world everyday, this is just one attack. They might be right, but this time I was annoyed.

I was in a store once where there was a small fire in the back. It was put out quickly by an employee and everyone was fine. As that happened, though, there was a stampede of people panicking, trying to ensure that they got out, screw everyone else. I didn’t see that happen here — with far more at stake. Yes, there are reports that one victim was mistreated because of suspicion completely unfairly cast on to him. And, that is terrible. But, for the most part, people were calm and reasonable and did what police told them to and stayed out of the way (or helped in whatever way they could help) and came to each other’s aid. It seemed to me — not in a journalist, outside perspective way, but actually here — that people did about as good as they could have done.