The New York Marathon Coverage

Can you imagine if the big three sports were covered the way running is covered?

There’d be the story each weekend of the player overcoming tragedy and the third-stringers doing it for their own reasons. You’d have the strange play-by-play that’s more about the weather than the game and the self-reflective essay. And, what would you do without the off-beat slightly related story with its vague misunderstandings of the stats of the sport (not that I don’t like Ben True, because I do, but I’m not sure he’d “get bored” at 4:20 pace)?

Yes, these are all New York Times articles, but it was the New York Marathon, so if anyone should get it right, it’d be them. And, no, there’s nothing particularly bad about any one of these stories. Some of them are a little bit interesting. I’m sure all of them were probably aimed right at the paper’s target market. That’s fine.

But, all together it creates a picture that isn’t entirely accurate or true. It’s like the Kona coverage on NBC that’s almost entirely full of sob stories and people overcoming looming obstacles. It’s not that those people weren’t there or that their stories aren’t important. It’s just that they’re important enough to be told with more honesty.

Boston Marathon: Race Review

Having run the first 12 miles of the race last year before I had to pull out and then running the last 9 miles this year with Ilyce, I feel like I can offer a fairly fair review of the Boston Marathon. In case you were wondering: running the last 9 miles of a marathon with a friend is 100% the way to go, and way more fun than doing the whole thing. I really enjoyed myself. She did not enjoy herself as much. (It was also painfully clear that not doing the whole thing was a good decision for me, since my bone spur foot and my torn muscle foot both started to give out after 9.)

This will be a review fairly devoid of pictures, because, even though I had my phone stuck in my bra while running, I didn’t want to be that person taking pictures/video during the race. Actually, I sort of did want to be that person, but instead here is the sum total of photos I took in Boston: a bag of KitKat minis so big it had a handle and was basically a purse; the deluxe cookiewich at Harvard Square; Fenway Park when they opened it for the runners to check out and drink after the marathon. Clearly, you can see where my priorities were.

So, let’s start this off with: If you’re not a fan of crowded big city marathons that are sort of insane, then you definitely shouldn’t do Boston. If that’s your thing or if you just want the experience, then you should do it at least once.

I’m also pretty sure that you will not be able to escape the constant feeling of missing out. It will constantly seem like everyone is hanging out at some bar, having the most fun ever, without you. The whole experience is just too much.

The Expo: I’m pretty sure that some people go to Boston just to go to the expo. It’s basically the center of the running universe for three days. And, there’s tons of other races — the mile, the 5K — to watch too. If that’s your kind of thing, then you’ll love it. There’s lots of stuff to buy and see and take for free. If that’s not your kind of thing, then you’ll hate it. I’m sort of split. It’s fun to see people and the newest gear, but you could easily spend a few hours just walking around and that’s not a fantastic idea before a race, right? And, besides, it’s hard not to feel a little judgmental about everyone trying to prove how super awesome they are. There’s certainly a reason I didn’t spend a ton of time there.

The Goodies: The BAA really delivers on the goodies. They don’t just hand over a bunch of bullshit coupons. You get a nice shirt, a fancy bottle opener, some bracelets and stickers, whatever free shit you got at the expo (or whatever you bought at the expo), a finsher’s medal — if you actually finished and take one — and tickets to the race dinner and the after-party. Not that those tickets will do you any good if there’s an hour line for dinner and they’re not letting anyone into the after-party.

Crossing the finish line. Sort of without actually finishing.
Crossing the finish line. Sort of without actually finishing.

The Course: You do the Boston Marathon because of the history and the crowds — not because it’s a fast course. It’s not. It’s hard. While everyone talks about the hills from mile 16-21, it really is the downhill the first 6 or 7 miles that kills me. You can’t avoid running too fast and pounding your legs, then you hit flats and it hurts and then you have to go up. Ugh. Even the last stretches that are long and flat into the finish line are loooong.

But, the crowds, man, the crowds. Both on the sidelines and in the race. Last year, I thought they were a little over-hyped, but I only made it through the first half, which is mostly suburbs and woods. This year, the second half was insane. That may have been more because of the year — there were twice as many spectators and so many at the finish that the police weren’t even letting anyone more in — but the second half also includes the crazy colleges and the huge downtown crowds. I was running with Ilyce, because she was having a shit day, and I was talking to her a decent amount of the time, but there were times where we couldn’t even hear each other. And, the last 1K, straight down Boylston or whatever, I felt like a goddamn Olympian. I wanted to wave to the screaming crowds.

(Keep in mind, though, that they’re just really enthusiastic and probably drunk. It doesn’t necessarily mean they know anything or care anything about running. I saw a woman scream at Joan Benoit-Samuelson that “way to go, she was running with the boys.” Yeah, I don’t think she cares so much about that.)

The Organizational Details: The organization is the biggest downside to Boston — beside the obvious over-the-topness of it all. Even though the race doesn’t start until 10 a.m. for most people, or 10:25 or 10:50 or whatever wave you’re in, you have to get on a bus in the downtown area at 6:45 a.m. or something. And then you have to take that bus out and out and out. They say the bus is the only way to get to the start, but it’s not. Lots of people drive or carpool or just stay near the start, but the bus is the only way to guarantee you’ll make it. The best option is really to stay near the start, fyi.

And, you better hope it’s nice out, because otherwise you’ll have to hang out for a few hours at the “start village” in the cold or the extreme heat. And, with the new restrictions on bringing anything with you, you have to do it in whatever you’re wearing or throwaway sweats. Ugh. And, then, the whole corral system and everything is so insanely crowded that it’s a bit of a shitshow.

Once you finally finish, you have to walk and walk and walk to get your stuff back and food and water and clothes. Forever. If you slow down and stop or look like you might throw up, then you get swarmed by eager medical volunteers. It’s almost like everyone forgets that these people just ran a marathon.

Grade: A

Boston Marathon: My Plan

boston-marathon-map

Tomorrow I will be running some of this route. I will not be running all of it. I will, likely, jump in (with my official bib that I paid for, but without the timing chip so nothing get’s messed up) and run some part with some friend near the middle or end. I feel like people may think or do think I’m doing something bad in doing that, but I don’t really see how it’s any different to run the first six miles or a random six miles. If I get up early and catch the bus to the start and then run the farthest I’ve run in a month (7 miles), then I’ll end up somewhere out in the suburbs having to wait for an injury shuttle back to the finish. It sounds much, much better to take the T out, cheer some people, run some distance without hurting myself MORE, then take the T back home.

So, hopefully, that works out.

Everyone keeps Instagramming and Twittering their Boston experiences. My experience so far has been: out late in Harvard Square drinking and eating cookie sandwiches with Melissa, sleep almost none, run 5 miles along the river (with every other person in Boston), spend a stupid amount of time figuring out the Hubway bike share, lunch with Courtenay, hang out with Ilyce, dinner with Vishal and Deanna, exhausted time for bed. I also spent maybe 10 minutes total at the expo to get my packet and number. I walked into the other half of the expo — the half where they sell shit and give away shit and talk about shit — and I just wasn’t in a place where I wanted to do that. I thought I was. I thought since I’m not running, it’ll actually be more fun to do all the random stuff you can’t really or shouldn’t really do before a race you actually care about. But, I just wanted nothing to do with any of it. And, my foot was hurting — my other foot, the one that hasn’t hurt in months.

So, tomorrow, I will cheer, I will run some, I will swim some, I will finish some work, and I will go to the after-party in the evening and lie outrageously about how fast I ran the whole marathon. Too fast for you to see me.