Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Boston Marathon Monday Preview: I. A Runner's Perspective

In case you hadn't realized it, the 112th Boston Marathon will be run on Monday. Miles 21.4 - 22.4 of the course passes through one side of Brighton along Commonwealth Avenue, Chestnut Hill Avenue, and then Beacon Street.

I'm not running this year, but have entered it a number of times -- and made it both to the starting line and finishing line twice. Here are some of my notes from my 2002 race (when I ran a 2:56) offering information from a runner's perspective:
  1. The downhill right out of Hopkinton is really, really steep.
  2. Ashland and Framingham smelled mostly of barbecue and stale beer.
  3. Fans in central Framingham made the route far less ugly, but the road surface still sucks.
  4. Doing some random business along the side of the road in Natick while being cheered wildly by a group of black women on the other side. Soon they would no doubt get bored by the sight.
  5. 6-foot high poster one Wellesley woman held up saying she'd let you kiss her (exuberance or desperation?), and is this offer only made to the men? [Many such posters are held up -- this one was exceptional due to its size.]
  6. They may be Wellesley women, but they scream like girls.
  7. Gloves on at the start, off by four, on again at nine, off again at mile 14. Don't toss away clothing during the Boston Marathon because the weather can change back-and-forth.
  8. The toughest hill in the race is the exposed, steady uphill climb past Newton Lower Falls at mile 16.
  9. Passing nearly-stalled wheelchairs up the first and fourth (Heartbreak) hills of Newton -- running a marathon is easy compared to racing a wheelchair uphill.
  10. Hearing the radio at mile 20 tuned to "the event", followed by the fan screaming, "That's it! Strike three! Four-three!" [Won't happen this year -- the race now starts too early.]
  11. Slowly passing Dick Hoyt at mile 23 -- man is he strong and an inspiration! [The Hoyts usually get a head start in the race.]
  12. Running down Beacon Street is faster than the C-line.
  13. Staying on the left works everywhere except the water stops at miles 22 and 24, which are only on the right.
  14. Hearing "Go Cambridge" every 50 feet -- literally -- because of these new easy-to-read uniforms! [I was a member of the Cambridge Running Club at the time.] Warning: don't have readable words on your clothing unless you want it shouted out really, really often throughout the entire race.
  15. What the hell? One more hill at the very end -- up Hereford Street? [Now there's yet another hill right before that, too, since the course has been changed slightly to take the Comm Ave underpass below Mass Ave.]
  16. One local expert on the race claims that 90% of the course is uphill or downhill -- only 10% can be truly classified as flat.
  17. I'm not buying any more lemon-lime Gatorade for at least a few months.

More on the race in the next two days:

Tomorrow: a spectator's perspective on where to watch the race. Think: wheelchair wipeouts.

Friday: changes to this year's marathon -- particularly the additional race, the U. S. Women's Olympics Marathon Time Trial, on Sunday along a different route.

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