Boston Marathon - Things Seldom Go As Expected

Seeing Desi Linden win Boston last April was such an intense experience that it inspired me to return to Boston for the first time since 2013. I was running 30-40 miles a week, focused on a local 10K and just enjoying myself, but I jumped into the Starved Rock Marathon. My original was 3:10 but as the race progressed I felt fresh. As I passed the 20 mile mark I was able to add speed and coming's just under 3 hours. Fast forward to December... I began a Jack Daniels plan with an 80 mile/week max. Through horrible weather, sickness, and all the busyness that middle age and family deliver I stuck to the plan. Each week I achieved new bests in training. As this year's Boston Marathon approached my excitement and confidence grew. I raced a 5K and by Daniels' race calculator my numbers were spot on. The taper is always confusing to me, but you trust that it works, right? Work travel the last week before race day was a little disconcerting, but I was highly disciplined, bringing most of my food with me and getting lots of rest. 9pm Saturday night, everything was great. Two days left. I laid down to sleep, and... I couldn't.

For hour upon hour I tossed and turned. I tried the couch. I tried reading. I tried calming audio. Nothing. Worked. Finally sometime around 3am I fell asleep, but had to be up at 4am to start the journey to Boston.

I was in such great shape, so rested and primed, that the truncated night's sleep didn't drag me down too much. Things could still be rescued. I felt okay. Flight to Boston. Bib pick up. Chill. Pasta dinner. 9pm Sunday we all turn in. Within minutes my friends are sleeping soundly. I am not. The same horrific feedback loop from the night before starts over. Try to sleep. Stress because I'm not sleeping. Snap fully awake. Round and round. I tried reading. A movie almost put me to sleep. So close! In the early am I walked around Porter square in the drizzle, bemoaning this betrayal by my body, so well trained yet falling apart when it mattered most. Once again, sleep came mere minutes before it was time to leave for Hopkinton. My legs, supposed to be tested to the limit in a few hours, burned with the fire of fatigue. I fell asleep on the wet grass in Hopkinton, exhausted. A lot of good...

The marathon was almost an afterthought, more like the fever dream runs of January than the glorious efforts of late March. By 10 miles I was shot. Everything hurt. And there was 16 miles to go. I wanted to quit mightily, because it hurt but moreso out of frustration and disappointment. I trained so hard for this. I abstained from so much. The only reason I kept going was the thought of a friend who recently found out she has cancer. She doesn't have the option to walk into a med tent and quit. Her battle is years, not hours. Sport takes non larger meanings. Certainly this race did for me. I crossed the finish line on Boyleston... just under 3 hours. It was one of the most disappointing experiences of my life.

Having had some time to reflect, I look at the training and the race as mutually exclusive. In the training cycle I ticked off one goal after another. I felt a sense of accomplishment unparalleled by previous experiences. Even at middle age, I discovered new self-discipline. I don't think I regret that. The race was was a disappointment, yes, but not a regret. I lost it before I ever toed the line in Hopkinton. My will didn't fail—my body did. I had an Achilles heel I didn't even know I had. And the euphoria of the Boston experience was ample consolation. Consoling also was the respectful well-wishes of my friends. They didn't try to turn it into something it wasn't and find the silver lining. They just let me lament but showed me they cared.


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