If I had to describe The Boston Marathon in one word, it would be over-rated. Yes, it has the world’s fastest runners there, it is the only marathon in the world in which you have to qualify to participate and it is a notoriously tough course. But it is a huge event. In my eyes, it’s too big, and that takes away from the great experience – at least, for me – that it could be.
On Friday, when I saw the forecast for Marathon Monday, I let out a nervous laugh. “Are you kidding me? 26.2 miles in the heat?” By Saturday, the infamous e-mail inviting runners to defer their entry to 2013 was sent; on Sunday, higher temperatures were predicted and, once again, runners were encouraged to defer their entries to the following year.
“I’ll be fine,” I told my husband. “I’m ready. If I have to, I’ll just pull back my pace.” To me, it didn’t make sense to defer my entry. I had already dragged my husband and sons on a 10-hour drive to Boston, arranged for two days away from work, and had committed to registration (which had to be paid again in 2013 anyway) and hotel fees. And, for some strange reason, I just wouldn’t have felt right running in 2013 with runners who had qualified in 2012. I had to, at least, give it a try.
So on Monday morning, I dragged myself out of bed at 4:45 a.m., showered, went through the routine of meeting the shuttle buses at 6:30 to get to Hopkinton, finding a place to sit and “relax” for the next 3 hours, lining up several times for porta-potties and, this year, drinking water and trying to stay cool.
I did everything I could to prepare for the heat. On Friday night. I made the decision to increase my fluid intake significantly and I was still drinking in the last hours before the marathon began, hence the need to join the porta-potty lines several times. I put on sunscreen and I wore as little as I could. Even then, by the time I made my way to the start line, I was feeling parched.
And flustered. When they called the second wave, the white bibs, to check their bags at the shuttle buses and head to the start line, hundreds of the blue bibs, the third wave which I have affectionately dubbed “the blue people” or “Smurfs” decided to join us. Imagine thousands of runners trying to merge through a narrow gate to check their bags. Then, imagine the look on thousands of runners when they heard that the marathon had started while they were checking bags and that they needed to hurry to the start. There were hundreds, or thousands, of Smurfs ahead of us, blocking the roads and making it impossible to get through. We could only work our way around them by taking to the sidewalks (which were fenced off so we also had to get over the fences). Needless to say, by the time I saw the start and made it to my corral, which had left, I was miffed. Even knowing that the clock didn’t start until I physically crossed the start line, I was miffed.
Ten minutes after going through Corral 7, I crossed the timing mat and when I looked ahead, I could only see dots – thousands and thousands of people in brightly coloured clothes. The scene ahead reminded me of a piece of paper on which every single space was dotted with every colour of a package of markers; there wasn’t room for anything else.
And, on that Marathon Monday, there was certainly no room for error.