Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Race Report: Boston's Run To Remember

Oh, hell, yes.

Boston's Run To Remember was one magical race, for many reasons. No. 1 being I actually liked a race picture enough to buy it. That has never happened before.

As you know, I have a history of collecting race proofs in which I look like I am being assassinated. But this one, dare I say, I love it. Why?

I look strong and swift. I am wearing knee socks and an American flag running skirt. I look like I know what I am doing. I look like a runner. I told you: magic.

But so much more was extraordinary aside from the race photo. Which, to review, was hot stuff.

So, let's get into this because this post is tragically overdue.

I had signed up for this race in December. I was born in Boston and spent the first 18 years of my life growing up 7 miles south of the Athens of America. I spent a goodly part of my life in and around the city, so I could not pass up the opportunity to run through some of its most famous neighborhoods without the danger of getting flattened by a vehicle.

I remember seeing the ads for this race last year, thinking, "I'm not ready to run 5 miles. Not yet." I had just conquered my first 5K and running 5 miles seemed so far away, so arduous. I distinctly remember thinking, Maybe next year.

Cut to December, when I was setting my sights on a half-marathon in 2012. Five miles? I got that. On the race calendar it went.

Last weekend's half-marathon cropped up within the past month. Normally, I would not race two big races (mileage-wise) in back to back weeks. But I'm a believer in things happen for a reason, so I figured I'd see how the half went and worry about the 5-miler later.

The half went fine. I took three days off from running, ran an easy 25 minutes on Thursday, and after that figured I would be fine for the 5-miler three days later.

I decided to give it a go, but take it easy. I would forget about pace, forget about running, essentially, and taking a page from Sheryl's book, race and take a lot of fun pictures on a very picturesque course.

See, in the past - and sometimes today - when faced with a challenge or roadblock. I still automatically think, "I can't."

"I can't race that distance."

"I can't race back to back."

Well, really, screw "I can't." My days of "I can't" are over. If I take a few minutes and think it through, I realize more often than not, "I can." Sure, if my legs or foot were bothering me, I would sit out.

After initially thinking, "I can't," I thought it through, took a health inventory, assessed my Thursday run and decided not only "I can" but also "I will."

I was so excited for this race for several reasons, primarily because I would get to race in town. Funny, growing up just outside the city, that's what I - and everyone I knew - called Boston, "town." Force of habit, I still do.

Talking with my Dad before the race, the conversation went like this:

"Where's your race this weekend?"

"In town."

As a public service aside, two requests from a native: Don't ever call it "Beantown." Only tourists call it that. Two, don't ask us where we pahked ah cahs. Don't try the accent, you can't do it (see Costner, Kevin, et. al.) unless you were born with it (see Affleck & Damon). But, by all means, feel free to walk around wearing a tri-cornered hat. They really are fun.

Anyway, I was thrilled to race in town, and two friends were going to be there, too, so I'd get to meet up with them for at least a little bit.

When I sign up for races, I pretty much look at three things:

  • Distance.

  • Date.

  • Shirt/medal/goodies.

  • That's all I basically concern myself with when it comes to deciding to register. I need to add "start time" to that list.

    About a week before any race, you get an email from the organizers, basically saying, "Hey, remember the race you registered for? Here are the details again, if you didn't pay attention when you registered, Melissa, and everyone else."

    When I get the email, then I start to concern myself with commuting, parking, bib pickup, logistics, etc. I got the Run To Remember email Monday and spied the start time. 7:15 am. Start time. Oh, crap.

    I live an hour west of Boston and I usually like to get to a race an hour before the start. That means getting to the race by 6:15 am, leaving my house at, good God, 5:15 am. Which means getting up around - help me Jesus - 4:15 am to eat breakfast, wake up, get dressed, regain consciousness, etc.

    This better be one damn fine race.

    So, Saturday night I got all my junk together and set my alarm, which promptly went off at 4 am Sunday. I was surprisingly spry, ate breakfast and headed to Cambridge to pick up my dear friend and running idol, Jeremy, who was also entered.

    At any point up until now, did I think I would be driving east, in the dark, at 4:45 am wearing an American flag running skirt and knee socks? I did not. But I got a pretty sunrise around Framingham.

    Sometimes, I actually stop and think, Who is this person? (This recap is very long anyway, but I owe and will give that skirt an entire post of its own, believe me.)

    I picked Jeremy up at 5:45 am and we headed over to the World Trade Center area in South Boston. We parked on Summer Street and took about a 10-minute walk over to the WTC, which was a good warmup.

    I knew this was a big race, and I like big races. They're exciting, fun and (usually) well-organized. However, this race was b-i-g. Previously, the largest race I've ever run was the Caremark 5K in Providence, about 5,000 runners, last September.

    Just before the race, we heard this one had topped 9,000 runners - 6,500 running the half-marathon course and 2,500 doing the 5-miler. I believe it, because the minute we hit the expo center, I felt like we were completely swallowed up. Bodies everywhere.

    We found bag check, then split up. Jeremy had friends he wanted to check in with and I needed a port-a-potty. I wish I got a shot of the line of port-a-potties because there had to be 50. A line as long as you could see (Sandy, I thought of you fondly). I concluded business and set off to find my friend, Dani.

    There's a lot of silly crap when it comes to social media, but there's a lot of awesome stuff, too, and one of those things is finding wonderful new friends.

    I met Dani through Twitter. She's a Weight Watchers Lifetime member, leader and runner. Hmmmm, sounds familiar. Check out her blog, it's ridiculously inspirational, she's totally wonderful and super fast.

    She also lives in Boston, so the opportunity to meet up with her at a race was awesome when I found out we were both doing the Run To Remember.

    Dani is one of the #wwmafia who all check in with each other daily via Twitter. We're based all around the country, but we've all got each other's backs in 140 characters or less.

    The crowd was so thick with people we had to text and finally call to find one another, but we did. Our time together was all too short, but we demanded photos (don't we look peppy for 6:50 am?) and made plans to get together and share a meal soon.

    Dani headed off to the jack rabbit runners and I went to the back. Since I was just going to run and have fun, I decided to run holding my point-and-shoot for the whole race. I would waste too much time otherwise digging it out of my belt or the super-cool pocket on my skirt every 200 yards.

    The half-marathoners went off about 20 minutes before we 5-milers, then we lined up and watched a State Police helicopter make the rounds against the skyline and over our heads.

    Seriously, it was a gorgeous day.

    And we're off!

    The arch of the Boston Harbor Hotel at Rowe's Wharf.

    I realized something about a half-mile in: It's hard to run and take pictures. If I saw something I wanted to shoot, I had to run off to the side of the road, ensure I wasn't in anyone's way (either on the way to the side of the road or at the side of the road), get a shot I liked and then take off again. Easier said than done.

    Running atop what used to be the Central Artery, which is now the Rose Kennedy Greenway, with the Custom House in the distance.

    I gotta say running on the Greenway was very cool. As a person who traveled the artery hundreds of times in a car, it was amazing to run through what now is a park.

    Funny story: After the race, Jeremy and I were walking near the finish as the half-marathoners were coming in. The announcer, as is the norm at races, was announcing finishers, by looking at their bibs and matching it with their names. We're walking by and we hear, "And here's another finisher, Rose Kennedy!" I yell, "WOW!" and we both start laughing because not only has old Rose has been dead for a decade or so, but also when she was alive she was the frailest-looking person on Earth.

    More Greenway.

    Running through the Financial District, toward the Old State House.

    Hanging a right on Congress Street, Fanueil Hall on the right (out of frame), The World's Ugliest City Hall on the upper left.

    Entrance to Faneuil Hall, bordering Congress Street.

    La-de-da, running through Beacon Hill (Charles Street).

    Even the Post Office is pretty.

    You go, girl. No significance to this picture, other than I am juvenile and I thought it was funny.

    Your typical Beacon Hill side street. Not so much in most other parts of the city.

    Where everybody knows your name.

    Pretty brownstones neighboring the Public Garden, of which I did not get a good picture.

    Outskirts of the Theatre District. I love how they renovated the Paramount facade. The Opera House is next door.

    RIP, Filene's.

    Downtown Crossing, decked out for Memorial Day.

    Old South Meeting House.

    My life in a nutshell.

    So, at this point, we're heading toward South Station and I realize, the race is almost over. If there was a 4-Mile marker, and I'm sure there was, I missed it amidst all my Ansel Adamsing.

    The funny thing is, this race seemed to go very fast, even though I was lolly-gagging my way through it.

    I looked at my watch and saw we had about a half-mile to go. I was surprised. It's over already? I suppose if you race for 2:45 the previous week, an hour seems like a brief interlude. I put my camera away and thought, "I want to really run." Enough picture-taking and touristing, jam this last half.

    So, I did. But, first, I actually fixed my hair, readjusted my Sweaty Band, which was very sweaty at this point. Hey, there be photographers and spectators ahead. I was wearing an American flag skirt. I had to look like I knew what I was doing.

    "Shipping Up To Boston" came up on my playlist, which was the perfect tune to launch me at race pace toward the end.

    We hung a right onto Seaport Blvd., with the Boston Children's Museum and the Hood Milk Bottle across Fort Point Channel to the right.

    Almost near the finish I spied Jeremy off to my left, cheering me on to the finish. And I was happy to finish. I felt great, but it was hot and I was toasty.

    After crossing the finish and reclaiming our bags, Jeremy and I compared notes, hung out for a bit and then headed back to the car. As I walked over Seaport Blvd. I got some nice shots of the half-marathon finishers coming in (the finish line was out of frame, below and behind me).

    Overall, this was one of my favorite races. My pace was crap, but I had a lot of fun. I got to run safely through a city I love and, I realized, I ran a 5-mile race and it seemed like a walk (or run) in the park. Wow.

    1 comment:

    1. Congrats and you look GREAT!!! All that matters is you have fun. My pace is rarely "good" so I rate my runs on how much fun I have (reframing!) xo