Monday, April 18, 2011

Boston Marathon race report - spectator edition

Today was the 115th running of the Boston Marathon, and marked the first time ever I went to a race just to watch.  The morning ritual was similar: set the alarm super early, hit snooze, hit snooze again, swear at the “Matty in the Morning” show that keeps waking me up, pack a backpack, etc.  That’s pretty much where the pre-race similarities end.  I didn’t have to think about what to eat (I didn’t eat anything), and I didn’t have the pre-race jitters.  Instead, like a tourist I had my bag full of goodies like a phone, camera, spending money, bottled water, apples, gloves, and other random incidentals. 
The starting line in Hopkinton is about 20 minutes tops from my house, but getting there on race day is a whole other animal.  Roads closed at 7:30am, but luckily I was able to park in a friend’s driveway within walking distance to the start.  With plenty of time to kill, Andrew and I leisurely walked around the town common scoping out prime viewing spots and perusing the vendor tents.  I felt a little foolish snapping pictures like a tourist since I drive through Hopkinton almost every single day, but I was caught up in the Boston fever. 
TVFR runner Gary Atlas and friends posing for a shot
We even split a fried dough.  (Now there’s something I would never do before a race!)  I put down the dough long enough to get a picture with the official race starter.  (This picture would have been way cooler if his hand, holding the gun, wasn't cut off in the shot). 
Moi with the race starter
There were news anchors broadcasting from the common, and a few runners lying in the sun trying to stay warm and limber.  Staying warm was a real challenge, with temperatures in the low 40’s and a strong gusty wind. 

WBZ-TV's David Wade conducting an interview on the common

It was an exciting day and there was plenty of hype leading up to the event, but it seemed weird to be on the other side of the fence.  I used it as an opportunity to scope out the runners and see what kind of gear they use.  To say the gear was varied would be a gross understatement.  We saw everything from a firefighter in full gear, to a gorilla, to a Neanderthal in nothing (and I mean nothing) but a loin cloth.  There was a Spiderman, a Sonic man, a man in a tutu, a Shaman, a girl dressed up like a hamburger, a man with bunny ears, a hula dancer, and a man juggling.  There were compression socks, Vibrams, arm sleeves (which I’m kind of in love with), and every form of fuel belt imaginable. 
One of the best parts of the day was seeing the elite runners so close.  Both the men and the women are so amazing, and they look more like machines than humans.  I took an opportunity to snap a few pictures as they warmed up right in front of us.

Ryan Hall warming up.  He went on to set a new American record!

Dick and Rick Hoyt - always the crowd favorite!

The other great moment was seeing Dick and Rick Hoyt pass by.  Dick is 70 years old, still recovering from a knee surgery, and is one of the most recognized figures of the Boston Marathon.

Elite Women

Elite Men

After the elites went through, the rest of the 27,000 runners filed through in three separate waves, and we were deep in our own little marathon of clapping. 
Endless sea of runners headed to Boston
I knew about a half dozen people that were running but it was nearly impossible to see anyone specific in such a thick sea of runners.  The only familiar face I saw was my pal Hiroshi, but he was on the other side of the road and out of earshot.  One thing was clear: the runners were thrilled to be a part of this race.  Thousands of runners passed by us with smiles and overwhelming excitement.  Many of them carried cameras and took pictures of their own as they ran down the course.  I could only hope for their sake that their excitement would carry them all the way through. 
A short time later, after all the runners had passed through the start line, I was back at home watching the first of the elites crossing the finish line.  It was a great experience seeing them on TV after I had just cheered them at the start of the race.  I have truly been bitten by the Boston bug, and I’m starting to seriously wonder if I should be adding this to an upcoming race calendar.  I think I’ll finish out this year’s races, wait for the Boston bug to die down, and see if the interest is still there.  Only time will tell.

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