Wednesday, November 29, 2017

2017 Haddon Township Turkey Trot 5k: Race Report

Another year, and another Haddon Township Turkey Trot in the books.  I love this race because it's in the town where I teach, so I get to race a lot of my students.  A lot of people from Who's Up run it too, so there are always a lot of familiar and friendly faces.  The race course is almost pancake flat, and the post-race donuts and breakfast sandwiches are included in the race fee.  What's not to love?

Some race reports from previous years:


This was technically my second race since Broad Street last May, but I was sick during my last race and didn't run very hard.  So it had been awhile since I'd really pushed myself in a race.

I seriously didn't know if I would break twenty minutes, which is usually my benchmark time for the 5k.  I know I say that a lot, and I always manage to come in under, but all the signs pointed to me straying north of this benchmark in this race: not having raced in so long, not having trained at all for the 5k distance, and probably having gained some weight since last spring when I was in decent shape for Boston.

I got to the Pour House at 7:30am, early enough to snag a good parking spot.  Met my dad shortly afterwards and then hung out for the next hour and a half talking to my dad, saying hi to students and friends, and doing a brief warm up run.

At 9am, a thousand South Jersey runners walked two blocks down the street from the Pour House to the starting line.  At the start, we charged back down Haddon Avenue, made a left onto Cuthbert, and another quick left onto Park. 

The start.
Photo by Patrick Rodio

At mile two, I caught up with one of my students.  I joked that if he couldn't beat me, then he was in trouble.  He hung with me for awhile, and we both began to reel in another one of my students.

When we made the final left turn back onto Haddon Avenue, the first student of mine had fallen behind, and I was now running with the second student.  I ran neck and neck with him to the finish, but he outkicked me in the last hundred yards and beat me by two seconds.  It was a thrilling finish.

Trying to catch up to my student (in red) in the homestretch.
Photo by Patrick Rodio

So it looks like there was enough muscle memory in my legs, as I finished the race with a chip time of 19:31.

Given this race's size, I've never placed in my age group, let alone won, but that's exactly what happened this time.  I even got a plaque for my efforts:

I also posed with my dad under the Pour House sign, which has become a tradition for us.

Then I posed with friends from Who's Up:

Mental note: finish chewing before posing for a picture in the future.

Another year down and new memories added.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

2017 Run the Bridge 10k: Race Report

I haven't done a race since Broad Street last May.  I had grand plans to sign up for all of my usual fall races this year, but one by one they came and went without me ever having pulled the trigger.  It would seem I have lost my running mojo.

I finally signed up for a race I did for the first time last year: The Cooper Norcross Run the Bridge 10k in Camden, NJ.  I ran it last year in just over 41 minutes, which still stands as my 10k PR.  It was a thrilling race that ended in a photo finish with a fellow runner from Who's Up on a perfect fall day, so I have good memories from this race and was keen to relive them.

Unfortunately I was just getting over being sick and I wasn't able to run to my potential.  I considered dropping out completely, but I couldn't bear the thought of a DNS, or wasting the $50 entry fee, so I managed to pull myself out of bed on Sunday morning and head over to Camden.  I told myself to just start the race and if I needed to I could always stop at the halfway point which is very close to the finish area.  But then I couldn't bear the thought of a DNF either, so I finished the whole thing.

Philly running friend Willa and I got to the starting line on the NJ side of the Ben Franklin Bridge just as the race was about to begin.

We placed ourselves into the sea of people as best as possible because there weren't any signs for paces or corrals (or at least that we could see).  At 8:30 the race began.  I set off at about a 9 minute pace, and Willa quickly pushed ahead of me.

I never run with a phone, but since I knew I would be running slowly, I decided to bring it with me so I could take pictures on the bridge. 

The first half of the race is an out and back on the bridge, the only time foot traffic is allowed on the main area of the bridge (except when the Pope is in town).  When I got back to the Camden side and crossed the halfway mark, I was still going pretty slowly but decided I felt good enough to finish the race, so I continued to slowly plod through the streets of Camden.

Around mile 4, I saw this guy:

At mile 5, employees from the Haddonfield Running Company were manning the water stop, so I got a selfie with Shawn:

And finally, after 52 minutes of running, I entered the outfield of the stadium, and shortly thereafter crossed the finish line.

I was just happy that I finished after all and I didn't start a major coughing fit en route, though my deepest apologies go to my fellow runners who had to witness my snot rockets, both their frequency and the sheer volume of snot expelled. 

The winner finished in 31 minutes.  Everyone from Who's Up finished well ahead of me as well.  Willa finished in 47:17.

There was a beer garden at home plate pouring Yards Brawler and Pale Ale, and I got myself a Brawler and hung out for a bit with Willa and Erik.

I love this race and hope to continue to do it for years to come.  I was feeling lousy both from being sick and from the prospect of getting out of bed so early on a Sunday morning, but it's true that you never regret a run once it's over.

It was definitely a novelty to stop so often during a race to take pictures and not worry about a time or pushing myself hard at all.  I can see why people like to do it, but for me, the true appeal of signing up for and running a race will always be pushing myself as hard as I can.  I really missed that this time around.

My next race will be later this month - the Haddon Township Turkey Trot, which I do every year.  After that, who knows?  Hopefully 2018 will bring a renewed vigor to my running.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Summer 2017 Update

There were so many things I had planned to blog about in their own separate entries over the past few months that I just never got around to, so let's put up a few pictures and move on. Here are a few life updates in chronological order:

In May I had my year-end evaluation with my principal.  This is based on Student Growth Objectives (a series of graded assessments given to two of my six classes), a Reflective Practice Portfolio (digital documents uploaded to seven different categories with accompanying written reflections) and two formal in-class observations.  This year I scored a 3.65 out of 4, my highest score yet, placing me firmly in the highly effective range.  I was pretty proud of this given all of the problems I've faced in my personal life this year.

At the end of May it was my turn to bring the beer for Who's Up?, and I once again went with the South Jersey beer theme like I did two years ago.  It's amazing how many new breweries have opened in that short time.  Pictured above:

  • Lower Forge from Medford
  • Forgotten Boardwalk from Cherry Hill
  • Devils Creek from Collingswood
  • Eclipse from Merchantville
  • Double Nickel from Pennsauken
  • Tonewood from Oaklyn
The variety and quality went over very well with the beer nerds I run with.  South Jersey really has an amazing variety of breweries and it truly is an incredible time to be a beer enthusiast.

Global Running Day, as always, was on the first Wednesday of June, and as always, Dave Welsh of the Haddonfield Running Company outdid himself.  He put on a mini expo right on the sidewalk outside of his store, and raffled off 12 pairs of running shoes (runners were eligible for the pair they wore to the run).  Because I wore my Nikes to the run, I put a ticket in the Nike box and won myself a free pair.  I can't tell you how many times I've entered a raffle for a free pair of shoes over the years, and this is the first time I've ever won.  I was ecstatic.

Just a few days after school ended, I left for Germany with 14 students and one other chaperone.  As usual, we spent ten days in both Berlin and Munich, staying in hostels while visiting museums, churches, parks and plenty of beer gardens and beer halls.  Unlike many high school language teachers that plan trips abroad, I don't travel with a tour company, but instead plan the entire thing myself.  Planning the trip this year was like having a part time job, and the trip itself was no less exhausting.  But I'm proud to say we hit every single thing on the itinerary I built with no major snafus of any kind.  I'm pretty sure my kids had a blast while learning a little about German history, culture and language along the way, and for that I would do the trip again in a heartbeat.

While in Berlin, I got to meet up with Christina, an old high school friend whom I haven't seen in ten years.  She now lives in Berlin with her husband and dachshund, and we spent a night at a beer garden catching up.  Also my t-shirt says "it's lit" which was a present that day from my students, because teenagers are hilarious.

While in Munich I got to meet Henrik, who first started reading and commenting on this blog many years ago.  We spent a few hours drinking beer in downtown Munich while talking in German about running, politics, and life in general.  It's the first time I've ever met a blog reader in person, and he was an absolute pleasure to spend time with.  Henrik, if you're ever in Philly, let me know!

Just one day after returning from Germany, I joined some friends for the annual July beer mile.  Because this year's beer mile fell on Canada Day, I decided to go with Molson Canadian beer.  Last year I drank luke warm Budweiser because I had read it was easier to chug, which ended up being a terrible decision because it was so disgusting and was so hard to stomach, and I ended up finishing DFL in well over twenty minutes.  Ice cold Canadian beer was the perfect choice this year, and I finished just 22 seconds off my PR in 11:07.

Last week I took advantage of free passes for teachers and weekdays off in the summer and took my son to the Adventure Aquarium in Camden.  We had the place almost to ourselves for the first twenty minutes until the day camps took over, and it resulted in one of my new favorite pictures of Neale, trying to give a two ton hippopotamus a kiss on the nose.

Erik told me that the website Athlinks now lists your friends on the site as your "rivals," and lists any races together as wins and losses.  The one "loss" I have against him is the 2007 Distance Run which I ran in 1:49.

And there you have some updates from the last few months.  I hope to write more regularly in the future, but who knows if that will happen.  Until the next time, run hard, friends.

Friday, May 12, 2017

2017 Broad Street Run Race Report

I last ran the Broad Street Run back in 2007.  It was insanely crowded the entire ten miles and I found it nearly impossible to get a decent pace going.  I swore off the race and usually referred to it as a "shit show" every May when the race rolled around again.

Over the last few years, though, I'd been considering giving it another shot, and I finally pulled the trigger this year.  And I'm so glad I did.  It was an amazing experience.

Let's go back to the beginning.

I woke up at 5am on Sunday, and by 5:30 I was on the road.  Drove into South Philly and parked at the stadiums in-between the Wells Fargo Center and Citizens Bank Ballpark. Walked to the nearby subway and was on the train by 6.  It was packed with runners - standing room only.  15 or 20 minutes later we arrived in North Philly.

I checked my bag at gear check and then had a good hour and a half until go time.  I walked around, used the porta potties which still had no lines at this point, ran into Emi and hung out with her for a bit, sat around for a bit people watching, found the secret elite enclave and did a warm up run with them, then got into my corral.

For the uninformed, the Broad Street Run, named for its course down Broad Street in Philadelphia, is now in its 38th year.  With 40,000 participants, it is the largest 10 mile race in the United States, and the 6th largest of any race distance.  When I ran it in 2007, there were only about 17,000 runners, and even then it was obscenely crowded at the start.  Races back then had yet to figure out the wave/corral system, so race starts were always a free-for-all. People placed themselves wherever they wanted and were all sent off at the same time.

Like most big races, Broad Street now seeds runners based on expected finish time (though they have volunteers checking bibs, it is still very easy to sneak into any corral you want), and they send runners off in waves, waiting a few minutes in between each one.  Because of these new measures, the course was a lot roomier this time and never felt crowded.

Having just run Boston three weeks earlier, it felt nice to know I only had ten miles ahead of me as opposed to an entire marathon.  I had no plans to go hard, but you know me.  Once I was out there, I just wanted to run as hard as I could.  I stopped around mile 3 to use a porta potty, which cost me about 30 seconds.  But I was still surprised that I ended up running negative splits.  At the 3 mile mark, my average pace was 7:01.  At the 5 mile mark my average pace fell to 6:55, at the 7 mile mark it fell to 6:52, and I finished the race in 1:07:46 for an average pace of 6:46, good for 869th place.

The course had a lot of great spectating sections, and the aid stations were perfectly placed and expertly manned.  I remember thinking in the last few miles how much room I had, and how uncomfortable I was due to how hard I was running.  My previous 10 mile PR was 1:09 from last fall, but I wasn't wearing a watch this time and wasn't sure what the difference between my gun time and chip time was.  The upshot is that I wasn't sure if I was headed for a PR or not, but I decided to keep my foot on the gas anyway, so to speak, and obviously it ended up paying off.

After finishing, I caught up with a few friends from Who's Up, including Emi, but once again failed to get a picture with her as we immediately lost her after getting our gear from the buses.  Again, I swear she exists.  So here's me with Kim:

After enjoying the finish line festival for about 30 minutes, I made the short walk back to my car, then the short drive back to NJ.

I already have a feeling that I'll be back next year for more.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Joseph Fund 5k: Volunteering

I'm almost ashamed to say that in all of my years of racing, I've never once volunteered at a race.  I've spectated and cheered on runners, both strangers and friends, but I've never signed up to officially volunteer.

So when a fellow runner from Who's Up? e-mailed the group about an upcoming race he was putting on at the Cooper River, I jumped at the chance.   He and Dave Welsh, owner of the Haddonfield Running Company, had spent the last few months working with a group of students at a middle school in Camden to train for a 5k.  Once or twice a week they came to the school to do running drills with the students and coach them through the process of training for a specific race.  The idea was to promote a healthy lifestyle and community through running and goal setting.  Race day (Sunday April 23rd) was to be a celebration of their training and all the hard work they put in.

A lot of people from Who's Up? came out to run the race alongside the students from Camden, but because race day was only 6 days after Boston, I decided to volunteer instead of running.  I also dragged my son, Neale, along with me.

Long story short, I wasn't able to drive to the Cooper River, so I had to walk nearly three miles with a thirty pound toddler in tow at 6:30 in the morning to make it there in time.  When we got there, I was put on T-shirt duty.  I set out race shirts on the table, then organized the large box of tech shirts for the Camden students.  Race shirts were not included with registration for this race, so I then handled donations from people who wanted one.

For the rest of the time I stood behind the table directing people to the starting line or answering any questions I could.  After the race I helped fill water for finishers.  Neale helped hand out T-shirts and tried to fill cups with water, but was mostly interested in running around and petting the many dogs that showed up.

It was an amazing day for a race, and between the students, participants in the 5k and participants in the 1 mile fun run, there were about 200 runners out there.  There was a definite sense of pomp and circumstance for the students to celebrate their hard work.

It was great to see this inaugural event go so well, and I hope it becomes a fixture in both Camden and our own running community.

Monday, May 1, 2017

The meaning of Boston

At the risk of overdoing it on the Boston posts, I wanted to write just one last post to sum up my thoughts on race weekend.

A quick recap: I've qualified for Boston three times.  I qualified and registered for the 2012 race but didn't get to go because the new registration rules shut me out.  I finally got to run Boston for the first time in 2015.  The 2017 Boston Marathon was my second, and as I've said many times, my last for a very long time.  I'm happy to go out on such a high note.

This was easily one of the best weekends of my life, and after the shitstorm of the last few months, it couldn't have come at a better time.  Boston came at a time when I needed it most to remind me that yes, life can be good.  That there are things in life worth working towards. That there are things in life worth celebrating.  To put it mildly, I'm so glad I did not drop out of Boston like I considered over the winter.

I went to Boston completely by myself.  I could have spent all weekend feeling sorry for myself that not a single friend or family member was there to support me (my dad had a pacemaker put in 6 days before the race, so we'll give him a pass), but instead I went in with a positive attitude and tried to make the most of it.  I ended up meeting and talking to so many different runners and had the time of my life.  The fact that the race itself was hot and at times miserable and I ran my slowest time in years is immaterial.  The weekend as a whole was just that good.  I used to not understand the kind of person who returns year after year to Disneyworld or Disneyland.  But I get it now.  The Boston Marathon race weekend is magical to runners in the same way that Disney is to others.  One easily feels sucked in and a part of something larger than himself, and that sense of belonging is a powerful emotion.  If anyone thinks sports can't transcend mere athletics into something more beautiful, I dare them to experience the Boston Marathon and continue to believe this.

Boston is one of the most hyped races sporting events events on the planet, but I believe it truly lives up to it.  There is an excitement in the air, a sense of pride from the locals, a feeling of community in a city of millions when everyone has the same thing on the mind.  It is incredible, and incredibly hard to describe in words.

I read somewhere about the process of becoming a volunteer to hand out water on the course.  Volunteers have to attend meetings and watch tutorial videos on the proper way to hold the cups.  Each table has its own team leader that coordinates with higher ups in the race.  They put in a full day's work between setting up, distributing water, and cleaning up. And it is an honor to do so.  Nothing less than perfection is acceptable when it comes to Boston.

I've often thought about which is better: the journey to Boston (a.k.a. the training cycle that allowed me to qualify at Philly in 2015), or Boston itself?  But I realize now it's like comparing apples and oranges.  Both experiences were incredible in their own way.

As incredible as this weekend was, I know that happiness is best when shared.  While I am content to go out on top and leave Boston behind for awhile, one of my greatest goals in life is to someday run this race with my son, Neale.  This depends greatly on his own interest in the sport of running, not to mention ability, but I can think of nothing greater than to share the finish line with him someday.

For now, I'll leave you with this: if you are just starting out in running, and you're wondering if Boston might be a worthwhile goal, I will shout at you a resounding "yes."  If you are wondering if you can make it, if you are wondering if you are physically capable, if you have the heart and the resolve; yes, you do.  Keep at it.  There are so many people who believe in you.  And I can guarantee you: it is worth it.

I'll close by quoting myself from my 2015 race recap:

"Now, I have had the privilege of experiencing many great things in my life, and I can honestly say those four blocks on Boylston rank among the best of my life's memories.  When I grow old and my muscles weaken and my joints creak, and my days of marathoning have long since ended, I will still hearken back to the deafening roar of Boylston Street and remember what it was like to touch greatness."

Friday, April 28, 2017

Boston Marathon Day 5: Tuesday

I woke up around 7am and went for one last brief run along the Charles.  As luck would have it, gone was the previous day's heat, replaced by perfect marathon weather.  It was a perfect chilly spring morning.

I returned to the Airbnb, showered, then went for a walk along Newbury Street where I had breakfast at a small sandwich place that sold breakfast sandwiches.  Then back to my Airbnb to pack up my things, then back out onto the streets of Boston.  There were still runners everywhere, most wearing this year's blue Adidas jacket and walking funny.  I once again did not buy the official jacket, but did my share of limping and grimacing while walking around.

While walking down Dartmouth Street, I saw none other than Galen Rupp, the previous day's second place finisher, and Alberto Salazar, his coach and former Boston and NYC Marathon champ, walk right past me.  I was so gobsmacked at seeing them walk by me so causally, and perhaps still thinking about my last chance encounter with a celebrity runner, that I didn't say anything.  No botched selfies this time.  Instead I just smiled at my good fortune and continued down the street.

I was supposed to hitch a ride with Emi from Who's Up? (the one who went down at mile 25 in the marathon from dehydration) back to New Jersey.  She and her sister and her sister's boyfriend wanted to walk around and check out some of Boston since they only arrived Sunday afternoon, but I had work to do, so I set up shop at the library on Boylston Street to work for a few hours.  At least I had a nice view of Boylston and the finish line to keep me company.

At about 3 o'clock, I went back out onto the street, took one last selfie by the finish line, then walked a few blocks to meet Emi.

I failed to get a picture of myself with Larry, and the same goes for Emi.  I swear I really do have running friends.

We barreled through New England to get home, stopping only once for gas and restrooms and miraculously avoiding any traffic around New York City.  I arrived home a little after 9pm and went straight to sleep, thus ending one of the greatest weekends of my entire life.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Boston Marathon Day 4: Monday Post Race

Click here to catch up on the rest of my time in Boston:

Day 1: Friday
Day 2: Saturday
Day 3: Sunday
Day 4: Race Report

I got back to my Airbnb sometime around 2:30 to see my phone had blown up with messages from friends, family and students, which was nice.  I took some time to take a selfie and post to social media, respond to a few messages, then I finally took a shower and lazed about more.  I had planned to take a nap before heading out for the night, but I was too restless.

I also got a few messages from people back home concerned about a woman from my running group.  She was in the white corral and had passed me at mile 19 looking fantastic, but then never registered a finishing time.  I had just gotten dressed and was on my way out the door to check for her at the med tents when I got another text saying she had been found. She had indeed gone down just before the finish and ended up in a med tent for nearly two hours.  It was just that kind of day.

Around 4:45 I left to meet up with Larry, also from my running group.  Larry had been scheduled to stay at the Ritz Carlton but they overbooked their rooms and ended up putting him up in another hotel, but as a result they were incredibly apologetic all weekend, comping his dinner that night and his hotel room for next year's marathon.

We first hung out for an hour in the Ritz's penthouse clubhouse drinking champagne and eating the many hors d'oeuvres set out.  The Ritz gave every guest a framed congratulatory note with blue and yellow balloons attached.

In my amazement to be experiencing how the other half lives for a night, I never actually got a picture of myself with Larry.  Or any of the food.  Or the three people we spent an hour talking to.  I'm really a bad blogger.

At six o'clock Larry and I had to head downstairs for dinner at the hotel's restaurant where Larry was meeting clients.  He was able to expense the meal on account of this, which became moot when the Ritz comped the whole meal due to bungling his room.  They also sent out the head chef to shake our hands and be one more person to apologize to Larry. The life of a high roller, eh?

And so I found myself in a fancy hotel restaurant drinking beer and eating a $30 cheeseburger (the best one I've ever eaten, for the record, though any post marathon burger is bound to be amazing), and Larry chiding me for not ordering the $50 steak, talking financial mumbo jumbo with strangers, nodding sagely at words like "fiduciary" and finally chiming in when talk veered towards running again.  At the end of the meal Larry was presented with a specially prepared cake in honor of his 100th marathon and his upcoming birthday.

I swear Larry really does exist and this isn't some elaborate ruse.

Around 8 o'clock, after dinner and Larry's clients had left, and after drinking beer and champagne for three hours, I figured it was a good time to head back to my Airbnb and finally get some sleep.  So I said good night to Larry and headed out.

On my way back, though, I passed the Cheers bar.  The last time I had been inside was when I was six years old on a trip to Boston with my family.  I figured I should at least go inside and take a look.  Maybe get a picture.

You know where this is heading.

Once inside, I thought, "well I'm here, may as well order a beer."  So I got another Sam Adams 26.2 and settled in near the bar.

Not two minutes into my beer, though, when in comes Melissa and her mother, two of the three people Larry and I had hung out with in the penthouse at the Ritz a few hours earlier. We were super excited to see each other.

Welp... three hours later I was still there, laughing and sharing beers and stories with random runners as they came and went, including a guy who I'm pretty sure went by Ninja Tom.  I shared my blog address with Melissa, so if you're reading this, great to meet you and congrats on your BQ for next year!

Melissa, ?, Me, Ninja Tom

I have no idea who the guy in the above picture is, but he really wanted a picture with me.

Around midnight my new crew was still going strong and offered to buy my next round, but I finally decided to call it quits and get some sleep.  Lots of hugs and back slaps ensued, and I left the bar.

Happier than I'd been in a long, long time, I stumbled home on a picture perfect Boston evening.

Monday, April 24, 2017

2017 Boston Marathon: Race Report

Quick stats:

14th marathon
2nd Boston
Qualifying time: 3:01:06 (current PR)
Half split:1:47:54
Final time: 3:50:55

And here's the long version:

I woke up at about 5am and showered (which I normally do before a half or full marathon so I can wake up and loosen up a little).  Warm weather was predicted for the race, so I decided to go with my Who's Up? singlet.

I had already set out all of my clothes, as well as my bag for athletes' village, so it didn't take me long to get ready.  Around 5:40am I left the apartment and walked the few blocks to Boston Common to get on the bus.  I was in wave 1 corral 5, and the bus loading time for wave 1 was from 6 - 6:40.  I wanted to get there right at 6 to avoid waiting in line.

When I arrived at the Common, there were already hundreds of runners streaming in from every direction.  There was a security checkpoint to check my bag and my bib, and no wait at all to get into one of the dozens of yellow school buses.  The ride took about 45 minutes out to Hopkinton.

What a difference two years make.  Two years ago it was a miserable, cold, wet New England spring morning.  Thousands of runners were trying to avoid the rain and wet grass by piling under the two large circus tents they had set up.  I didn't bring enough throwaway clothes and spent two hours shivering sitting on a plastic bag.

This year the weather was gorgeous (already about 60 degrees at 7am and sunny), so there was plenty of room to spread out in the village.  The BAA lays out a lot of amenities, including Gatorade, bagels, bananas, coffee and tea, apples, and Clif energy blocks.  I made myself a tea and wandered around for a bit to take it all in.  I saw a line forming  to get pictures in front of the "It all starts here" sign, which I missed last time, so I jumped in line for that before it got too crazy.

I talked to a lot of runners, one of which, from Texas, was glad to hear I shared his goal of simply finishing, rather than coming anywhere close to my qualifying time.  I also talked to a woman while in line for the porta potties who was from Vancouver and qualified in her first ever marathon.  I was jealous.

I went to the medical tent where they had sunblock, and I slathered it all over me.  At about 9:15, the announcer started calling those in wave one to head out to the starting line, which was almost a mile away.  The whole thing was incredibly organized, with volunteers at every step of the way to make sure we were all where we needed to be.  On the way out to the starting line, people were outside of their houses already cheering us on and offering people last minute things such as vaseline on sticks and more sunblock.

I visited the porta potty one last time, then headed to my corral just in time for a fighter jet flyover and the national anthem.

Here I was in a corral with people who had run a qualifying marathon back in 2015 or 2016 somewhere in the vicinity of 3 hours.  I wondered which of them were still in 3 hour shape and which, like me, were just here for the spectacle.  As soon as the gun went off I moved over to the right side of the course to hopefully stay out of people's way.

It was a little disheartening to see how many people were passing me in the first few miles of the race, but I knew that my less than stellar training cycle, along with the expected temperatures in the 70's, necessitated a slower pace.  I ran my first mile in 8:27, which I considered a sustainable pace for the full marathon.  Spoiler alert: it wasn't.

The first half of the race, particularly the first 10k, was absolutely brilliant.  I high fived as many kids as possible.  I jumped and air fived a kid sitting on his dad's shoulders ("I'd like to see you do that on Boylston," said a passing runner).  I sang along to the music.  I smiled from ear to ear and fist pumped the air.  I've rarely been happier in my life than I was right there on the streets of Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick and Wellesley.

I almost collided with a teenage girl trying to cross the street around the 10k mark, and I heard a volunteer chewing her out behind me as I ran on.

At mile 12 we headed into the Wellesley College Scream Tunnel.  I had seen something on Twitter a few weeks ago soliciting ideas for signs.  All you had to do was fill out a Google form and the girls of Wellesley would make it for you.  I asked them to make a sign for me in German, figuring my students might get a kick out of it, and they e-mailed me a picture of it a few days later.  I looked for the specific sign as I passed, but didn't see it.  Oh, and for those keeping score at home, I ended up kissing 4 women this year.

The halfway point is just past the Scream Tunnel on the main street of Wellesley, and was probably my favorite part of the whole race.  I wanted to stop to hug and kiss every last spectator and scream "ISN'T THIS FUCKING INCREDIBLE!?!?!"  I was absolutely as high as a kite and never ever wanted to let go of that feeling.

But what comes up must come down.  It was a warm day (now in the seventies).  Not the warmest in Boston history, but up there.  There was no cloud cover and only the occasional breeze from behind.  I was taking water and Gatorade at every single aid station but still could not slake my thirst.  I stopped sweating.  I had trouble stomaching my last Gu, fearing it might come right back up.  The upshot is that in the second half, the race became pure drudgery.

I walked up the first Newton Hill.  Jogged the second.  Walked the third.  I started to wonder if I might run slower than four hours for the first time in ten years.    At mile 20, my quads seized up in debilitating cramps.  I could barely walk, let alone run another 6.2 miles.  A National Guard member came over to check on me and he suggested using my elbows to dig into my quads, which I did.  I had to stop and do this every ten minutes or so for the rest of the race.

People had been passing me for the entire race, but just past the halfway point was when the white corral caught up with me.  For reference, I had started in the first corral (red), and the white corral started a half hour later.

While running, a lot of spectators misread my singlet.  "YEAH! WHAT'S UP MAN?!"  I just chuckled and kept running.  I walked a lot down Beacon Street and spectators were able to get a better look due to my slower pace.  "WHO'S UP?  YOU'RE UP MAN!!!!!!!!"  I appreciated their exuberance, even if I wanted them to stop yelling at me and leave me alone in my misery.

Any time I tell myself before a race that I only care about finishing, I always end up setting some sort of loose time goal for myself anyway.  I probably would have been disappointed to finish in slower than four hours, so I spent the last few miles of the race doing late race mental math and hoping I could make it.  I didn't want to have to hustle down Boylston like last time.  I really wanted to be able to take in those last few blocks.

With less than a mile to go, while going under the Bowker Overpass, one of the few places on the course with no spectators, a man running next to me yelled "I FUCKING LOVE EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU!!"  To say this was an emotional moment would be an understatement.

Right on Hereford.

Left on Boylston.

And there opened up in front of me one of the grandest moments in sports.  Four blocks of screaming, joyful humanity, pushing the runners around me towards our nirvana.  I tried to turn around and run backwards for a step to take it all in, but the change in gait sent me down with a calf cramp like I had been shot.  A police officer came over on a bike to check on me.  I grimaced, dug my elbows into all areas of my legs, then hobbled on.

I crossed the finish line in a daze, and slowly moved my way forward to collect my medal and other things.  Not sure why they were giving out mylar blankets, but I took one anyway.  A bottle of water.  A banana.  A bag of food.  Some sort of chocolate protein drink.  I had to stop to sit on the curb a few times to collect myself.  Volunteers kept asking me if I was ok but I really wasn't sure.  After twenty minutes in the finishers' area, I finally felt ok to leave.  Because my Airbnb was so close to the finish line, I hadn't checked a gear bag, so I just walked back to my place to shower and relax for a little bit.

And so ends my 2nd Boston, my 14th marathon, and one tough race.  But we're not done here yet, folks.  Stay tuned for my next post when I get into the post race celebration.  Spoiler alert: there was a fair bit of alcohol involved.
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