Okay, here we go…
There was no starting gun, because that’s starting to seem a bit weird, after the moment of silence. Instead, somebody blew a horn.
I last ate two hours ago at a Providence Dunks. Bagel. Whole grain. No spread. Been guzzling electrolytes like a- do fish drink electrolytes? It is way too soon for these thoughts.
Here comes mile 1. Aaaagh! 7:08! Nonononononono dial it back! Rein it in. Discipline. Discipline. In your Liam Neeson voice, “Discipline.”
I think the runners next to me heard that. I don’t usually have to do that until mile 6. Oh, who cares, they have their own little tics too.
This is NOT a good start. So, do fish drink electrolytes? I looked this up last week when I wrote this, so- I wonder if I’ll be thinking exactly this at mile 2. Wow, we’re getting meta…
Mile 2. 7:24. That’s still too fast, bro.
So, we were getting meta… who’s we, kemo sabe? It’s just me out here, right? Are we doing that Gollum/Smeagol thing again? I mean I’m the one who trained for this, since December. I’m the one who…
Well, there’s the family. There’s my wife, who put up with me getting up at 4AM nearly every day.
Hey, mile 3. 7:28. Okay, much better. I hope we didn’t kill it in that first mile.
I mean, she put up with a lot. Sleeping in meant 6AM. It was her who did all the work once I was gone for a three-hour run. She got the kids up, dressed, ready to go wherever, and here I come staggering in, needing food.
Serious food. And a shower.
Speaking of food, water stop. Water? Gatorade? Both? Yep. Do fish drink electrolytes?
Mile 4. 7:22. Marathon Pace, it’s called. The pace I need to keep to get to that all-important 3:13. DO NOT get too far above this from now on, and DO NOT go below 7.
Hey, a porta-john. Do we need it? Nope. Thank god. Who’s this we again?
Mile 5. 7:19. Good. Good. Palpatine voice now, “Good.” Okay, now stop that.
So it turns out those treatment tablets for fish tanks have electrolytes, and seawater is stupid with them. They give the fish their slimy coat and the power to keep swimming.
Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Thanks, Dory.
Mile 6. 7:14. The next mile is a little tough. That’s code for “uphill”.
Good. Love hills. Uphills. Downhills. It’s an excuse to rest on the uphill and cook on the down. BTW, here comes the hill.
But don’t cook it. It cooks you. One mile uphill. About 100 feet of vert. Steepest in the first half. Just take it easy. Easy.
Top of the hill, I think. You’re always winded at the top. That’s okay.
Mile 7. 7:23. That’s the hill talking. But we’re headed down now. Don’t push it too hard.
But it feels so GOOD. Don’t cook it. Geese flying overhead. North or south? Looks like west-northwest, or northwest-by-west. Flapping. Just keep flapping.
Mile 8. 7:12. You cooked it. Okay, that’s cruising speed. Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has turned off the seat belt signs, feel free to walk around. It’s a freakin’ plane. What are you looking around at anyway?
Geese. They fly for hundreds of miles at a time, wings never tiring. That’s you, pal. Just keep spinning those legs. The Flintstonian leg-blur. The roadrunner. Meep meep.
Mile 9. 7:14. Okay, we’re cruisin’. Really, giving people a high-five or a smile seems so easy, but it takes a little too much energy we’ll need later.
Just keep swimming. That is, until mile 24. Like we’ll even be considering that then. Just keep swimming. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
BTW, mile 24 actually is a bridge.
Mile 10. 7:18. Not bad. Just keep it up. Dig in, forget you’re running. No! Don’t forget you’re running. That’s how you screw it up.
Stick with this pack. I like them. We’ve seen this guy in the green tank before, was he in New Hampshire last year?
Okay, this pack is a little fast for me. That’s what I want them to be, too fast. Let them go. Back off. Not too much. Hey, need a gel? No. Take it anyway. No, don’t. No, go ahead.
Mile 11. 7:14. What is it about these flat sections that look like they’re uphill both ways? Look back and check. No, don’t. Trust me, it probably looks like it’s uphill.
Cruising speed. Folks, if you look to your left, you’ll see houses and cars parked in the yard. People out in front of their houses. Kids. Kids with cowbells.
I love seeing kids out here. Let’s give ’em a thumbs-up. They love that.
Mile 12. 7:09. Too fast. We’re into the middle miles now. Hardhat time. This is when you just punch in and do it. Forget the world. Forget your name. Just run. It still feels good. Just another means of transportation. Head down.
Mile 13. 7:09. Too fast. Didn’t I already say that? So there are some more kids. Wave. Don’t say anything. You need the air. Let’s take another gel. God I hate this flavor. Why did I buy it again?
There’s the halfway. It matters what the time is at the half. I have to do math now. Let’s see, 1:35:16. That’s half of 3:10: something. Math is hard. Don’t try to do it. Too much energy wasted.
Mile 14. 7:12. How long can I keep up this pace? It’s time for serious inspiration. 7 miles. No, 6 miles to mile 20. This is the mental part right here. Why mile 20?
Mile 20 is the cutoff point. That’s where we’ll know. It’s either 2:30 and out of the running, or 2:25 and still in the mix. What’s our plus/minus by the way?
Plus/minus? That means people we pass after the halfway minus people who passed us.
Mile 15. 7:29. Uh oh. Bullshit. You have this. Its flat. Mostly flat. Boring? No, it’s a rail trail. You know rail trails. They’re pretty. Trees and stuff. You got this. You worked for this.
Mile 16. 7:03. Overdid it? I dunno. You worked harder than ever. Did intervals. Negative splits. Can you negative split today? Who the hell knows. You got to 60 miles per week, a few times. You crushed your own PRs in training runs.
Mile 17. 7:11. Just keep thinking about the work. Don’t waste it. You have this. You own it. Own it. Just keep running. Just keep running.
They’re making another Nemo flick, by the way. I think. About Dory. Why not Crush? “The EAC. You’re ridin’ it, dude! Check it out!”
Mile 18. 7:13. I like these numbers. Think about how much training you did for this. Think about those bombs in Boston that day. That day when you might have brought the kids downtown to see the race. Right at the finish line.
Instead, you took them to a playground in Wellesley, right next to mile 15.5 on the Boston course. 25k. The big downhill into Lower Falls. You watched the leaders crush asphalt. You watched the fast guys in the first wave. All of them amazing athletes.
Mile 19. 7:15. I think our plus/minus is positive. Hrm. Hrmmm.
Those faster runners in Wellesley all crossed the finish line an hour before the bombs. Then you saw the rest of the crowd run by. The jugglers, the guys in Snoopy costumes. Women in wedding gowns. Still running faster than me. They also crossed before the bombs went off.
Mile 20. 7:19. The clock reads 2:25:16. Huh? For real? Goal time. I have this?
The bombs. I took the kids out to get ice cream right around two o’clock, then headed to Lower Falls. I was probably standing at mile 16 urging runners on as the explosions rocked the city ten miles away.
I had no idea. I took the kids back to the playground and got a call from my wife. She was terrified.
Mile 21. 7:08. The hill again. Just keep…
“Where are you?” She yelled. “Where are the kids? Where did you park?” I had no idea what she was talking about.
“There was an explosion downtown. They said right at the finish line.” She was watching TV, and the news seemed to offer practically no detail. I figured it was a transformer or something. They need a lot of electrical power down there. No big deal.
Mile 22. 7:26. As she kept watching, she sounded more scared. I explained that we were in Wellesley. Ten miles away. Under a bright blue sky surrounded by budding trees and laughing kids. Then the news obviously became more clear. “Just come home,” she said.
Mile 23. 7:12. So I got the kids into the car and headed for the highway. For the first time in several years, I turned on news radio. I mean, news and talk radio were always useful in a crisis, but I did everything I could to avoid feeling like there was one.
Now there was, and it was inescapable. Somebody had attacked the crowd at the Boston Marathon, a major athletic event I’d only in the last few years come to understand. Now I had trained for a chance to run it.
Mile 24. 7:03. Let’s do this. Let’s drop under 7. That’s why I want this. I mean, I always wanted to qualify. I just never thought I could, but this year it began to feel possible. I want to go from dream to belief, and from belief to knowledge. I worked up to a VDOT of 51. From 40-something, and I feel like it can go even higher.
After the bombings, I wanted it even more. Every runner does. New runners suddenly decided they wanted to be part of it. Boston isn’t just a road race.
Mile 25. 6:58. Only one more. Yeah, that’s what the crowds are yelling at us. We have this. There’s that we again. Who’s we?
It’s everyone. It’s my family, my kids, the runners I see a quarter-mile ahead. The runners I can’t turn around to look at behind me, but I hear their footsteps. We’re all in the same race. We’re all crossing the line for many reasons. For ourselves, for our charities, for the people who need us, for those who were hurt, and those who were killed. That’s why we stood in silence some three hours ago. That’s why we trained. That’s why we lined up. We don’t quit. We just keep running.
Mile 26. 6:49. Only in a dream. Only in a dream. Sprint, dude. Kick it. Can you? Can you torch this 385 yards?
Let’s find out.