Spectating the 2017 Boston Marathon

boston marathon 2017

If you follow my blog, you'll know that even though I registered for Boston this year, I decided not to run it. In terms of specificity, you can't train to properly focus on racing both a marathon and 5-10Ks at the same time. That would be like studying French to pass a Spanish exam. My heart beats faster for the shorter, faster races (pun sorta intended), so that's what I decided to concentrate on this spring. So far, my season is showing that I made the right decision.

Since Sloan, some of my friends, and several teammates were running, I decided to go to Boston to support them. I wondered how I would feel when I got to Boston. I expected to feel some minor pangs of regret about making the wrong decision. But happily once I arrived, I felt absolutely no desire to have run the race this year. I had already run it last year and had a great time. I was stoked to be on the other side of the running fence for a change – the spectator side!

Frank Gehry building on the MIT campus, across the river in Cambridge.

Frank Gehry building on the MIT campus, across the river in Cambridge.

We stayed at an Air B&B in Cambridge. I stayed in Cambridge when I ran last year and I think it's a good choice for marathoners. It's just a few T stops away from the expo, the buses to Hopkinton, etc on the green or red line. Yet it's far away from the craziness and the expense of central Boston. Cambridge is home to both Harvard and MIT so there are plenty of amenities in terms of restaurants, running paths, coffee shops, etc. Parts of Cambridge exude old New England charm, with crooked clapboard houses and narrow streets, while vast sections are corporate and sterile, with wide empty sidewalks and many tall buildings under construction.

Morning run-rise on the Charles River.

Morning run-rise on the Charles River.

I did a long run with 4 tempo miles on Sunday, and it was steaming hot at 6am. I knew the marathoners would suffer. And I must say I was glad not to be running 26.2.

I did a long run with 4 tempo miles on Sunday, and it was steaming hot at 6am. I knew the marathoners would suffer. And I must say I was glad not to be running 26.2.

I went for a long run along the Charles River on Sunday: 14 miles with 4 middle miles at tempo. I left the apartment at 6am without looking at the weather forecast. The previous day was chilly so I went out in a thin, long-sleeved shirt and capris. Two miles in I was sweating up a storm, and I knew the runners would be in trouble. I took off my shirt and ran in my running bra for the last half of the run.  

Later that day, we went to the expo at the convention center. It was amazing, as always – the mother of all race expos. I saw all sorts of cool clothing and swag. I really loved the "Boston Runnah" shirt, an homage to the famous Boston accent. Somehow, I controlled myself and only grabbed some Balega socks at a very good price, 4 for $32. Funny how a small detail like new socks can make a runner happy. Balega is my favorite sock brand, and I'm loving the updated socks – stylish yet light. 

Race day, I went with Sloan to catch the Hopkinton buses at Boston Common. It was already quite warm and very windy with 18 MPH gusts. I wandered back to the subway through a sea of nervous and excited runners; they did not yet know what the day held in store. I went back to Cambridge and did a sweaty 4-mile shakeout run to the Harvard campus. I knew the marathoners would have a rough day.

Right on Hereford, left on Boylston

Right on Hereford, left on Boylston

Watching a marathon as big as Boston is an interesting experience. Security was extra tight, appropriately so. I told Sloan and my friend Shanae I would be in front of the Trader Joe's on Boylston Street cheering for them. People were packed tightly, about 10-deep, in all directions and many streets were barricaded. Luckily, I arrived early. I was determined to get to the Trader Joe's side of the street and spent literally 90 minutes trying to go one way, and then trudging back through the crowds the other way in an attempt to cross the street, large sign for Sloan in tow (It said "No Sloan down now." Yuk-yuk.).  Even with policemen's directions, I was not able to find a single place where I could cross the street, so I just decided to stand directly across from it and hoped they would see me.

My viewing spot was at around mile 25.8 – a great place to watch because it was near the finish; you could experience the true spirit of the marathon firsthand. Some runners were stumbling, some were walking and others were zippy, fortified by a runners' high. Somehow I missed Shanae. I saw Sloan and even got the people around me to yell his name along with me, but he didn't hear us. I know when you are running a marathon, especially when you are that close to the finish, it's pretty hard to hear anything. You are just so focused on that finish line.

Sloan had run the marathon the year of the bombings and saw the entire situation unfold from his hotel room, right off Copley Square. He said he still felt emotional as he ran down Boylston. There were wreaths to commemorate those who had died, as well as rows of daffodils in blue pots – a fitting symbol of rebirth. So sad. But life affirming that the race still goes on.

I had been tracking about 10 runner friends through the Boston Marathon app. I could almost feel their journeys. The heat was oppressive, especially at the start, and it showed in most of the runners' splits. Most had a quick 5-10K, and then their paces just plummeted at each split while the temperature rose. One amazing exception was my teammate, Zandra, who ran a blazing fast 3:11, a good time for any day but exceptional in this heat. She started off super conservatively and ran a very smart race.

My view, spectating, right on Boylston Street not far from the finish. 

My view, spectating, right on Boylston Street not far from the finish. 

I met Sloan at the family meeting area, and he looked amazingly fresh for having just run a marathon in the heat. But then again, he runs 6 marathons a year, so it's like just another long run to him. He did a great job and ran smart in the oppressive conditions. 

I was/am in the midst of my 21-Day Badass Adventure Cleanse while in Boston, and it was easy to find healthy vegan alkaline food over the weekend. Some of my favorite dishes from the trip included Zesty Green Juice (apple, cucumber, lime and mint) at Wagamama (where Sloan and I had dinner with friends), daily matcha almond lattes at Tatte and avocado toast at Mother Juice. (Watch for my cleanse recap soon)

Avocado toast on gluten-free bread at Mother Juice. I think it included an entire avocado!

Avocado toast on gluten-free bread at Mother Juice. I think it included an entire avocado!

Matcha love. Best Almond Matcha Latte ever at Tatte. 

Matcha love. Best Almond Matcha Latte ever at Tatte. 

Veggie burger with guac and salsa on gluten-free bun at B. Good 

Veggie burger with guac and salsa on gluten-free bun at B. Good 

Maybe I'll run Boston again someday, but my next marathon will be one that I've never run before. If you haven't run Boston, it's a one-of-a-kind race. A life-list race, for sure. Special in so many ways. And life-changing for all who run it. It was great to get the full picture by standing on the other side of the barricades.

I MISSED MY friend Shanae while spectating but bumped into her on the street not far from where I ran into her last year after we had both run the marathon. She also said she suffered from the heat.

I MISSED MY friend Shanae while spectating but bumped into her on the street not far from where I ran into her last year after we had both run the marathon. She also said she suffered from the heat.

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Did you run Boston this year?