The 20-Miler is not only the pinnacle of a marathon training program, but also a dry run for race day. The aim is to work out the kinks – what not to eat, how much coffee you can handle before a bus ride to Hopkinton, what small, neglected patch of skin really, really needs sunscreen (pro tip: your part, if you braid your hair for race days like I do).
If surviving Saturday’s 10-hour, 21-mile debacle is any indication, Marathon Monday is going to go off without a hitch.
At 6:30, the BDL’s team coordinator picked me up en route to Newton Centre, which is a huge treat for me because it means an extra hour of sleep. By 7:20, we were boarding the buses that would shuttle our 100+ runners out to Hopkinton. On this particular weekend each year, when most Boston trainees are running their 20-Miler, the BAA and charity volunteers set up water stops along the course, arrange for police escorts and have runners experiencing the furthest part of the route for, often, the only time prior to race day.
At about mile 12 on the course, en route to Hopkinton for our run, the bus I was on went silent and slowed to a stop. The engine sputtered, we moved forward a bit more – and then, nothing. That’s all she wrote. Our bus driver called for backup while Bus One headed to Hopkinton with the rest of our team. We waited. Long story short, we waited a while; by 10am, we were finally hitting the road in Hopkinton.
The problem, of course, with both being a slower runner AND a runner detained by a freakish bus breakdown, is that water stop volunteers have no reason to stick around for you. The earlier stops on the course were all long gone; the later stops, very fortunately for us, had left supplies behind or were still miraculously, inexplicably set up. For Team in Training’s volunteers, I am incredibly thankful – though I certainly could have stopped to refill at CVS, having snacks and drinks on the route kept us moving forward, and staved off some of the hunger that came with having eaten a full four hours before we were on our way.
Then, the rain started. It wasn’t supposed to rain – and it didn’t rain much – but there it was, just to remind us that you never can tell.
That, of course, is exactly the takeaway. 26 miles is a bunch of miles; you never know what will happen in there. By the same token, 26 miles is a bunch of miles, and even when things start out on the wrong foot, there is plenty of time for luck to change. Or not.
All of that aside, Saturday’s experience has me feeling much better about where I am in my training. I was feeling tired after 21, but not terrible; my feet were achy, as is par for the course, but my ankle was rock solid; I was hungry, but not dehydrated. I can now be confident that I can cover the distance.
I also had a chance, running that furthest part of the course, to map some things I’m thankful for to the increasingly familiar terrain of Hopkinton and Ashland.
(Gr)attitude: Mile Four – the BDL. Though I had dreamed about running the Boston Marathon before my introduction to the Boston Debate League, fundraising had intimidated me, and I couldn’t fully relate to any of the causes that I saw as options. The BDL both connected me with the Marathon Coalition for the coaching and support to survive my first marathon, and gave me a local cause that I could really get excited about. (Then, they sucked me in for another year while I was sidelined…)
(Gr)attitude: Mile Five – my hometown, because running the first few wooded miles of the route always reminds me of home. I could write a novel about the influence the place and the people have had on my life, but that’s not entirely the point; the point is, it will be on my mind.
(Gr)attitude: Mile Six – my travels. Hopkinton to Boston, nationwide and worldwide, I’ve had the opportunity to see some pretty incredible places, and to survive some pretty hectic circumstances; these experiences have most certainly shaped how I deal with obstacles, discomfort and stressful situations, all of which crop up throughout the marathon.