By Lindsay Borden
The Boston Marathon was the first World Marathon that I completed. I qualified for the Boston Marathon while running the Ottawa Marathon. This run is definitely high on my list of favourite runs. The support from the city and spectators is unbeatable.
This was the first race that I completed where we were told that music was not allowed. Being an obedient rule follower, I had a dilemma. I had never run without my music, I didn’t want to run alone and without music, but I was worried about getting kicked out of the race if they caught me with my music. As a result, I got creative. At a time when everyone was wearing clunky iPods or MP3 players, I hid my music in my clothes, ensured I didn’t pull out the headphones until we started running, and even then, only kept one earphone in. Ultimately, I didn’t even need my music. The spectators were so loud (especially around Wellesley College around mile 12).
There are a few reasons why Boston runners receive the reception that they do. The Boston Marathon takes place on Patriot’s Day (a national holiday on the third Monday in April for Massachusetts and Maine). In addition to the Boston Marathon, the Red Sox play a morning home game at Fenway Park. This usually gives baseball fans time to watch part of the race just outside Fenways park after the game. Since Boston is already a relatively small city, the race is well known by all. As soon as you land, you start seeing other runners walking around in their Boston Marathon clothing or carrying their Expo bags. Wherever you go, people know that if you are a tourist, you are probably in town for the marathon. There’s a real sense of community and belonging when you are surrounded by other participants and locals who are welcoming you with open arms!
The race starts in Hopkinton. Between 6am and 9am, runners board the shuttles in Boston Commons. When I went, I stayed with a friend. If I were to stay in a hotel, I would want to stay around Boston Commons (if only to have the opportunity to go to the washroom immediately before boarding the bus). I am not joking about the importance of going to the washroom before boarding the bus. The buses to Hopkinton were moving very slowly and a few people had to jump off to run into the bushes (the buses kept driving...fortunately they were moving slow enough that those who got off were able to catch up and get back on the buses). The washroom situation at the start line was not much better. There were plenty of portable toilets, but there were also plenty of people who chose not to use them (myself included). As a result, people were running into the bushes (and there was even a police officer monitoring this (and trying to stop it). All I have to say is that in addition to watching out for the cop, watch where you step (maybe this is why I am a rule follower...because bad things happen when I don’t follow the rules).
The run itself is a beautiful run through 8 cities and towns. There are plenty of rolling hills; it’s a good chance this race will not result in your PB (personal best). Take advantage of the down hills early in the race. I found that the spectators pretty much lined the streets from start to end and I have never taken so many oranges and snacks from the hands of children. If you don’t want to take snacks from the spectators, there are refreshment stations at almost every mile.
Around mile 11 (just before the noise at Wellesley, you’ll find one of the few quiet spots among the tree lined streets). The hills really start around mile 15 (this is why it’s good to take advantage of the down hills early on). At mile 20, you will be at the base of Heartbreak Hill. Everyone warned me about Heartbreak Hill before the race and to be honest, by the time I got there, I was so used to the hills (tired of them, but expecting them), that I didn’t immediately know I was on THE Heartbreak Hill. It wasn’t until someone yelled, “this is your last uphill” (a lie), that I knew I must be on Heartbreak Hill. Eventually there is the true final uphill around the 26 mile mark (when you are cursing the fact that marathons are an additional .2 miles long beyond the initial 26 miles). After running up this hill and making a slight turn, you will see the finish line.
After I finished the race, I looked for my mom (my spectator). She was nowhere to be found and had my cell phone (at the time, she didn’t have her own). I stumbled over to a nearby hotel, sat in a chair in the lobby, and couldn’t move. Eventually I asked someone if I could send an email from their phone (first I had to scope out who actually had a smartphone). Since my mom had my phone, I emailed myself. Unfortunately, I made a typo and didn’t realize. I had a nagging feeling that I had entered the email address incorrectly, so I eventually borrowed someone else’s phone.
When my mom finally found me, she was so confused. She was getting updates from the race saying what time I would finish. Unfortunately she thought 3 hours and 54 minutes meant 3:54pm. She was out shopping and missed seeing me cross the finish line (worst spectator ever). She realized something was off with the timing when my friends started sending congratulatory emails! She responded to one asking how they knew I was done.
Where to stay (near Boston Common and Copley Square):
Courtyard by Marriott Copley Square
What to eat (restaurants I would check out):
Henrietta’s Table: www.henriettastable.com
Life Alive: www.lifealive.com
True Bistro: www.truebistoboston.com
Ecco Pizzeria: www.eccopizzeria.com
Ten Tables: www.tentables.net
Craigie On Main: www.craigieonmain.com
To read more on the debate surrounding running and headphones, click HERE.