So, today I ran by the Robert Frost farm in Derry, NH. and passed-over West Running Brook. As a history and poetry buff, it was kind of cool. As someone who is really not a runner taking part in a hellish race called the "Boston Prep 16-Miler," not-so-much...
I learned a few things about runners today. First, runner's are crazy. Second, runners have a sick sense of humor. And last but not least, runner's are liars!
Runner's are crazy: Well, this is actually one lesson I've been learning over the course of my training, whether I run by myself or with the Children's Hospital team. The second Children's team run I took part in was during a two-day snow storm that dropped a crap load of snow on the area. Not only was there a lot of snow, but it was extremely cold, the roads and sidewalks weren't cleared very well, and there was ice under most of the snow. While we were stretching some guy yells out "Yeah! What a great day for a run!" And he was serious. There wasn't even a hint of sarcasm in his voice. He succeeded in getting the rest of the team excited (except me, of course). The excitement in the air of the Parish Hall (where we gather and stretch) was electric. Really. I swear. I spent the entire run trying to stay on the driest parts of the sidewalk and pavement without getting driven into snowbanks by passing cars. I must've used all of my stabilizing muscles just staying upright, because my entire core (abs, hips and even my ankles) was sore for three days.
Somewhere along the way, I've decided that I simply hate running on the treadmill and will do basically whatever it takes to avoid it and run outside. This has caused me to question my own sanity on more than one occasion. One day on a late afternoon run while it was near single digits with a wicked wind, I counted no less than 4 people drive by me and give the universal sign for crazy (I swear I could hear them whistling "cuckoo" as they passed). Of course this only served to motivate me as I waved and smiled. It really made me feel good to know that people really thought I was crazy. But the following week, when I set-out at 430 am on my 12 mile training run at zero degrees with a 10-below wind chill, was when I really started to question my own sanity. Especially at mile 8 when I realized that despite being under my jacket, my water bottles had frozen. Solid. And my butt was frozen-over so much (from sweat) that it was giving me sharp stabbing pains and I was afraid I may be getting frostbite, so I ran for a mile smacking my butt with both hands. When I finally arrived home my face gaiter was frozen solid and the icicles were so thick on my eyelashes that I could barely hold them open (it was somewhere around mile 6 that I realized keeping them de-iced was futile and painful).
Which brings me to the events of today. Everyone in the gym for number pick up was bursting with anticipation. People were so excited that they were chanting and dancing and just getting really pumped-up. The emcee made some announcements and asked how many people had done this race before and most everyone let out a cheer. When he asked for a show of hands from those of us who'd never run this race before, maybe 10 of our hands went up. He told us to get ready to have the time of our lives and again everyone cheered. Everyone seemed truly happy to be there and it appeared that most of them were experienced Boston Marathoners (which was glaringly apparent by all of the BAA jackets in the crowd). Funny thing is, it was contagious. I even found myself beaming with excitement and ready to hit the road.
Runner's have a sick sense of humor: The "motto" of this race, which is on the website and all of the promotional material, including this year and all of the past years BP 16 shirts (and they were everywhere, people run this more than once? Ugh.) is "Moderately Challenging." Yeah, very funny. I stopped counting the nearly vertical hills at 12. I mean these hills were ridiculous! I've always taken pride in the fact that I train on hills every day. There is nowhere in the Shrewsbury/ Northborough/West Boylston area that you can run and avoid the hills. Steep ones. I'm no sissy and I was even bragging to people before the race that I was looking forward to seeing what the hills were like on this course. Well, the first nine miles were very similar to what I train on every day. But when you turn the corner right after the 9 mile marker the hill goes straight-up for almost a half-mile. And the guy from the Greater Derry Track Club is standing there, laughing and telling everyone "It's just a little hill, you can make it, no problem, you got this!" To which I replied "Hell! I've snowboarded down bigger hills than this!" He was only half kidding about the "little hill" part (relative to all the other's yet to come, of course). "Moderately Challenging" my butt.
Runner's are liars: All throughout the run today, I heard other runner's telling me I was "looking good," or "doing great." Which is just fine, I'll never decline encouragement. But every time we got to the top of a particularly huge hill (or set of hills), especially in miles 9-12.5 one of the members of the GDTC or one of the other runner's would say something like "the worst part is over now," or "that's the last of the big hills!" And it seemed to never fail, round a corner or crest a hill and there would be the next hill bigger than the last. Ugh. When I passed the 13.1 split timer in 2:12 and change, my spirits lifted because I remembered looking at the elevation profile of the course before hand and I knew the rest of the course was mostly flat(ter).
However, by mile 14 I was wishing I had walked some of those hills. I don't know what happened, but it was like the flood gates of pain opened up. Suddenly everything hurt. I couldn't seem to get my legs to move, I was literally dragging my feet at one point because I couldn't pick them up high enough to turn them over properly. I didn't think i was going to make it. At Brenya's funeral they gave out purple Mardi-Gras beads to the guests because purple was her favorite color and she always responded to them. I've worn those beads on every long run and race that I've run. It was somewhere after the 14th mile marker, when I thought my body was going to quit on me that I reached into my shirt and pulled out the beads and asked Brenya to give me the strength to just finish the race.
As I was approaching the 15 mile marker with tears streaming down my face, one of the Children's team member's came-up from behind me. He told me he'd been behind me the whole race and I was "looking good." He gave me some more words of encouragement after I told him how bad I was hurting. He was somehow able to make me laugh and then said "let's finish this race strong together!" So, as we passed mile 15, I reached deep inside, found another gear and ran that last mile in just over 9 minutes. My official finishing time was 2:42:57, I'd made my goal of 2:45:00 with a couple of minutes to spare!
The best lies of the day were heard were around the finish line and at the awards ceremony (also known as "food service" for those of us who had no hope of winning anything, yet for whom finishing was the victory). If I had a nickel for every time I heard some say they felt "great!" Or that it was their "best race every year!" I even heard a lot of people say that they "can't wait to do it again!" As I was leaving I was walking next to a particularly salty looking older female runner. She said it was her 4th BP 16, and would be her 8th Boston Marathon and she's always glad when this race is over because "after these hills, Heartbreak Hill is nothing!" And she wasn't the only one that I spoke with who said that this race was actually "harder than Boston!"
Then again, runner's are liars, so I guess I'll have to wait and see for myself.
Then, to add insult to injury, in order to get back to my car, I had to climb yet another hill. I was never so happy to get into my car and leave such a beautiful place... One thing is for sure, I will NEVER run this race again!