Thursday, June 18, 2015

Race Report: Boston's Run to Remember

At the expo
Memorial Day weekend was to get started with an early morning bus ride from New York to Boston on Saturday.  Upon arrival in Boston by noon, I headed to my friend Shams' place near Harvard Medical School, west of Northeastern University, where I was going to stay for the weekend; after settling in and getting a bite to eat, they drove me over to the Seaport World Trade Center, where the Boston Run to Remember expo was occurring.  The expo was a decent size for a fairly sizable race attracting over 10,000 runners - 6,600 running the half marathon, with the remainder completing a 5-mile race, through the streets of Boston.

After perusing the expo (and grabbing some Boston running paraphernalia, as we are in a running mecca!), I went to the adjoining Seaport Hotel for a quick drink, before meeting up with fellow 50 States Half Marathon Club runners in town from all over the US (including California, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Georgia, and New York, to name a few) for an early Italian dinner at Strega by the waterfront.

50 Staters after our pre-race dinner on the waterfront
(Photo by Jann Carlson)
I retired back to Shams' place for the night, joining them for some more food (I picked at some Japanese street eats at a nearby izakaya), and then headed off to bed early to get some rest since the race was to have an early start the next morning, and I had to figure out a way to get to the Seaport area at around 6am.  Morning came, and I ended up getting a bit of a late start, so I threw on my clothes (including my Operation Jack virtual run gear), and ventured out to Huntington Avenue to locate a cab or even get an Uber (during surge pricing... sigh...) to take me to the startline near the Seaport.

I got there early enough to gather for a picture with some 50 Staters and get myself ready for the race... the legs, as usual, had been very tight in the days leading up to the race, as this was my 17th half in about 13 weekends.  After a quick bathroom trip, I headed out to the corrals (which, really, there were none... just line up according to your pace), and then I was off... except, like in New Jersey, we couldn't really tell where the start line mats were.

State Street with the Old State House
Almost immediately, my legs became stiff as boards, and I began to walk less than half a mile into my wobbly traipse down Seaport Boulevard.  Soon, we crossed over Fort Point Channel and the mouth of Boston Harbor into downtown Boston. We turned onto Atlantic Avenue, skirting around onto historic State Street with the Old State House in the distance at Congress Street.  This was where my legs just started to give out, and I was walking every few minutes despite the very flat course.  We made our way around the West End taking Cambridge Street then turning onto Charles Street, before seeing Boston Common in the distance, but turning right onto a westbound Beacon Street, where we passed some gorgeous Back Bay brownstones.  By this time, I had hit the 5K mark in a disappointing 40 minutes.

Beacon Street
Police officers cheering us on
along Memorial Drive
We finally turned onto Harvard Bridge, crossing into Cambridge,  where my legs finally started to gain their traction, and I managed to pick up the pace a little in my regular run/walk intervals.  The soreness in my shins and calves subsided by the 4-mile mark, as we proceeded eastward on Memorial Drive, to a turn-around point just before the Longfellow Bridge.  Then, we went on a long out and back westward on Memorial Drive, passing MIT's campus and curving around the Charles River waterfront, amass with rowing crews having their morning practices.  Along the route, we had some police officers from Boston and the surrounding communities cheering us on, which was a great motivator.  Oddly, there were not as many folks cheering us on as I had anticipated, but granted, it was Memorial Day weekend, and most Bostonians were out of the city, and likely out on the Cape for the weekend.

The out-and-back along Memorial Drive
Harvard Bridge, heading back
into downtown Boston
The out-and-back was LONG, and after making my way on the back end, I ran into the Provenchers from New Hampshire (completing their first double weekend after running the Dandelion Race in upstate Vermont!) at the mile 7.5 mark.  We posed for a quick photo as they were headed to the turnaround, and I proceeded on my way.  At mile 9.5, I was back on the Harvard Bridge headed back toward the finish line (seeing the iconic CITGO sign from the Boston Marathon course in the distance), and then back on a fairly empty Beacon Street, headed eastward.  We made a turn at Arlington Street and began to skirt the edge of the Boston Public Garden, where we were starting to finally get some crowds to cheer us on to the finish.

So happy to see the Carlsons!
As we turned onto Boylston Street and headed back into downtown, I spotted two familiar figures in front of me - the effervescent Jann and Mike Carlson from California, who were like me, crossing Massachusetts off their list, and completing the tail end of a whirlwind three-week adventure discovering the New England states and running races while they were at it.  These two are a lovely couple - Mike is quite the athlete, having several IronMan triathlon finishes in his resume plus some easily sub-2 hour half marathon times in his heydey, while Jann is a retired schoolteacher who began to take up running and steadfastly hopes to complete her goal of running a half marathon in every state in the US.  Despite Mike's ability to "smoke" Jann by virtue of his athletic prowess (her words, not mine! LOL) - he stays right by her side and helps to pace her at all of the races that they do together.  I ran up to Jann and Mike and decided then and there to join them all the way to the finish.  They're just such a great couple that I wanted to cross that finish with them, hand-in-hand!

Crossing that finish line with
great friends!
We made our way back through downtown Boston, along Washington Street (with a stop for an "ussie" in front of the Paramount Theater) and then zigzagged around some more city streets as we returned back to Seaport Boulevard for the epic finish back in front of the Seaport World Trade Center.  Hand-in-hand, we crossed the finish line, as we were announced as "the trio from California" by the announcer ("it may have been too much of a mouthful for him to announce that you all were two Californians and a New Yorker," said our friend Donna, who notified the announcer as she saw us coming closer to the finish line) which birthed our inside joke that I was Jann and Mike's "Cali Son." 

I may have posted my current "personal worst" time of 2:46:42, but considering my extremely rough start, it all ended on a high note with the way I was able to run across the finish line with some awesome friends, creating some great memories in the process.  Sometimes the tough/rough ones end up being the ones that have a silver lining... It was a gorgeous course, and I'd definitely love to do this one again - perhaps on some better-rested legs!

MBTA Transit Police Cadets finishing out the race in formation!

Victory Headstand, and fittingly on Memorial Day
with the flag waving in the background!

Really pretty bling :)

Great friends finishing yet another half!

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