Sunday, April 1, 2012

To Boston and back

The animosity between sports teams from New York and Boston and sports fans from New York and Boston is well known and well documented. There is no love lost between the Red Sox and the Yankees, the Celtics and Knicks, the Rangers and the Bruins or any of their loyal followings. But, unlike those stick, ball and puck sports, I have always found that distance running is fraternal no matter what city the runner happens to be from.

Let me go back to the birth of this wild idea. A few weeks ago at an Urban Athletics workout, Josh, Kevin and I were warming up when one of them suggested we go run the course in Boston as our last long run of the marathon training cycle. We all agreed it was a great idea, but logistically, it could be tough. The first problem was, none of us have cars. Solution: We take the bus. The second problem was, the bus drops people off in downtown Boston. Getting 20 miles outside the city would be contingent on the commuter train schedule lining up with the bus schedule, which it did not. The third problem was, unless we planned on only bringing what we were running in, we would need a place to stash our stuff. We mulled over taking cabs or paying off a hotel bellhop to hold our bags, but the trip was looking to be more trouble than it was worth.

That all changed when I casually mentioned the undeveloped idea to Meagan. Meagan mentioned our plans to Terrence Shea, assistant coach of the Boston Athletic Assocation, and he emailed me with a detailed and meticulously-planned solution to all of our problems.

Saturday morning at 6:30, the three of us boarded the Bolt Bus outside the Tic Toc Diner on 34th Street and 8th Avenue and settled in for the ride. We arrived in a cold, rainy Boston three and a half hours later, well-rested and ready to run. Terry and Meagan met us outside the bus station and drove us all the way to Hopinkton so we could take a glance at the starting line. Then, we drove six miles of the course into Framingham where we got out, laced up our shoes and applied the necessary Body Glide before Meagan, Kevin, Josh and I started the journey to Boylston Street while Terry drove to mile 20 to park the car and start running toward us.

We started at a pedestrian pace, but that only lasted a mile. By mile two, we were clicking off 6:40s. I wanted to ease off, but for the first time in two weeks, I was feeling pretty good. Of course, this was the easy part. Miles 6 through 15 of the Boston Marathon are relatively flat, and I wondered if we would be able to maintain when we got into Newton and started climbing the hills.

We met Terry around mile 16 and the hills began. Terry, who ran 2:20 on the course last year, was a great guide, telling us the elevation of each of the four famed hills, and how many seconds per mile we should expect to lose as we tackled the most challenging part of the race. As the run got harder, our pace got quicker and we ran the hardest mile of the course, the one that includes Heartbreak Hill, in just under 6:30 pace.

Meagan and Terry split off at mile 22 to go back to the car, and the three of us out-of-towners were on our own to make it to the finish line. Maybe it the was excitement of the upcoming race, maybe it was vibe of Boston, or maybe it was just that we wanted our last long run to be over, but with each mile the pace got quicker. When we finally crossed the spot on Boylston Street where the finish line is painted (Kevin actually crossed it, Josh and I ran on the sidewalk), we were going 5:50 pace. The hard part of training for the World's Most Prestigious Marathon was over, and the countdown to race day could now begin.

After the run, we ducked into Marathon Sports where the sales associate let me call Terry from the store phone and he and Meagan came to get us. We grabbed a bite to eat at a nearby Panera then went our separate ways. The three of us searched for the Sam Adam's 26.2 Brew, but despite promises on the internet that it was on tap at several local bars, we found that not to be true. Raeanne and Katie both swung by on a moments notice to say "hello" and share a beer, and Katie was kind enough to take us to the train station. We caught the 5:30pm bus home and were back in New York by 9:45pm. All in a day's work.

I know I speak for all three of us when I say I could not be more appreciative of Terry's generosity. To roll out the red carpet and sacrifice an entire day for three runners he's never even met goes above and beyond what any of us expected. He not only made our trip worry-free and left us with an insider's look at the course, if it weren't for his help, this trip wouldn't have even been possible. Perhaps the Yankees and the Red Sox can learn something from us weekend warriors.

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