May 5, 2013

Beantown - 5, The Marathon

Curls: Ring-ring! Ring-ring! It’s 5am and that’s my wake-up call. I can hear the rain thundering against my window. “Good God, what am I doing?” I wonder out loud although there is no one around to hear me whine. I take a gander out the window, toward the Charles River. It doesn’t look good. I’m on the 9th floor, my glance moves down toward a U.S. flag that is flapping wildly in the wind. Yes, in alignment with the previous night’s 10 o’clock news weatherman’s prediction, we will indeed be running through the eye of what appears to be a hurricane.

Curls' window towards the Charles

I hate admitting this, but taking all of this in at that very moment was demotivating and threw me into a ball of nerves. Nonetheless, I got dressed, grabbed my bright orange cinch bag and headed out to meet my fellow SCRCers at the Park Street T-stop. Riding solo on the subway on my way toward downtown, I engaged in an early morning conversation with a couple of fellas from Seattle. They were complaining about all the rain, which I boldly pointed out was rather ironic because Seattle receives something like 10,000-in of precipitation a year and by golly, if anybody should be used to this inclement weather, it should be these guys. They were not amused. <sigh> Wimps!
I spent part of my childhood in Oregon, where it rained nearly every day. I love the rain, I truly do. But running in it for a marathon? Why was the downpour making us all so crabby? On any other given day, the rain wouldn’t have mattered. However, these conditions are not the most desirable circumstances to be running in either. Sure, you tell yourself that you can handle anything, but when THE DAY is upon you, you somehow have this highexpectation for perfection. I finally had an epiphany. I had been spoiled in most of my races, all of them as a matter of fact, for I had never run in conditions like this on a day when it counts most. Humbling thought.
Beard: A silent T commute from Harvard Square joined me with Seth at the Park Street station.  He was sitting motionless on a bench, "Word up" he said with a smile. He had difficulty sleeping last night due to a snoring debacle and lack of earplugs, the log cutting courtesy of his grandpa that bunked with. No matter, the drowsiness would not affect Seth this day, for although he is an elite runner, he would be taking the marathon at a casual pace on this, Patriot's Day. It would be a time for him to soak up the experience and enjoy the delightful weather. Once the rest of the group caught up and we surfaced to the street level at Boston Common, the rain was slowly leaking from the sky and soaking us in a patient, torturous way. The sun was struggling to poke from the horizon, a wide band of dark clouds muffled the rays.

We waited in line for the school busses that would ship us out to the start of the race at Hopkington. A stark white bus with iron bar windows moved through, Kip said, "Yippee, a prison bus!" Kip was featuring a red pair of "lounge pants" and sandals; I sleep in cotton trousers similar to these. They looked like a patterned area rug fashioned loosely into an MC Hammer pant-like formation. Our tight-knit group was wearing yards of plastic, some in the form of black garbage sacks, others in fancy Nike rain gear. Curls and I soon mounted a set of matching LifeMed plastic tarps that were chucked to us at the Expo the prior day. Everyone was excited, but a scent of reluctance and apprehension could be sniffed in the air. What sort of battle would be waged between the SCRC and Mother Nature? No matter, for we are tough. Tough as nails.

Minutes before we bussed to Hopkington - #disposablecamera
 Sheets of rain slithered over the bus during the 90 minute ride to the start. We slowly emptied out of the warm confines of the ride, uneager to sit and marinate in the cold Massachusetts acid rain. We lined up to excrete waste into the stinky blue rooms. Without hesitation, Ryan walked over to the woods that were beside the kybos, he wasn't standing more than 6" into the thicket while marking his territory. You could see everything. Wife Cindy simply shook her head and said, "He's mine, all mine.”

Tony, Animal, Greg and Kip had a nice spot staked out for us beneath an awning, it kept us mostly dry.  25 yards away was a patch of woods runners were using as an outdoor bathroom, it was a free-for-all in there. A voluptuous Barney Fife state trooper was straddling an ATV equipped with police lights and siren. He parked it next to a man that was three feet away peeing in the woods, flipped the lights and siren on, and sat there and stared at that back of him with snake eyes, the siren blaring a 100 decibel report and grabbing the attention of everyone in the area. The man was having difficulty doing the deed with all of the commotion and crowd watching him from behind. He was a focused, doing his best to ignore the 4-wheeler of rage and finally worked up the courage to get the job done.

Curls: Beard has failed to mention one particular event that unfolded as part of his meticulous pre-race preparation ritual. It was so wet outside that many of us had brought multiple sets of clothing, not entirely sure what items we would settle on for the race itself. Many within our circle had done their prep time justice, which consisted of removing their plastic rain gear, stuffing it into their sacks, changing into a fresh pair of running socks, and heading toward the starting line.

Beard’s process was much more entertaining. First, his plastic tarp, a.k.a., his “poncho”, was huge, about 5 times wider than his lean body. Then there was its length, almost down to his toes. Although not fashion trendy, the tarp did serve its purpose. It kept him dry. Tank decides that he is going to use his tarp as a dressing room. He decided to change his top, bottom, and his socks, all while under the disguise of his giant tarp. The funniest part is that he actually gathered his head and arms inside the tarp to work his way through the process. I tell ya, folks, it was like watching two pigs wrestle under a blanket. His bony elbows would flail knocking the plastic sheath into fits, then I’d hear a few choice words tossed in, followed by the dropping of his drawers on the pavement (no joke!).

Now for those of you who know Beard well, you are aware that he is a modest fellow. Not so today. Keep in mind that I caught subtle glimpses of his changing fiasco firsthand because the arm holes he had crafted were huge and provided a nice window into this troubling scene. I’m sure this entire process took no longer than 5-min, but it seemed like an eternity. Add to that the fact that he almost fell over twice, once to pick up a dropped sock, and you get the visual.

Ryan asked me, “What's he doing?” I replied, “Getting ready to run, apparently.” When he was all done, he simply poked his head out of the top of the tarp, pushed his arms through the side holes and said, “There, all done.” I gave him an odd stare, to which he replied, “What?” Chuckling, I concluded, “You have no idea what kind of show you just put on, do you?”

Beard: Shortly after 9:00 am, we filed to the starting line nearly a mile away. Apparently, the organizers believe that running only 26.2 is a sign of weakness, so they tacked on an extra mile in there for good measure. I was in corral number one, behind the elites. The area was watched by two guards, and they didn't mess around. You either had the proper number for this corral or they blocked you out and were armed and ready to dance with a dose of pepper spray. I stepped in and glanced around, the men were lean and ready for a good fight, veins pulsing in the quads.  The combined adrenaline of the group was potent.

Lining up for the start at Hopkington
I held my hand to chest for the Star Spangled Bangle, ripped and tossed the tarp and whispered a quick prayer like I do before every race. The rain surged, the gun fired. Within 15 seconds, I was moving across the start line. It's racin' time!

The first four miles were downhill and fast.  It was unique running alongside that many spirited runners, people were passing me in droves. This was something new, not used to getting spanked by the group so early in the race. The miles were clicking smoothly in the 6:40s, the rain decreased as the wind did the same. By the third mile, I said out loud, "why am I wearing so many layers? What's wrong with you?"
The deplorable conditions while waiting at Hopkington, combined with the ruthless forecast for the last couple days coerced me into dressing in running pants, a long sleeved dry-fit shirt and a breeze breaker.
Close to the five mile mark, I looked at my watch and thought, The gun will be sounding now for the wave two start. Get it done Curls, go!

The course was flat or gently rolling now. While cranking a 6:30 per mile pace, I stripped down to my bare skin up top, peeled off the dry-fit shirt, and put the wind breaker back on since the race number was stapled to it. I suppose I could have chucked the shirt on the ground, I'm sure Ryan would snatch it up for me and tied it around his waist to join the other nine abandoned jackets he acquired along the route. Curls, what comment did you fling my way when you strolled through the online pictures, zee nylon textile partially unzipped, a distinct lack of clothing beneath? It didn't look good.

Curls: Oh, don’t remind me. The following week, I started glancing through the thumbnail pics from the marathon. Keep in mind that I saw Beard immediately BEFORE the race and then eventually AFTER the race. I didn’t see what transpired in-between. Beard notes that he became hot during the race. I can completely understand, for I too misread the warnings and piled on way too many layers and soon into the race regretted it. The best way I can describe what the race day photographers captured of Beard on film is to simply say: Class C Adult Film Star. Seriously. Bow-chicky-bow-bow! Between the partially unzipped bare-chested jacket display of upper body torso, coupled with the sleeves pushed up OVER the elbows. I just about shot the Coke right out my nose as I graced these photos over my lunch break that day.

Beard surely looks like a rookie runner here. Long stretchy pants, jacket with no shirt underneath. I can just imagine the ridicule that he must have endured in the starting corral, just mere inches from the elite fellas. “Hey, get a load of this guy.” Nudge, nudge. “He’s wearing stirrup pants and a Members Only ™ jacket.”
Beard: That was a sissy outfit, what a wimp. I wore short sleeves and shorts in the Phoenix marathon when it was 29 degrees, but it was a dry cold there. At least I wasn’t wearing tights with shorts over the top like the dude in the photo, now that would be silly.

To be continued...


  1. Definitely reading! Love the recap series and your blog on the whole. Cheers!

  2. Anonymous5/07/2013

    Still have the red zubaz! Coming soon to another marathon near you.

    1. What does the other half think of those vintage hammer pants?


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