Jun 6, 2013

Beantown - 7, Smelly Finish and Feed My Face

Here's the last chapter of our Boston Marathon recap from a few years ago.  Finish it.

Beard:  A wet chill hovered, gripped my sweaty clothes and forced the shivers.  It was important to grab my bag and change into dry clothes pronto.  I’d tucked my bag inside of Curls' at the start, as it had ripped wide open and I was afraid my junk would fall out and disappear. The bags were numbered according to our race number, so I headed to the bus that held Curls’ bag. A lady on the bus looked me over and at my number and said, in that accent, “Son, whatcha doooin’ here, yaw bus it down a-that-away?”

Exhaustion and deep shivering made it difficult to articulate that my bag was tucked inside of Curls’. This confounded her, it was as if I had asked her to solve a complex riddle while splitting an atom. She finally understood what was needed, and began rummaging through the groups of bags like a black bear into a sack of Twinkies left inside a tent at Yellow Stone Park. Plastic bags were flyin’ all over in the bus, two of the Bostonian gals were shouting back and forth, an expletive slipped, the missing bag (or maybe they were referring to me ) was coined with a name that rhymes with mother shucker.
After ten minutes of rummaging, they found my bag inside of hers, chucked it at me with a scowl, and away I went. I limped over to the massage line like I had a wooden ankle and shivered uncontrollably, waiting to be let inside to have my cable muscles poked.  I really just wanted inside where it was warm.

“Hi!” I heard out of the blue. There was Mom and Dad, standing ten feet away, I couldn’t believe they found me among the throngs of people. Mom said, “We saw you cross the finish line."  I smile with blue lips, my exoskeleton was frosting over. She continued on, “We were listening to the finish announcer and heard that a guy from Iowa City beat you, he finished a long time ago.” My smile faded. Why does Ma always have to shut me down and put me in my  place?  

Waved them goodbye, it was my turn to step inside to get massaged by man-hands, hairy forearms Bertha. A medical student chucked me a plastic cup of liquid, I assumed it was a cold sports drink. Chugged a big swig and gagged.  

It was hot chicken broth.

Mmmm, finger lickin’ good! Nothing like drinking a melted chicken, that’ll put the meat back on the bones after a three hour workout.  

The massage helped a bunch, I felt better and stopped shivering. It was time to park by the chute and wait for my long haired friend to trot in. I don’t think Curls ever considered herself a “good runner” before, but here she was, finishing this historic marathon.

Would I be able to spot her among the thousands of runners rolling through? My eyes fixed on the finishers, looking, wait a minute…is that her…four pounds of curly hair tucked beneath a black hat, 16 layers of breathable clothing, 3 carat cubic zirconia earrings...a comely countenance…streaks of white salt and dried spittle splashed across her face…yes, it was her, there she is…”CURLS, OVER HERE, CURLS!” I yelled and flailed my arms around like fire ants in my underpants.  Except you don't wear underpants with running shorts.  We'll talk about that another time.  She saw me and beamed.

Curls: This marks the first time I’ve completed a race and couldn’t wait to get outta there. Despite my earlier complaints about being too warm due to dressing in far too many layers, I was, all of a sudden, absolutely freezing. My sweat-saturated clothing, wet, heavy, and cold, was doing me in…and fast. Beard somehow miraculously picked me out from the crowd of mylar-clad finishers, yelling through a fence of barricades, “So how did you do?” I used my fingers to indicate my time, Beard just smiled. I motioned that I was heading over to my designated school bus to pick up my bag. I pointed at a street corner and said, “I’ll meet you under that street light in about 10- minutes.” Yeah, 10-minutes my @ss.

I walk toward my bus and am shocked to see such chaos. There are a mess of people, each requesting that their precious belongings be given to them NOW. The frantic volunteers, as grateful as I am that they’re devoting their time freely, dare I say, were not the most organized people I’ve ever seen in my life. Their carefree, take their time, demeanor was testing my patience. I feel safe in assuming that these folks had never before endured the beating that one’s body takes after completing a 26.2-mile race and had very little idea how crabby and relentless we runners can get. One older gentleman next to me (late 50-ish, I’d guess) was doubled over in pain, begging for his stuff, screaming in agony anytime he moved so much as a muscle. I shouldn’t say this, but I felt like a refugee awaiting my rations of free government-supplied rice. It was awful. Plus, everybody stunk; it was rancid.

There were close to 50 of us hovering alongside our bus, packed in shoulder-to-shoulder.  The bags are organized based on your assigned race number. Rather than try to pinpoint requested numbers, the volunteers decided it would be far more effective to simply grab a random bag, yell out the number, and see if there were any takers. If there were, they’d toss the bag out one of the bus windows and a sea of outstretched hands would jostle it, crowd-surf style, to the rightful owner. The process was tiresome and frustrating. Even me, who doesn’t get agitated too easily, was ready to bust out with some unladylike words of advice. The crowd was restless and forever growing. Soon, Beard joined me, saying that he jumped some fence to get back into the finishing area. I was thankful to have some company.

Whether by fate or just plain good luck, my number was called. I’ve never been resurrected from a funk so quickly in all my life, “That’s me! That’s me!” I jumped up and down wildly, God only knows where I found the energy, and headed toward the subway, using Beard as a partial heater. By now, I was shivering and needed a warm shower!

Beard: I begged a volunteer to allow me into the finishing area. He did, I surprised Curls in the refugee line to help her get her stuff. The air was acrid with ugly scents of armpit juice, urine, Gatorade vomit and somehow, hot dogs.  The odds of successfully getting your bag from the volunteers was 1,000 to 1, or roughly the same as your chance of winning the balloon pop from a carnival carney.

Exhausted runners had their arms stretched forth towards the bus like zombies, tears streaming down the faces of some. The man that Curls mentions above moaned, gagged and made sounds like he had a corrugated steel rod sticking his spleen. The volunteers were either highly unorganized or unable to perform rudimentary skills like counting. One of the helpers pulled up a random bag and shouted, “Numba 13482, anyone out there with numba 13482?” I screeched in desperation, “Hey, that’s us, over here, 13482, right here!” Curls also began to holler. We both were yelling obnoxiously, veins popping from our necks and all.

The volunteer blinked.

A runner grabbed the bag and chucked it towards us. It was the luckiest day of my life, let's go buy a lotto.  Or play the carnival balloon pop game.

The subway ride from the finish was interesting, locals on the T saw our medal and treated us like heroes. Bostonians clapped, high-fives and cheered, “Congratulations!” It was nice, they treated us very well. The town admired the marathon and the runners.

Time to get cleaned up, relax and play out the reason many of us run:  Eat!

Curls: I managed to make it back to my hotel room in my chilly state. It’s true what Beard said though. People were incredibly kind to anyone sporting a medal and/or mylar space blanky. It made it all worth it. However, now my priorities were shifting. There were two things I wanted: (1) to be showered, both warm and clean and (2) to be fed. A shower never felt so good. My head hit the pillow for what was supposed to be a quick 5-min rest, which turned into a multi-hour snooze. Upon waking up, glancing at the clock, I was now hungry. I jumped up enthusiastically, thinking, “Yes! A guilt-free greasy meal is in
order!!” My bouncy start soon turned into a wincing pain. Yes, I had aggravated my plantar fasciitis (to be expected after a long, hard run). I’m used to this by now, for the spikes of pain still haunt me occasionally, but was slightly annoyed that I would have to quasi-limp my way to my feast.

Beard and I agreed that it would be pizza, FTW! We polished off an entire large, extra meaty, deep-dish between the two of us. I guzzled no less than six 32-oz drinks, a combination of soda and water, alternating glasses, if you will. If memory serves me correctly, there was a loaf of garlic bread tossed in there too. My stomach gladly took it all in and I was finally starting to feel re-energized. Refueled. It was approaching 10 o’clock and Beard looked tired. One eye open, one shut, he engaged in conversation,nodding lazily in place of a clear yes. I soon asked the obvious, “Ready to cash it in?” Again, the nod. I was losing him quickly.  Beard will tell you that I have this uncanny ability to stay alert and “on” for long stretches of time. He, on the other hand, cannot hold his own. So, I scooped him up like a baby, draped his 90-lb body over my right shoulder, and carried him, fireman-style, out the front door, amid stares from the Harvard college kid diners. Kidding! Just making sure that you’re still paying attention to our story, that we haven’t lost anyone. Nah, Beard walked himself out the door, but he was beat. That marathon knocked him silly. He needed rest. I didn’t press too hard, for I was losing steam too. It had been a BIG day.

Beard: True, that damp race spanked me like Mom used to belt my bony buns with the wooden cheese board in church. I was spent. Curls is powered by a silent uranium nuclear reactor, she never seems to tire. I was begging to head back to the Friendly Inn with my folks to cash it in.  Curls was just getting warmed up for a night on the town.

We oinked four pounds of cheesy pie at Pizzeria Uno, a gallon of soda and one buttery brick of garlic bread. Maybe I accidentally ate a napkin, like feeding branches into a chipper/shredder. 
We strolled through Harvard Square, better walk upright and act refined. Curls warned me before the trip to refrain from acting like an Iowan. I promised to wash the hog scat from my boots, stash the ring of Copenhagen tobacci in my Wranglers and keep the straw hat at home.  

As we were meandering through campus and admiring the old world architecture, I glanced over and heard Curls drop a “QQQUUUAAAWWSSHH!!!,” summoning a chunky ball of mucus from the depths of her sinuses. I laughed.  Then farted. 

Curls: Never would I have thought that Boston was in the cards for me. To those who know me well, I come from a non-running background. I used to think that those who participated in this activity were crazy. Why, I reasoned, would someone want to get hot, sweaty, and stinky, not to mention be bored, partaking in such a mundane task? I used to roll my eyes in high school gym class when I’d have to take on the dreaded 1-mile run as part of the Presidential Physical Fitness Tests (remember those?). In college, my roommate and I used to take off for our monthly 2-mile runs, complaining the whole time.

Slowly things began to change, as did my priorities.

I began my desk job and had an epiphany some years in. Exercise was in order. First it was step aerobics, then Pilates, then yoga, and finally biking that hooked me so.  But none of these clicked. I desired more. Perhaps this running thing wouldn’t be so bad? I started out on the treadmill, cranking out 2-miles each day at what felt like an exhausting 10-min/mile pace. I soon signed up for local 5k, 10k, and 20k races, achieving mini-successes, getting faster and faster, more comfortable in my skin. 

Finally, I committed to the marathon…3 times and counting now. A lot of changes have unfolded for me over the past years that I’ve been running. I’m still a rookie in every sense of the word, but I know how far I’ve come and how much it means to me that I took a chance and found myself doing what once seemed impossible. I love it that I can still surprise myself like that. And, more importantly, that I recognize it!

Beard: I flew out the day after the race, Curls tarried a day longer. Boston was great for pedestrians: a relatively small land area, good walkways, a speedy transportation system and loads of history to absorb. I’ll hopefully return and run, maybe float out to Martha’s Vineyard next time.

Thanks for believing in me and pressing me to tap into that potential! I will close, in part, by reiterating a conversation that you and I had at your desk, roughly a week before I ran in the Chicago Marathon, where I pulled my Boston qualifying time:

Beard: So, you ready for Chi-town?

Curls: Yeah, although I feel unprepared this time. I want to do well, better my time, ya know? I’m having a tough time believing that will happen.

Beard: What are you aiming for?

Curls: I dunno. Better than my 3:57 from my first race would be nice. I really haven’t been training for time. That’s bad, right?

Beard: Nah, you’re capable of achieving that. Just wait and see.

Curls: Yeah, I ‘spose.

Beard: One of these days, are you going to buckle down and qualify for Boston?

Curls: Yeah, right.

Beard: You’re a good runner, just need to polish what you’ve got and make it happen. Maybe next year.

Curls: You’ve got to be kidding. What would I need to run in order to be Boston worthy, anyway?

Beard:  For your age group, looks like a 3:40.

Curls: Yeah, like that’s EVER gonna happen!

True story! That conversation took place roughly a week before it DID happen. And I wasn’t being humble. I truly didn’t think I could pull it off. So, for those of you reading today, who think that they are not and can never be marathon running material, think again. It’s possible and the satisfaction is everlasting. 

Thanks for reading! I had a blast experiencing all that Boston had to offer, marathon and otherwise, and enjoyed reliving my tales here. If you made it this far in the reading, you are to be commended. Take care and happy running!

Beard:  The end.


  1. I read it all, and enjoyed it. Thanks to both of you for sharing!

  2. Just great! I had such a slow, lazy start to running. I really want to kick things into gear and this is totally inspiring. Thanks for sharing!!


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