Journal: Eastside High Coach Ed Boehmke\'s Boston Marathon Experience

Friday, April 14
The trip to Boston was uneventful. The plane left Charlotte on time and Austin (son) and I arrived in Boston at 9:30 p.m. It was raining slightly, just enough to make going out uncomfortable. We got our rental car and made our way out of Logan Airport where we immediately realized that we were no longer in the south. The Ted Williams Tunnel has a 6 dollar toll fee and it is the only way into Boston. The tunnel takes you onto the Mass. Turnpike or I-90 and after two more 1 dollar toll fees we were on I-95 heading north. Waltham is just north and west of Boston and after one wrong exit and driving around a few wrong streets we finally arrived at our hotel. On the wrong exit there was a Wendy's and we picked up our supper; my first meal since the night before where what I ate gave me food poisoning. Yes, that's right – I spent Thursday night vomiting and with diarrhea that made me terribly weak. I did not get up and run Friday morning. I stayed in bed until 11 a.m. and then had to get up to wash and dry a few things to take with me as well as pack. I did not have the motivation or the strength to do these chores with any enthusiasm as I hoped I would have for my first Boston Marathon experience. But as the day went on I felt better and better (but still weak) and the last meal of the day stayed inside of me. I slept ok, but a lot better than the night before.

Saturday, April 15 I got up before 7 a.m. and went for a run. I HAD to do this just for my own confidence in my health than anything else. I ran for 35 minutes at a medium pace and although still feeling weak, I was certain that I could run farther if I need to. Monday felt like a good possibility for that long run. Austin and I left the hotel around 9 a.m. and made our way through the toll booths toward Boston and the Marathon Expo at the Boston World Trade Center. The WTC in Boston must be as long as the one in New York used to be tall! The Expo was about 10 isles about one-quarter of the length of the building – and completely filled with running stuff! A Wally-World for us runners! I picked up my number, chip, and t-shirt and then we spent the next two hours working our way through the crowd of runners that packed every row. Booths of shoes, clothes, sports drinks, sports bars, books, magazines, and representatives from other marathons from all over the world. It was incredible! If I had a lot of money, I could have bought something from every booth that was there. It was amazing to have that much running stuff and runners under the same roof. All of us with one common connection – distance running.

We left the WTC and headed for downtown Boston and Fenway Park – home of the 2004 World Baseball Champions Boston Red Sox. We found the park easy enough, but finding a place to park was another story. Fenway does not have its own parking lots like the Braves do in Atlanta. Every church, restaurant, and business use their lots to make a living. We finally found one underneath a shopping center that has a Best Buy and a few other stores for 25 dollars. That's right 25 dollars!!! If they don't get you in tolls to get somewhere they will get you to park! The ballpark is great. Good seats about five rows from the right field corner, opposite the famous "Green Monster" of Fenway's left field. The fans harassed Seattle's Ichiro all day and even got on their own right fielder, Willie Mo Pena, when he misplayed a fly ball that ended up as a double for a Mariner. The Sox lost 3-0!

After the game, Austin and I went down toward Copley Square, where the marathon finishes. We found a parking garage that only costs 9 dollars for evening parking (got us again!). We walked around a while and found a good Italian restaurant to eat on Boylston Street. The finish line was just down the street. They have that part of the street closed to traffic for a few blocks with scaffolding over the streets and a huge grandstand built on the sidewalk in front of the library on the finish line. TV station trucks were everywhere, huge tents, stages, and the sidewalks have barricades to keep the spectators back. What a setup! I could use something like that for all of our cross-country meets. The Boston Athletic Assocation (BAA) even have a plaque on the sidewalk engraved with all of the past winners of the marathon.

Sunday, April 16
The BAA had its 10th annual Freedom Run at 8 a.m.. The Freedom Run is a 2.8 mile fun run. They allow anyone to enter FREE and Adidas gives everyone a t-shirt; so Austin and I both go to Boston to be part of this event. We arrive early and it is cold and very windy. (The wind blew very hard all day. It was from the west, a back wind if it continues tomorrow. I hope it does, or quits altogether.). The crowd is small at first but soon grows to a few thousand people. At the start the BAA has a bunch of its runners get in the front and control the pace for the entire time. I stay back with Austin for a half a mile and take pictures and then I run faster. The start goes down Boylston Street away from the finish line that I hope to cross tomorrow afternoon. It turns left and left again onto Beacon Street and runs past the tavern that they used for the front of the bar of the TV show "Cheers". It eventually winds around back to Boylston Street and everyone gets to run the final few blocks and across the most famous finish line in the world. We both finished, got some breakfast (they even had free food), and went back to the hotel. After a couple hours of sleep and a shower, we headed back through Boston to the town of Salem, the site of the witch trials of 1692. They had a museum and I learned a lot of things about the time that I didn't know. Austin knew a lot of the stuff from a book they read in English class called "The Crucible." We left Salem and tried to find a few other sites in Boston, but the maps, the rivers and the one-way streets got the best of both of us and by dark we had enough of downtown Boston. We came back to the hotel and at 9:30 that night we went out for my traditional (or my superstitious) pre-marathon pasta dinner. I waited as long as I could because of the late starting time of the Boston Marathon. All I need to do now is get my gear together and try to get some sleep. Tomorrow is the big day!

Monday, April 17
The alarm goes of at 5 a.m. I have to meet the bus between 7 and 7 in 7:30 in Boston, so we plan to leave early to get to the parking garage about three-quarters of a mile from the bus stop. When we arrive there is already a line of people heading towards the bus. After a short wait, I get on the second set of buses for the trip to Hopkinton. The bus is only for the runners, so Austin has a long day in front of him walking the streets of downtown Boston and visiting the shops that are open. The ride is longer than I thought it would be and mostly on the interstate. We wind through the town of Hopkinton and to the middle school to wait the call to the start. It is only 8:30 – three and a half hours till the start. The staging area is incredible. My area (wave one) is a practice football field and baseball field above the stadium. It has a huge rectangular tent and a couple of hundred port-a-johns lining the fence to the stadium and the whole length of the right field fence. Thousands of people eventually show up. On the other side of the stadium is where the wave two runners go to wait for their start at 12:30. The stadium itself is off limits to keep runners from changing wave areas. This middle school stadium even has an eight-lane rubberized track! The temperature is cool and I wear a long sleeve t-shirt, sweat pants and gloves just to keep the chill off. I settle down behind the discus cage and pull out a book to read to pass the time. It's hard to concentrate on the book as you listen and watch all the people around you. I drink my Gatorade and munch on some snacks, go stand in the long bathroom lines, and collect a free hat and gloves that Saturn car dealers are handing out. A band is playing, an 18-year old girl from Boston who made it real high in American Idol, sings a few songs and a retired Boston policeman sings a few patriotic songs. The BAA did all they could to make the time pass quickly! Finally, at 11:15, the P.A. announcer makes the calls for corrals 1-5 to start making their way to the starting line. Ten minutes later the rest of us get the call. I make a last minute decision to run in just a singlet and not a long sleeve shirt and take my bag to the bus for its trip back to Boston.

The start is about a half mile from the staging area. Loud speakers are all along the street telling the runners last minute instructions and people are on the streets taking any clothes you want to get rid of before the start (these are given to the boys and girls homes). I finally arrive at Corral no. 10, the last one of the first wave start. A thousand runners that all have run a marathon within five minutes of my time surround me. The corral is at the bottom of a hill and I look towards the top and see the signs for corrals nine through five. Corrals one through four are on the down side beyond my sight. There are more than 9,000 people in front of me, all with fast marathon times. Officials walk through the corrals making sure you are in the correct one. We make small talk as we wait. As noon approaches, the anticipation builds. Someone at the Grandstand, on the other side of the hill, sings the National Anthem over the speakers. At the conclusion, the crowd roars and three fighter jets fly over. The crowd starts shuffling, jogging, walking shuffling, walking, and jogging up the hill. The pace gets a little faster, we crest the hill and begin down the other side. Finally, I cross the red mats that start my chip time – its about eight minutes after noon!

The course begins downhill, but there are so many people that it is hard to go too fast. Going too fast is something I worry about at the start of a long race especially if the start is downhill. I try to take in the sights. I am amazed at the number of people that have lined the streets, a trend that continues for 26 miles. I look at the people running and notice that although we are sharing the same race and the same goal, that we are all different. Many are young; thin and fit looking. Others are older than me, some are even to a point that I would call frail. Many are larger than I would expect marathoners to be. The runners are of different colors, creeds and nationalities. For 26 miles we are going to share the same road. Our experiences and outcomes will be different, but we share the journey together.

I don't remember much about the course. It consists of a lot of downhills, but there are ups also. None of them are steep and I would describe the course as enjoyable. It is hard to get into a comfortable pace because you are always running up behind someone and then moving from one side of the two or three lane road to the other. I do notice some of the homes and many pines lining the road and remember thinking that this could be a scene from the south as well as New England. The course winds through a bunch of small towns (at least small for New England), but the road are still lined with 100s of spectators. Some of them hand out water in cups or bottles. Some have sliced up oranges or bananas and pass them out to the runners. Some have paper towels for wiping sweat or blowing your nose. Kids put there hands out hoping that they will get "a high five" hand slap from the runners. They all behave themselves, standing back behind the white or yellow road paint lines and give all of us plenty of room to run (unlike the Tour de France where I think I would run over a lot of people because of the way the spectators crowd the course). All of them are yelling words of encouragement and holding signs looking for their favorite runner. I hear many people pick me out and yell "Go Eastside" because of the yellow jersey I am wearing. It is incredible the number of people that come out for this. They know the history and the tradition of this event and support it wholeheartedly.

I pass the mile mark at 8:12. Not bad, I think and try to stay relaxed and settle into as much of a comfortable pace as possible. I come through the three mile at 23:14 and think that this could be a little fast, but decide to stay with it. I am working hard, harder than I want to, but my miles continue in the mid seven pace. As most runners probably do, I talk to myself about the pace, trying to convince myself that I am ok. A few minutes later you are telling yourself that you don't feel good, that maybe you didn't train enough, that you started out too fast, that you ate/drank too much or not enough. The marathon is like that. It's a constant battle with your desire to continue and your desire to quit. By mile 10, I knew that things were going wrong and even though I tried to talk myself into fighting harder, my body was quickly giving out. I came through the half-marathon in around 1:41, but my performance had hit the peak. Between mile 15 and 16 I had to stop at a porta-john and that cost me a good three minutes. I felt better for a while with some low nine minute miles, but then the famous hills of Boston arrived on the course. Mile 20 was 10:09 and mile 21, where Heartbreak Hill is, 11:03. I was done. Now the battle of the mind over the body really kicks in. Your body is screaming at you to quit. Your mind keeps telling your body that you ARE going to finish this, especially this race. Mile 24 is 11:23. Mile 25 and you tell yourself to walk, but the screaming people force you to continue – they came to see you run not to walk - so you make yourself take a few more steps and then a few more and finally the marker and my split – 9:20. Ok, just one more to go. And even though you know that it is just one mile, the pain and misery are beating you up trying to force you to give it up. My will power is just about gone, but I keep telling myself a few more steps. I hurt, unlike any hurt that I have ever felt before. I ask myself why I got myself into this. I think about the Team-in Training motto and tell myself to Endure, some people must endure pain like this daily just to stay alive. It would be easy to quit, to walk in now, but I have fought this long - just a little more. I turn the corner onto Boylston Street and can see the finish line ahead. Thousands of screaming people line the street. But that finish line is farther ahead than I think. I hoped I had already passed the 26-mile mark or that they just didn't put it out being so close to the finish line. And then I see that mark, a 12:37 mile and the finish line is still another two-tenths of a mile. That might not sound like a long way, not even once around the track, but it seemed to last forever. Finally, and I mean finally, I cross the greatest finish line in the world. Great because it is the oldest one still used and that I had made it across it! What relief! Final time 3:53:02 – my second fastest marathon!

But the event is not yet over. I have to somehow walk another three blocks to take care of stuff. First come bottles of water or Gatorade. Then you have to stop at the chip station, where luckily, someone unties your shoe and removes the chip and the reties your shoe. Good thing too because reaching my feet was now an impossible task. Still moving slowly I go into the medal area and receive my coveted award. A medal for finishing the Boston Marathon! Man, now that feels good. I wish I had felt better to enjoy that moment! Next, they give you one of those metal blankets to wrap around you and I am glad to get it. I am soaked, the air is cool and the blanket does its job. Another bottle of water and I reach the area where they have parked the buses with your bags. I walk down the wrong street because I either wasn't listening to the announcer telling me which way to go or just didn't comprehend what he was saying. And 20 buses parked end-to-end is a long way. I back track, make a left, go another block and there is another line of buses. After passing a few, I see my bus and then I see Austin. He has snuck into the area, knows my number and is waiting on me. It was great to see him and I think he was shocked at the way I looked. He got my bag and we started the long (it was only four blocks, but it seemed long) back to the parking garage.

We got to the car and sitting down was such a chore. I wished Austin had his license because I just wanted to shut my eyes and rest. Austin went in to pay the fee. 28 dollars!!! (No one should complain about the cost of living in the north, they should complain about the cost of parking!) After some winding through some streets, because the main ones are still blocked, we get onto the interstate and head out of Boston. We go under one street and see many runners crossing it on their way to the finish line, about an hour behind me, knowing that there are still others up to two more hours back still working to reach their goal. I wish them luck!

A long shower and I feel like having a lot to eat. My body is craving fluids and my stomach is hurting for food. At my weight, I lose about 3000 calories running a marathon and it takes a couple of days of meals to make it up. At least there is one good thing about running; you can eat all the time! Austin wants seafood, but without going back into Boston, we cannot find any place. So we settle on the same place as last night, order more than we can eat and take the rest back to the hotel. I crawl into bed and I am asleep by 10.

Tuesday, April 18
I am stiff and sore when I finally get up. Our plans were to do some more sightseeing but it is hard to get your body moving after a day like yesterday. We microwave the leftovers from our last two evening meals and call it breakfast. We then drive to Hopkinton so I can show Austin the course and for me to get a chance to see all the things I missed while I was running. Just down from the starting line is a new statue commemorating the marathon. We drive slowly through the towns because the roads are mostly two lanes and the traffic is hectic. We run out of time before we get to the 18-mile mark and dash all the way across Boston to turn in the rental car and get to the airport in time for our 4 p.m.flight. The flight is delayed and we sit on the runway for almost an hour before we take-off. When we get to New York's LaGuardia Airport, they will not let us land and we fly around the city. I enjoy this because I get to see the Empire State Building, Ground Zero, the Mets and the Yankees stadium and the Statue of Liberty standing proudly on Ellis Island. Austin can point all of this out to me because of his choir trip the spring before. It's a quick way to see the city and avoid the traffic. Finally we land thinking we have to hurry to catch our 7 p. connecting flight to Charlotte; but it is delayed for 30 minutes and the runway is backed up for another 30 minutes before we get airborne. We land in Charlotte not too far behind our scheduled landing time. It takes us about 45 minutes to get our luggage, because they unload it at two different places without notifying the passengers. The shuttle to the airport parking lot arrives quickly and we make it to my truck only to discover that I had left my lights on and my battery is completely gone. The parking lot mechanic jumps us off and we are finally on our way. I make a quick stop at Taco Bell (it's the only place open after 10) and onto Interstate 85. After about two miles we come to a complete stop and remain there for about an hour and a half. Once we begin moving again, we see that a bad accident has happened, which closed all four southbound lanes. An uneventful drive follows until we get to the BMW plant just past SC 101. The right two lanes have been closed for construction, but they stop the only remaining lane to do something at the bridge. Another wait, but this one for only 30 minutes. We make it home about 1:30 a.m., two hours later than I thought.

I am very proud to have had the opportunity to run the Boston Marathon. I am disappointed with my performance, and I can thing of all kinds of reasons or excuses for running poorly. But I did run THE BOSTON MARATHON and I did FINISH it without walking. I hurt and questioned my sanity on more than one occasion. Will I do it again? YES!!! And since my qualifying time was done in February, it can be used again for the 2007 race. Hopefully things will go better and I know they could be a lot worse. I enjoyed the entire experience and after some reflection on the race and the events leading up to it, I consider the race a huge success. Am I satisfied? No. I can run better and I will go back again to prove that to myself. But it was a fantastic experience; one that I was very happy to share with Austin. The marathon is a humbling race. While you are out there you learn a lot about yourself. Many things are intangible and hard to explain. You learn to deal with pain and fight it with all of your strength. You learn to endure and persevere. You learn that planning is indispensable for an important event. You learn that you can do great things if you work hard at it.

For more information on Boehmke's TNT for the Alaska Marathon and to help support the cause and his trip to Alaska go to: