Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Boston Marathon

This year marked the 114th running of the B.A.A Boston Marathon. My original plans were to finally head down to Boston to run in the Boston Double, an event where runners unofficially get together at 5am at the Finish line in Boston, run the 26.2 miles to Hopkinton arriving before the start of the official race. Then, runners turn around and run back to Boston and the marathons finish. I've been meaning to head down to Boston for the last few years to take part in this event, however I backed out once again.

This past weekend was spent out at the Mendum's Pond UNH Recreation Area where I took my Spring Backpacking class out for their shakedown weekend. The weekend was designed for my students to put their practical camping skills to use, to see how they would perform on the upcoming 6 day pemi-loop backpacking excursion. It rained from beginning to end this past weekend with bouts of snow and sleet thrown in for good measure. It's hard to appreciate how much energy it takes for your body to keep you warm at 40ish degrees and soaked. Given the experience and all that encompassed it, I found myself beyond exhausted both physically and mentally after this past weekend and Sunday night I made the very wise decision to not head to Boston to run in the big race.

Monday night I headed into the city anyway to meet up with Jeff Genova. Jeff is one of my ultra-buddies who without his support I would have never finished my first 100 Miler back in 2007. Jeff was not only there at McNaughton Park, but before that we ran Disney together in January of that same year. I haven't seen Jeff since we ran in the Peanut Butter of McNaughton, so I jumped at the opportunity to head down and see my old friend and meet his wonderful family.

Jeff ended up running Boston, one way, in a time of 4:05. Nursing a hamstring injury, he opted to bail out of the double himself. But as I walked around the city on Monday Night, long after the hoopla of Marathon Monday had subsided.. and as I looked around at everyone wearing their Boston Jackets and medals, I began to think about "the big one" a little deeper. I really tried to analyze what it is about this race that I just don't get and why I have not only no interest to run it, but feelings of such anger towards it.

My buddy Steve and I constantly joke about how my 12 1/2 hour loop at Barkley is way off the mark for a Boston Qualifier and how my 100 mile times show that "I'll never be good enough for Boston... damn." Which brings me to my thoughts and feelings of Boston being an elitist race. Sure, there are a few ultra's that have qualifying time requirements in order for you to run in them, but those times one needs to run are not only generous but attainable by most front and mid-pack ultra runners... and even reachable by many a back of the packer. Perhaps this is part of what make's Boston Boston, the fact that the qualifying times are indeed so difficult to reach, making Boston a race one really wants to run.. my qualifying time is 3:10. My best marathon to date is 3:37 and I have no idea where I would find another 27 minutes.

Then I started talking to Jeff about the people as he reiterated to me the typical "road runner mentality" that is upheld at the race. No body talks to each other, everyone is out to do better and run faster than each other. It's head down and balls out for 26.2 miles and when it's over, people just disappear back into the abyss. When in Ultra's, people talk from before the race to well after the race is done. We help each other out during the race, we encourage each other... it's more communal then competitive. This one aspect is why I stopped running many road races in the area, and try to stick with running the trails and with like minded folks.

Then there is some of the history of the Boston Marathon which after thinking about it, kind of makes me sick. For instance, it wasn't until 1972 that a woman was first allowed to even run the event and even then she was treated like crap by the male competitors. In 1967, it was Katherine Switzer who became the first woman who tried to run the race only to be accosted mid-race by then Race Director Jock Semple tried to rip her bib number off and eject her from the race. Or how about how Dick and Rick Hoyt were first treated by the marathon, being told 3 consecutive years that father Dick was not allowed to push his son Rick (In a wheelchair) down the course. In their Book, It's Only A Mountain, the Hoyt's talk about their struggle to be recognized by the BAA and even allowed to run in the event starting in the early 80's.

I posted on my facebook page that I could really give a crap about Boston given the above facts. Someone told me, "Maybe someday you'll test yourself by qualifying to run." I am yet to figure out how running a 3:10 marathon is going to test me in a way that I'll even feel elation. Especially given the year I have laid out for myself and what I've all ready accomplished. Boston will NEVER make me feel like finishing 22 miles at Barkley did, or how my first Vermont 100 did.. or how Western States will. It's just a race that isn't for me. From it's history to the mentality of those who run it.. it's just a different dynamic and wavelength. I'll stick to the big guns... I'll test myself there and let others enjoy Boston for what it is for them.