Posts Tagged ‘geoffrey mutai’

This is the fourth or fifth year I’ve come to Boston on Marathon Weekend to cheer on friends and elites. Here’s a lovely ratio: the fewer minutes that stand between my marathon PR and a Boston Qualifying Time, the more friends I have competing on race day. Here’s another sweet ratio: as proud as I am of my talented running friends is as proud I am to be a fan of the professional side of the sport.

Random thought: is the degree of incline on Heartbreak Hill subject to the same debate as the height of the pitcher’s mound in baseball? For example, let’s say a major repaving of the road resulted in Heartbreak Hill being flattened by a few feet. Would that give runners the same advantage over the course that a few extra inches off the mound give batters over a thrown ball?

At the Expo, in the John Hancock booth they were showing a short movie that had past champions of the Boston Marathon course describing each mile, and what runners needed to know about what the physical and mental challenges were at any given mile. I stood there for 15 minutes watching with a lump in my throat, as I imagined the day I would get my chance to experience the long run from Hopkinton.

My friend JG’s dad is a superstar hero to this nerdy fan of pro marathoning: he worked his connections and got us VIP passes to the bleachers on the right side of the finish line. Wow I am so grateful, we had a fabulous view and there was none of the frustrated, territorial shoving that goes on when you spectate from the curb. Also, we didn’t have to get there at daybreak to secure a good viewing spot, so we had time to go for our own run this morning. Another reason to be grateful: 5 glorious miles along the Charles with my friend. It was absolutely gorgeous—apart from yesterday’s 5k race, I had never run in Boston before, so I really enjoyed this tour of a popular, local running route. Trees were starting to flower, the Charles had a flirty sparkle to its surface, and the wind was enthusiastic. Oh those lucky marathoners, what a blessing of a tailwind they would have!

On our ten-minute walk to the bleachers from JG’s house in Back Bay, Ryan Hall had dropped from the lead and was now shuffling with the pack, and Kim Smith had fallen off completely, leaving Desiree Davila and two Kenyans to battle it out the last six miles. Desi, Desi, Desi! No one in the bleachers around us knew who she was, they didn’t even know she was an American. I remember watching her race for the first time here, in Boston, when she tried to gain a spot on the Olympic Marathon team in 2008. Even though I was disappointed that Kara was not in podium position, I was supremely pleased for Desi, a real talent who would finally have her moment in the spotlight. Also, she races in shorts. NO bumhuggers for her.

The noise coming from the bleachers was deafening—when they turned the corner from Hereford Street, and Desi lost then gained then lost the lead to Caroline Kilel, we cheered as if our shouts of “USA! USA! USA!” would propel her once again past Kilel. It was a thrilling moment, to be one voice among many all screaming for the same thing, all taking on Desiree’s greatest wish as ours (if only for a minute), too.

We barely had a chance to catch our breath before we realized the men were caught in a world record paced race to the finish! As Mutai streamed past, my spirits were lifted again—I had just witnessed history being made! A world record—he beat Emperor Haile’s PR!! On the Boston course!!—it was all too much and I grabbed JG’s shoulders. Oh my God do you know what we just saw?! Okay so maybe I haven’t yet run the Boston Marathon but I’ll forever be able to say I was there when Mutai broke the world record. Now I understand there are IAAF rules that prevents him from actually taking the world record on the Boston course? Even if the BAA cannot get the iAAF to change its rules, Mutai’s feat cannot be diminished. What an achievement, averaging a 4:42 pace for 26.2 miles on the most difficult World Marathon Majors course. Oh and here comes Ryan Hall, in fourth place again. Why must he insist on being a front runner? When will he learn to use the pack?

We stayed and cheered until 2 PM. I searched the crowds for my friends but only managed to spot three of them. First I saw @runnermatt, host of the Dump Runners Club podcast and my Green Mountain Relay Teammate. Then came @SpeedySasquatch, much later than I’d expected him, helping a cramping and limping runner to get to the finish line. And then I caught @tartar_runner, Matt’s twin and another GMR teammate. I missed @tobadwater (who came in at sub-3), @NYCe (who BQed), @luau, and @willrunforbeer, (who set a big PR and also BQed). Wow, my friends are such talented runners, I am so proud and excited for them. They are all stars in my book and inspire me to live up to their example in dedication and speed.

As JG and I walked away from the bleachers, we heard race officials in the finishers’ area saying “Welcome back to Boston!” through their bullhorns. We were both moved by these runners’ accomplishments. JG seemed to swim in her vicarious joy for them, while I was struck with a fierce longing. I wanted to be on the other side of the fence with them, sweaty and spent, elated and exhausted. This is why I make the trip to Boston every year: it has all the ingredients–the Expo, the meet-ups with friends, the elite race and then finally the masses—for a potent brew of reminder and motivation. I leave Boston holding truths in my heart. I know why I train. I know why I run. I know who they are, on the other side of the fence—because I am one of them, too. I’m just in the middle of climbing over the fence.


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