Monthly Archive for April, 2010

114th Boston Marathon

It was only by coincidence that I would run the Boston Marathon for the 1st time on the year that marks the 2,500th anniversary of the battle of marathon, 490 BC. This is the year the Athens defeated the Persians outnumbered at least 5 to 1. It was Philippides who ran the distance from Marathon to Athens to announce the victory. He would collapse and die on the spot after passing on this great news. It was this event that would define today’s 26.2 mile Marathon. It is worth noting that if Athens lost, Plato, Socrates and Aristotle would have never developed their western philosophy and it would have been an end to the very first democracy.

This year was the 114th Boston marathon, the world’s oldest annual marathon and one of the world’s best-known road racing events.  As my wife and I arrived to this beautiful city so rich in American history I could not help but to be touched not only from the story of Athens but also the story of America. Boston is one of our oldest cities and home to many of our founding fathers, the place Robert Newman, climbed the steeple of the North Church and held high two lanterns as a signal from Paul Revere that the British were marching to Lexington and Concord by sea and not by land. This fateful event ignited the American Revolution.

There could not be a better place to run a marathon on Patriots day, not a better city to celebrate the victories of the past and our own personal victories and triumphs of the present. To celebrate being in Boston for the marathon, it is the marathon that brings out the best of ourselves, pushes our minds and bodies to run a remarkable distance, a marathon is as much mental as it is physical and if you do not exert pure positive energy during the 26.6 miles, the marathon will get the best of you, as is life.

Running marathons is fairly new to me, something I decided to try going into my 30th birthday, inspired by watching my then future wife Shiloh compete in her first sprint triathlon. I have never really considered myself a runner although I did run cross-country in grade school and have always been athletic, playing a variety of sports my whole life including basketball, baseball, golf and also later in my life boxing. I would not say I was great at any sport but I was good enough to make the teams and play a little. The sport I did find I had a natural talent for was boxing, the problem was I also didn’t get into boxing until my late twenties, which is actually considered old for this sport as an amateur. It was for boxing that I would start running to help with my endurance in the ring. I was sparing a couple days a week and quickly understood the need to be physically fit and have the endurance to go toe to toe with an opponent.

I started to run three days a week in the foothill trails of San Diego. It was on these trials my love for running would begin. There is something special about waking up at sunrise, forcing yourself out of bed to go out into the awakening world, hitting the trails before anyone else is out there. The air is still cold, it is just you, nature, your thoughts and observations. You are away from work, away from all the cars, the busy streets, life’s worries and stresses. You are on the trails with nature, witnessing the sunrise, while pushing your own boundaries, comfort levels, not competing against anyone but yourself. In this type of environment it is true freedom and it is this freedom that took me from training for one sport to distance running.

The first race I would sign up for was the Big Sur trail marathon, a grueling course through the mountains of northern California. There are 5700ft. of elevation gain and 5700ft of elevation loss. My goal was to run, I didn’t know about time and at that time did not know about the famous Boston Marathon that so many runners strive to qualify for year after year. You learn quickly though as a runner about the lore of Boston and it was very evident at the starting line of this race. The announcer described the trail and ensured it was not a race to qualify for Boston. I saw it on many hats and shirts worn proudly by runners flashing Boston marathon and the year they ran it. This has been a similar theme in each marathon I have done and it seems in each race sooner or later Boston comes up.

The announcer was right I and noone in that race would qualify for Boston. What would happen was a self-emotional roller coaster from start to finish. On that rainy day in late September 2008 in Big Sur surrounded by the great pacific ocean and less than 50 spectators I would cross the finish line with tears in my eyes so happy with what I had accomplished and the distance and speed I was able to push my body to the point where when I finished I felt I could barely walk. I remember how much the other runners on this out and back trail encouraged me to continue, who ensured me I was doing great, who helped me lift my spirits, I was also supported by my wife who watched. This is support I have now found common in all the races I have done including Boston. I finished that race in  3:47:37, 2nd place overall and 1st in my age group. I remember hobbling down to the ocean with Shiloh, sitting in the water feeling amazed of what I just did. Shortly after I decided I wanted to qualify for this Boston race I’ve been hearing so much about.

My wife and I then signed up for the 31st Annual Napa Valley Marathon, both of our goals were to go to Boston in 2010. That race was also an emotional race. In the pouring rain I’d run 26.2 miles as fast as I could in clothing not suitable for the weather, I was cold, wet and trying to finish under 3 hours which while running I though was the time I had to do it in to go to Boston. I ended up finishing in just over 3 hours 3:00:53 41st place over all 8th place in my age group which was shortly disappointing until I saw Shiloh cross the finish line with a qualifying time of 3:34:42 255 place over all 8th in her age group. Shortly after I found out I too qualified as I had to run it under 3:15:59. I later qualified again in the 27th California International Marathon in Sacramento CA braking three hours 02:59:44 275th place overall 51st in my division in 30-degree weather. Unfortunate for others who qualified in that race it was too late the 2010 114th Boston Marathon already sold out, lucky for me I had already qualified and Shiloh already signed us up for the race. It  is my hope that the individuals in that race get to experience Boston next year.

Why is Boston so special? It probably depends on the individual as well as the fact it is a race not everyone can do. It is also the history of the race as well as bringing the best out of athletes on a course that has challenged so many amateur and elite runners. For some it might be the hundreds of thousand spectators as you run from the start in Hopkinton, through Wellesley, the Newton Hills back down to beacon street while being cheered for the entire time, having kids give you five, bands play, and caring people handing your water. It could also be as one lady says the hope the marathon conveys. So many people from all over the country, all over the world doing something that seems impossible, we cheer for everyone to cross the finish line. It is a great personal achievement for all who finish a marathon. It is a great challenge against yourself and your personal goals. I saw people collapse less than a hundred yards from the finish line, I talked to injured individuals so driven that they continued to walk the remaining distance even after their body said no more. Others cross easily with smiles on their faces, or tears in their eyes, some achieved a goal in doing it in a certain amount of time, some not caring about time just out to run and enjoy themselves. We all were cheered for and supported throughout this great distance. Most had highs and lows, and all got to run on Patriots day through the beautiful towns and cities of Boston, all with their own stories. I once again would get tears in my eyes as I ran through another finish line, feeling so alive and close to the strangers around me, my family, my wife and at peace with myself, touched by the history of our civilization dating back to Athens, touched as an American on Patriots day and as a Boston Finisher!