It’s cold. So, so cold.
The wait is so, so long. Boston starts days in advance. The nervous excitement, the endless forecast checks. Deciding what to wear on race day. By the time the race finally comes around, you’re exhausted before the gun.
I wake up around 3 a.m., of course. Who can sleep? I call up wunderground on the phone. It’s as bad as they had predicted. I make the first of 347 unsuccessful bathroom trips. Why can you never go the bathroom on race day? I’m sure Shalane Flanagan never has this problem. Oh. Never mind.
I nervously peek outside. Yes, it’s still there. I eat some Cheerios, down my coffee, and get dressed. Shirt, long pants (hey did you SEE the forecast?), second shirt, trusty Piranhas, baseball cap. Will that be enough? You’ll warm up as the day goes on, you tell yourself. And then you wait.
The prophet Tom Petty once said “The waiting is the hardest part.” I think he was talking about his early days as a food server in a suspect cafe in Gainesville, but the intent still rings true. The Boston wait goes on forever.
I kill time on the phone by reading letsrun, which is in Full Boston Mode. Would you call off the race? Who will win? Is Galen Rupp the antichrist? They boys are caffeinated and crazed. I’m sure running existed before the days of letsrun, but I have no idea why.
I feel my tender left quad. Not because I’m worried about it; I just enjoy feeling my left quad.
I make the long drive.
And then, I arrive. And wait. And wait. And wait.
It’s cold. So, so cold. I might have mentioned that already. But I’m at the Mayo. The Mayo likes to keep people preserved, apparently. (If I recall my childhood lessons, Mayo should always be refrigerated). I’m getting a blood test. I’m wearing a flannel shirt, my post-Cobain collection, but it’s not enough. My teeth chatter. And then, we’re off.
The guy pokes me in the arm. I scream. The pain is horrible. OK, I didn’t actually feel it, but still. A student is trailing him, and as she looks on, I can see her mentally plotting a change in career paths.
I rush out, eager to get back to the race. I tell myself it’s important not to go too fast in the early part of the race. I’m in the elevator. It’s downhill. I pace myself.
I race back home in time for the craziness. Back in the land of the high-speed internet, I try futilely to find a way to watch the race on my phone. Letsrun has a list of international sites, but none seem to work. And I’m always leery of signing onto a Russian site that says “click here for Boston Race and PeePee Tape.” So I’m resigned to the Official Letsrun 2018 Boston Feed. Rupp drops his water bottle? Des Linden stops to help Shalane get back to the pack after an emergency bathroom stop? Nike’s rain jackets are a disaster? WHY ISN’T THIS ON TV???
I become increasingly cranky as the miles pile up. Marathons will do that to you.
I go on a long rant about how can they show every preseason hockey game on TV but they don’t bother with America’s most prestigious marathon? What’s the point of 200 channels if one of them doesn’t show people running in the rain?
It’s probably on TV SOMEWHERE, Mo says. Mo clearly doesn’t understand running. No, I assure her, and turn on the TV to show her.
And there it is.
I arrive just in time to see Des in the last 3 miles. In a stark contrast to Shalane’s New York cursefest, she is just running a grim time trial in the rain. No expression, no celebration. Just a run. It’s fascinating.
I watch the clock as I watch the race. I have to leave again for another fun trip to Mayo, so time is of the essence. Push it, dammit. I have to see the finish. A turn. Another turn. And then, the finish line.
She huddles (no, not Molly) in the American flag they give her, more space blanket than show of pride. She hugs her weird coach and her hubby. I cheer. She’s an Arizona State grad, you know. And runs for the Hanson guys. Mmmm-bop training validated at last. Screw you, Nike Oregon Science Project.
But mostly, she seems like a decent person. A ridiculous amount of hard work for her first marathon win. 19th place at Boston in 2007. It’s been a long road.
But there’s no time to celebrate. I have to get back in the car to go back to Mayo for another test. I hope running a marathon minutes before an echocardiogram is OK. We’ll see.
As I drive, I get a text from mo.
I turn on the heater in the car, even though it’s around 90 in Scottsdale.
And then I’m back at the Mayo. Men’s race? Meh. Rupp dropped, Bill Rodgers apparently is no longer competitive. This was all about a woman who never stopped believing. “Runnin’ down a dream,” the prophet Tom Petty once said, although I think he was talking about his early days as a food server in a suspect cafe in Gainesville.
Fifty years from now, the kids will look back at that time — 2:39.54 — and scoff. They won’t know what it was like that day. The cold, the wind pouring out of the vent at Mayo. That unspeakably long needle. Time is relative. Victory is forever.
Good things can happen to good people. You just gotta believe.
p.s. Mayo stuff turned out great. Cardiologist dares me to kill myself running. She obviously isn’t familiar with the term Heartbreak Hill …