The Boston Marathon

April begins with us saying goodbye to an old friend and colleague Derek Bunning who sadly passed away after a long illness. As funerals go it was a good one and we enjoyed catching up with our friends from Maybo.

Derek at a Maybo Christmas do

I know it’s been a funny year so far but the time has come to pack and re-pack a few times as the weather in Boston USA is very unpredictable at this time of year and I cannot decide what I may need. Charles asks innocently if I am going to get everything into one carry-on bag – until he sees that one of them is already full with an assortment of running gear for warm, cold, windy and wet and decides to leave the room and the packing to the expert.

Our AirBNB in Boston

On Tuesday the 9th we take a flight to Amsterdam and then onto Boston and immediately get our heads around the train system to arrive at our Airbnb in the Brookline area and meet our host John who shows us to our fantastic home for the week. He had also provided us with some essential provisions including a bottle of wine for Charles (I’m off the booze for now) so there was no need for us to go out on our first night.

The ‘T’ Station

The T station is only a three minute walk from the apartment and takes 20 or so minutes to get downtown (getting into the lingo already!!) After enjoying fantastic breakfasts in Chicago and New York we decide to try and see what Boston has to offer – our first attempt is not quite up to our expected standard and is probably more like a UK greasy cafe albeit a tasty meal. It’s now time to familiarise ourselves with the city and set off to explore. Unfortunately the weather is cold and wet so we end up in the Aquarium where apparently everyone else have the same idea. The weather isn’t that much better when we exit so we find the famous Cheers Bar but only after we order do we realise this is a replica so we are going to have to do all again once we find the original.

Rainy day entertainment in the Aquarium

We then spend an enjoyable afternoon in the State House learning about how bad the English were resulting in the Boston Massacre where 5 Bostonians were killed by soldiers allegedly because of a local resident shouting fire (his house was on fire) and the soldiers believed it was an order to open fire – who knows? but it wasn’t a good decision. The British Parliament decided to put taxes on all paper including stamps, letters, documents etc which again didn’t go down well and a group of Bostonians decided to make a stand by tipping out tea from three ships in the port which in todays money would be thousands and thousands of pounds.

The State House – dwarfed by skyscrapers!

Charles and I decide it would be best if we talk quietly so not as to reveal our accents but I think they have forgiven us by now. We take a walk to the marathon finish line which for some reason gives me the butterflies!!

Sally checks out the finish line
Leaving the harbour
Off to look for whales – didn’t see any!

On Thursday we take a four hour whale watching boat tour but only manage to see one dolphin so are given a complimentary ticket to take another trip. It’s a nice relaxing day out and in the afternoon we take the hop on hop off tram bus which gives us a feel for the city. Boston is definitely on a smaller scale to Chicago and New York with smaller skyscrapers but has a more homely feel.

On Friday after a fab breakfast at Stephanies on Newbury we take the lift up 50 floors up the Prudential Centre to the Skywalk Observatory providing awesome views of Boston Hancock Tower, Fenway Park, Boston Common and Public Gardens and Harvard University to name but a few of the famous landmarks. There is also a Dreams of Freedom Museum which informs us that one out of every three residents was born abroad and has a population that speaks more than 140 different languages.

Collecting Sally’s Bib
Ritual search for her name on the list!

And now it’s time to visit the Expo where I collect my bib and goodie bag before exploring all the stalls where I repeat my mantra ‘I don’t need any more running gear, I don’t need any more running gear’. I’m not very convincing but do manage to suppress my desire and only buy the celebration jacket. We spent the afternoon again on the hop on hop off bus to give my legs a rest and then took a harbour cruise which is very interesting exploring the many quays.

Saturday morning 5k shakeout run

The heavens open on Saturday morning but we are up early and find our way to Boston Common where I run the 5K Shakeout run. It’s nice chatting to other runners and comforting to know I am not the only one really nervous about Mondays marathon. It’s a wet race with about 5 thousand runners but impressively I receive a medal, shirt and goody bag with some amazing Kings Hawaiian Rolls which I had never heard of but tasting incredible. They are sweet bread rolls so don’t sound spectacular but are delicious.

In the afternoon we have a second unsuccessful attempt with the whale watching trip and again given a complimentary ticket but give it to a couple of students.

Harvard Campus

On Sunday we take a bus to Harvard and have a wander around this Ivy League research University with 6,700 undergraduate students and about 15,250 postgraduate students. It was established in 1636 and named after its first benefactor John Harvard. Some of the most notable attendees include Theadore and Franklin Roosevelt, author and political activist Helen Keller, JF Kennedy, G Bush, Barack and Michelle Obama, co founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg.

Sally rubbing somebody’s shoe – not Mark Zuckerberg!
Fenway Park Baseball ground – home of the famous Red Sox
Parachuting servicemen in to start the game – They never do anything by halves in the USA

In the afternoon we walk to Fenway Park and try to understand the game of baseball between the famous Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles. Fortunately we have very patient neighbours who explain the intricacies of the game and don’t seem impressed when I compare it to a game of rounders. As expected I cheer, boo, do the Mexican wave and clap in nearly all the right places.

Stand up – hand over heart – sing the national anthem … goodness knows what would happen if you didn’t!

I was hoping the ball may come our way as spectators keep any stray balls but no souvenir for me on this occasion. Even Charles concedes he’s enjoying himself but refrains from demonstrating it in the same way as me. Afterwards its back to our Airbnb for a chill out and to watch a film hoping that I don’t get too overexcited about tomorrow.

Monday the 15th April is here and it’s pouring down, really really chucking it down so I decide to forfeit my every day trainers so I can keep my running shoes dry. I wrap up in lots of warm clothes and Charles sees me off on the train to travel downtown. I deposit my check in bag and then take a short walk to the awaiting buses to drive us an hours drive out to Hopkinton the start of Boston Marathon.

Hopkinson – start of the Boston Marathon

I am so excited, nervous and terrified simultaneously. Boston is the oldest and most prestigious marathon of them all, it is a real honour to be running it. Runners try to qualify for years to get into this race so I feel very privileged to have qualified with a 17 minute buffer of my qualifying time for age and gender. Fortunately the rain has stopped on our arrival so I immediately get into the 30 minute queue for the disgusting porto potties but needs must and then I change into my running gear discarding all the warm clothes and lavishing my body in vaseline to try and prevent chaffing and blisters. Then its a 0.7 . mile walk to the start line and before I know I am running Boston Marathon – incredible. I have trained so hard for this race and think everything is in place but at mile 8 I know something is not right. I cannot put my finger on it, I didn’t start too fast, I’m not in pain anywhere, I’m not tired but something is missing. I take on water and take a gel but know this is not going to be a personal best.

The supporters are amazing and shout out my name and words of encouragement. All along the race, supporters hand out bottles of water, sweets, ice popcicles, tissues, wet wipes – you name it they are handing it out. I pass lots of runners walking so in a weird way it makes me feel better!! This is a linear course and I can see runners all the way up my eye line and I actually think I’m finding it disheartening. It is also a very undulating course and more so in the first fifteen miles than I expected but I give myself a good talking to which I won’t repeat here as I am not very polite to myself. I tell myself Charles will be between mile 17 and 18 and I’ve got to look strong for him, after all he has accompanied me on most of my training runs and I don’t want him thinking it was for nothing.

I have to admit I have to walk up some of the steeper hills and now the ball of my left foot is burning so badly – I was having problems on my last few long runs and made a decision to use my more supportive trainers rather than my race shoes but it seems not to have made a different.

\ I shed a few tears on the way but the supporters are not for letting anyone give up and yell out so loudly its not long before I see the huge Citgo Sign which tells me I don’t have far to go. I really need all my reserve and I am quite moved when one of a group of police officers sees I am struggling and calls out my name with words of encouragement. Now my foot is really really hurting but on the road I see a sign saying two miles more and I so want to get under 4.30 hours so I plod on and even quicken up to cross the finish line.

It is over and honestly wasn’t so bad – I think I’m making a fuss. I get my medal and cry, a volunteer says congratulations and I cry, a police officer says well done and I cry, I collect my gear bag and I cry. I am so happy and even happier seeing Charles and getting into warm dry clothes.

I soon recover after a long shower and change of clothes and we take the train back to town and go to original Cheers which is full of marathon runners all showing off in their celebration jackets and medals as I am of course.

I am on the Boston Buddies Face book group and see some familiar faces and say hello to Michael Young an Aussie – it’s nice actually speaking to people who have become friends from social media. I enjoy a huge veggie burger, chips and booze!!

Tuesday is our last day but we take it slow and easy, having a long lunch in Stephanie’s before heading off to the airport and our flight back to the UK. Stairs are not popular with me and I seek out escalators where possible. I wished I had my camera ready when we went through security at the airport. The officer told us to wait until he checked our passports and Charles face was a picture but the guy was just letting us through the fast track because he had seen my medal and celebration jacket.

So that’s the end of the USA marathons and just one more big one to go!

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