50 Thoughts # 9: Celebrate by completing Boston Marathon in 87 (F) heat wave

I was certain the day would yield a personal best.

As we left the Hopkinton start line, the temperature hit 78 degrees, rose to 84 as we passed through the Newton Hills and screamed up to 87 degrees as we ran into Boston.

The Boston Keeners Beaners I had been training with all through the winter (Phyllis, Danielle, Mary) started out together, forming the “Boston Bus.” Mary had energy so scampered ahead, running with Joanne from Texas who lost 200 pounds (not from the start line that day; since she started running). Then Mary realized that she has a young daughter who’d like her mom to see her grow up so Mary reconvened with the Boston Bus at 6 k or so.

To survive the heat, we ran slower than even our training pace and I obnoxiously sang “XX number of bottles of beer on the wall” as we passed mile markers, knocking one down for every mile. The math got difficult to do after 10k, which suggested brain in need of cooling….

The crowds were absolutely awesome. Between official water breaks, fans were handing out water bottles and cups, glorious ice (I probably put about 3 dozen ice cubes in my sports bra over the course of the race and tucked another 3 dozen into my cap). Home owners along the route turned on lawn sprinklers, sprayed us with garden hoses. Kids had a blast shooting us with water guns. Crowds were screaming at the top of their lungs, cheering us on, yelling “go Canada” and even singing “oh Canada” as we passed – thanks to Danielle’s Canadian flag on her shirt.

Running easy in the heat, I was having an awesome time through that first half, cheering on the fans and waving like I was the frigging Queen of Canada. Managed to high five every Wellesley girl (well, almost) as we passed by them. My right arm was sore going up that hill. A few kilometres on, I even high fived a dog — it was very cute. But maybe I should have conserved that energy.

Because at the half, the awful Gatorade and heat were starting to wreak havoc. We could not keep enough liquid in our systems — struggling to drink at water stations but couldn’t take enough in as the inclination was to throw it all up.

The wheels started to come off the Boston Bus (or at least my wheels came off) with about 12 k to go. Danielle and Phyllis pulled ahead of me at Heartbreak Hill. I struggled to keep up but was starting to cramp — let me count the places. There were stomach cramps, the cramps in the calves that made me fairly afraid I might pitch forward and land on my face. I had to stop and walk to stretch those cramps out. I’d start running again and get maybe .25 k in and the cramping would start all over again.

Mary was scampering ahead of us, setting the pace, such as it was, like she was out for a Monday run on Patriot’s Day….impressive energy & stamina. She noticed me falling behind so like the sister-for-marathon-life she has become, she dropped back to run me in. (She turned 50 in January, me in April, so this is the way we celebrate — we didn’t get the memo about the Caribbean cruise). She really had way more in the tank and could have finished way faster, but she stuck by me and I’m so grateful because there’s nothing worse than being on the marathon course in a 87 degree wave when you feel like you’re either going to throw up, seize up, or die. But she claims I kept her alive by holding her back– or at least I kept her out of the medical tent.

We passed our fans — Bruce, Alan, Katherine, Nancy — with just under 2 k to go to the finish. They were out early enough to see the elites pass and watched the woman’s winner of last year’s Boston Marathon WALKING past them — it was that kinda day. They were very close to our B&B so were able to dodge back there for beers, cold drinks etc. and watch the marathon on TV in the AC then scamper back out to watch us. (They said they needed the break from the sun — PLEASE!)  It was pretty emotional for them — they were afraid for us…. They were tracking us on the Boston Marathon website so knew we were running “slow” (we called it running “smart” in the heat ) and coming along way late. Meanwhile, they had to see some wicked performances of runners stumbling, walking, looking about ready to keel over while they waited for us, wondering what shape we would be in.

I was so happy to see them — familiar faces to cheer us on and give us energy for those last brutal 2 k. I gave my partner Nancy a huge sweaty Gatorade-soaked hug, then pressed on.

Mary runs to finish line. Marg runs to fans.

I don’t remember a lot of the last mile except the streets were lined several rows deep with screaming fans who really understood how brutal the conditions were. Mary said we passed  waves of faster runners who had started before us but were just done in by the heat and struggling to stay on their feet to finish. The whole field was batting just to keep moving forward. Yet, even if I cramped up again and had to walk past Boston College, the students screamed encouragement like it was the bottom of the ninth at a world series game, with Boston needing a run. It was wild.

I had the thought of tears in my eyes but was too dehydrated to cry them out.

Danielle paced Phyllis to a 27th place finish in her age group (60-65) — not too shabby for Boston. Bloody impressive, I’d say. They crossed the line together, about 7 minutes or so ahead of us. Then they immediately headed to the medical tent — Phyllis was feeling faint. The medics got her into an ice blanket (“packed up like a fish on ice,” as she reported later). She begged for an IV but was denied. While watching Phyllis get help, Danielle passed out. She scored two IVs. She’s competitive like that.

Mary and I stumbled across the line at 4:38ish, about an hour slower than Mary was aiming to run in “normal” marathon temperatures of mid 50s, and quite a bit less than the 3:50/3:55 I was hoping to run, but we held hands and raised our arms in “we survived” triumph. Damn, we earned those Boston medals.

Canadian Joshua Cassidy set out at 9 a.m. in slightly lower temperatures and wheeled to a world record in the wheelchair race. Yeah Canada!!!

And mother nature set a PERSONAL BEST for the Boston Marathon, hitting 87 and knocking off records for 2002 and 2003.

Like I said, I knew a personal best was in the cards. The personal best set among the runners was for our very good cheer in enduring it.

I was thinking as I ran (I lost track of the bottles of beer falling), given the spirit of the awesome fans and the won’t-quit attitude of the runners, the human race could really get together and accomplish something special — like solving this climate change thing. Hey, we could ditch the cars and run to work and truly green our food production by eating organically and just, you know, simplify life a little.

That would make it “win win” for mother nature and the Boston Marathon.

Otherwise, I think they better start the run earlier next year — like say 5 in the morning — because this race was verging on the dangerous.

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