There is no shade in Boston

There is no shade in Boston

by Bob H.

About a week out from Boston, my friend wrote to say that it was going to be about 80 degrees on race Monday. As the week progressed, that forecast high increased until, the Saturday before, the race committee decided to offer deferments to anyone who was not in top shape or prepared for the heat. I considered this, but only for a couple of minutes. We were already in Boston…

Race day dawned sunny and hot. The Boston Marathon starts in Hopkinton, Mass. and when we arrived at Hopkinton Jr. High, it was already more than 70 degrees. In four previous Bostons, I have ALWAYS needed warm up clothing (and typically more than that). We were hot with just our shorts and singlets. We opted for shade and tried to take it easy for the hour and a half we were waiting. Drink, Drink, Drink!!

The race begins about .75 miles from the school and the downhill walk usually turns into a warm up jog. We were already warmed up and did not want to increase our body temperatures any more than necessary. We found some shade near the start area, but it probably did not help much as there were about 5 people per square foot of shade to help keep us warm.

I heard someone say the temperature was 78 degrees when I passed over the start line. It wasn’t too bad and the first mile is sharply downhill. I was running easily with my friend who is a much better marathoner than me. His plan was still to average less than eight-minute miles. I changed my goal from 3:30 to finish in one piece. After our 8:12 first mile, my buddy was ready to pick it up and I was ready to slow way down. We went our separate ways.

By 5K, I knew survival was the key and began walking the water stops. I was drinking pretty much only Gatorade even though Laurie and I had talked about alternating Gatorade and water at each stop. I figured with the heat I needed the Gatorade. That was a mistake as by 12 miles or so, I was very tired of Gatorade.

By 10 miles, it was walk 45 seconds, run 1:15 and after the halfway point, it was almost entirely walk. I called Pat and told her it was going to be a long day! Even the Wellesley girls at mile 12 could not cool me off or make me go faster.

At 18.5 miles, I had to stop and sit down for a minute. I called Pat again and she told me that the defending champion had been taken away by ambulance at 18 miles. I responded by stating, “Well at least I kicked his a—!” then got up and walked on. At least 10 minutes had gone by.

Just after cresting Heartbreak Hill, I stopped again and called Pat to update her on my “progress.” That’s when she told me everyone was keeping track of my “progress” and was pulling hard for me. I felt much better for awhile and actually ran a couple of steps before the heat took over again. I tried to use the energy from the Boston College students, but that was not working.

At 35K, I visited an aid station, asking for “a cold towel or something.” The doctor made me sit down and took my blood pressure: 92/50. He said something about a bus to take me to the finish line, I told him I have low BP anyway and felt OK, I was just hot. As I was getting ready to argue, this doctor was called away on the “go team” and a replacement came over. He gave me a cold bottle of water and a bag of ice. I asked him if there was a set amount of time he had to keep me. He asked me how I felt.

Me: “I feel OK.”

Doc: “Do you know where you are?”

Me: “35K, about 22 miles.”

Doc: “Do you know what day it is?”

Me: “Patriot’s Day. How long do you have to keep me here?”

Doc: “You can go whenever you’re ready, just sign this.”

Me: “Great! Thanks!”

Then I was on my way once more.

I felt much better after that but still not well enough to run more than 10 steps at a time and those came about once a mile. Through Cleveland Circle, down Commonwealth Avenue, past Fenway and the Citgo sign into Kenmore Square. Under Mass Ave., right on Hereford and left on Boylston. Once on Boylston, I couldn’t let all those people see me walk to the finish line so I ran most of the way down Boylston to the finish. The time did not matter, just making it without passing out was the best thing.

My day wasn’t over. After talking with Pat and Coach Joe on the phone, my phone rang and it was my friend’s mother, who is like a second mom to me. My friend finished in 3:45 (yeah, he’s still fast) but his mom had not heard from him and she asked me to find him. Pat and I made some inquiries and then we received a call from him. He was in the medical tent where he spent four hours and was given three bags of IV fluid. WHEW!! I called his mom and she uttered the words I never thought I’d hear,

“You were the smart one!!”

I’m not sure how smart any of us were out there that day, but even though it was disappointing to not do better, it was satisfying to be able to get through it mostly unscathed. Besides, as I have always said about the marathon, “Getting the medal is the only thing that really matters!”




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