So how does a 53 year old slow marathoner get into Boston? By running a 3:35 marathon OR by ... gulp...swallowing all pride....and joining the "extralegal" ranks of the unwashed or, in this case, the unqualified masses of ...the "Boston Bandits".
"How dare you steal the thunder (let alone the water) of those who qualified and, admirably, met the Boston Athletic Association age standards?" Well, in the defense of the thousands like-minded trespassers, who plodded along behind the real runners, let me argue that you just might have misperceived this longest running race and its traditions.
Ok, kind of like the Florida Vote of 2000...You've got your opinion and maybe that won't change...But, in any event, what brought me 26.195 miles out of Boston to the Hopkington Village Green? A last minute change of finances (poor teacher syndrome) resulted in my not being able to join AREC's good friend, Bernd, at the Hamburg Marathon. Fortunately, Marathon-a-Month Cofounder Suzanne Kairy (I might add, an actual Boston qualifier and former participant!) represented AREC well by blistering the course in a 3:52! Well done! Knowing I had "get the April marathon in", I decided to fly to Boston on a cheap flight and do the race.
I guess part of me...that side of my personality that appreciates the nonconformity, irreverence, and, frequently, trespassing part of the House Hash Harriers...sort of wanted to just set aside the stated "standards" and jog "unofficially" from Hopkington to Copley Square, behind the real runners.
I was determined to spend what I could at the Expo, so the Boston Athletic Association wouldn't suffer financially...as well as increase the city revenue by allowing my tourist dollars to replenish the city treasury. I was to approach my criminality with the highest standards of personal ethics.
I will spare you the complete details of "how I spent my Spring Break" but suffice it to say, Mrs. Murphy did not raise an idle son...Side trips to historical sights like Salem (the "witch trials"), Bunker Hill ("Don't Fire Until You See The Whites of their Eyes!") Lexington ("The Shot Heard Round The World"), Concord (with visits to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and Walden Pond to commune with Thoreau and Emerson), Martha's Vineyard by ferry, and a very informative trip around Boston proper with Elizabeth (the true qualifier who ran Boston in 3:53 on an 85 degree day).
Of course I did an empirical survey of some of Boston's watering holes, like the Cheers Pub...again with Elizabeth and it was all quite memorable..But the Marathon...ah...it was...magical..
The logistics..How does a Bandit get all the way out to Hopkington? I had paid homage to the route by driving the course and noticed the "closed to traffic" signs that were being posted....A cab would have been expensive...Well, After spending about 3 hours milling about the Expo, buying souvenirs and eating every free thing in sight or grasp, I came across a charity group, The Liver Research Foundation, that offered qualifiers and non-qualifiers alike "luxury bus rides out to Hopkington". What a deal! The real runners were herded on to school busses....But by signing on and making a reasonable donation to liver research, I got breakfast at the Westin, the bus ride, a t-shirt and Boston Marathon Cap, support stations on the course, post-race appetizers and beverage, a shower at the Westin, free storage, and...a massage! "But I'm a bandit?""That's cool"...Cool...I liked this group...It's good to be cool...Moreover, it was a chance to do something nice (bandits aren't entirely selfish) for a worthwhile group and I know two people who need liver transplants....Dedicating part of the race effort to "Sue" and "Greg", I decided to wear their names as I navigated the course.
The bus dropped us off at Athletes Village...."Non-qualifers need to walk to Hopkington Green!" a helpful older woman instructed. Friendly enough...And, I discovered, that's where the party was! It was like "Main Street USA" on the Fourth of July! This picnic was a good way to spend 3 hours while waiting the race to begin at noon. Not only that, but it was a front row seat as we listened to the speakers (like Joan Benoit Samuelson), the national anthem, the start of the wheelchairs and the elite women...It was, in the best sense of the word, quaint and quintessentially, true Americana...The rest of the bandits seemed to know what to do...After the gun, and as the corrals were being emptied, we made our way by thousands to the back..Eventually, we all managed to "officially" cross the start and as negotiated the famous rolling downhill drop.
.....Hopkington...Ashley...Framingham...Natick...Wellesley...Newton... Heartbreak Hill... It was unusually hot..in the 80s and I decided to use the same approach employed at L.A. four weeks earlier...to walk for a minute or two every 1/2 mile or so...figuring I would finish but survive in 5 1/2 hours...I was here to savor the experience...and beside, I can't run a marathon fast anyway! It was memorable...The roads were lined with enthusiastic spectators...many screaming "Go Murph!" (Bob Beachler told me I should write my name to bring out the true ardor of the fans) and "Go Liver!", which was printed on our t-shirts ( many of the spectators misreading it and yelling "Go Oliver!)...
Nearing the 13 mile mark close to Wellesley College, I could hear the screaming...I wanted to look fresh , so I walked up the hill by Morse Pond... and down into the most deafening roar I have ever heard in my life...Screaming coeds with signs that read "Free Hugs!" and "Kiss me!" It was incredible was tired...it was hot..yet I could not take the grin off my face...and with that fantastic reception we ran on as the course started to move uphill and closer to Bean Town......and then it happened...like manna from heaven...the Kamikazes...(Japanese for "divine wind")...or Santa Anas...A tailwind...Pushing us runners and leaves as well as all other flotsam and jetsam up the the hills of Newton...culminating with that looming presence "Heartbreak Hill" (where Clarence Demar left Johnny Kelly in the dust 80 years ago)...But it was a friendly place to be this Patriot's Day...Residents were barbecuing...offering us desserts (its good to be at the end of the pack)..and the Boston Hash offered old "Endless Bummer" his favorite adult beverage...I just wanted to slow down the entire experience and savor every moment...I munched on some homemade cookies and from the crest, took a mental panoramic snapshot of the view...I wanted it to last forever (the beer too!)...Leaving these generous east coast neighbors behind, I made my way to Boston..The Prudential and Hancock Buildings were in sight...The crowds were enormous...These people were shouting for us...playing music...dancing...They were having a blast and they had been out there over 5 hours! I had no choice...With every "Go Murph" or "Go Oliver" I picked up the pace...Now I was running for them! And "Greg" and "Sue" and my late father (Dad was the first runner in our neighborhood ....who took up running 40 years ago after reading a small book by Bill Bowerman called "Jogging" )...I was running the Boston Marathon on Patriot's Day...For the first time in any marathon, I was joyous...It was more than I deserved..and I appreciated it.
I came up Boylston Steet and closed in on Copley Square...Soon it would be over...I slowed down to let it all sink in...The crowds...the noise..accompanied by my invisible family and friends...There was the Finish Line...Ok, I thought, let's kick it in with style...I ran fast and with as much grace as I could muster...I crossed the line...ran the course...I was greeted by a Police Officer from the city of Boston. Smiling and with a handshake, he said "Welcome to Boston!"...Volunteers steadied my trembling body and covered me in a blanket.. "Well done!" and "Good Job!"....as I was lead to water and oranges...I couldn't speak...tears streamed down my face...I had never experienced this emotion after a race and wasn't sure really why I was so moved...I thanked the volunteers....and made my way over to the Liver Research group at the hospitality room at the Westin...Within minutes, I was refreshed with a shower, a Sam Adams, a little food, and was receiving a massage while overlooking Copley Square...The 108th running of the Boston Marathon was over...but would live in memory forever....
...The marathon-a-month club takes it act on the road to northern California for the Avenue of the Giants (while Todd runs his monthly marathon in Old West Virginny)...See ya at the races...