… I ran the Boston Marathon. Without training for it.
I was a dedicated runner at the time but had never gone farther than 10 miles. The Friday before the race (which is always held on Patriots’ Day, a mid-April Monday), forecasters predicted perfect marathon weather: cool but not too, overcast, with a west wind to push runners along.
I announced to family and friends I would run the race. They laughed at me, which was an appropriate response. I didn’t truly expect to finish. Rather, I thought it would be nice to run 15 miles, bail out in the town of Wellesley, and take a taxi home.
Monday, the weather was warmer and sunnier than expected – a setback – but I donned a lucky Minnesota Vikings T shirt, stuffed the pockets of my running shorts with nutrition gels and ibuprofen, and traveled the three miles from my home to the starting line. As a bandit (a runner who hadn’t qualified for the race), I started as far back as possible, next to the octogenarians and the guys dressed as Groucho Marx. Most of those guys left me in their dust. That hurt.
Nevertheless, the first half of the race went better than expected. Having failed to do my homework, I didn’t know that despite its famous Heartbreak Hill, the Boston course actually slopes downward for much of its length. Between this downhill run and the astonishing energy of the spectators (a thousand people must have called out “Go Minnesota!”), I surprised myself by clicking off thirteen or so 9-minute miles.
I blame the girls of Wellesley College for my downfall. These students famously scream themselves hoarse encouraging runners (what’s not quite so well known is that, on warm days at least, a few off them whip off their tops and do their encouraging in brassieres), so just when I should have been choosing a spot to drop out, they convinced me I was quite a manly man. Thus puffed up, I trotted through the streets of Wellesley, knowing now that I could knock off the remaining 11 or so miles …
… and that’s how I was thinking when I hit the first of the hills in Newton, and just about dropped dead. These hills made clear what the brassieres of Wellesley College had masked: I was all done, with the bursar sacs in both hips and one knee (which had caused me trouble in the past) on fire.
But it was too late now; I’d blown through my 15-mile target, and a water- and commonsense-deprived part of my head declared that running 18 miles would be truly stupid unless I went ahead and ran the remaining eight.
Those last eight miles took me almost as long as the previous 18. I walked quite a bit, and when I ran I looked like a man with both legs in splints (locking my knees made the bursitis in my hips marginally less painful). People kept asking if I was okay. Around mile 21, Mother Nature decided it would be funny to kick up a stiff ocean breeze to further slow me. Somebody from an emergency aid station saw me shiver and handed me one of those little aluminum blankets. I wrapped it around my shoulders and finished the race with it. Between that and the knees-locked gait, I looked like the Tin Man.
I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I tell you that when I rounded the final corner onto Boylston Street, all pain and discomfort simply vanished, and I ran the final half-mile as easily as I had the first. My time was four hours and fifty-four minutes. Running th Boston Marathon was and remains the best stupid thing I’ve ever done.