Guest blog by Jason Ayr
So what do we talk about when referencing the 2013 Boston Marathon? I, like many others, feel a sense of guilt in recounting my race experience from a running perspective. It is, however, important for us to talk about our races. Our races are what make this event so special. How very special this event is has not gone away, nor should the stories of our races.
The marathon matures you in many ways. The long efforts after a work day, the execution of willpower during your taper, and the mental battle over the final miles are unlike any other racing experience and they mature you. In the running world it is a guaranteed long term goal; an “all your eggs in one basket” challenge no matter how you look at it. A disappointing result in this race requires the patience to prepare and race another.
I felt pretty good about my training going into the 2013 Boston Marathon. It was by no means perfect, but it was a vast improvement on anything I had done before it. I attribute this to coming off my first competitive marathon in October 2012 and my growth as a runner resulting from this race. All was looking good, until the Friday before the race…
I broke out with a 103 degree fever Friday night and the idea of racing drifted away. In all honesty, I was feeling bad for myself.
Saturday was spent drinking a Theraflu and whiskey combination recommended by a Lady Wolf and chugging water in between naps. I tried to remain focused on the marathon, but it became a bit of a fairytale idea when my symptoms were up. The body aches were not jiving with the “above the neck” symptoms I was reading about in my countless Google searches for “racing with fever”. Saturday was not a good day for the body, but I forced my mind to remain on the race. I owe that to the Wolfpack.
Sunday my symptoms had vastly improved. I was congested, but my fever was down and my back aches were gone. I trotted a 4 mile jog to evaluate my situation and besides some very stiff legs I was feeling optimistic. I attributed my heavy legs to my 36 hour stint in bed to keep the thoughts positive about racing. It was time to head to the Expo and pick up my packet before 6PM.
One complete scan of the Hynes Convention Center and I was pumping with adrenaline from head to toe. I was still eating Zicam like skittles and drinking water until my pipes hurt, but I was feeling the race atmosphere and confidence was growing. I made it a main objective to keep the bout with sickness out of my mind; the marathon puts enough doubt in your head, no room for extra baggage.
Monday came and excitement ruled the morning with subtle fear coming along for the ride. I executed a nice 7:30 mile warm-up with drills and entered the corral about 8 minutes before the gun – perfect timing thus far. I was relaxed and ready.
Out in 5:29 – IDEAL. I settled into a nice group with Brandon Newbould and some other non-New England runners. We were a solid bunch and there was a fair amount of work shared. We came through half in 1:11:22 off of pretty even splits. I was very excited with this, but there were some lingering doubts that drifted in and out from as early as mile 4. I was able to continually convince myself that these doubts were a result of the “excuse” I had in my back pocket – that I was “sick”. I wasn’t playing that game, so I continually pushed them away. As Dave Johnson and I talked about earlier on Sunday, if I was really being affected by the sickness I would know right away, so no carrying that crutch for the inevitably hard parts of this grueling event. Moving forward with my recount we will forget about the sickness all together, it had no effect on my day.
Going into Newton I was actually gaining confidence. I began shining through as one of the stronger ones in the pack I was running with and pulled away on some of the uphill stretches. My splits slowed to 5:38-40, but since I was stretching out my pack I knew these slower splits were a result of the hill and I had no concerns. It was not until Heartbreak Hill when I knew the day would feature a real struggle to get to the line. This is a typical timeline for a Boston runner as I gather. I fought hard for my 6:05’s through the final 10 kilometers of the course. I was inspired by fans at some points and too numb to hear at others. The self-doubt was the hardest battle being fought – in my head. My body was in a state of work that it was not happy with, but able to maintain, as long as my head stayed out of its way.
Turning onto Boylston was magic. The dip of the sewer at the turn I have learned about in the Duel in the Sun to the beautiful Blue and Yellow archway awaiting my arrival – simply amazing.
I finished and hobbled my immediately sore body through the shoots and towards baggage pick-up. I hopped a T back towards my family at Washington Square via Arlington Station. My time was barely a PR and several minutes off my goal, but I was legitimately happy with myself for the effort. Even more so than Chicago I believe I left it all out there.
The marathon is interesting. It is true what they say, this race humbles you. In a shorter event the failure to obtain a goal time results in a depressing analysis of what went wrong. In a marathon the only variable that can be controlled is your effort. Because of this, if you controlled that variable appropriately, there is no analysis to be done. For this day I controlled that variable to the best of my current abilities. There is room for improvement, but as I see it this day was an improvement on all days that came before it. There really isn’t much else you can expect.
And then the tragedy. At about three o’clock my mother called from a nearby apartment, urging us to get off the street and hurry inside. There was still celebration at mile 23 and leaving this party was not what I wanted to do, but her voice was serious and nervous when it rang, ‘Two bombs have gone off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon”. It took the walk back for the news to settle as my initial response was purely to calm my nervous mother.
Everything that I wrote above now looks so selfish and meaningless, but I had to write it. If we weren’t faced with this tragedy that is what I would have written on the experience, so that is my experience as of 3:00PM Monday. By 5:00PM it was as if the racing never happened.
I sat and stared at the TV watching the replay of the bombs with my family and friends who had come to cheer. Twenty-seven thousand runners had spent months – years – trying to reach this finish line. Now they were running away. It was a place that I had so recently experienced emotions of pure joy. Now it was a place of fear.
I said a couple weeks ago that if everyone was training for an endurance event there would be world peace. I believe this to be true. The cowards that committed these acts were not runners. This is an absolute fact. It has to be. How we heal is by sharing our tool for peace with the world. It may not seem important, but it is.
With all the respect in the world for those tragically affected by Monday’s events, my eyes are set on Boston 2014. Respect the Boston Marathon.
It’s easy to feel guilty when it comes to talking about your race, but as Jason said it’s important that we do discuss this. His is a great example of an inspirational story to come out of it, and I’m sure that there are many more out there. We need to share the triumphs, while helping those affected by the tragedy. Once again, thanks to Scott Mason for use of his great work. Check out Scott Mason Photography for more shots from this race and many other events.