Joe Noonan, a masters runner for the Green Mountain Athletic Association, just recently ran the Boston Marathon and submitted his race report to us. Joe is originally from the South Shore and ran for BC High back in the early 80s. His dad (also named Joe Noonan) just completed his 25th consecutive Boston Marathon last week (and that should make him an official streaker!). The elder Noonan finished 8th in the 70-74 age group, and was also the first New Englander. Said Joe of his dad’s exploits: “It’s a little inspiration for us middle aged guys to see guys in their 70s still racing competitively.”
On to the race report:
I linked up with Norm Larson and Mike Early at the bandstand in the Boston Commons at 6:45am. Norm looked like a real shredder in his snowboarding pants that he scored at the Goodwill earlier in the week. He was quick to remind me that the cost of these throw away clothes were tax deductible as charitable donations. We got on a bus with little issue and made the 50 minute trip out to Hopkinton.
We walked through the Athletes Village pausing only long enough for Mike to pee and Norm to get a coffee. It was already getting crowded at 8:00am and the whole set up reminded me of a concentration camp. We luckily talked our way out of the front gate after the border guard first tried denying us exit until 9:15am. As we made our way towards the start line, I met a Mass State Police Lieutenant who tipped us off that we had to be “screened” prior to entering the corrals. We were able to talk the people at the next station into screening us early, even though they seemed put out to have to do their jobs. I’m sure the hulking presence of the Mass State Trooper helped convince them to figure it out.
Once we’d been cleared, we made our way to Main St and my brother’s friend’s house. When we got there, the front door was locked and it looked empty, so we just sat down on the front porch to kill time before the start. At about 8:45am the front door opened and a bunch of people came out to take a group photo. They took one look at us and made the assumption that we were homeless men squatting on their porch. I don’t blame them since we were clad in Goodwill attire and on the porch, prone, trying to conserve energy. One attractive female runner looked down at Mike as he lay on his back and said, “Are you guys runners?” After the photo, I introduced myself to the owner and we were in like Flynn. I found some of my brother’s friends and soon my Dad showed up and everyone started treating us like real people instead of “those guys that crashed the party.” After a while, I wished my Dad luck on his 25th consecutive Boston Marathon and headed out to the race.
I got to the corral at about 9:40am for the 10am start. I worked my way towards the front and ended up in the first ¼ of the corral. There were about 150 guys in front of me. It was sunny and about 55o and it was beginning to feel warm. I stripped of my Goodwill hoodie and put it in the donation bag. As I was standing there in the crowd, trying to stay calm and conserve energy, I felt a spattering of rain on my calves and ankles which I thought unusual given the sunny day. I turned around to see the young man behind me trying to pee into the thin neck of a water bottle and missing badly. When I asked him what the hell he was doing he just smiled and said, “Sorry, dude.” Oh, well. I decided staying focused on getting ready to run a marathon was more important that getting into a fight with some jerk that just peed on me. Then they brought out the elite men’s field, Dave McGillivray had an emotional introduction, they sang the National Anthem, then the gun was fired and we were off.
Mile 1: 5:58 – I just tried to get warmed up and not get caught up in the enormous amount of energy in the crowd. It was fun to watch some young guys sprinting up the sidelines. I’m sure that strategy felt good about 20 miles later.
Mile 2: 6:02 – I tucked in behind about 10-12 BAA guys led by Wayne Levy. I figured these guys would know how to run the course. I started to feel an uncomfortable rumbling in my gut and began trying to calculate the odds of running the next 24 miles without having to take a pit stop.
Mile 3: 5:47 – Took it easy running downhill. Tried to focus on shortening my stride and visualizing running on eggshells. Still tucked into the pack of BAA yellow and running off Wayne’s left shoulder.
Mile 4: 5:50 – Felt pretty good but the GI issue wasn’t going to go away on its own. I’ll just have to see how long I can hold it off. The BAA pack was still holding together.
Mile 5: 6:03 – Wayne dropped the pace by about 10 secs and I let him go with about 4 other BAA guys. I always forget how rolling this course is and this mile kind of got away from me. I kept telling myself to not push and I gave up about 8-10 secs.
Mile 6: 5:57 – Running well and felt pretty good. The crowd was unbelievably big and loud. My gut was doing flip flops.
Mile 7: 5:57 – Still felt good and focused on resisting the urge to really drop the pace. Still a lot of running to do. I was running in the general vicinity of other New England masters runners Martin Tighe, Mark Reeder, Patrick Callahan and Robert Landry.
Mile 8: 6:04 – There are some rollers in this mile, but I totally got distracted by the growing crowds and gave up another 10 secs. Stay focused, Joe!
Mile 9: 5:57 – Everything was going well, but my gut was hitting the critical level. Hard to think about anything else at this point and started looking for port-o-lets.
Mile 10: 6:40 – I took the opportunity of a wooded area on the left just past the 15k mark to make a poop stop. It’s a good thing I have no shame or else pooping in front of 1 million spectators might bother me. The stop cost me about 40-45 seconds.
Mile 11: 5:58 – Felt great after my poop stop! Starting to run well now.
Mile 12: 5:54 – I was feeling good and really enjoying the experience at this point. The crowd was still getting bigger and louder. I started passing people that went out too fast.
Mile 13: 5:53 – I was starting to roll. The race plan was going well and I was excited to have strong legs at the half. The crowds at Wellesley College were unbelievable. I resisted the temptation to stop for a kiss. Still passing people.
Mile 14: 6:02 – I got distracted by the crowds again. The noise level running through Wellesley Center was deafening. I couldn’t hear myself think. All I could do was laugh and wave at people that were going nuts. Still passing people.
Mile 15: 5:55 – This was the best mile of my race. I felt great and ran strong. I was beginning to think this could be a good day. Continuously passing people.
Mile 16: 5:46 – Long downhill into Lower Newton Falls. Tried to minimize the damage from running downhill and stay conservative going into the uphills. Still running alongside Martin Tighe at this point.
Mile 17: 6:09 – The first Newton hill. Felt strong and passed a lot of people. I think the crowds were getting bigger. They loved it when I passed people!
Mile 18: 6:08 – Second Newton hill. Still running the hills well. Passed lots of people. Saw Russ Cooke yelling my name from the sidelines. It was amazing that I heard it over the crowd noise.
Mile 19: 6:03 – Still felt good. Focused on recovering from the last two hills and getting ready for the next two. Probably could have run this mile a little faster.
Mile 20: 6:15 – Third Newton Hill. I was very encouraged by how good I felt and how many people I was passing.
Mile 21: 6:20 – Heartbreak Hill. I finally caught up to Wayne Levy again. I passed dozens of people going up this hill. There were an amazing number of spectators on Heartbreak as usual. Literally thousands of people cheering.
Mile 22: 6:04 – I saw Binney Mitchell standing on the sidelines. I totally wiffed on the high five he offered. I’ve got to remind Binney that I’m short and I’m not going to reach a high five that’s held over my head after running 21 miles.
Mile 23: 6:05 – I still felt good, but in hindsight the split shows that I was getting fatigued.
Mile 24: 6:08 – Somewhere during this mile a very large gorilla jumped on my back. I thought maybe I could tough it out. I kept telling myself to stop being a wuss!
Mile 25: 6:16 – My race was over. My legs were dead. I was getting passed by a bunch of guys. Not fun. The crowd was really unbelievable!
Mile 26: 6:35 – How frustrating! I did not hit the wall. My head was still in the game. My cardiovascular system was still working fine. But my quads were shot and I couldn’t pick up my knees. My calves were starting to seize up. Imagine me furiously pumping my elbows back as far as I could in a futile attempt to get my knees to come up a little higher. As a side note, whoever decided to put that little underpass just before Hereford St into the course is criminally sadistic and should be shot.
Last .2: 2:20 – My daughters were cheering for me at the corner of Hereford St. Cool! I was just trying to get to the finish line on the blocks of wood that my legs had turned into. Boylston St was incredible! Words can’t describe how loud and emotional the last four blocks of this race were. I’ll never forget it.
I walked down the street and collected my medal and a bottle of water. They told me that Meb had won the race! He’s the man. I hung around for a while waiting for Norm and Mike. I had to make some lame excuses about my calves cramping so that the security people wouldn’t boost me off the street. I saw Ray Webster who informed me that he had a PR in 2:46. Very cool! I gave up waiting and walked the block over to my hotel. My daughters were waiting for me with a Starbucks coffee! After a quick shower and a bottle of Gaterade, my daughters and I walked the 1 ½ miles back over to Boylston St (normally it’s a couple of blocks, but all the streets were blocked off to non-entrants so we had to walk all the way down to Arlington St to get around) to see my Dad finish. When my Dad appeared around the corner onto Boylston St I yelled out, “That guy is finishing his 25th consecutive Boston!” and my daughter yelled, “Go Papa!” The crowd around us picked up the “Go Papa!” chant, which was really cool. A very memorable moment!
I’ve been reminded that this is a very difficult marathon course. My somewhat disappointing result was due to not enough long tempo runs and not enough long MP efforts because of the icy conditions over the winter. I also was not able to do my long runs in flats due to the ice. I think this led to my calves tiring prematurely during the race. These aren’t big issues and can be corrected in future training cycles.
I’m very happy with how I handled the hills, both up and down. Obviously a result of the Richmond long runs with Norm and Mike as well as the torture runs with Gavin Boyles in Montpelier and Adamant.
That’s it. We took back our race. Meb won! Overall, it was a great experience. I’m glad I did it.
Officially Joe, 46, ran a 2:40:06 and finished 345th overall, and 10th in his division. Congrats Joe and thanks for sharing!