Posted by: pointlenana | April 18, 2012

Boston 2012 – Badwater Lite

Each July there’s a running race in Death Valley running 135 miles from the lowest point in the continental US to the trailhead leading to the highest point (Mt. Whitney).  With temperatures up to 130 degrees, runners have to run on the painted white lines to keep the soles of their shoes from melting, and cool themselves off by lying down in big coolers filled with ice. 

Boston 2012 was not like Badwater.  But for the two of us coming from Seattle, Boston 2012 felt a lot closer to Badwater than it did to the training runs we’ve done in 45 degree weather for the past six months.  It got as hot as 89 degrees in Framingham, right about the time we were travelling through there, and as we finished in Boston around 4pm it was still 87.  Running feels different when it’s 40 degrees warmer than you are used to.  Some 400 runners opted to defer until next year and another 3800 didn’t even bother to pick their bib up.  The rest of us muddled through in the heat. 

Things I learned yesterday:

Janet is amazing.  In 2010 I ran Boston for the first time and ran too fast during the downhill miles at the start.  At mile 21 my quads seized up and I had a painful 5 miles to the finish.  It lasted about 45 minutes and it seemed pretty bad at for each of those minutes.  Yesterday Janet’s stomach started cramping somewhere around mile 7 and didn’t stop until a couple hours after we finished.  She had 3 ½ hours of feeling pretty bad, running when she could and walking when she couldn’t run, and finished anyway.  She wasn’t the only one – I’ve never seen so many people walking in a marathon, and this was Boston where everyone is fast and fit.  A few dozen left the race in ambulances but most finished.  After surviving our way through almost 26 miles, it was pretty fun running those last 600 yards towards the finish down Boylston with Janet, and seeing the finisher’s medal around her neck afterwards. 

You can fit a surprising amount of ice inside a baseball cap and still get the cap on your head.  The BAA and the people of Hopkinton-to-Boston did a great job of keeping us alive out there – oranges, extra water, hoses, misting tents (like a carwash for runners), and ice.  My hat was packed with ice most of the time from mile 10 onward.  I was hot but it could have been much worse. 

There’s nothing like a Slurpee during a marathon.  I had my personal low about 4 miles from the finish when I felt completely sun-baked and realized that what’s normally a 35 minute run would take another hour of run-walking.  Janet went on ahead while I ducked under a rope, headed into 7-Eleven and got a big cola Slurpee.  The woman next to me at the counter was laughing as I paid.  I think my favorite image from yesterday (besides crossing the finish together) is chasing after Janet in the Boston Marathon, holding a big Slurpee in my hand – almost an ad for 7-Eleven.  That Slurpee tasted infinitely better than the warm water and Gatorade we’d been downing for hours and lifted our spirits for a while.  I also really appreciated the hospitality of the Boston Hash House Harriers somewhere around mile 21.  I did the Taipei hash one Sunday a couple years ago, and it was great to be handed a small cup of cold beer yesterday by the “drinking club with a running problem”. 

High-fiving people is as fun as I remembered it.  In the first mile or two, there are lots and lots of kids – clumps of 7 year olds, kids in parents’ arms – holding their hands out.  Janet’s race pace is a little slower than what I’m capable of, so my friend Paul and I spent a bunch of time on the edge of the road with the kids.  At Wellesley I skipped the kisses but probably high-fived 200 of the women.  There were lots of cheers for my Dana-Farber singlet, and lots of “Go Mark”, until the duct tape with my name came off my singlet as a result of the constant wet/dry cycle under the hoses and sun.  The race starts at 10am, and at 5:30 pm there were still people cheering finishers on.  For those of us who aren’t competing for the prize money, the spectators make Boston. 

When you run a 5:15 marathon, you have to plan your sunscreen carefully.  We both ran so slowly that today I feel almost normal, and my only issues are a small blister under my foot and some sunburn on my calves where I didn’t think to put sunscreen. (“I’d have to be out there for hours to need sunscreen there.”)  Janet seems to be 100% except for some small reminders from her stomach.  We lost Paul somewhere around mile 6 when we took a porta-potty break.  I know he survived and finished in 4:09 and I look forward to hearing about his experience.

Friends watching makes a difference.  Our friend Cathy stuck it out at mile 24 until we finally came through – that hug helped Janet.  Jody cheered us on at the finish, and Liz was out there in Wellesley cheering us all on and took that nice picture below after we finished.  And huge thanks to our friend Will who had to work yesterday but who shuttled us around all weekend and fed us last night when we were too tired to do more than sit. 

This marathon was never about running fast.  On the big points – running and finishing with Janet, and raising a lot of money for Dana-Farber and cancer research (and Playworks in Janet’s case) – Boston 2012 was a huge success.  The running experience wasn’t as I had imagined, but we did it and this Boston Marathon finishers medal has much more meaning than my other two do. 

P.S.  I loved this exchange with the person at the counter when we picked up our car. 

“You have a medal on!”

“Yes, I ran the Boston Marathon yesterday.”

“Oh, did you win?”

“Uh, no, I didn’t win.  But we all got medals.”

“Where was it?”

“Uh, Boston.”

“I’d like to see that.”

“The marathon?”

“No, Boston.”

 I’ll have to go watch these cartoons again and remind myself that not everyone focuses on this the way I have:

Part 1:
Part 2:

P.P.S.  I also loved this.  There was an Amazon box waiting for us when we got home, with a couple things I had ordered.  We opened it up and at the top was a book called “Extreme Running” with a picture of people running in a desert.  How appropriate.

Here are some pictures from the weekend.

At the finish, Sunday.

At the finish line Sunday night, a long way from finishing.

Waiting at Boston Commons to get on a bus. Not a lot of body fat in this crowd.

On the bus, looking out at the huge line stretching back into Boston Commons. Dana-Farber teammates in the foreground on the left.

Mark and Paul at the Dana-Farber refuge Monday morning.

Before the grim faces went on.


In the start corral looking up toward the blue post on the right which marks the starting line.

Looking backwards from the start corral. I haven't found a smile yet in this picture. It was already warm.

Janet at mile 7 or so, doing her best to look like she's enjoying it.

And continuing on with the ribbon of runners. Just 19 miles to go. That ribbon was already 9 miles long when we started, and probably 20 miles long at its peak.

That was the last picture I took on purpose. I did take this self-portrait somewhere along the way though - Boston 2012 runner from the perspective of the sun.

After the grim faces came back off. I forgot to have someone take our picture at the finish. Thanks Liz for covering for me!


  1. Great post! all of it, but I do really like the exchange with the person at the counter. And the photos …. with such calm and relaxed smiles at the end, it’s hard to believe there were ever any grim faces. 🙂

  2. Very moving account. The photos were great. I love seeing your radiant faces.

  3. I do like the exchange with the person at the counter. I almost fell out of my chair laughing.

  4. Love the blog. I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet you as well, but I appreciate your marathoning advice and words of encouragement! I had a good day, so yeah, I’ll try to get a faster Boston in my future!

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