Sunday, March 25, 2012

Field Notes: To Boston and Back

I can't even begin to say how much fun I had in Boston this weekend on my mini-field trip. I treated my excursion not only as a training session but also as a 24hr vacation: I watched two movies (one going--The Godfather Part I--and one coming back--Wall Street), finished reading Atonement, leisurely read the Saturday Globe, had a delicious dinner out, and had a great brunch. All that and I did my 21 mile run.

On Saturday morning I woke up early to catch the commuter rail out of Back Bay station. They could have called this train the Marathon Limited because it was filled with runners. I was on the Framingham/Worcester line which runs along a significant portion of the marathon course (great for spectators without cars) so people got off at different points along the way. Looking out the window I could see packs of runners heading back into Boston. 

I got off the train at Framingham, which is a little after mile 6 on the course. The train depot (see right) is one of the 116 year-old route's landmarks. I crossed over the tracks and took off due east. Even though I've run the marathon two times before yesterday's run felt new. Without the thousands of runners and spectators I could actually see everything I was passing. I also had more time to take it all in. At the same time, in my head I tried putting the run into race context. For example, by the time you get to Framingham on race day the course have pretty much leveled out after a nearly 300-foot descent in the first four miles. Your legs should still feel fresh and you should have plenty of energy, but you have already take a beating. 

As I continued on I began passing many of the runners I had seen from the train. Most of the large groups were folks running for local charities like the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. I was really impressed to see how many volunteers they had out staffing water stops along the way.

I found myself much more aware of the rolling hills than I have been on race day. Even the level parts of the course aren't really flat. In Wellesley I stopped at Marathon Sports and picked up a gel. It was the first gel I've had since NYC in November but I felt like I needed a boost. I didn't linger by the official marathon merchandise but I did take a quick peak at the jacket--bright orange! Not my favorite but I have a feeling I will probably end up getting one at the expo anyway. There was a bakery across the street and I really wished I could have sat down and enjoyed a pastry! 

The highlight of yesterday's run was obviously Newton. Once you turn onto Comm. Ave (Commonwealth Ave) the infamous Newton Hills really begin (although they actually started earlier, back by Newton Lower Falls. Some observations: the second hill seems to be the longest and the toughest; there is WAY MORE downhill than I remember from race day; Heartbreak Hill is much shorter than I remember. For those who haven't run the course or the race before, none of the hills is that bad when viewed in isolation. It's the fact that they're piled one on top of the other from miles 16 to 20. Now I said the hills were a highlight yesterday. Why? Because there were tons of people along this section. Not only were the charity teams out, but Saucony and New Balance had aid stations too. I scored some water and energy bars (which I stuffed in a pocket for post-run). The only bummer was at mile 21. There was a "finish" sign for all the folks who had started their runs at Hopkinton but I had to keep going.

The final miles weren't bad--they're mainly flat--but there were far fewer runners on the course. I crossed the finish line--it's painted on Boylston year round, though since it hasn't been touched up yet it looked pretty roughed up. The next time I see it it'll be freshly painted and I'll be the one looking roughed up.
Today's (Sat.) Run:
21 miles at 7:33 pace.

1 comment:

  1. i've been waiting for your clif notes on the course! what you said is pretty much inline with everything i read. i guess we should be thankful the newtown hills aren't miles 22-26!