Random Thoughts from the Marathon
Author's note: This post uncharacteristically has almost nothing to do with EMS.
I decided to run the Boston Marathon yesterday after all.
It went better than I'd expected it to. I trained less for this one than any previous one, so I was running simply to finish, rather than with any specific time goal in mind. I finish most marathons in a little over three hours, and this one took me just over four. It was not the slowest marathon of my life, however, and I'm glad that I did it.
As everyone who spectated knows, the weather cooperated. Well, except for the strong headwind, anyway. It didn't rain, and it was cool, but not cold. No complaints there.
In watching a recorded version of the race coverage, I got the impression that my EMS colleagues had an average day. I stopped by the finish-line tent, and it didn't look as if they were overwhelmed with patients. I'm glad about that.
Not that this has anything to do with EMS, but here are some random thoughts from along the course:
- There is nothing more inspiring than a low-altitude flyover of US Air Force fighters. I actually felt shivers when they roared over the starting line with afterburners engaged. The public address announcer said, "There goes your flyover, ladies and gentlemen. They'll cross the finish line about two minutes from now. It'll take all of you much longer than that."
- The stupidest sign along the course: Obama Says Yes We Can, But Kenya Win?" The play on words is a stretch; politics have nothing to do with the race; and given that an American man and women both had a legitimate chance at winning for the first time in fifteen years, it was terribly kind of the sign's owner to call that ability into question. How about some support for the Americans instead?
- The greatest supporters: As always, the women at Wellesley College. They are truly amazing. They turn out in huge numbers, three and four deep, regardless of the weather, and their cheering--which is not just loud, but deafening--never lets up. It's true what runners say about this--you can actually hear them from about a half-mile up the road. And then there's the tradition of enticing runners to kiss them. At least half the women held up signs that said, "Free kisses for runners"--many of which had been personalized with slogans like, "Kiss me because I'm a senior," Kiss me because I'm a first-year," and "Kiss me because I'm Japanese." My favorite, of course, was the one that read, "Kiss me because I'm sexually frustrated." Slightly apart from the main body of students were a pair of women with a slightly different angle: Their sign read, "Free kisses for lesbians." After we'd passed the students, the runner next to me--a complete stranger--said, "That almost makes me want to end my race right here. If only they'd cheer for us at about mile twenty-four!"
- Most obvious sign of an educational apocalypse: I ran for a time next to a couple in costume. The woman wore a three-corner hat, a vest, a ruffled shirt, and running shorts. She carried a brown furry hobby horse--the kind of horse-on-a-stick that kids used to pretend to ride in the old days. Her boyfriend was dressed as a British Redcoat. Every quarter-mile or so, someone--grown-ups and children alike--would shout, "I like your pirate costume!" Finally the boyfriend said to his girlfriend the patriot, "That's a sad comment on the state of education in Massachusetts today. People can't tell a patriot from a pirate!"
- I decided to run in my Army PT (physical training) uniform, consisting of a gray long-sleeved t-shirt marked "Army" on the front, and black shorts that read "Army" in white. I've worn EMS-related running clothes in marathons before, and Harvard running clothes, and even US-themed clothing at a marathon in London, but I've never received a fraction of the encouragement that people gave me yesterday. From little kids, to old people, to entire groups of semi-intoxicated college students, virtually everyone who spotted me yelled, "Go Army!" While it's true that I'm "only" a reservist, I was glad to remind people that our troops need support, and it was incredibly heartening to see just how well the spectators along the Boston Marathon responded.
That'll be my last full marathon for a while--or perhaps forever. After twenty of them, I just don't have the motivation to prepare for such a long distance any more. Instead, I'm going to keep running half marathons and shorter races--which, to be honest, I've always been much better at doing. The half marathon is my favorite event of all. I generally run at a around a seven-minute-per-mile pace, which generally puts me into the top 2-5% of all finishers.
By the way, if any of you happen to be runners, please consider running Boston's Run to Remember on May 24. You can run a half marathon or five-mile course, both of which are almost pancake-flat. Both routes provide a fantastic running tour of the city, and best of all, the proceeds benefit not only a foundation for slain Massachusetts law enforcement officers, but also a "kids at risk" program operated by Boston police officers. For more info, go to http://www.bostonsruntoremember.com/. I've run the half marathon several times, and I plan to run one or the other this year, depending on how fully I've recovered by then. Who know? Maybe I'll see some of you there!
I'm sorry that this post has strayed so far from the usual topics. I'm on vacation from EMS for the next several days, but I already have a couple of good posts in the queue. Look for them later in the week.