other people's emergencies: random thoughts of an urban paramedic

For more than twenty years I've worked as a paramedic for the city of Boston, Massachusetts. The opinions expressed in this diary are mine alone, and do not represent the views of Boston EMS. Names, dates, locations, and physical characteristics have been changed to ensure patient confidentiality.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

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.


Blogger Kathy said...

Congrats on finishing, and nice to see something non-EMS for once! Now get back to work! LOL

7:03 AM  
Blogger TS said...


7:50 AM  
Blogger Renee said...

A lot of us were following your racing (Me, through others posting, not on the BAA site). Congrats again! And please don't apologize for posting something non-EMS. This is YOUR blog, after all. I think it is safe to say we all enjoy whatever you post! :-)

8:01 AM  
Blogger amusings_bnl said...

i saw on the news two guys running in full army fatigues, boots, and 50lb packs.

that was made of win. they interviewed one of them, he didn't look at all exhausted or winded or anything but said "that was the most intense thing i've ever done."

i was impressed.

loved your signs story and the pirate vs. patriot bit.

good job. well done. and if this is truly your last, sounds like one to remember.

8:40 AM  
Blogger amusings_bnl said...


adam posted a pic of your patriot and redcoat in action on universal hub!

8:42 AM  
Blogger TS said...

Renee: Thanks!

Amusings: I talked briefly with those soldiers somewhere along the course (I don't even recall where we were), and they said they'd been marching since 7:30 am. I give them a ton of credit. Anyone who has ever done a footmarch--especially with a combat load, knows how bad the blisters can get. And marching 26 miles is an insane distance.

Oh, and Adam does a fantastic job over there at Universalhub. I'll have to check that out.


9:42 AM  
Blogger TS said...

Renee: Thanks!

Amusings: I talked briefly with those soldiers somewhere along the course (I don't even recall where we were), and they said they'd been marching since 7:30 am. I give them a ton of credit. Anyone who has ever done a footmarch--especially with a combat load, knows how bad the blisters can get. And marching 26 miles is an insane distance.

This might be my final full marathon, but I've said that several times before, and I've always gone on to do another one. We'll see.

Oh, and Adam does a fantastic job over there at Universalhub. That's a great site. I'll have to check out that clip. Pirates. Ha!


9:44 AM  
Blogger Mags said...

Yay! I'm glad you decided to run-congratulations on finishing the marathon!

10:30 AM  
Blogger TS said...

Why, thank you!

10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats on another one in the books :) You should give triathlons a try. Something new to learn (swimming, and cycling). Don't worry there's still running.

With a variety of distance races, I bet you could have a blast!

Congrats again!

11:12 AM  
Blogger Norma said...

NO apologies necessary for the deviation in topic; this is a great post and I'm clicking over to check out the Run to Remember as soon as I send this. Still laughing out loud at the "pirate costume" confusion; dear LORD; even little kids know that pirates have PARROTS, not hobby horses!!! Congrats on finishing; you have my utmost respect and admiration...great job & great post!

2:01 PM  
Blogger TS said...


In fact, I have tried traiathlons. I finished fourth overall in two of them a long time ago, but only because the swims were exceptionally short. (The swim, obviously, is my worst event.) Since then, I wrecked my shoulder in a wrestling match with a heroin addict, which required surgery in three places, and as a result, swimming for time will forever be out of the question.

Several years ago, we assembled a relay team for the Boston Triathlon, and I did the running leg. We finished second to a team that had Uta Pippig--winner of the Boston and New York City Marathons--as their runner. Not too shabby, I don't think. The next year we were challenged to a head-to-head competition in the same triathlon by FDNY EMS. I'm happy to report that we won. The FDNY team consisted of a great bunch of guys, and we all had a fantastic time.

So, in short, I would love to get into triathloning. I'm a strong runner and cycler. But because of the swim, it's not going to happen.

3:31 PM  
Blogger TS said...


I'm so glad to hear that you're interested in the run to Remember. It's a really fun race, on a great downtown course. And, of course, it's for a wonderful cause.

Your comment about parrots cracked me up. Thanks!

3:33 PM  
OpenID medicblog999 said...

Well done on the Marathon!
God, I get knackered carrying the Lifepak 12 into the house!!!

As far as it not being an EMS post, its nice to read a bit about the man behind the paramedic too!!

4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you run in the Covered Bridges Half Marathon yet? It's way up in VT, but on a beatiful course. Unfortunately, there is no space left in this years race; it's held every year though.


8:34 PM  
Blogger TS said...

Thank you both.

No, I've not done the Covered Bridges Half. Heard of it, but haven't done it. Thanks for the recommendation.

12:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Congrats on completing the marathon.

PS. I found an interesting EMS related article in the news that might prompt a good discussion. http://www.fark.com/cgi/comments.pl?IDLink=4343119&cpp=1

12:52 AM  
Blogger TS said...

Thanks. I've turned it into a post.

8:47 AM  
Anonymous JAM said...

TS: Please don't knock yourself down because you are "only" a reservist. Members of the Guard and Reserve are an important part of our national defense. When I was in the Guard, years ago, I was very proud of the service that I provided.

I saw on one of the Rhode Island news channels that a group of soldiers were planning on marching in the marathon, in honor of one of their comrads that was kia (killed in action) in either Iraq or Afghanistan. The news said this was the 4th or 5th time this group of soldiers honored their fallen comrad.

Keep up the good work!

12:39 AM  
Blogger TS said...



In fact, that's why I put "just" in quotation marks. I don't trivialize my military service at all. I'm as proud of that as anything else I've ever done. But I know that some people consider reserve service a little less significant than active-component service. This was simply the easiest way to avoid controversy and stay on point.

8:16 AM  
Anonymous dolphkhan said...

Does the "clang" from your obviously metalic balls slapping together prove distracting?
j/k.. congrats, and thanks for all of the great work you do, both in military/civilian life, and with the blog. You straddle a line between entertaining and inspirational extremely well, and express yourself very articulately.

11:01 AM  
Blogger TS said...

Um, thanks?

I'm not sure whether that was meant as a compliment or an insult. The observations on my writing were obviously complimentary, though, so thanks for that.

1:08 PM  

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