First-time Boston Marathon runner Brian Resutek wrote about his experiences at the 2012 Boston Marathon for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.
The first heat warnings came as most runners were making final flight and race preparation on Friday the 13th for the 116th Boston Marathon. By the 10:00 a.m. Monday start time on Patriots' Day, the warnings turned to strongly recommending those who had not officially qualified or who were extremely fit to defer to 2013, and those running to do a much slower projected pace time. The Boston Athletic Association went as far as to inform those running that they should adopt the attitude of "THIS IS NOT A RACE, it is an experience" for this year's event.Whatever you want to call it, every runner from the most elite on down felt the affect of the extreme temperatures, which reached 89 Fahrenheit as some of the runners in the final waves trekked down the Boylston homestretch. At the early morning bus departure from Boston Common, sunscreen replaced the usual hat and gloves, while shade in the pre-start waiting area was gone early.
The volunteers and local residents generously make running the Boston such a unique event. Hopkinton residents Ted and Nanda Barker-Hook set up a table outside their home, offering free sports drinks, coffee, water, bananas and sunscreen. These refreshments were all popular-except for the hot coffee, which had zero takers.
When the race started, 22,000+ lined up along Main Street, while more than 4,000 opted for the deferment option. Runners' pre-race hydration kept local police and neighbors busier than usual, but optimism and excitement remained in the air, although the thought of any PR's were thrown out by almost all runners.
"You can't control the weather, but I'm slightly disappointed, because any shot of a PR and likely re-qualification for 2013 is toast," groaned two women from New Jersey. Regardless, the towns of Hopkinton, Ashland, and Framingham greeted runners down the narrow two lane route 135 that is mostly downhill for the first six miles.
As the temperatures rose, the BAA and residents did their best to help combat the heat. BAA nearly doubled their amount of race-day hydration at every mile stop and residents commonly turned their hoses and sprinklers onto the course, while others reached into their own pockets and created their own makeshift water stations. As the runners entered the beginning of the rolling hills of Natick around mile nine, the pace was notably slower, and skipping water/Gatorade stations was not an option. It was not uncommon to see runners that missed a volunteer's water cup, only to have a helpful runner make their cup available; sanitary rules often take a backseat in endurance races.
While the heat was taking its toll on the runners, they welcomed a chance for some of Boston's famous colleges along the route to become more engaging -- perhaps through other sorts of hydration -- to the runners. For nearly three quarters of a mile, as runners entered the halfway point, the girls of Wellesley College serenaded the runners with their "Scream Tunnel," while seeking smooches from the runners for good luck. Fair to say that most runners could find a willing participant. "I needed that," laughed a runner from outside Philadelphia. "If I'm not going to PR, I'm at least getting a kiss out of this run."
2011 Men's Champion and Boston Marathon record holder, Geoffrey Mutai, wasn't laughing at all as he dropped out just short of Heartbreak Hill due to stomach cramps at mile 18, with eventual winner Wesley Korir breaking the tape at 2 hours 12 minutes and 40 seconds, 10 minutes slower than Mutai's time in 2011 (Sharop Cherop took the woman's at 2:31:50). On course, medical tents for runners started filling around mile 10, and as runners approached the Newton Hills and the famous Heartbreak Hill around mile 16, countless medical staff worked diligently to get runners the necessary treatment -- or in other cases, taking them to nearby hospitals. When asked how his day went, 61-year-old Dave from St. Louis said it simply: "It's done." Then added he has run 26 marathons, but nothing even close to this.
It wasn't the first marathon to face a brutal heat wave. In 2007, Chicago marathon officials cancelled the race when runners had failed to reach a certain mile marker with a time threshold. Boston had another hot one as recently as 2004, and has hit the century mark twice in 1904 and 1976, with those making it to the finish in 1976 being literally hosed down with water.
Once runners crest Heartbreak Hill, around mile 21, the last five miles is typically downhill, where proper planning can lead to a fast final five mile split-usually. While the runners still were able to beat the infamous Green T Line after Boston College's finest coeds lent their support, the march to the finish was littered with walk/runs and modified shuffle runs as encouragement outside of Fenway continued. "That's the coldest water I've had today," a runner stated as he grabbed a cup from an unofficial volunteer little girl near mile mark 24. "I love how this city comes out for this race."
Runners still found the energy to run, walk, crawl and even handstand across the finish line, while the medical staff did their best to adjust for heat-related illnesses. By 3:30 p.m., a convoy of runners in wheelchairs were outside the medical tent, while many other drooped over railings to check their bearings.
So yes, while this was one of the hottest and toughest days to embark on the 26.2 miles endeavor, the majority of these Boston Marathoners embrace this challenging condition, similar to their quest to gain entry into the exclusive annual event. A symbol of a past Boston marathon participant is the official Boston Marathon jacket; with this year's color a bright orange.
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