State 5: Massachusetts (2010 Boston’s Run to Remember)
November 25, 2010 5 Comments
It was probably the summer after my sophomore year where I realized that most American college students (or maybe just my particular circle of friends) solidify their lifelong friends at the university level and slowly lose touch with their high-school compatriots. Why friendships forged in the Ivory Tower trump previous connections makes sense on a logistical level: you no longer see your friends from high-school every day, nor was it likely that you were ever forced to live with them.
I, however, did not follow this pattern. I awaited every summer with giddy anticipation and to this day, the summers of 2003 and 2004 easily make the top ten lists for pretty much anything. Eight and a half years later, I still keep in touch with them and very frequently travel with them, namely Javier Matamoros and Gabriel Golcher. Javier ended up staying in Boston after graduating from MIT and Gabriel’s neverending quest for higher learning brought him to Pittsburgh from Indiana and now currently works out of Austin several weeks out of the year.
Beginning in September 2007, we began visiting each other, every four months or so rotating who plays host. This year, my running addiction sync’ed perfectly with a Memorial Day Weekend trip to Boston, so I signed up for the sixth annual Boston’s Run to Remember. Through other conveniently-timed events and a bit of badgering, we brought Elena Jiménez and Laura “Lali” Becerra along on our adventures. Cramming everyone into Javier’s apartment on Beacon Hill wasn’t as difficult as we had originally thought – though there was one night in which Gabriel and Lali had to share a sofa. It was adorable.
The weekend was full of many classic running blunders. We did a lot of walking the day before, taking scenic strolls up the cobblestone sidewalks of Beacon Hill and through the Boston Common to stare at ducklings. Friday evening was spent at Bukowski’s, spinning an enormous wheel to decide which beer to drink. Contrary to what people will tell you, drinking beer does not count as carbo-loading. Saturday’s meals consisted of creamy soups and heavy sandwiches – all signs pointed to race day disaster and that wasn’t even counting the slowly rising temperatures.
But I didn’t care — I was having a great time, which explains how I managed to exorcise all pre-race trepidation. I slept very soundly that night, which rarely happens before a race. I was up at 5:30 AM the next morning, ready to run. We were surprised to feel a reassuringly cool breeze wisp by us as we stepped onto Charles Street. The sun was out, make no mistake, but it didn’t feel at all like when I walked out to the balcony in Miami. Thirty minutes later, I was in the 8-minute start corral, eagerly anticipating the start of my fifth half marathon of 2010. I started the race at a conservative pace, knowing that the temperature was in the low 70’s and that the cloud coverage was scant. The course shoots straight into Boston, along Faneuil Hall and City Hall, then over the Charles River onto Memorial Drive for a 3-mile out-and-back. It took a long time for the field to thin out and the first two miles were a bit crowded. Although the course lacked in water stations (only six) it made up for it in shade and where it was deficient in crowd support it made up in scenery.
My usual bullheadedness kicked in early and I found myself clocking 7:30’s and 7:40’s in the first five miles even as sweat covered my eyes. But I was feeling great. I kept the strong pace going after the 10k turnaround, where I decided that I felt strong enough to try and run for a PR, weather be damned. The 10-mile marker was at the top of the Charles/MGH Bridge, where the course turns south towards the city. I had not expected it to run right on Charles Street, where Javier’s apartment is. The race literally ran in front of his apartment, on the street with which we had become very familiar over the last three days. A small part of me was hoping to find Gabriel and Elena on the street, cheering for me. Instead, I fervently yelled to the second floor “Ticos, despertate!”, an exclamation whose grammatical error I will attribute to runner’s delirium.
Once past Javier’s apartment I began losing steam. By this point, the race was approaching the Common and the final 2-mile kick. In previous runs, “losing steam” would mean clocking 8:40 splits or slower. This time, it just meant that I had to work harder to keep the pace strong. At this point, I had accepted that a PR was not in the cards for me. I’ve noticed in my running log that if I haven’t secured a record pace by the beginning of mile 12, then I can kiss a PR goodbye. But there’s always hope that a fantastic final split can secure one at the last minute …
… unless there’s a hilly bridge rounding out the thirteenth mile. I struggled to make it over the top without losing too much time. I heard Javier yell at me at the bottom, which energized me into a sprint until I noticed that the finish line was not 0.1 mile away like it should have been. In the excitement of the moment, I also didn’t see or hear Steph, Tía Ilse or Lali who were in the crowds watching me finish with my second best time, 1:41:13. For the first time ever, a race funneled finishers into its own Expo. I got my medal, bottle of water and went outside.
Javier ran the 5-miler while his girlfriend Erin ran the half marathon. Upon finishing, she mentioned that she thought there would be more suffering. This can only mean one thing: she’s going for another half within the year. I’m very confident that it will be the next of many.
Although it was a great, scenic race, it wasn’t at all the best part of the weekend. Those honors go to the consistently great times I share with my hometown friends. A long time ago, we came up with the idea of writing a book of all our jokes in hopes of never forgetting them. But if our late-night conversations are any indication, we don’t need a book to laugh raucously ad infinitum. It’s a comforting thought, knowing that time and distance haven’t had a corroding effect on our friendships and that we can look forward with the same fondness with which we remember.