99th Boston

99th Boston Marathon

This is the story of my first Boston Marathon, which is the BAA’s 99th.


This article contains graphic details not suitable for younger audiences.  Also, those with weak stomachs, high morals, or stuffy attitudes should not read this material, as they may be overcome by the content.

April 15, 1995

Today we drove to Boston.  I promised Cathryn & Amanda that if they were in the car ready to go by 08:00 I would buy them breakfast, I being the world's biggest and most impatient (when I'm ready to go) cheapskate.  They were in the car and we left, bought their breakfast at Burger King (what they wanted) and mine at Bruegger's (I had a full card for a free dozen bagels).  So we stopped once on the way, arrived around 13:00, and after a few trips around the wrong blocks, arrived at the Sheraton.  I entered the front drive from the wrong way and did a U-turn in the drive because I was sure I'd never find the place again.  The bellman said to valet the car, so I did.  He took us upstairs and told us all the ropes - where to eat, etc., and he was a very friendly Danny O'Connell, who said he'd say a prayer for me at Mass the next day.

We went to the expo and saw Mickey Dockwiller and Phil Dilmore (Syracuse runners) while walking in - they had already picked up their packets.  I went and got mine, and my shirt, and we went into the expo.  We tried the pirogues, the power bars, and got some coupons.  There were many lines of people waiting to get autographs.  Cathryn would ask me who the signers were, and I didn't know.  I didn't even recognize their names after reading them on their billboards.  Then I saw one guy who I said I'd stand in line for his autograph - that was Boston Billy Rodgers.  So Cathy got me in line.  Then I didn't have anything for him to autograph, so she went and bought a shirt.  After standing there for an hour, I thought it would be more meaningful to get him to sign something to commemorate Tom Homeyer's 26th Boston, so when I got up there I asked him and he did.  He was extremely friendly, which is part of why the line took so long to move.  He asked all about Tom, and how old he was, and was he going to go after Kelly's record.  Then he started asking me if I was running, and encouraged me to just have a good time.  Then he stood up and posed for a photo with me, and shook my hand and wished me good luck.  Really friendly.  So now Tom has a shirt with an autograph he can make Bob Brenner jealous with.

After being there for awhile, we went back to the room and called Tom and Eva, and they had just gotten in.  We agreed to meet the next morning, and Tom would call.  Cathryn, Amanda and I went to Legal Seafood in the mall and had a delicious meal, and very filling.  It was a little expensive, but well worth it.

After dinner we took the subway to Government Center and walked through Quincy Market where we bought dessert - my cannoli craving had begun.  We looked at Faneuil Hall, but it was closed.  We walked up to the Customs House, which had a very pretty clock tower.  A policeman told us it was Boston's first skyscraper, and that it has been vacant for 7 years.  It was 10 by this time and everything was closing, so we took the subway back to the hotel.  Walking from the stop to the hotel we met an old lady walking from the church (they must have an Easter Mass on Saturday night) to the hotel to catch a taxi, and she wanted to walk with us, so she held my hand going across the streets.  Such a gentleman.

April 16

Saturday we bought breakfast at Au Bon Pain in the mall near the hotel and ate in the room.  Tom called at 10 and we agreed to meet in the lobby at 11 to go to the expo.  We picked up his number, and ran into Rick Cleary (another Syracuse runner) in the expo.  We met Cathryn and Mandy at noon at the Reebok booth and went to lunch.  Cathy's aunt was supposed to come to the hotel at 3.  We took the subway to the north end, and found a little Italian place with great food.  After dinner we walked to a pastry shop and bought cookies, but they were out of cannoli, I guess because it was Easter Sunday and church had let out.  We found cannoli in another place on the way back to the subway.  We returned to the hotel to meet Cathy's aunt, but she called later and said the busses weren't running and she couldn't get there.  So Cathy and Mandy went shopping in the mall and I went to walk around the expo a little more.  Bill Rodgers was there again with another long line and being as friendly as ever.

I got tired of that and went and found Cathy in the mall.  We took a nap, and got a huge pizza supper and brought it to our room.  I arranged to meet Tom at 8 at the first corner past the finish line on Boylston street in front of the Command Center Boston tent. 

Race day, April 17

I got some sleep, but I woke up at 5:30 and started getting dressed.  Racing shorts, but everything else was to be changed out of at Hopkinton.  I went to the Au Bon Pain at 6 and got some croissants and black coffee, which worked well in Houston.  I ate, packed up, and went at 7:30 to meet Tom.  I got there early of course, and found the right corner, and got out my walkman and asked a local what station to tune in.  Imus in the morning - 850 on the a.m. dial.  My rechargeable batteries crapped out right away - I knew I had a bad set.  They were fresh out of the charger, too.  Tom showed up and we went to meet John Holm (another Syracuse runner) and get on a bus.  I sat next to Betsy Oudenhouven, who is the assistant cross country coach at SUNY Oswego.  We had a nice talk, and Tom talked about the course on the way there.  The bus ride took awhile.

When we got there, there was music playing and announcements being made.  Tom took us around to the back of the school where he traditionally waits for race time.  We got a spot in the shade and sacked out.  After a while I went with Rick Cleary to visit the woods and then we went around to the front of the school.  I wanted to go inside just to see what it was like.  They seemed to have the men and women separated in the school, I don't know why.  I saw Bob Congdon from Ithaca in the school, and Rick met several people he knew.  Then we went back and sacked out some more, not really sleeping, but listening to radios and trying to concentrate.  Tom had given me a spare set of batteries.  I had taken a 600 mg ibuprofen in the morning, and I took another one around 10.

Around 11 Tom said it was time to get ready, so we walked down to the football field in the back and got in the sun.  We stretched and took turns going to the woods.  This time I got in some severe briars, but I was fairly sure I was going where no man had gone before me.  We greased up and got everything ready.  I was going to wear wrist bands and gloves, but Tom wasn't even wearing sunglasses.  So I took off the wrist bands.  I had my white hat, and the Oakley sunglasses Cathy bought me the day before, my tie-died Syracuse Track Club singlet, and racing shorts.  Also, Asics Gel-123 shoes.

We checked our bags on the bus and walked to the start.  On the way there, of course, we had to water the side of the old armory building.  This is in downtown Hopkinton, a village of very few, among the big old houses in the residential section.  Nobody seemed to mind, as there were at least 20 people at any time relieving themselves.  People were selling lemonade and other stuff at the street in front of their homes.

We went to our sections at the start.  Tom was in the 2nd group from the front, I was in the 2nd group from the back.  Everything was color coded and well policed, and there was no cheating.  After about 3 minutes in the gate, they pulled the ropes out from between the groups and they closed down.  They announced 5 minutes to go.  Everyone started throwing their warm-ups to the side, and their empty water (pee) bottles.  One minute to go.  30 seconds to go.  Bang.

We started walking almost at the gun.  It took 2:18 to get to the starting line, and another 3:00 until we went from a walk to a jog.  I stopped at about 3/4 mile to relieve myself at the side of the road again - I figured the first mile split was already blown.  Mile 1 went in 12:18.  I concentrated on running easy.  I knew from the map we were going downhill, but it sure didn't feel or seem like it.  Mile 2 was 8:15, and I knew right then I was not running 7:30's today, or even close.  I also knew that I wasn't going to push this early, so I just kept running the same level of effort.  Several miles went by, all 8:15, and I resigned myself to no PR, but to run and enjoy the entire 26.2 miles.  Also, my right foot tendonitis began hurting almost from the very start.  So I decided it was going to be a longish day and hoped to break 4:00.

At about 10 miles I remember going by the cow man.  This is a guy who has run Boston for years.  He used to run in a huge headdress with cow horns on it.  This year his headdress was smaller, but still had the horns.  He also had some kind of grass skirt on, and a shirt advertising some Hawaiian grocery store. Tom says he used to run 2:30 with the big headdress, so he must have been quite an athlete.  He was a little heavy this year.

Going down through a little dip, a guy ran up along me and asked if I wanted a thrill, when I got to the top of the next rise to look around behind me.  At the time, the dip was in front of us, and you could see people 30 abreast for miles ahead of you.  They all looked like they weren't moving, because they were moving along at the same speed we were.  It just looked like a mass of humanity ahead of us.  He said if I turned around at the top and looked back, I'd see there were more people behind us than in front.  I thanked him for the thought as he moved on ahead.  At the top of the rise I turned around and he was right.  It did perk me up a little.

Going up the very small hill before reaching Wellesley, I thought I had a little accident.  I had some gas, as I was taking on all the water and Gatorade I could get.  What I thought would be air came out feeling like a solid.  I had heard of people doing this before, and it wasn't a disgrace or anything, but it made me feel uncomfortable.  I also had more gas, and I didn't want to make a bigger mess, so I started looking for a portacan.  Then I started looking for a bushy spot to squat and started feeling more desperate with every stride.  Then I came upon the screeching mass of girls at Wellesley College.  I couldn't believe how loud they were, and how they seemed to be climbing over each other and the snow fence separating them from the road to touch the runners.  I decided this was not a good place to squat, and get arrested for exposing myself to 5000 college girls.  Or cheered (or booed).

Then we ran into the village of Wellesley, and there was a portacan on the left.  Someone ran out of it just as I stopped and I went in and sat down - and it was all a false alarm.  It must have been a sweaty fart that felt like something more solid.  Anyway, since I was stopped and sitting, I did my best.  That was the last stop until the end.  and just past halfway.  I had passed the half mark at 1:50, and was thinking that would be 3:40 with no trouble, since I could probably run a negative split because of the wait at the start.

As usual I turned my hat around at the halfway mark.  I think I also passed a blind runner and his guide near that point.  That made me think a little less of myself.  At the 18 mile water stop I got some warm water that didn't agree with the Gatorade.  Tom had said he doesn't drink during the last six miles.  So when my stomach got queasy after the warm water I decided that was the last liquid I would take on.  I was getting pretty hungry too, and I wanted something more substantial.

Many people nowadays are wearing shirts that say their name, and the spectators cheer them on by name.  When I went by BC, there was a girl next to me wearing a BC singlet, and she got a big cheer.  There was also somebody (I never saw him) that got the crowd to cheering "Greg, Greg, Greg" as I went by.  I knew it wasn't me, because I'm listed as Floyd in the race entries, but it was neat to hear the chant.

By this point I just wanted to be at the finish line.  I noted each mile marker, and they also had 5K markers which afforded me the distraction of figuring out how far to go.  At about 21 miles my hamstring cramps from Houston re-appeared.  I wasn't terrified by them this time - I just eased off a bit.  And I realized it isn't dehydration that's causing this problem, because I was well hydrated, to the point of nausea almost.  And after the race I had no signs or symptoms of dehydration - good color and amount, etc.   So I think now that I'm low on potassium and maybe some other elements, and I'll try some bananas and tomatoes before the race next time.

I counted off the last five miles, again, like at Houston, thinking of the race as 5 segments of 5 miles each.  The last 1.2 is possible if you get to 25.  Boston also has a 1 mile to go banner, which is nice.  By this time I realized I wasn't going to make 3:40, and so I hoped for 3:45.  But as I turned onto Boylston Street, and I knew I had 0.3 miles to go, the hamstrings really cramped up.  I started running stiff-legged again as I crossed the 26 mile mark.  The crowd was amazing - people everywhere, and so loud you couldn't hear anyone.  I couldn't tell who they were yelling at, I just wanted to get to the finish line, which I did, as people ran past me.  I don't think I limped past anyone in the last 0.2.

At the finish line, I stopped running and smiled broadly.  I was very happy. The girl in front of me turned around and shook my hand, and I did likewise to the girl behind me in the chute.  On to the tag takers, and the medal givers.

I was starving, so I ate the Dunkin' Donuts sugar fried-cake they gave out.  Then I ate the pretzels, and drank the cranapple.  Later I ate the bread slices they gave out, and I drank the water.  I passed on the potato chips.  That was the post-race fare.  I regretted it all in about an hour.  But I was hungry when I finished.

I got my bag, after panicking because my number was on the curb side of the bus and I was on the road side.  The hardest thing in the world was getting between the two busses and up onto the curb.

I went to the FG sign to meet the family.  I was a little anxious about Cathryn, since Eva, Cathryn and Amanda were supposed to see me at 17 miles.  I started looking for them about 16.8 and until 18, but I didn't see them.  Amanda found me at the sign and said Tom and Eva were waiting at the information booth.  Cathryn had been sick in the morning and stayed in the room.  So we met Tom and Eva, and I changed into warmer clothes.  Then we hobbled home - Tom was feeling ill, and so was I.  Mandy carried my bag for me - it weighed a ton.

At the hotel, Cathy was upset - she had just got back into the room, and had been at the finish line for 2 hours trying to find me, which in 40000 people wasn't possible.  Anyway, we rested.

Tom called later and was feeling poorly, and I was very queasy.  We were going to a party at his friend's house, but he wasn't ready to go yet.  I went to the whirlpool and the sauna, and that made me feel a little better.  Tom called later, and I met them at the subway stop, and we went to the party, but it was over when we got there.  But Marty and Nancy put out some food for us anyway, and we talked for a couple of hours.  Tom and Eva had left their car there, so they drove it back to the hotel, and dropped me off.

My legs were still cramping, but I went right to sleep.  I woke up every 2-3 hours to urinate, but I went right back to sleep every time.

April 18

I got up early in the morning and went for a hobble in the mall.  Cathy and I went in search of a Globe newspaper, and found it in a grocery store in the mall.  Then we had breakfast in the room, and I went to the sauna, whirlpool and pool.  That made me feel better again.  Called Tom to say good-bye, checked out, and we walked to a store nearby that had Sporthill merchandise.  But they didn't have much.  Mandy bought a BAA sweatshirt as her souvenir, and we walked back to the hotel, claimed our luggage, car and were off.

Cathy was craving BK breakfast, and by the time we left breakfast was over.  But we stopped at the first BK on the Mass Pike.  I ordered a whopper with bacon and cheese and large fries.  I don't know why.  I ate them too, but as I was halfway through, my throat got incredibly sore and swollen, and hurt to the touch.  It hurt to swallow.  I think this was a reaction to the fat in that trash.

I had to stop three more times on the way home to stretch my legs.  My hamstrings would get to aching, and I'd get out and hobble around for a few minutes. We got home about 6 p.m.

April 19

Back to work, and at Mike's staff meeting told everyone I was leaving.  Then to my unit meeting where I told them.  Then Tom, Bob and I went to Hyde's for the traditional post-marathon wiener.  I had two.  No reaction like to the hamburger.  This must be a good tradition.

 Boston # 1.

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