On October 9, 2011--our 18th wedding anniversary--Alan and I ran the Great Island 5k in Newcastle, NH and then drove to Exeter where we left our van, donned our backpacks, and boarded the Amtrak Downeaster bound for Boston. The trip was pleasant and comfortable and we arrived safely at North Station, navigated the subway, and found City Sports in plenty of time to pick up my packet for the Tufts 10k. The "packet" consisted of a bib, a nice long-sleeved tech tee, and a small sling backpack with several coupons and flyers ("here: go buy something.") and a card that said
"CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR FINISH!"
So...the actual running part is optional?!?! Yeah, I don't think so. [But apparently this year, I decided that the location is optional...]
I forgot to mention in the post about Great Island [which I can't locate just now so perhaps I never posted that one either. Oh good, more backlog to use for future post fodder], that we got tee shirts (cotton, but decent) and custom Swix ski hats (very nice--I will totally wear this for the Turkey Trot). And remember the post-race food? It was totally awesome. Post-race fuel at Tufts? A large bottle of warm energy drink shoved at you by someone whose primary job seemed to be to herd you away from the finish, and tables full of boxes of pretzel stix. Oh, and whatever junk food you cared to buy from vendors in the park. So the Great Island 5k, which had tons of waaaaay better free food, plenty of bottled water before and after the race, a tee shirt and a hat cost $20. The Tufts 10k gave us a really nice shirt and a small bag, a bottle of something gross and virtually nothing to eat and cost $38. But I did get a priceless moment at the end...
But first we had to get there, which was a whole adventure in itself...We had ridden the train out to the Feys in Fitchburg to spend the night. In the morning, Kathy drove us from there to a train station where we left the car in the garage and got through the turnstiles when Alan suddenly realized he couldn't find his debit card. Uh oh. We stopped while he rummaged in pockets, and bags and my wallet and we finally thought it had either fallen out of his pocket in Kathy's car or on the train the night before. We'd had this mad dash to catch the train so he determined that he just stuck the card in a pocket of his cargo shorts after using it in the ticket machine and before we ran for it. We imagined it falling out and getting picked up by an enterprising person who was probably having a spending spree as we stood there. As we fretted about this, we let one possible train come and go and Kathy started thinking about the things she had with her in the stroller and realized she didn't have an important emergency-supply bag ("just the one with the epi-pen...") so she went back to the car to retrieve it (and to check her car for Alan's card) while we waited with the kids and I used my phone to go online to check our bank account. No unusual activity yet, but the card wasn't in Kathy's car either. We determined that we would check the lost & found at North Station and then call the bank if that didn't pan out, but that there wasn't much else we could do about it right then and we were cutting things close for getting me to Boston Common in time.
I was getting excited about the 10k--in Boston! with 6000+ other people!--and the sightings of women and girls with bib numbers and/or City Sports bags were becoming more frequent the closer we got. Plus it was 6-year-old Alex's first train ride [that he could remember] which was quite thrilling! It's not like there was much money in the bank account to steal anyway...so we put worry aside and enjoyed the day.
We arrived in good fashion and found ourselves in the throng of runners and their entourages. Here I was: one runner with a crew consisting of 1 husband + 1 college roommate + her 2 kids (one in a stroller) + 1 other college friend yet to arrive. And for every body there was at least one backpack/purse/diaper bag/emergency toolkit....we took up some space. And space was a rare commodity. It wasn't bad if you were standing still, but navigating from point A to point B was a bit tricky. I hate separating in a crowd like that but finally had to take off for the restrooms--which meant crossing Charles St in which runners were lining up already--and I feared that I would get stuck in the lines for way too long and either miss the start or not find Alan again before the race or both. As it turned out, by walking down the row of port-a-potties I found a middle section that was pretty much line-free and I got in and out of there quickly. Everyone was really very nice and because it was getting close to the start anyone trying to really race was well out of the way, so it was just a big party of generally happy, excited women. I got back to the road and found the gang about where I'd left them. I did some last minute "I need x out of my bag" and "wait, I don't need this; take it!" and so the backpack I was living out of got pulled out of the stroller and put back in a few times [sometimes I miss having a stroller...]. Finally, I decided I was ready and I stood in the road, enjoying the jubilant pre-race crowd: thousands of women all decked out in their finest 80+ degree running garb, some with wacky costumes, some with messages on their shirts, some with lots of skin and hard abs, some with lots of skin and not-so-hard abs...
|Me in a sea of people-looking-the-other-way.|
I was glad not to be messing with my mp3--I love to take in the sights and sounds and needed all my senses to navigate around people once I was actually running. I had my phone with me and kept pulling it out to take pictures; eventually I just quit bothering to put it back in my pocket until the last stretch. Alan took some waiting-in-the-sea-of-runners shots and I tried half-heartedly to stretch a little. There was a lot of music and announcements constantly streaming over these giant loudspeakers the whole time and it was kind of hard to know exactly when the race began. The speakers were on staging before the turn onto Beacon St so I had the (false) impression that that was where the starting line was. The announcer would say things like "RAISE YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR IF YOU'RE A FIRST-TIME TUFTS RUNNER!!!" and a bunch of us would even though we were way far away from the start. And then she'd say "SMILE FOR THE CAMERAS, LADIES! THIS IS YOUR MOMENT!!" and as we got to those speakers I was smiling and looking around and thinking "Wow, I have really no idea what I'm doing." Finally, we turned the corner and I could SEE staging, and the arch over the starting line ahead of us, and more speakers, and off to the left there was a platform and bleachers and a bunch of officials and media personnel and cameras and I was like, Oh, I actually get to start the race, now! This worked well, because I had been doing a light walk-jog to get to this point and now the crowd very smoothly stretched out and there was enough space and momentum to actually start running.
I enjoyed the run immensely. Almost the whole time there was something interesting and exciting to look at and there were people to navigate around constantly except for maybe one stretch. As we headed over the bridge toward Cambridge, the leaders were already coming BACK over the bridge so we--the enthusiastic back-of-the-packers--cheered and whooped and took pictures of those incredibly fast women, one of whom was very close to winning Tufts the day after winning the BAA Half while we were just getting warmed up. Water stops were crazy busy crowded but frequent and I was in no hurry and it was really hot so I didn't mind 'pulling over' to hydrate.
Really,it was too hot for this time of year, but it made the views spectacular. There was a stretch in Cambridge that felt like lonely desert so I was happy to get back on the bridge. Commonwealth Ave was fun and friendly and feeling like the home stretch, I spotted Alan at the turn that starts the last loop around the park but lost him immediately after. I assumed he crossed the park in time to see my finish. I know I am slow but the finish is one of those times when I allow myself to feel more athletic than I am. "Start Strong. Finish Stronger." is the race motto and I was feeling it, loving it. Coming down Charles Street, which was much less crowded by this time, I saw Joan Benoit Samuelson--my hero!--standing smack in the middle of the finish line, smiling and slappin' high fives and celebrating women of all shapes and sizes and abilities. I steered myself right next to her, enjoyed that moment when I hit the mat, and got my high five thinking THAT will be a finish line photo I'll actually pay for! I hoped Alan had a clear shot, too. And then I was herded along with the other cattle into a long, uphill finish line chute, handed my warm energy drink and pointed toward tables once full of food, now pitifully bereft of anything more than boxes of pretzel sticks. What I really wanted was ice water and a shower.
I was anxious to find Alan, Kathy & kids, and a good friend from Mt. Holyoke who's living in Boston and arranged to meet up with my "crew" during the race, but I was also desperate for the restroom. I texted Alan that I was bolting for the potties and he replied back "Wait, what? Are you done?" and thus discovered that he not only didn't get a picture of my finish, he didn't see it at all! I met up with them and gave poor Cecilia--elegant as ever--a disgustingly sweaty hug looking and feeling a little different than I did the last time we saw each other, 18 years and 1 day earlier, at our wedding. Then I bolted to a handicapped accessible (read: large sized) port-a-potty to pee, contemplate barfing, and take a baby wipes sponge bath and change into something less sticky. I still felt really gross, though, in pretty much every sense. I couldn't handle whatever the jug-o-warm-energy-drink was, and I was afraid to sit down again (the potty was OK, but I didn't think I'd get back up off the ground). The Common was almost like a fair with several vendors scattered around. I said "I need a snow cone. Preferably red. Or blue. Or whatever." and someone kindly got me one. I started to feel better after that. Then, even though traipsing around Boston all gross and sweaty and shaky and tired was kind of the last thing I wanted to do, I was bound and determined to get to Mike's Pastry Shop for a cannoli. So we headed off along the Freedom Trail and stopped at Fanueil Hall for lunch, 'cause we realized we needed something real before dessert. I had recently read Joan Benoit Samuelson's first book "Running Tide" in which she talks about being totally useless (my word, not hers) before a race: her husband was often the one making sure she had the right shoes, socks, fuel, etc. With me, it's after. I'm a mess. But I want very specific things and I'm cranky if I don't get them. I need to do a better job of planning things ahead. What we should have done in Boston is found a place for a good, comfortable sit-down meal where we could relax and visit. Or packed a picnic lunch with really good food....but we were in the midst of traveling and doing things on the fly and on the cheap. So I had a mediocre lunch and we parted company with Kathy & the kids who needed to wend their way home from Fanueil Market.
Visiting with Cecilia along the way, we eventually did get TO Mike's Pastry Shop, but the line was out the door and up the block and we literally did not have enough time to get in and make our train back to New Hampshire. As I gazed at the line and realized the futility of the situation, I wasn't overly upset because we were right next to a really good place for gelato which was also crowded but not as bad as Mike's and gelato was really much better for me than a heavy giant cannoli would have been anyway.
Cecilia walked us back to North Station, we said our goodbyes and promised to keep in touch better. We checked with lost & found--no debit card--and then we reversed our journey: the Downeaster back to our car in Exeter, and then the drive home. It was nice that Alan didn't have to drive the whole way and we enjoyed the journey. It was a great weekend overall--although a bit on the sticky side--and I definitely want to go back and do Tufts again, hopefully next time with some girl friends. But definitely with the ability to shower afterwards!
Oh, and the finish line punch line? The professional photographer got a great shot of me high-fiving....the edge of the picture. Joanie isn't in the shot at all!!!! Aaaaaaaahg!!