The Boston Midnight Marathon

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15 APR

The Boston Society of Spontaneity. Also known as BostonSOS. A group that some people have heard of, but who’s exploits almost everyone has heard of – The annual Pillow Fight, the Ministry of Silly Walks day, and the subject of my latest adventure… The Midnight Marathon.

Pretty much everyone knows about the Boston Marathon. A run from Hopkinton to Boston, which is technically not considered an “official marathon” due to its slight overall downhill slope and the fact that it’s a nearly-straight line, thus allowing wind to have a major affect on a runners time. I’ve never run it, and honestly have no intention on running it… but when I heard about the Midnight Marathon where a whole slew of people bike the Marathon… well now, that’s something I decided that I could get in on.

And so, at 11:15 on a Sunday night (April 15th, to be exact) I drank down one last glass of water, ate one last banana, and hopped on the bike. The first leg of my ride was a quick 10mile ride from my folks place to the starting line. Not the shortest ride ever, but right at that perfect distance that I would have felt silly getting a ride. I figured that it would be a good way to warm myself up and get my muscles ready for the 26+ miles of the actual marathon. That, and I knew that I’d have at least 15min from when I arrived to when the rest of the pack arrived via train from Boston.

The ride went nice and smoothly, though I will admit that the sheer number of hills between my folks place and the start of the Marathon got very old, very fast. I dislike hills… especially when I’m riding on a bike that I had packed down with a full overnight kit: sleeping bag, pad, first aid kit, water, rain gear and clothes. It’s a failing of mine, but I always make sure to pack pretty much everything that I think I may need – I’d prefer to arrive at my destination out of breath, than not arrive at all because there was an emergency on the trail and I didn’t have what I needed.

Even with the extra weight, my bike and I made good time out to Hopkinton, arriving just a bit before midnight. A fast 10miles, and something that I was quite proud of when I arrived. After picking a spot by the starting line to stash my bike, I went on the prowl to make a few new friends. I met people, I chatted, I joked around about how slow the train was taking, and generally just relaxed and et my legs take a quick rest before the main event.

That rest ended up going clean from 11:50 through until 01:15, when Daniel finally arrived with the main pack. I learned that the train had been over-filled WAY past capacity, and it took them nearly an hour to simply unload once they finally reached their destination. But thankfully the train seemed to have let people off in stages, and so by the time Daniel and I were ready to hit the starting line, there wasn’t much of a line ahead of us to go.

One of the cops nearby must have started the official timer clock, and so Daniel and I logged our starting in at exactly 01:18 on Monday morning. We took off at a fairly leisurely pace, trying to save our energy for the major hills nearly the end of the track. I had trouble with this though, since I’ve never been good at pacing myself, and so we found ourselves rocketing past huge packs of cyclists as we tore towards Boston. For my defense, most of the people doing the Marathon besides ourselves were your standard-issue hipster – people riding slow and chilled, and very likely more stoned than a heretic in ancient times.

And so… we made good time. Slowing down every so often to chat with people that we knew, Daniel and I shot the shit and pedaled onwards, ever closer to the finish line. We were going strong… that is, until we hit the I-95 belt surrounding the city. That was when the hills started, and when I realized that I was running very near to empty on energy. Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong cyclist… but it’d been months since I’d biked regularly, and a few weeks since I’d done any real long rides. And when I realized how far we still had to go… well, I started crapping out. My legs burned, my lungs ached, and I could barely find the reserves to push on anymore.

Thankfully, I wasn’t alone, and I was NOT going to let some useless hipster finish a race that I could not. With Daniel always slightly ahead of me, and the enemy always slightly behind, I kept pushing. Over heartbreak hill, through Boston College, and even past where I used to live, I pushed. I just kept pedaling until I found myself right in front of that last turn, where the Marathon moves into its last few hundred yards.

And there, I burned. I knew the finish was at hand. I knew I had barely any energy left. And I knew that I was NOT going to give up. I kept telling myself, “Leave nothing on the table… burn those last bits of energy on the finish”… and so, I sprinted. I went from a crawling 5 or 6 mph to nearly 17mph (I’d guess) in a block, and kept that pace until I finally crossed the finish line.

One Hour, Fifty Seven Minutes, and Twenty One seconds.

01:57:21.

Starting at 01:18, and finishing at 03:15. I had beaten my goal of two hours, and I could barely move. But ohh, was it worth it. As I sat there catching my breath, Daniel and I joked about the harder parts, talked about some of the cool bikes we had seen, and just rested in our accomplishment. After I could walk again (Be quiet, it only took a few minutes) we started circulating with all the other finishers, chatting and seeing who we knew. I got a chance to catch up with a few awesome NUHOC people, talk with some other cyclist friends I hadn’t seen since I got back from New Zealand, and even make a few new friends; some of which traded me a partial bag of Doritos for me taking a few pictures of them. Nice.

After a bit though, we started looking the high from finishing. Daniel started taking fewer pictures, then started walking slower, and by that point neither of us wanted anything more than a glass of milk and a warm bed. So we said our goodbyes to everyone, turning down more than a few “post marathon dinner” offers, and headed back to his place where I had a couch waiting for me. I took a quick shower (one of the best I’ve had in months), and was asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.

16 APR

When I woke up, it was just about 10:30. We had planned on meeting a friend of ours, Emma, for breakfast at 11:30, so Daniel and I quickly got dressed, stretched sore muscles out, and got ready to get some well-earned pancakes. Unfortunately the place we had planned on going to was closed for “Marathon Monday”, AKA Patriots Day (A Mass-only holiday celebrating the battles at Lexington and Concord). So we picked up Emma at her place, and headed out of the city to find somewhere open. We ended up at an amazing diner that’s supposedly one of Bostons iconic places… though for the life of me I can’t remember the name. No matter what it was called though, it was delicious.

I had the usual massive breakfast of Pancakes, Bacon, Eggs, Toast, and Potatoes with Coffee… Though instead of not being able to move, like normal after I finish a breakfast of that size, instead I felt like I needed a bit more. I didn’t want to over-eat though, especially since Leg 3 was still ahead of me – getting back to Medway. You see… I could have taken a train back out, but why? It was a holiday Monday, and I didn’t have any reason to rush home.

Combining an amazing day, with a whole slew of new books that Daniel had lent me for my Kindle, and adding in a nice long bike ride… well that’s my definition of excellent. A ride that would usually take me less than two hours took me nearly four hours that day, leaving Daniels place around 02:00 and arriving right before my Step-Dad got home at six. It was heavenly.

I split the ride into three parts – Boston to the Arboretum, Arboretum to the Bridge, and Bridge to Home. At the Arboretum I took a nice long break and did some reading in the sun before popping my iPod on and pushing onwards again. Didn’t I mention? I had found an iPod speaker system and made a special “marathon play list”, but hadn’t been able to use it because of some drizzle at the start of the race the night before. So thanks to this, I had a nice soundtrack to rock home to – starting out heavy with Metallica and Rise Against, and then getting a bit more mellow with Live and Angels & Airwaves near the end. I have to say, I made one hell of an excellent soundtrack for the ride, even if it wasn’t the ride I had intended it for.

The second leg of the ride went just as nicely as the first – I took my time, didn’t press myself hard, and generally took the time to admire the scenery. As strange as it sounds, I wasn’t tired… My legs were a bit sore, but nothing too bad, or too distracting… just enough to remind me that I had just biked 36miles less than 18 earlier.

And so I kept up the pace of biking, reading, and the biking some more. I ran into a few… unique… situations, such as when a woman in a black Chevy kept pace with me for nearly a mile, yelling something out her window to me, before motioning me to pull over. Needless to say, I ignored everything and just kept biking… almost always the safest bet I’ve learned, especially when you can’t tell if she’s hitting on you or yelling at you. To be honest, I’m still torn between whether she was propositioning me, or telling me to ride on the sidewalk… She was making a lot of slightly unique gestures, but none of which made sense when combined with the other ones, so I’m just going to assume that she was a bit nuts, and move on.

Aside from Chevy-lady, and an old Grandma who literally stopped and stared at me as I rode by, I didn’t have any trouble with the ride back to Medway. I did take one extra stop near the end to get a bite of lunch though… and no matter how good of a writer I become, I will never be able to explain how delicious those chicken wings were, or how quenching that Gatorade was. It was heaven… and I spent a good twenty minutes extra just enjoying the sunlight on my happily-stuffed face.

But all things come to an end, and so did this ride. On lightly-cramping legs I coasted into the garage back home, and after saying hi to the parents and giving them a quick synopsis of the ride, I quickly went to get changed, get showered, and get ready for dinner.

About perfectusvarrus

I am an adventurer. I've been many things in my life; a machinist, a mechanical designer, a training coordinator, a facilities consultant, and a seasonal construction worker. But through it all, I've kept my love of adventure and exploration strong, through rock climbing, backpacking, cycling, exploring, and trying new things. The rush of adventure is intoxicating, and the thrill of discovery and exploring is unbeatable.

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