Going back to Boston

Be Fearless. Apt words from Kathrine Switzer
Be Fearless. Apt words from Kathrine Switzer

I am going back to Boston.

I shall say it again just to make sure you heard me:

I am going back to Boston.

I feel a wee bit of a fraud because I qualified with a time of 3:27:47 which is slower than my previous Boston qualifier time, but as I move up an age group to the dreaded 50+ group it is still a qualifier.  I scraped in by all of 35 seconds!

Regardless, I am proud to be able to call myself a two-time Boston qualifier.

Going back to Boston means so much more than personal gratification.

When I passed through Logan airport last year I spoke with an airport security guard who had spent the week watching shocked runners depart the city. He asked if I would return.  I assured him I would. This story is recounted on the last page of Hal Higdon’s book 4:09:43. I didn’t quite get the last word in the book because that was given over to the President of the United States but I can live with that.

For me, it is important to go back.  It is important to go back and run to honour those hurt by the bombings on April 15th 2013. It is important to go back because I said I would be back and it is important to honour commitments you make.

The race would still run without me.  John Munro is a nobody, one of the little guys.  Sometimes however, the little guys have to stand up and be counted.

In a world where we are constantly manipulated by governments and media alike, and terrorised by those who are mad, bad, marginalised, misguided or misunderstood there comes a time for each and every one of us to stand up and say I will not be intimidated.

There is something peculiarly belligerent about the Scots. We take pride in not backing down.  Whether it is small nation syndrome from living with an oppressive large neighbour; several hundred years of being imbued with a depressing Calvinist work ethic; or simply the resillience honed through generations of exposure to miserable weather, we are generally up for a fight.  History suggests we are glorious losers but that in itself is not such a bad thing.  Mixed with an inherent sense of fairness and decency, from Bruce to the Black Watch to Braveheart the reality and myth of the fighting Scotsman has perpetuated.  The Scottish Regiments take the old motto “Nemo me Impune Lacessit” or as Billy Connelly translates it for the modern era “Oh you bloody think so!”  I am proud to be Scottish, and I am proud of the reputation that we as a nation carry, and when I travel overseas to run, I proudly wear the Saltire on my vest.

I can’t fight battles or do anything heroic, but I can go and stand on the start line in Hopkinton, shoulder to shoulder with 30,000 other runners on 21st April 2014. Has it crossed my mind that someone might target next years race? Of course it has.  I can wear my Saltire to show that I come from Scotland and show the world that even if I am afraid, I will not be deterred by bombers and I will not back down.

I shall be on the start line and when the gun goes, I shall remember Kathrine Switzer pressing a charm into my hand and telling me to Be Fearless.  I shall run with all of my heart, I shall rejoice in screams which are joyous at Wellesley, I shall rage up Heartbreak Hill and I shall use up every last drop of breath as I run along Boylston watching for the love of my life with her Saltire draped over the barriers not far from the spot where the bombs went off last year.

I will cross the finish line and I will be counted.

I am going back to Boston.

Boston Marathon 2013
Boston Marathon 2013

Don’t Panic!!!!

The plan had been to run the Boston marathon, do well, come home energised and then straight back into training for the West Highland Way race by doing the 53 mile Highland Fling race. Things didnt quite work out like that.  My race didnt go to plan, the bombs went off, and I picked up a nasty cough which has kept me from running for two weeks.

Boston, as the whole world knows, was overshadowed by the bombings, I have written about it on here already, and have been quite overwhelmed by the response I have had to my account of events.  I even had the excitement of the legend that is Hal Higdon, sharing my blog on his Facebook site. Helen also gives a good account of things here.

The investigation will go on, but it seems that it is now old news. Outside of Boston, the media hs packed up, gone home and moved on to the next story.  My own unwanted five minutes of fame arising from the newspapers picking up on something I had written on Facebook is thankfully over.  Runners are running. The city is healing. President Obama visited Boston and found the words to lead and console.  As he said so movingly “The crowds will gather and watch a parade go down Boylston Street. And this time next year on the third Monday in April, the world will return to this great American city to run harder than ever and to cheer even louder for the 118th Boston Marathon.

Bet on it.

Moving On

A race was run
A race was run

For me, I still have a few loose ends to tie up. Despite all of the bad things which happened, a race was still run.

I didn’t manage to run the race I felt I was trained for.  We went for a short run the day after we arrived and I was flying.  Yet, I missed my goal by around 15 minutes and I really struggled through the second half with cramps and vomitting.

So what went wrong? First my energy levels were just a bit off at the start. Something wasnt quite right. On a couple of occasions before the race started I tensed my legs and my quads went into cramp. My heart rate was high. I wore my HR strap precisely because I wanted to curtail my excitement and force myself to run a conservative effort for the first half.

It took me many days before I even uploaded the data from my Garmin. It confirmed what I had already guessed,  my Heart Rate shot up after 1K to about 5K effort zone and crept higher until by mile 18 it was hitting Max HR and was spiking to levels I didnt know was possible.  On average in the first half of the race, my heart rate was 15-20 beats per minute higher  than it would normally be for the pace I was running.

There are maybe three different reasons I can think of and it is quite possible that it was a combination of all three which floored me:

1. Boston. The whole thing of flying, visting expos, sleeping in a different bed, getting up early for buses, waiting around at the start. All of those things take a little out of you. My legs were a little crampy even pre race and I wonder if it was related to flying or eating different food.

2. The Heat. The sun came out, and by halfway I certainly felt I was overheating. While the temperature wasn’t desperately high, it was much hotter than the 6-10C which had been forecast, and having trained in cold, miserable grey weather all winter, the bright red sunburn I had when I finished the race was testament to the effect it had on my body.

3. The Bug. It is entirely possible I was incubating a virus. The day after the race I started coughing and by the time we made it home to Scotland I was feeling awful. I was feeling so bad that not only did I have to withdraw from the Fling race, I didn’t even run at all for two weeks.

The Boston course is one of those courses which you need to run more than once.  It is very different from any other marathon I have raced. I underestimated just how much Downhill there was and more importantly how steep and prolonged those downhills were. I climbed the Newton hills pretty well, but for the next trip I will definitely include much more down hill running in my training.


don’t panic

My first source of panic has been in trying to find a race at which to try to qualify for next year’s Boston. Under normal circumstances I would have found something in May and just used my current fiitness to run. Unfortunately my current fitness involves coughing and spluttering so that is a non-starter.  I have settled on the Moray marathon on 1st September. This is cutting it fine as Boston is likely to open for registration in early September, but it is the first one I can find that works. It just means that I will need to get back into training two weeks after the WHW.

Second source of panic is of course the fact that I havent been able to train because of this bug which has laid me low and it is only 8 weeks until the West Highland Way race..  Did I mention that since Boston I have put on 10 pounds in weight!  I have had to miss out on the Fling which was hard. It was fun watching everyone race and it did help me find my mojo again, but the overwhelming feeling while watching everyone run through the finish line was one of being inadequate. I am scheduled to run the 67 mile Kintyre Way Ultra in 10 days time so I will need to make a decision about that soon.

Deep down I know that it is too early to start panicking. I have heaps of miles in my legs and all I need to do is be patient, come back slowly so that I don’t end up with any post-viral issues and get a couple of good back to back weekends done. That is what my sensible head knows.  Unfortunately patience is not my strong suit. Bull in a China Shop is my strong suit.  As Corporal Jones has been known to say Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic!