Well, where do I begin? This journey to Boston started nearly a year ago, and through several months of training, setbacks, injury and a very, very close qualifying time, Tim and I were finally on our way to Boston for the 116th running of the BAA Marathon.
The race was being held Monday, April 16th this year. On the Friday before, Crystle, Thomas Hicks and myself loaded ourselves and Tim’s racing chair into the back of a friends truck and headed North from Virginia. Because Crystle couldn’t get the entire day off from work, we didn’t actually hit the Chesapeake Bay bridge until 7:00 pm.
After 10 hours of driving through the night, we finally made it to Crystle’s parents house in Rhode Island at 5:00 am Saturday morning. We caught a few hours of shut eye, then Thomas and I were out the door by 11:00 am and Boston bound. We got to Boston and went to the expo for packet pickup. We picked up our race packets and mingled around the expo for several hours. Then, at 3:00 pm, I had to take off, so that I could attend a Team Hoyt dinner.
The Team Hoyt dinner was incredible. From 3:00-4:00 pm, we did a “shirt swap”. This is where everyone of the 30 members on the Team Hoyt Foundation team would throw a “memorable” race shirt into a box. Once the box had all the shirts, a runner would come up and select a shirt. Once the shirt had been selected, the original owner of that shirt would come up and tell a story about why that shirt was memorable to them. This was a really cool ice breaking event and we all got to hear some amazing stories and we all came away with a really cool piece of memorablia.
While at the dinner party and while we were mingling around and taking photos, all of a sudden, Dick and Rick Hoyt show up, along with Uta Pippig (3 time Boston winner and Team Hoyt running coach). It was amazing to meet Uta for the first time and swap stories and take pictures. Then, as an added bonus, the Boston great, Bill Rodgers shows up and is just hanging out, giving advice and taking photos with all of Team Hoyt. I have to say, both Uta and Bill are the most down to earth and kindest people you will ever meet. Both very humble and two amazing people. Neither one had any quarrels with sharing advice, race strategy or anything. Two wonderful human beings and incredibly awesome runners!
As the dinner was wrapping up around 6:00 pm, I returned to the expo, found Thomas and we both drove back to Rhode Island together for a good nights sleep.
Sunday- Thomas and I decided that on this day, we would drive the entire marathon course from Hopkinton to the finish line on Boylston street in Boston. We wanted to see first hand what we were about to get ourselves into.
So, for all of those who have not ran Boston before, let me tell you, it is quite a hilly course…The problem is, everyone tells you about the legendary UP hills and they don’t mention much about the DOWN hills. To me, the downhills are the worst. Within the first 4 miles, there is a ridiculous amount of downhill. If you don’t change up your form for the downhills, your quads will be doing all the work and you will pay a huge price later in the race and also on the recovery in the days to follow the race.
RACE DAY- So Monday morning race day started very early. I was up at 3:00 am and needed to be at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Boston by 5:15 to catch the Team Hoyt bus that would take us to the start line in Hopkinton. Since our hotel was 2.75 miles away, I figured I would just walk it and hydrate and fuel up on the walk over. It was very cool to walk through Boston Commons in the dark at an early hour. I needed to clear the head and get my mind right, so this was the perfect way to make it happen.
Once I arrived at the Sheraton, I met up with the rest of Team Hoyt who had begun congregating in the lobby. We laughed and joked and took lots of photos before getting on the team bus.
After an hour bus ride from Boston, we were in Hopkinton and about to embark on a 26.2 mile journey. Tim and myself would be starting the race at 9:20, along with Dick and Rick and all of the other disabled athletes. We would assemble in a local gymnasium so that we could put our race chairs together and go over any last minute “tweaks”. Then we would walk over to the starting line and wait for the race start.
The race morning temp at the start was 80 degrees, with a forecast of 87 as the afternoon high. Because of the heat, the BAA was allowing runners to defer their race entry until 2013. Personally, I don’t agree with this and think that they should not be allowed to defer. Yes, the temperatures were hot, but a marathon is not supposed to be a cake walk…besides, those of us who would go on to finish could brag about how hot it was and how we still crossed the finished line despite the heat.
After a few introductions, some singing and the Star Spangled Banner, we were off and racing. The first mile out of Hopkinton is nothing but a very steep downhill. I spent the first 4 miles of this marathon riding the brakes of Tim’s chair and trying my best to keep my steps quick and choppy so as to not overstride or beat my quads to death.
The first 2-3 miles went by super quick and I was running more or less on adrenaline. By mile 5, the road had flatened out and we were just cruising along. From the very start, the crowd support was amazing. Spectators were in their front yards passing out hydration, oranges, ice, etc.
About mile 8, I started to realize that the heat was certainly going to play a factor, but I decided I would try to hold pace as best as possible….I was hydrating as much as possible and was keeping Tim cool by dumping cold water on his head as often as possible..but the heat was starting to weigh in on us.
It was at mile 12, when I started to get a ringing in my ears (a symptom of heat stroke) that I decided that it was time to “shut it down”. I knew there was no chance of holding any heroic pace and that to save my body and reduce injury, I had no choice but to slow it down and try to keep the core body temperature as low as possible.
Going through the famed “screech tunnel” of Wellesely, Tim and I were just cruising along and enjoying the crowd support. By the time we got to mile 16, the hydration (water and gatorade) at aide stations was getting really hot and was far from refreshing. It was here that I notice some young girls selling ice cold lemonade. They were charging a $1 and I told them that I had no money…They said that it would be “no charge” and quickly began filling my two squirt bottles. I don’t know if it was the heat and the fact that the lemonade was ice cold or not, but these little girls had the best lemondade on the planet and at this point in the race, it was a life saver. After chugging down about 20 ounces of this heavenly goodness, I got a little more “pep in the step” and was back to clicking off some decent paces again.
At mile 18, I realized that I was going to be way off pace for my projected finishing time and that Crystle would be losing her mind with anxiety. So, with that in mind, I pulled out my cell phone and texted her the following “ I am at 18. I am hurting from the heat and the hills. It’s gonna be slow, so don’t get worried..I will finish”
After that, I knew it was just going to be a matter of having fun and enjoying the Boston experience. So, from mile 18 until the finish, I “high fived” about every single spectator, accepted popsicles, oranges, water, ice cold towels and lots of cheers from everyone. There is no possible way to explain the crowd support that the specatators show for the runners..but it is even more intense for Team Hoyt. Those spectators made Tim and I feel like absolute rockstars. The entire race, they were yelling and screaming for us as if we were leading the race.
At mile 20, we had finally reached the base of the famed “Heart Break Hill”. Since Tim and I were doing a run/walk up this legendary hill, it didn’t seem too bad..But, we did get to see first hand what it could do to the runners who tried to tackle it. We saw top elite marathoners, those who could easily go sub 2:40, succombing to it’s toughness. All along the road upward, there were runners reduced to a stumbling, staggering walk. Others were on the side of the road, either trying to stretch out their fatigued legs or sitting down on the curb in a dazed state, not sure what to do next.
I knew that if we could just get to the top and crest this hill, it would be some downward smooth sailing to the finish line. Finally, after what seemed like two hours, Tim and I reached the peak at mile 21..then it was all downhill from there. As we begin picking up speed on the downhill, I started to realize that nothing was going to stop us at this point…Yeah, it had been hot, it had been tough as hell and it had been a long, long, long road from Hopkinton..but, we were going to become a part of history and a part of a very, very small community..We were about to become members of a very prestigous group…we were going to be Boston Marathon finishers!!
As we start to make our final approach towards Boylston Avenue, the roars from the crowd seemed to amplify by a thousand. As we drew closer and closer the finish, the cheers got louder and louder.
With a mile to go, we see the famed Citgo sign and we knew we were on the home stretch.
Finally, with only a few hundred meters left to go, we make our turn onto Boylston Ave. and make our final push to the finish line ahead. Every step we took, the crowd got louder and the emotions ran higher. This remarkable journey had started so long ago and it was now coming to a close. Tim and I had been through a lot just getting to Boston..then, we would have to go through another 26.2 miles of extreme conditions to finally reach our finish line. With tears in the eyes and fatigue in the legs, we finally crossed!! We had done it…we came, we saw and we conquered!! On paper, it wasn’t pretty..our finishing time was 3:46..a full 37 minutes slower than what we had ran a month earlier at Shamrock.
This was not just a marathon and it was more than just Boston…It was a journey and a mission. Tim and I became the first ever Team Hoyt runner/rider pair, other than the legendary Dick and Rick Hoyt. This Boston was the 30th for Dick and Rick and the 1st for Tim and I.
When it was all said and done, there were 4000+ runners who deferred their entry until 2013 due to the heat. It was said that 2000+ were treated for some sort of medical issue and that 120 were taken to the hospital via ambulance. There were also a good amount who quit somewhere between Hopkinton and Boston. Geoffrey Mutai and Caroline Kilel, the 2011 men and womens winners would both drop out of the race at some point.
For those who finished, it was a day to remember forever…for runners, Boston is the mecca of running..for non-runners, it is the equivalent to the Super Bowl or the World Series.
I would like to think that Boston 2012 was only the first and not the last for Tim and I..however, if by chance it is our last, we sure had one hell of a time and we enjoyed every step of the journey.. This was an opportunity to show the world that those with disabilities can still be a part of something as big as the Boston Marathon. 31 years ago, when Tim Brown was born, I surely doubt his parents would think that he would be running the Boston Marathon. Then, with some pioneering by Dick and Rick, Tim would get that chance as a member of Team Hoyt. I am extremely grateful to have given Tim and his family this wonderful experience and to be the legs to his heart.
We would like to thank everyone who helped make this possible. Big thanks to Dick and Rick Hoyt, Kathy Boyer, Doug Gilliand and Dave McGillivray for allowing us to be a part of the team. Many thanks to our family and friends who supported us along the way. Big thanks to Jim Golden and Final Kick Sports http://www.finalkick.com/ for getting our race chair tweaked and ready to go. Thanks to our Team Hoyt VB family http://www.teamhoytvb.com/ for being our biggest supporters and our biggest inspiration. Also, we would like to give a shout out to all of the members of the 2012 Boston Team Hoyt Foundation charity team..we met some wonderful people on this team and every single one of them started and finished the race..many of them finishing step for step with Dick and Rick.
If you want something bad enough and if you are willing to suffer and sacrifice enough, all things are possible.