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Eric Spector
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Hopefully this 'journey' to cross the finish line of a 62 mile mountain race will motivate others to pay attention to their own fitness (at all ages) -- and share some laughs as well.

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Why Fitness should be everyone's Priority!
BLESS AFFIRM acronym -- 11 simple reasons.
All people benefit, at all ages. Do pass along. 
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Musings on the 2015 Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon isn’t just about running a long way. It’s about living life at its fullest and plugging into a kaleidoscope of experiences that envelops you -- during months of getting ready to earn an entry by running a qualifying time in a another certified marathon, to arriving in Boston and picking up your running number, and finally, finally lining up and running the distance among thousands of committed, passionate people of all kinds imaginable. 

Yes the world fastest men and women Marathoners plan their years around eventually trying to win at Boston, for doing so brings instant fame like no other. The competition is fierce and the drama outstanding. 

But for the many thousands of others, running for personal challenges and/or to honor loved ones lost by raising over $10 million for charity, the front runners are not on their minds. Most spend twice the time running the 26.2 mile distance than the elite (who do it in 2- 2 1/2  hours) -- and all of whom deserve credit for their endurance as well. 

Nobody qualifies for Boston and earns an individual entrance into the Boston Marathon based on the age/gender qualifying times without consistent dedicated training for many, many months (sometimes years) to first gain the running fitness, strategic knowledge of pacing for how they should run their qualifying marathon and sometimes luck regarding the weather and/or certified course chosen.

The people of Massachusetts all along the way, from Hopkinton to the finish on Boylston Street in Boston were out in the cold, raining, windy weather to cheer on runners who they may know, and stay for hours cheering strangers they don’t. And everywhere spectators wore ‘Boston Strong’ shirts, held signs thanking people for coming back to Boston, and billboards proclaiming unity in light of the 2013 tragedy 2 years ago. 

On Friday afternoon, I went to the Hynes Convention Center (near the finish line) to pick up my running bib and free swag (yellow finisher’s shirt, last-minute instructions, sports food samples and more). Cheerful, well-wishing volunteers greeting people in myriad languages -- and the best organized number-pickup for attending simultaneously to thousands I’ve ever seen.

The runner’s expo was filled with hundreds of booths promoting all kinds of running gear and nutritional innovations -- but more than the products was the melange of excited runners, all in Boston to run the Marathon on Monday’s Patriot’s Day.

The weather was the most challenging since the early 70′s. Cold (43 degrees F), raining, with headwinds coming from the East (and strongest in the latter half of the race). Given the heart must pump faster to maintain body heat, energy stores were used up faster to compensate for the weather. Gatorade and water provided along the way were helpful, but not enough to replace what the weather consumed. For most their times were slower than anticipated.

Finally, at 11:15 all those in the 4th Wave and 1st Coral to which I was assigned heard the start announcement and crossed the starting line. The start is mostly downhill for about nearly 4 miles, so runners get going faster than usually anticipated.

Shortly after starting, a woman abruptly fell in front of me and I had to jump to miss falling over her. I looked back and saw she was strewn, startled and looking for help and since no one was stopping (either in their crazed excitement or assuming she’d get back up on her own), I turned back to get her back on her feet. Took a few attempts, but finally she was standing and I took off again.  Probably lost a minute, but doing right still counts.

The course goes through tree-line rural areas for nearly 5 miles until the town of Ashland, then Framingham and a view of adjacent to Natick’s Town Commons (mile 10). But mile 12 is Wellesley College and the women students came out in huge numbers to cheer on the runners, as they have done for decades. Many held signs such as Kiss a Girl from (India, Iran, Mexico, Spain, many, many States), as well as I Prefer Older Men, Women Invited, and some a bit out there -- but all in the spirit of fun and support. The cheering sound levels of screaming ladies could be heard from afar and were awesome! I had been running with a guy chatting for 3-4 miles and I noticed he darted to the right to kiss a girl -- and thought how nice he knew a student. By the 3rd lady he kissed, I got the picture and joined in as well. :)

At Mile 17, passing the Newton Fire Station, the 4 miles of hills began along Commonwealth Avenue....Not as challenging as anything we run here in California, but noticeable nevertheless. Despite my running the course conservatively to make sure not to run out of steam before the end (and also still not over the coughing from a flu), I passed many tiring runners on the hills. 

At the end of the hills at Heartbreak Hill mile 21 was Boston College which also has lots and lots of cheering students. A few miles later we hit beautiful Beacon street and I knew the finish line was just 3+ miles away -- at which point I took off my rain layer and picked up the pace, and even more so at the Citgo sign at Mile 25 in Kenmore Square. Soon afterward there’s a downward underpass which is the last climb, coming out, and soon turned on to Hereford Street. 

I had noticed a similarly-aged runner in red, first behind, then just ahead of me, trading ‘places’ for miles -- so on the last rise over a freeway, I again picked it up and never saw him again. The last stretch of that street was amazing. I could see ahead Boylston Street and the crowds were 20+ deep and a chant was happening, loud & overwhelming: U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! 

Totally inspiring, I again picked up the pace, made the left on to Boylston, could hear the announcer, see the finish line nearing -- and let it fly to the end.

I’ve never seen the security that was so visible at the start, along the race and surely nearing and entering Boston. Frankly it was calming -- and the thousands of officers (MA State Police, FBI, Boston PD) were there to not only protect but also support each and every runner and spectator. 

Because of security concerns, there was no facility to check a change of dry clothes except if you started at Boston and then took a shuttle bus to the start. I was staying with friends near the start and so a fellow Pelican Muir Beach runner connected with me a runner who lived near the finish line (to whom I shipped a a change of clothes). By the time I found his home in the Back Bay, I was definitely starting the chills. As it turned out, he was out supporting other runners and cheering them at the finish, so when I arrived, a hidden key was waiting, as were 2 curious cute cats looking at me as I entered. I eventually found the box and the shower on the triplex top-floor. A beautiful glass-enclosed stall shower with a bench inside awaited, below the water falling. Though the cats kept looking and seemingly asking when I was coming out to play, all I know is that I sat there in warm water heaven for some time.  Both the shower and dry clothes were a lifesaver.

On the bus shuttle back to Hopkington for runners, all had stories to share. One had run his 19th Boston and whose grandfather placed 6th in 1906!  Despite slower than anticipated times for many of them, all were exhilarated and delighted to be sitting in a heated & comfortable bus heading home.

Thanks goes to my support from family and friends here in California who put up with my dreaming about (and training) for Boston for many, many months; as well my long-time friends and hosts in Marblehead and Westborough.

I ran the first Half aiming to better my 3:59 Eugene Marathon qualifying time by a few minutes. I was right on time at 1:55:27, as planned, given I expected some slowdown with the Newton Hills and fatigue. Using a heart rate monitor to keep my effort steady until the Hills, I managed to average 149 bpm overall (though 10 bpm or 7% higher than planned because of the cold and the heart’s normal reaction to pump faster to keep the body temperature needed.) Running the second half added just over 2 minutes vs. the first half of the marathon, again as planned. The last 1.2 miles (after passing 40K)I  ran at a 8:42 pace (and second only to the starting 5k, out of 10 splits provided by Boston). According to MarathonGuide.com, my Age-Graded Equivalent Time is 3:00. No complaints with Monday's 3:57:50. 

I’m grateful to have run the Boston Marathon for a second time,  26 years since the late 80's. Given also the challenging weather and some coughing from a recent flu, delivering on plan was also gratifying.

A guy I had been running with for a few miles (though we mentioned where we were from, we’d never exchanged names) sent me a Tweet this morning congratulating me that my finish time qualified me for the 2016 Boston Marathon! Gotta love some aspects of technology.  

Not so fast. Boston 2015, check, done.  I’m planning to again enjoy the incredible nature trails all around the Bay area (which I mostly had to give up while training this past year on paved roads for Boston 2015).

But with this 119th running (92 nations, 45% female), the Boston Marathon lives up to its special aura.
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Sunday's Triathlon adventure. See http://comeback65challengeforgood.blogspot.com/
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