On the Phedippidations Message Board a discussion about what makes the Boston Marathon special popped up in part because of Steve Walker’s recent opportunity to run the race again this year. The following is an excerpt from a runner and podcaster who I have great respect for who goes by the name dumprunner on the message board. He writes:
I am probably contrarian but Boston isÂ simply not as special as it is made out to be. It has history, great crowds, is extremely well run (that could be said for a lot of marathons) and a great booming voice at mile 22.
But the minute I finished, I had no desire ever to run it again and that hasn’t changed.
My mind filled with dozens of loosely connected images as I thought about how I would respond to his comment, arriving at what might be only described as a schizophrenic pattern of thought, which for those of you who read my missives know is nothing new for me.
The most amazing experiences for me at Boston always come at the point in time when I land at Logan International Airport in Boston. As soon as I step off of the plane, I see a sudden shift in the morphology of the general population around me. Lean, clean shaven, athletic folks abound, carrying water bottles and wearing t-shirts espousing the various running clubs or races that they have been affiliated with. To your right and left are small groups of folks chatting quietly and confidently while chewing on a Clif Bar or a baggie filled with celery. In truth, if you are flying into Boston, you only need to look around the plane you are flying in on to see hints of this already.Â These people need no medals swung loosely around their necks for us to understand just how talented these runners are. It isn’t the Tevas on their feet or the small duffel bag on their shoulder that gives them away. Nor is it the cross country t-shirts marked simply by the graphic of two adjacent C’s split horizontally by an arrow. In fact it’s in their confidence.
What makes Boston differnent than any other marathon is that everyone that has qualified for this race has already done the work to get here. There is nothing left to worry about or be concerned about aside from any demons that we all continue to carry around with us in search of our next PR, and if it should be at Boston, so much the better. Boston is about celebrating your accomplishments, setting new standards or simply not looking silly when running next to legends of the sport.
Two years ago, I reported from La Guardia airport on my way to support @texafornia, @jettpack, @simplystu, IronWil and the rest of my friends on Team Race Athlete at Ironman Wisconsin. The piles of bike boxes stacked 6 feet high in the ticketing area at La Guardia told me that I was part of something much larger than just another race. These are the tools of battle, packaged with care and sitting innocuously just waiting to leap out before traveling 112 miles at 22+ mph over the roads around Madison. Arriving in Boston is very similar, and unlike NYC, Chicago and Los Angeles, where people wander aimlessly around the expo, the Boston Marathon Expo is very much business as usual, with runners getting in, and getting out as efficiently as possible. Remember, these folks have all done this before. Perhaps then, Boston is really about being humble, because everyone there knows what they are capable of accomplishing.
The charity entries have definitely changed this atmosphere, which is why I actually discourage folks from running Boston under a charity entry – and I founded a charity endurance training program. I simply think that there’s nothing wrong with one marathon to be held aside for those age-groupers who purely by genetic gift or training have risen to this level of performance.
All marathons have their personalities and Boston is no exception. I give great complements to those, like dumprunner and Avi who PR’d on that course and even more so to those who do so while running negative splits. The course is no joke, but it is after all, just another course, 26.2 miles long.
To me what is really special about Boston is that for a few hours you can count yourself among those who perform at that level and, especially for those who do not come by this naturally, that you have a community that is singularly committed to celebrate all of the sacrifices that you made to get there – all of those mornings waking up and running at 5am so that you could complete your run before you had to start your normal working day and before attending to all of your other responsibilities that did not take time off just because you were “in training”.
In short, The Boston Marathon is the 360 tomahawk dunk of running. Not everyone can do it, but when you do, the world takes notice and you can’t help but feel that it was all worth it.
Congratulations to all who will be participating in Boston in April. Again, as always, I am humbled by your achievement.