Sunday morning, March 30th -Â Â Three weeks before the Boston Marathon. Twenty two people assembled in the parking lot behind Brueggers, 16 runners, 2 drivers, and 4 little helpers, all instrumental in pulling off the Hopkinton to Boston College long run road trip. At 7AM we packed three minivans and one car with waterstop supplies and people and headed out on the road.
At 8AM we pulled into Hopkinton and all got in line for the bathroom. Thank you to the Hopkinton Cumberland Farms for allowing us to make one last pit stop before our run. A few moments later we were all assembled at the Doughboy Statue at the Boston Marathon starting line. A quick picture and off we went, 14 of us running east into the wind and the 29 degree country air. Barry, Sue, Joanne, and Ginny with the kids passed us on their way to their waterstop duties, each with a beep and a wave.
HOPKINTON – The pack lined the left side of route 135, spreading out in its usual groups. Judi and Erin took the lead, Brian kept pace right behind, Walt, Ed, Andy, Mike, Jim, Tracy, Nick, and Erin Lynch watched as they pulled away. Nancy, Lois, and Pam kept pace right behind. Walt warned us of our fast pace along the way, as the 2 mile downhill helped us along past the MetroWest Daily News Sunday Papers sitting in the driveways of our host cities sleeping residents. His vigilance in reminding us to slow down would pay off.
ASHLAND – Into Ashland we hit our first set of hills. These are not well known, as everyone says “Boston is all downhill for the first 16 miles”, but everyone noticed them. In short time we were at water stop 1 where Ginny, Gavin, James, Kaitlin, Lizzie, and Barry made quick work of attending to each runners needs as we zipped through and on our way through Ashland.
FRAMINGHAM – A few miles further down the road we are suddenly following along side the train tracks of Framingham. The roads here are flat so runners begin to find their pace for the day… at least the increasing numbers of runners out on the route wizzing by us had found theirs. This is a runner friendly stretch, except for the running jacket eating telephone pole that took a bite out of Mike as he passed by. Pulling into water stop 2 Sue and Joanne informed us of the traffic that would plague them for the day. Today, one of the busiest day to run along route 135, second only to Patriot’s Day, the Human Rights Torch Relay was making its trek down the middle of road in front of us. Having started a half hour before us, moving at a pace that divided our faster runners with the rest of us, and collecting a trail of irrate drivers behind it, this would hinder all our water stop cars as they raced Judi and Erin to Boston College. A noble cause, sure, but we weren’t ready for this.
NATICK – Still following the train tracks, we resumed our comfortable pace through the downhill and flat sections of Natick. We passed Lake Cochituate where marathon lore tells us one of the top runners of the 1930s, Tarzan Brown, once took a quick dip to cool off during his run on a hot marathon day. None of our runners considered that, as despite the expected warming trends the air temperature was still hovering in the low 30s. After the lake we passed the Natick Animal Shelter where kennels full of excited dogs erupted in barking as runners passed by. They may have been cheering… or they may have been expressing their desire to nip at our heels. At Natick Common, our third water stop erupted in similar cheer as we pulled in to the sounds of “Water Stop, Water Stop, Caaaaaandy!” led by Ginny, accompanied by Sue, Joanne, Kait, Lizzie and Gavin. Lois and Pam were treated to gymnastic entertainment provided by Lizzie. Pam finished her 10 mile run here, recovering from a nasty viral cold, she had a successful return to running today.
WELLESLEY – Further down 135 we enter Wellesley, half expecting the high pitched, high decibal screeches of Wellesley College which make this the most memorable and quickest stretch on marathon day. Despite the lack of any noise, this still seemed like the quickest stretch for me. As the train tracks rose along our left side and the college passed by on our right, it seemed like no time before we pulled into water stop 4 where Barry and James waited along the bench lined sidewalks outside of Brueggers. Sue pulled into the stop with me, as if she had run the 13 miles to get us here, but she was just warming up to start the 9 mile stretch from here to Boston College with Joanne. Erin Lynch finished her 13 miles at a nice strong pace to step into the role of water stop assistant further on down the road.
NEWTON LOWER FALLS – Through Wellesley Center, across route 9 into Newton Lower Falls, runners experience the drop to the lowest part of the course. This is where we noticed the fatigue building up in our legs. Ginny gave us a quick update on the progress of our fellow runners. Walt had caught up to Judi and Erin, his conservation of energy at the start had paid off. Brian had trailed back a bit, while Andy and Ed were right behind. Ed was nursing a blister but charging along. Mike, Tracy and I were in a tight pack. Nick followed in right behind us, bringing his run to a close at 16 miles. Nancy, Sue, Joanne, and Lois were not far behind, making good time on this difficult course. This water stop featured breakdancing by Gavin!
NEWTON – As the water stop attendants headed into Starbucks for some Frappacinos, we headed over route 128, past Woodland Golf Course, and turned right onto Commonwealth Ave. Up the first hill we went and road a long downhill for a while. Erin caught most of us for our last water stop of the day, although the Human Rights torch run kept her from helping the front runners. WE enjoyed our candy, water, and gatorade across from the Johnny Kelley Statue, slowly sipping and considering the hills we had left to run. There was no putting it off any longer though, up Heartbreak Hill we went, and then another. Cresting the hill we were whipped by a cold ocean breeze. This made obvious the fact that the temperature had been perfect for awhile… up to this point. Usually the end of the run is the warmest part, but suddenly my face turned cold, winter wasn’t giving in quiet yet. Neither were we. With the Prudential Building visible in the distance, reminding us that we wouldÂ have a long 5 miles ahead of us on marathon day, we rode the last downhill to the campus of Boston College.
As runners filed in from the long run we spread our tired bodies along the sidewalk and grass across from St Ignatius Church at the college. A fewÂ runners noted how far down the decent to ground level felt after 22 miles. Sipping coffee, trading stories, and mocking each other’s awkward tired movements we regained our energy on Graham Crackers and gluten free pretzels. Sue came running in and asked where Heartbreak Hill is. For the second year she didn’t notice any big hill along the way. She ran back out to look for it again. When she returned we explained that she needed to go out to Hopkinton and run back, then and only then could she find Heartbreak Hill. It really isn’t all that big of a hill, we run bigger hills every week, but believe me 19 miles into a run its as big a hill you’ll ever want to meet!
So that’s it, 295 miles spread across 16 Sunday Long Runners between Hopkinton and Boston College. Who is gonna make it? This long run, we all did.