Sunday, April 17, 2011

My First Memory Of The Boston Marathon

Did I ever mention I was from Boston?  Of course I have - probably more than a few times.  And because of that pedigree, it would be awesome to be able to say that the root of my passion for endurance sports is neatly book-ended into the following legend:
"Boy grows up in Boston and is inspired by Bill Rogers, a local guy but also an international running superstar, and by the Boston Marathon, a race that has managed to retain it's unique local flavor despite becoming a pinnacle of International competition"
Unfortunately, that's not the case.  The truth is that for many years I had an apartment directly on the course and I'm 99% certain that I never once watched a single runner go by.  I'm not even sure where I was every Patriot's Day.  But I doubt I was home.

It's not that I didn't  know about the Marathon, it's that I didn't care.  And I certainly had no contextual understanding as to the race's place in history.  Consider, for example, my first memory of the race.  It's from 1980 and Bill Rodgers had just won for the 4th time.  But I don't remember that - In fact I just looked that up.  Rather, I remember Rosie Ruiz, the cheater.

Rosie Ruiz
On April 21st, 1980, it appeared to everyone that Ruiz was the first woman across the finish line with a time of 2:31:56, which was not only the fastest finish for a woman in Boston Marathon history, but was also the 3rd fastest marathon finishing time for a woman ever.  But almost immediately, doubts arose.  Bill Rodgers was immediately suspicious because she couldn't recall any of her split times and admitted to having no idea what her average pace was.  The more catty (but funnier) critics argued that she couldn't have won because her thighs where too fat.  It then somehow came out that her normal resting heart rate was 76 BPM - far to high to support her claims of elite athletic ability.  Plus there was the "minor" detail that not one runner or race official recalled actually seeing her on the course.  Finally, public opinion completely went against Ruiz when two Harvard students claimed to have seen her burst out of the crowd along Commonwealth Avenue and make a sprint for the finish line.

Within a week, her title was stripped away and she was sent packing back to Florida where a few years later she got busted for being a part of a cocaine distribution ring.  Classy lady.

So there you go.  My first memory for an event that I have come to realize embodies so much prestige and tradition is one of dishonor.  Great.  I need to replace that memory somehow, and the sooner the better.

But it won't be this year.  I'm on a flight that took off from Boston about 2 hours ago.  We are headed for LA.  I thought about staying for an extra day but there was just no way.  I still got to experience some of the pre-race excitement, though.  A 10 minute walk around Copley Square took care of that.  There are runners everywhere.  There is the finishing chute on Boylston, just to the right of the Boston Public Library.  The atmosphere is electric.  It's exciting.

I wouldn't have picked up on the excitement 10 years ago.  True, I wasn't an endurance athlete then.  But sometimes you also have to leave a place and then come back to really understand what that place is all about.

It would have been nice to be able to stay.  Next time I guess.....


Amanda@runninghood said...

Loved this...really. I think it is so true that sometimes you have to leave a place and then come back to it to really understand what it is all about...this rings true for so many things. I also loved the part in your last post when you talked about being in the airplane and noticing the "pings" that all the runners were giving each other. Too funny...I love that you got a few pings yourself. The first time (and only time) that I ran Boston, I had NO clue what it was all about really...I showed up at the airport and thought it was so crazy that all these people were getting on the airplane with their Boston jackets from past races, strutting their stuff and carrying their gym bags. And then when I got to Boston, my jaw dropped at how big it really all was. Gosh, I hope to go back someday. Again, great post. I think this is the first time you've officially received an Amanda word count comment. Doesn't happen too much anymore but here you go...enjoy the blog on your blog.

Aimee said...

That is so crazy that you used to live right on the course!
I loved the last part about sometimes having to leave a place and then go back to really understand what it was about. That's so true in so many aspects of life!!
How fun that you got to be part of all the excitement yesterday! I have no doubt that someday you'll be back!

ajh said...

Thanks for the Rosie Ruiz update. Had some good laughs over it this morning as my daughter gets ready to run the WHOLE thing.

KovasP said...

Nothing on the heavy metal fest? Nothing?

Jennifer said...

Great story.

Caroline said...

1980 is my first memory of Boston marathon also, because of the Riuz scandal but what I remember most is who she robbed of the real win, the real winner who everyone forgets Jacqueline Gareau who is a Quebecer like me. This was major news where I am from.

Caratunk Girl said...

You know, I really think that sometimes you have to return to a place or an event to really appreciate it - especially if it wasn't important or if you took it for granted when you were there.

Anyway, nice write-up! Man, you come to the east coast and I can't get out of the woods. Bummer.

Chris K said...

Yeah, Caroline is right, that lady who really won it was so robbed of glory by that idiot. What a shame.

Unknown said...

I cant believe you lived on the course and never saw the Marathon!! Thanks for the little history too!

valen said...

cool one!,

Glenn Jones said...

The one thing they Rosie did was free marketing for the sport! Heck at at the time I hated running, but I still knew who she was.


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