The Other Boston
It’s 4 a.m. and our hotel room is a hive of activity. With a trio of fast runners getting ready to give it their all on Boston Marathon Monday, I should’ve known I wouldn’t get any quality sleep. They’re all keyed up and deep into their pre-race rituals as I lie in bed with the pillow over my head wishing they’d just get the heck out that door. But who am I fooling? I’m stoked for this day, too. My running times are about half as fast as theirs, but I’ve got my own personal challenge planned for today. I’m running The Other Boston. The Other Boston is a plan of mine, hatched way back when a group of my fast friends qualified for the big race. I knew there was no hope for me to achieve that elusive BQ, so I began to think of what I could do for the hours they are out there running at lightning speed. My plan is a simple one. I’m going to get out there while they’re waiting in line in the Hopkinton corrals. That will be my much needed head start. And then, I’m going to head out onto the streets for a self-guided running tour of this iconic city.
Our hotel is near Fenway Park. I head out just as soon as the gang don their garbage bag and depart for the shuttle. For me, a pair of newish training shoes, a few good running layers and a fully stuffed fuel belt will take me where I need to go for the day. I also take a small backpack with warm finish-line clothes for my friends. And purportedly that’s my entire reason for being here. My only time constraint is a meeting spot
we pre-established near mile 25 at the big Citgo gas station sign, my final sightseeing stop on The Other Boston. There’s lots of time.
As I dash through puddles from Fenway Park through Chinatown and the Financial District, I finally come to Faneuil Hall and I realize that I’ve used up a lot of time spiralling around the downtown core, as the streets here aren’t in a grid. It’s a good idea to carry a detailed map or your phone during this part of the run, although during my Other Boston it rained heavily, making it tough for me to reference my phone.
Inside Faneuil Hall, it’s toasty warm and dry and the people that work here are terrific. One young employee notices my running gear and I explain The Other Boston to him. He’s thrilled with this idea and produces a detailed map illustrating the area along with the Freedom Trail, which I will follow for the next leg of my journey.
The route takes me past Boston Garden and I cross a bridge over the Charles River. As I head through slum-turned-swanky Charlestown, I follow the 4k Freedom Trail to my next destination. The Trail was designed to highlight 16 major locations and monuments in the Boston area that were pivotal in shaping the United States. I finally reach my destination: the Bunker Hill monument. This is no scenic rest stop. Well, this thing is on a hill, yes, but the monument itself also has 294 winding stairs straight up. And down. I run up, take a quick look out and another glance at my watch and then race back down to the bottom. This is my Heartbreak Hill.
I am drenched from head to toe. Especially toe. And the clock is still ticking. Why do those runners I know have to be so fast? They’re not even in the first wave and they’re hot on my heels with their predicted finish times. I grab a warm snack at a café, check on my friend’s status with the race’s app, and dash off through the North End past the Paul Revere statue, North Church Memorial Garden and back down to Boston Common. On a normal day, this is a beautiful green space in the centre of town. On marathon day, things are a little different. I find myself in the middle of what seems to be the elite bag pick-up area. They’re done running already. It’s ectomorph central in this big beautiful multipath park and there is not one person with double-digit body fat like I have. It’s cool and rainy, so the steam is pouring off them like racehorses at the finish line of the Kentucky Derby. The mylar blankets seem to keep them warm, but their toned legs prickle with goosebumps. I catch their eyes and congratulate them and feel immediate guilt about my friends’ warm, dry clothing in my backpack.
I hustle it out of that area to assuage my guilt and find my spot at the cheering area near the Citgo station. I get there just in time and shout out as my runners go by in a blur of bibs and splashing puddle water. The fasties are looking strong and impervious to the weather, but I’m starting to fade. I make it to the family meeting area just in time to pass on the warm clothes and hugs for the official finishers.
As I wait for my turn for the hot shower back at our hotel room, I feel exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. I don’t have a medal, a mylar blanket or a f lashy jacket, but I’ve got something unique and precious to me – awesome soggy memories of The Other Boston.
Old South Church on Boylston St.
DESTINATION BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS
Not the Boston Marathon
Running up the 294 stairs of the Bunker Hill monumet is a good substitute for Heartbreak Hill Faneuil Hall at night