Des­ti­na­tion Race

The Other Bos­ton

Canadian Running - - DEPARTMENTS - By Karen Prin­ci­pato

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.


Run­ning up the 294 stairs of the Bunker Hill mon­u­met is a good sub­sti­tute for Heart­break Hill Fa­neuil Hall at night

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