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Boston Marathon Course section


Hopkinton to Boston, the hard way

By Shira Springer, Globe Staff, 4/16/2002


Men  |  Women  |  Wheelchairs  |


Women: Okayo KOs course in debut
Men: Rop puts Kenyans back on top
Runner-up: Ndereba is still first-rate
Ryan: Their absence didn't last long
US runners: Support not there
Beardsley: He returns for more fun
Masters: At 43, Kipkemboi in prime
Wheelchairs: VanDyk wins again
Notebook: Runners kept their cool
The start: Meeting first challenge
First-person: To end, the hard way
Heartbreak Hill: Over the top
SporTView: Coverage lagged
Faces in pack: Miles of smiles


Memorable moments
During the race
Before the race
Sunday pasta party
Sports & Fitness Expo

FROM START TO FINISH WHILE RUNNING THE BOSTON MARATHON - The following observations constitute scenes from a marathon.

THE START: For the average runner, the Boston Marathon is never 26.2 miles, not if you count the distance walked from dropoff points to the start. Once runners reach the starting area, it's a waiting game. Yesterday, the dramatic prerace high point comes when word gets around that the weather forecast has changed. The near-80-degree heat will be held off for a couple of hours by cloud cover and drizzle. Meteorologists are cursed as runners dig into their bags for more appropriate clothing. With about a half-hour until the start, runners begin filing into corrals designated by their bib numbers. The corrals are packed, so when the race starts and ''Start Me Up'' by the Rolling Stones plays over the loudspeakers, half the field simply stands in place (although some runners take time to dance). It takes runners in corral No. 8 five minutes of walking/jogging to reach the starting line. The first few miles are crowded, with young spectators pressing in for high-fives and discarded articles of clothing. Much to the dismay of semiserious runners with high numbers, there are some obviously misplaced participants. Take the man with the beer belly and two knee braces with a number in the 2000 range (just a corral short of elite runner status) last seen walking at Mile 3. Then there is what seems like a mirage standing on the side of the road. ''That looks like the Doritos girl,'' says a man passing an attractive brunette. It is too early for hallucinations. It is the girl from the Doritos commercials, accompanying her boyfriend along the course.

THE MIDDLE MILES: These are easily the most fun. The crowd has thinned out and some form of runners' high has participants cutting loose. Most runners wave their arms and exhort spectators to cheer louder. And none of the runners seem bothered when a couple of radios blare the finish of the men's race as they approach Mile 16. And then there is the Howard Stern impersonator who is moving along at a sub-four-hour pace while wearing a pink dress, black wig, and black women's underwear that he occasionally flashes to the crowd. Then there is Keith Baker, who is keeping close to an eight-minute-mile pace while juggling three balls. A just-married couple in wedding gown and tuxedo running outfits receive congratulations from everyone, as well as a few comments from people wondering about the more traditional pursuits of newlyweds. ''This is your honeymoon?'' asks one passerby. ''Don't you need to keep your legs strong?''

HEARTBREAK HILL: The runners grow quiet as they turn the corner around the Newton firehouse, not that you'd be able to hear them over the din of the crowd. There are generally three ways runners ''attack'' Heartbreak Hill: There are those that lead into the hills and push themselves upward; there are those who duck their heads, preferring to focus on one step at a time; then there are those who stop and walk. But anyone who's heard stories about the Boston Marathon knows that Heartbreak Hill is not just one long hill. It's an up and down, up and down challenge. After conquering the first rise, one woman turns to her running partner and, sounding somewhat delirious, asks, ''Exactly how many hills are there, and are they all like that one?'' There are three, and they get tougher as you go.

THE FINISH: The last miles seem to stretch on endlessly. Ironically, the finish seems farthest when you turn onto Boylston Street. You expect the finish line to be close, but instead it's a distance down the road. There's an almost imperceptable exhausted sigh. Three more minutes and it's all over. Almost. The area immediately after the finish line is a jumble of mylar blankets and goodie bags, medical attendants with wheelchairs, and runners wobbling and throwing up. Volunteers take your computer timing chip and hand you a finisher's medal, and you make your way through the crowd, sore but contented.

This story ran on page D8 of the Boston Globe on 4/16/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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