Saturday, April 26, 2014

Kiss the Girls

Georgie Porgie, Puddin' and Pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry.
When the boys came out to play
Georgie Porgie ran away.

The Kiss and Run Fusion Model

Even if you've never run the Boston Marathon, you know the legend of Wellesley College.  Runners worldwide have heard tales about the deafening roar that greets you between miles 12 and 13.

For decades, stories about the country's oldest marathon have been written, and they usually include references to the staples of the course, and its legends - Bill Rogers, Johnny Kelly, Rick and Dick Hoyt, Heartbreak Hill, Boylston Street, and the Scream Tunnel of Wellesley College.

On the course, you can hear the cacophony about a half mile before you even reach the outskirts of the prestigious college.  As you approach, you can see the foot traffic start to bottleneck, and if you're a Boston rookie runner, you might not be sure what's causing it.

And then suddenly, you see, hear and experience one of the undisputed highest apexes of the 26.2 mile course, when the Wellesley College students take a much-needed break from their arduous studies and line up against the metal stanchions that keep them safely barricaded from the runners.

Literally, a wall of screaming coeds line the quarter mile of the course, motivating the river of runners with their shrieks, their high-fives, and for the purposes of this blog entry, their voluntary kisses.  The Wellesley Scream Tunnel is always a highlight of the race, and this year for Andrew, it was his marathon mecca.

Their signs read "Kiss me, I'm Italian."  "Kiss me, I like to Score. (Lacrosse)."  "Kiss me, my dad is paying for my tuition."  And so on.
There's Even a Book About it

All Andrew needed to see was the "kiss me" green lights.

Yes, you want her
Look at her you know you do
Possible she wants you too,
There is one way to ask her.
It don't take a word,
Not a single word, go on and
Kiss the Girl
(Sing wit' me now)

And so, for your edification, in an attempt to make you feel as though you were actually there for the Scream Tunnel and Kissing Corridor, I present a 20-year-old's photo gallery of the best five minutes of his Marathon Monday.  And maybe even his year.
And yeah, with one exception, his old man got into the action.  But that's because this Wellesleyian and her sister have been a staple of our Marathon runs for more than six years.  Alex and Nicole Hatem, our Lowell neighbors, have both attended Wellesley College and have been leading the charge into battle on Marathon Mondays every time we've run past.  Last year, Nicole jumped in and ran with us.  This year, she took pity on an old man, and planted one on me. 
To Nicole and Alex - thanks for the years of screams! 
And to Andrew, no, you can't just jump in next year at mile 12 and run to mile 13.  You have to earn these smooches.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Taking Back the Finish Line

Lots written this week about the race of the millenium, but I couldn't let the occasion pass without sharing some of the photos (some of which you may have seen in other parts.)
Anyone who reads this blog has probably endured the torturous winter of our discontent, that being a horrible season of training during which we combatted bitter cold temps, icy streets, arctic conditions, and an uncharacteristic spike of injuries for the extended E Streeter running team.  Seems like nary a week could pass without another casualty making it onto Bill Belichick's questionable gametime status list.
This year's return to the starting line in Hopkinton carried a special significance for so many of us because of how many of us were there last year when the bombs went off and changed the meaning of the finish line of the world's greatest marathon.
That day, several of us rededicated ourselves and resolved to return to the race to help restore its glory and erase the blemish that the two cowardly brothers tried to inflict on our sport, our race, our state, and our country.
This year marked the return to greatness for a past marathoner, as well as a first-time marathon for two members of the E Streeters.  A special year, all around.
Here's our 2014 team
Kudos to the Scanlon brothers, Barry and Tommy, who paid tribute to their sister Sue, fighting some health issues, but cheering them on every mile of the way
The brilliant morning started, under sun-filled skies, and in a Hopkinton athlete's village loaded with hundreds upon hundreds of porta-potties, and sprawled-out runners across fields as far as the eye could see.
As always, Barry's pre-marathon stretching rituals defy the laws of gravity.  And modesty. 
Captains America
The long, long, long, long walk to the starting line gave us time to add sunscreen, to spurn offers of vodka, and to repeatedly second-guess our training efforts for the big day.  Seriously, there's not many places in Hopkinton to put 36,000 runners, so the corrals were the only option.
Avengers Assembled at the starting line.  Well, actually, we still had blocks to go before we made it to the actual start, but damn, was I proud to be standing there for the first time ever with my son.   There's no one I'd rather go into battle alongside.
Lowell Police Officer Nick Laganas ran this year and raised money for the Wounded Warrior Project.  This Marathon veteran and Army veteran may have entered into race day wounded, but he ran like a warrior.
Andrew made sure to high five everyone on the early part of the course who was looking to celebrate the runners.  Especially the kids. 
And then suddenly, amidst a seemingly endless wave of humanity, we saw him!  The man, the myth, the legend in his own mind, Joe Patuto, he of Middlesex Community College running lore.  He and his Beantown Bootcamp buddies were maintaining a blistering pace to start the race!
Proudly representing the Lowell Police Academy PT running team 
Isn't everything for Sean? 
Years ago, I talked about the vision I had of seeing Santa Claus along the course, drawing gazes of disbelief from my fellow runners who chalked it up to my heat-induced delirium.  Thankfully, he stands in the same place every single year, so this year, I vowed to capture Old Saint Nick on film to prove he's real.
Speaking of other legendary figures, here's my friend Natick Police Chief James Hicks, responsible for keeping the roadways safe from miles 9-12. 
Andrew's not quite sure why I know so many police chiefs in so many cities, but he's always happy to thank our local law enforcement, particularly on a day like this where they played such an important role in the race's return to greatness.
Which brings us to one of the most critical stretches of the race, the legendary mile that is Wellesley College.  Its' reputation is known worldwide, and for a 20-year-old single guy, the mile that runs past the front of the college provides a veritable smorgasbord of beautiful and supportive marathoner maniacs.  This picture tells the story of how Andrew's mile went.  My next blog post will spell it out much more clearly.  In amazing technicolor pictures.  It's going to be one for the ages, or at least one for Andrew's ego. 
Mary-Jo, at the halfway point in Wellesley Center
Mile 16, in Newton over Route 128, and the team pic of the greatest support structure on the Big Blue Marble.  None of us, and I mean none of us, could get through a winter of training, the long Saturday runs, and the mileage that roams the East Coast, without the support of our families who help make it possible.  This is probably the most important picture of this blog, because these are the people behind the scenes who help us keep putting our sneakers one in front of the other.  Bottomless thank you to all of you. 
Andrew comes in for a drink, a pep talk, some Advil, and a costume change. 
Courtesy of race photographer John Piekos, Barry makes the critical turn at the Newton Fire Station, a landmarks that to any who've ever run the Boston Marathon know,  means it's time for some hills.
Heartbreakers on Heartbreak Hill
At Newton City Hall, I bumped into Groton Police Chief Donald Palma, a buddy from NEMLEC, the organization responsible for the safety along the hills that break hearts.  And again, Andrew scratches his head at a random police chief encounter in the middle of a marathon.
Donna and Mary-Jo might be suffering inside, but they've still got great attitudes, great smiles, and great friendship to help them motor through.
Donna even managed a sneaker change at mile 17, and of course, never lost her smile!
Finally, the last historic half mile, coming down Boylston Street. Like the sign says, strength lives here.  And it runs here, too.
Hands down, my favorite time ever down Boylston Street.  I didn't feel any pain, wasn't dreading how far the finish line actually was.  I was just soaking in the glory of the Boston Marathon, and thanking God, my family and friends, for the opportunity to be taking part in history and reclaiming that vaunted finish line.
I swear, the crowds were there, cheering for me personally!  At least that's how it felt for each runner!
Andrew just basks in the noise and the adrenaline rush of running's most famous finish line
Afterwards, the sun, which never once hid behind a cloud for the 26.2 miles, limned Andrew and I in a great finish line father-son triumph.
The Greatest Caper to be found anywhere, Christine Cole, was waiting there smiling ear to ear, and greeting each of the runners as they staggered forward down the chute!
Salt-encrusted cheeks and all, my beautiful wife and daughter still give me my finish line hugs and kisses
It might have made for a perfect Christmas card if Andrew didn't look like he just ran a marathon with a debilitating glut injury.  Ah, the agony of the feat.
Even Supermodels take notice of heroes in a silver cape
Mary-Jo meets up with her daughters at the finish.  Emotions ensue.
Donna notches her first (last?) Boston Marathon finish line
And of course, follows it up with her trademark ear-to-ear grin
And finally, a repeat photo, but a reminder that we can't forget four lives that were lost last year.  They  have forever become ingrained in our memories for their loss during the events of last year's Boston Marathon.
I hope in some, small way, the E Streeters helped take back the finish line of the Boston Marathon  in their memory.
We Run Together.