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“This doesn’t feel as bad as I expected,” Katie said as we left the Marriott Copley Place. Light rain fell from a cold, gray sky. Wind blew from the east at maybe ten or 15 miles per hour.

“Not that bad,” I agreed.

We walked a few blocks toward Copley Square. As we stepped beyond the side of a building, the wind pushed me hard enough that I stepped right foot over left to regain my balance. Staggered, we changed course at the urging of a volunteer who directed us to Boylston Street just beyond the finish line.

“It will be a lot less windy there,” he said.

We took his advice and joined a thickening stream of runners and spectators heading toward the buses that would take runners just over 27 miles from Boston Common to Hopkinton. People tried to avoid the puddles formed from overnight rain. Runners wore garbage bags with holes cut in the top for their heads. Others wore cheap raincoats and pants. Some runners covered their hats and shoes with plastic bags. On any other day in Boston’s Back Bay, the police might have approached people dressed like that and tried to direct them to the appropriate social service. On Patriot’s Day, the cops pulled up their collars and scrunched their necks down to stay warm. Staying dry was a lost cause for everyone.

People complain when weather reports differ. No one likes unreliable forecasts. For Boston on Marathon Weekend, predictions had varied for each of Friday, Saturday and Sunday but for Monday, Patriot’s Day/Marathon Monday, forecasts completely agreed. Chances of rain for any particular hour on Monday ranged from 60% to 100% but the forecasts all predicted a 100% chance of rain while Katie and I would be on the course. Forecasters hate blowing a 100% prediction that would undermine their credibility. We took the meteorologists seriously.

On Sunday night, after having eaten pasta at an Italian restaurant in the North End, Katie grew anxious. She wanted a stocking cap to stay warm. We called around. Most stores had either rotated their merchandise to more seasonal inventory, closed before 8:00 p.m. on a Sunday night or just didn’t answer the phone at all. Marcus and Katie managed to flash Marcus’s Nike ID at the already-closed Nike store on Newbury Street. They had completely sold out of cold weather gear as runners bought layers to prepare for Monday. Meanwhile, Margy found two hats advertising the Lenox Hotel on Boylston. We bought them from people wearing New Balance gear, neglecting to mention that both Marcus and Katie worked for Nike. (Whether the hat purchases violated Nike HR policies was an investigation we neglected, given the weather.) Those hats turned out to have been purchases of true genius.

By the time we took the traditional family photo before Katie and I boarded the bus to Hopkinton, our feet were already very wet and cold. We took seats near the back of one of the thousands of school buses that transported runners to Hopkinton. The bus’s windows didn’t fully close so that during our ride, rain occasionally splashed us from the windows left slightly ajar and from the emergency door in the roof. A woman sitting in front of us went on at great length about the disastrously bad weather in which she ordinarily ran. Her husband sat beside her and said a word, maybe two, on the one-hour drive. Two women from Minnesota seated beside us chatted quietly in their Goodwill store rain suits.

We exited the bus at Hopkinton High School and walked carefully onto athletic fields that overnight rains and 10,000 runners had thus far turned into a quagmire. (What those fields became after all 30,000 runners had gone through I can’t imagine.) Katie and I sought space under a giant tent populated with huddling runners who looked like the most destitute of refugees. We found a finisher’s poncho on the ground, abandoned by a runner who left to start in Wave 1. (We were set for Wave 2.) We sat on the poncho and beside the woman’s cast off shoes and hand warmers. Katie and I each took a used hand warmer. The woman, like Katie, had brought a pair of old shoes and socks to wear before the race started, then changed into a dry pair to go to the start line.

Katie and I timed our departure from the tent perfectly, stepping gingerly through the inch-deep muck. I looked down at my Kona commemorative shoes splattered with mud. Katie changed into her latest and greatest dry Nikes and we walked down the hill toward the start and our last chance bathroom stop about 3/8 of a mile away, thanking cops and volunteers along the street. Katie’s race shoes were mostly wet by the time we reached our start corral.

The race began without fanfare – no songs or speeches. We heard a distant start gun and away we went in a steady rain, wind blowing harder and softer depending upon the tree cover. At one point, I mentioned to Katie that the weather had improved. Within a few seconds, it began to rain really hard.

Nearing the halfway mark of the race, my legs had stiffened. I noticed that I could not form a seal with my mouth on the sports drink bottles I carried on a belt. I took to pouring the drink into my mouth without sealing my lips. This seemed like a warning. A few miles later, Katie tossed a cup after grabbing a drink from an aid station. The wind caught the cup and blew it directly into the bridge of my nose. We laughed at that but spoke sparingly, communicating only as needed to stay together.

About a quarter mile from Wellesley College, we heard the women out in full force despite the weather. Bawdy signs and deafening, high-pitched cheers couldn’t help but lift everyone’s spirits, me included. It didn’t last that long, at least not for me. My right wrist felt like there was a band on it. There wasn’t. I had lost the cotton glove I wore on that hand when I had given Katie a Clif Shot Block. I had not gone back to collect the glove and risk getting stampeded. So I ran like Michael Jackson on a budget, wearing a giveaway white cotton glove only on my left hand, a hand that had pretty much lost sensation except for the feeling that there was something between my fingers. As we descended the big hill in Wellesley, my legs hurt more than usual. Meanwhile, Katie kept track of our mile splits. She had stopped announcing times and chose to simply encourage me, rejecting my apologies for holding her back, as I most certainly was doing.

At Boston College, the course descended a fairly steep hill. The BC kids who bothered to come out and brave the weather cheered fanatically, boisterously. Suddenly, the rain came down fiercely – an absolute deluge. Katie threw her head back and laughed maniacally like she used to do while skiing as a little kid, refusing to turn, choosing to go as fast as her skis would take her. I tried to laugh but I couldn’t. The 42 degree rain penetrated to my core.

Katie and I had started the race in sweatshirts that we ditched within a few miles. Katie retained a nifty Nike jacket that she could stuff into its own pocket and then strap to her waist, though she never got warm enough to take that jacket off. While it was not entirely waterproof, it did a decent job retaining at least some heat. A tight-fitting, long sleeve shirt that had done well for me on a 55 degree day in the rain was not warm enough for me on a 37 to 44 degree day. We both wore our Lenox Hotel stocking hats once touched by New Balance representatives, something we did not let bother the warmth the hats provided.

By the time we reached Boston College at around 21 miles, I realized that I was getting confused. Of course, if you realize that you are confused, maybe you are still OK. Even so, I felt wary. More than anything, though, I knew that if I stopped running, stopped exerting, I risked hypothermia. Put otherwise, stopping to walk was as good as quitting.

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Margy and Marcus taking a quick snap on their way to a five-spotting day.

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Impressionist view just after the right turn onto Boylston. Weather: 1, iPhone X: 0.

The last few miles passed in a blur, though my pace had fallen dramatically. I couldn’t see that well through rain-spattered glasses but I saw runners turning right on Hereford. I checked and Katie ran on my right. We turned up the rise on Hereford and saw Margy and Marcus one last time, the fifth of the day, a new record on Boston’s multiple-sighting hostile course. We turned left down the slope on Boylston toward the finish line sitting an awfully long way away. I didn’t so much run as slogged. At about 50 yards from the finish, I held out my right hand. Katie grabbed it in her left and we crossed the line hand-in-hand.

We walked through the finish area for what seemed like a very long distance before we made it to the hooded finisher ponchos. I leaned heavily on Katie, my arm over her shoulder. She steadied me, her left arm around my waist. Katie asked a volunteer to wrap me in two ponchos, a process that took a long time as they tried to fish my arms through the holes in the ponchos. Katie used her knowledge of downtown Boston to sneak me through a shortcut back toward the hotel. A long, warm shower didn’t stop all of my shivers so I climbed into bed and piled on blankets. Eventually, I emerged, ready for post-race pizza therapy.

Who knows how many marathons we have left to run together? Katie’s abilities have left mine far behind. She should run some marathons to improve her own PR and to qualify again for Boston, something we did not manage for her this year at Boston. Thanks to her help, though, she got me to the finish line in time for me to qualify as a geezer in 2019. Meanwhile, Katie looks forward to her career, business school and, who knows, maybe her own family. Other obligations may intrude on marathon training and racing for Katie. But even if those obligations crowd running marathons off her calendar, neither of us will ever forget the Boston Marathon in 2018, even if we both live to be 100.

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The weather on race day presented few photo opportunities but here are a few photos from the weekend.

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At the Boston Marathon Expo getting our numbers. The Boston Marathon is large enough that there were eight Rosses between “Katie” and “Scott” despite our identical qualifying times.

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Waiting for the bus from the Expo back to Boston Back Bay in a frigid gale on Sunday, though this beat being back home in Minnesota for 13 inches of snow.

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In a last-minute email to participants, Boston Marathon officials noted that running in clear trash bags would be allowed. Here is the shelf slot in the Star Market near Copley Square once holding clear trash bags.

Postscript: Congratulations to Matt Wiegand on running 3:02 in awful conditions even after one of his family’s cars had been towed from their AirBNB. Quite a recovery. Thanks to Sarah Long, Laurie Eustis and the Schneider family, especially Marcus, for getting together with us and for following Katie and me on the course. And, as always, thanks so much to Margy for absolutely everything.

 

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3 Comments

  1. As always, I love reading your blog and am so proud to be your little sister. Congrats Rossman!!

  2. I am in awe of you runners not only able to brave the elements but to complete the course and then write snappy blogs about the whole ordeal! Congratulations on yet another great run, geezer or otherwise.

  3. Good Morning Rosser,

    As always I feel privileged to receive your posts. I always feel like I am right there. Your post made me sad, happy, laugh all in one. I especially liked the part where the cup blew in your face☺

    I hope you didn’t get a cold from the event. If you make in MN prepare for the snow..aargh. Let’s hope it is the last.

    Let’s get dinner plans to catch up soon.

    Me.

    Vicki Leddy | Accounting Manager | Sightpath Medical
    5775 W. Old Shakopee Rd, Suite 90
    Bloomington, MN 55437
    o 952.345.5502 f 952.345.5539
    vicki.leddy@sightpathmedical.com
    Connect with Sightpath: Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Blog


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