Many years ago I heard about the "Boston Double" (Thanks Tyler H.)! and last year, 2017, the timing and training turned out to be perfect for one of the most fun days I've ever had with my first Boston Double. 2017 wasn't originally planned to be a double but on short notice I decided to just do it. 2018, on the other hand, I was planning to double up from the moment I got a bib. I am super lucky to have close friends throughout the Boston running community including one who offered up a bib. The conversation went like this:
"Hey Greg, I know it's kinda short notice, but I've got a bib for the marathon if you want it."
"HELL YES I WANT IT, did you even have to ask??"
(or some variation of that)
I was worried that I wouldn't have as much fun as the prior year, or that it wouldn't be as memorable as my first time. I was wrong!
The day was equally as memorable, but entirely different. Aside from the one constant - running from Boston to Hopkinton and then back to Boston. The weather (OH THE WEATHER) was different, the company was different, the pit-stops were different, but the feeling was no less spectacular.
A couple of awesome things happened before the 2018 Boston Marathon. First, I was selected by a casting agency to play a role in an online ad campaign building up the excitement for the race and building awareness for their new Gatorade Endurance formula. I was featured in two separate videos on their Instagram channel:
This was an amazing experience, that almost wasn't. The week before the marathon when we were scheduled to film Boston got hit by a big blizzard that halted the runners/volunteers scheduled to film as well as the crews needed to do it. As a result they had to cut filming from 2 days down to 1 day and cut the runners/volunteers they would be filming in half. I was already surprised that I made it past the first round of online applications with my ultra-beard (seriously, look at any running mag - very few photos of bearded runners), but I figured getting down to the last round and then not having the opportunity to be filmed be the end of my acting career. However, I somehow made it to filming day at the start line in Hopkinton. I had to take the day off work to be a part of the project, but totally worth it!
The other unexpected thing that happened was that I got a website inquiry (yes this website) from a writer from Boston.com asking about my 2017 Boston Double. I chatted with the author, Nik DeCosta-Klipa, for a bit and recommended a few other runners he may reach out to in the process. It was a fun chat and awesome to be included in the article.
Little did I know at the time, through the magic of the internets, the article was shared around and made its way to another would-be-doubler coming out of NYC, Kelly. I briefly met Kelly at the finish (i.e. our start) line around 5am when I took a photo of her and her husband Sam as they said she was heading out for the Double. I snapped the photo then headed over to say hi to a friend who was working the finish line getting things ready for the runners in a few hours. I was also hanging out a few minutes for my friend John, who I had randomly met the year before in my first Boston Double. John was also back and ready to do it again! John and I had plans to meet and head out at 5am to beat the push-rim division start by the time we got back to Hopkinton.
John and I met up, took our pre-run photos then hit the road. More on the weather: it was CRAZY rainy and windy!! Some of the worst weather in Boston Marathon history.
But seriously, it was brutal. But in a good way? Yes, in a good way.
On the way out west to Hopkinton we luckily had the wind at our back and it wasn't quite as rainy. Which comparatively speaking is still pretty rainy!
As we got up to the top of the hill by Boston College we ran into another friend Dima who was also doubling up for the day. He was running with a friend who was planning to peel off half way through to volunteer for the rest of the race. That's dedication!
A little while after we caught up with Kelly and Sam (yes, that Kelly and Sam from above). Kelly is a very talented runner who is relatively new to ultra's. A friend had sent her the Boston.com article that I was interviewed in the week before. So, on a whim, she decided to run the double too! How awesome! Sam was running to Framingham with her then would hop on the train back to Boston to spectate the rest of the day. What a hell of team plan that is! Kudos. Sam and Kelly would stop in Wellesley to say hi to a friend and from there John and I would continue onward.
From there we made our way to Natick for my (now traditional) coffee stop at Dunkin Donuts. We were met with confused patrons asking "are you running the marathon today?" and "you're doing WHAT??" Haha, yeah, we're going the wrong way...we know.
We left Dunks and headed back toward the start line. With a few miles to go John wanted to make another pit stop and I headed along to get to the start line, not wanting to be late and be on the course while others had started their race. So, I figured I was on my own for the final 5 miles or so.
By alone, I meant, running by myself, past dozens of police officers, volunteers, and the few early spectators. That was until I got to a particularly loud corner in Framingham.
If you've ever run a marathon (or any race) you know that crowd support is one of the things that makes any race special. Now imagine, running alone, through an empty street, to the cheers...no...screams of a couple hundred drunk college kids. I think I surprised a few of them as I came up from the wrong way, but as soon as one guy spotted me I started waiving my hands in the air to elicit more excitement. They answered. I got chills through my whole body. Not just from the wind and rain. They literally moved my soul and it was amazing.
I had noticed that Kelly was a bit ahead and I'm sure got the same confused cheering reaction that I got only a few minutes sooner. I also knew John was only a couple minutes behind me, so I slowed to hear the cheers as he came through, and they did. These kids made my day.
From there I sped up a little bit to run the last couple of miles in with Kelly. We chatted a bit, she dropped Sam off for coffee and the train just before I caught up as they passed us during our own coffee stop at Dunks earlier. We approached the finish line just as the first waves of push-rim were starting and got out of their way and stopped to cheer. We hustled through security and up to the start line for a couple more photos then parted ways.
I had finished my first marathon in just under 3:40 and about 8:16 per mile pace, not counting coffee stops.
Now the plan was to meet up with Woo, her dad, and Art to hang out before the actual race start. Woo had brought me some other clothes and some snacks/drinks. They were getting dropped off in town and would have to make their way to the rendezvous point.
As luck would have it, my new employer has a small satellite office in Hopkinton (steps from the start line!!) that was closed for the day, but still had a few people working. I had never been to the office or met most of the people working there, but they welcomed me with open arms. Oh, and Woo, my father in law, and fellow Zoomer Art. We were VERY fortunate to have a nice warm place to hang out for a couple of house before the race actually started for our waves. The second half of the race would have been totally different if not for this.
Since Art and I had invitational bibs (i.e. not qualified bibs) we were starting from the back, but I didn't mind. It would be fun to run some early miles with Art as well. Woo and her dad were qualified runners and as such got to start an hour or more before we did. Either way we had a bathroom, hot coffee, snacks, and most importantly a dry place to hang out and wait as the weather started to worsen.
The run back to Boston was too much EPIC to even put into words. It wasn't my fastest marathon by far, but it was absolutely a PR in beer stops! It was so much fun being able to stop and chat for a few minutes with several friends along the way.
I tried to lead a path for Art to weave through some of the slower runners, but the course was an absolute mess. It was fantastic. Runners, in the pouring rain mind you, were swerving to miss puddles! IT'S RAINING PEOPLE, YOU'RE GOING TO GET WET! Oh well, more puddle for me...SPLASH!
After about 30 miles for the day, I was getting anxious for my first beer. I thought I recalled a BBQ earlier on my way out who told me to stop by back through. I told Art I was going to go ahead a little bit and find my beer then jump back in with him as he went by...that was the last I saw of him unfortunately. Also, couldn't find the BBQ either. Disappointed with no beer and no Art, I pushed forward. As I neared Natick Center I saw a big group of guys on my right with a couple 30s of Bud Light sitting on the grass. I made a 90 degree turn and bolted through the crowd shouting for a beer. They didn't believe me that I wanted one mid-race. Until I started drinking it. Then they didn't believe that I had already run the course once, until I showed them the pics and told them to find the article. Kids these days. Wish I had taken a photo with them though, they sure took lots of me!
Soon afterward, I bumped into Jen and Kene (who I missed last year) and they had a delicious PBR ready for me! Thanks guys! Glad I found you this time and Kene didn't have to hide from the sunshine. ;)
Just before that though, I heard someone shouting "GREG" and as I turned around it was my old pal Simon, who I had met a few years ago while running with the Iron Cowboy. What a fun surprise! Simon looked thirsty too, so he helped with the PBR situation, because we knew they wouldn't drink them all.
After stopping with J/K for a bit it was time to move along. Simon and I hung for a few miles and caught up until I somehow lost him. I don't recall how that happened, but what can you do?
Several times in these 26 miles the clouds would open up and DUMP rain on the athletes. Some would curse, some would cry, but all I could do was laugh. I think I'll always remember that feeling. Just laughing at the intensity and absurdity of the weather and what I was doing.
I also decided early on that it would be great to cheer on the spectators who were out there sopping wet and cold as well. As often as I could muster I yelled "you're awesome" to spectators, often times rebutted to "no you're awesome" to which (naturally) I would reply "no you're awesomer!" and run off before they could respond. Cheering on the cheerers really made my day.
As I moved eastward toward Wellesley I approached one of my favorite stops from 2017. My other friend Kelli had a great setup with BBQ and tons of beers last year, but by the time I got there this year the rain had probably scared a few people off. Luckily Kelli was anxiously waiting my arrival. It was a great, if too brief reunion, to a welcome smiling face in a sea of sopping wet runners! Thanks Kell!
From here I was about 38 miles into the 52 for the day and almost to halfway. Running through Wellesley was bittersweet as it was the first time I've ever passed through without my good friends Dave and Jess cheering on as they just recently moved out of state. There were plenty of screaming Wellesley students though in the scream tunnel to make up for it though (not really guys)!
A bit of a boring stretch without many spectators past Wellesley until you get across the bridge and into Newton near the fire house and begin the Newton Hills.
This spot, just before the SRR tent is where Woo's family always hangs out, and today in the rain was no different. It was now that I learned that my father-in-law had decided to call it a day. Especially since he already has his 2019 BQ in the bag. Side note: guy is 70 and still BQ-ing at least once per year!!
Coming up here to the 30k mark where I would get to see my SRR running family. I was stoked when I came through and they also found a beer for me! (number 4 for the day for those of you counting) Thanks Scott! These guys are the best! Part crew, part volunteer, part spectator, and 100% heart!
From SRR it was only a short journey halfway up Heartbreak hill to get to my Zoom crew! These guys are there for me day in and day out, even though I haven't done a triathlon in over 2 years! They're the bestest. I could hear them screaming before I could even see them.
Beer #5 tasted soooo good that I hung out for a few minutes. I was getting status updates on some other runners on the course and here I heard that Desi won the women's race!
I saw LB with a phone recording a video as she asked "how does it feel?" I thought for a minute and wasn't sure how to respond. Part of me wanted to say it was awful, but then just as those words started to come out of my mouth I realized that was a lie. Who was I kidding?
"THIS...IS...AWW...ESOME!!" And everyone cheered. It was magical.
Moments later, the brightest thing I would see the entire day came running up screaming at the top of her lungs. It was SHIRA!
For anyone who doesn't know Shira, you're missing out. Sorry. On any day, in any situation, and with anyone or everyone around, she is one of the loudest most excited supportive people on the planet. Aside from my Woo, there is nobody I would have rather finished the last few miles with. I took off to join her and we selfied, laughed, and chatted our way to Boylston Street.
I mean look at that smile and those colors. So much excitement bottled into one awesome athlete! Turning the "right on Hereford" I also saw my buddy Jordan who had a beer waiting on the corner for me, but I forgot to stop and get it. I saw him, but didn't want to stop stop so close to the finish. To this day, i wish I had grabbed it and drank it along the way down Boylston Street. THAT would have been the right move. Dang it. Next year.
The funny (and a bit sad) thing is that Hereford Street was LITTERED with jackets, ponchos, and trash bags that runners had been wearing the first 26 miles but who felt the need to ditch going to the finish line for photos. *shrug*
The weather, the company, and the sheer epic-ness of the day made for more fun that I can capture here in words.
After finishing, I found my phone and caught up with Woo who had already finished the race and was sitting in the car nice and warm around the corner waiting for me to head home. I got through the finishers chute, got my medal, heating blanket, etc. and hopped out of the corral to get over there. I reset my watch and started to run back to the car, but by then I was too cold and had started to shiver uncontrollably. This happens when I get cold, and it's almost impossible to recover from. So I stopped the watch and walked/hobbled back to the car. Unfortunately because of the weather and staggered start/finish times Woo and I didn't get to get a photo together, so this photo of the G dogs will have to do.
Tuesday morning as I got back into work, our company CEO, who is a Boston Marathon veteran as well, came by my office and asked "now Greg tell me you didn't run it both ways in THAT weather yesterday did you!?"
"I wish I could tell you that I didn't." I replied.
(okay, no I don't!)