Saturday, April 16, 2011

Chasing the dream - 2 days till Boston - "the mother of all marathon expos"

Saturday in Boston was a big day with big plans.  I had two very important steps on my marathon journey today:
1. go to runner's expo and pick up my bib
2. buy the official Boston Marathon jacket

I'm not sure what was the bigger incentive to get to the marathon expo early today: getting my bib or getting my official jacket.  As winter slowly recedes in Toronto, I have seen more and more Boston Marathon alumni break out their official Boston Marathon jackets for chilly spring runs.  The jacket is a coveted possession in the running world.  Donning it assumes the wearer has gone through the rigour of training, qualifying and then ultimately running the Boston Marathon.  Wearing it outside of the Boston Marathon is as good as wearing your bib and medal.  It tells the world what kind of a runner you are: dedicated, passionate and most of all: fast.

I set out Saturday morning eager to get to the expo - it was the only thing that mattered that day.  I decided I would take the subway down to Boylston Street.  That would give me an opportunity to test the subway and see how easy/hard it would be to get downtown on marathon day.  While on the subway, I met another fellow "marathon loner" - an older gentleman named Walt.  A seasoned marathoner, he had run Boston a number of times.  As we rode down to the expo, we talked about marathons we enjoyed, and the pros and cons of going to marathons alone.  We soon found the expo and went our separate ways in search of our bibs.

The "number pick-up" area was grand.  With 25,000 runners, Boston is the biggest race I've ever been to.  Yes, New York and London are bigger, but I haven't stroked those ones off my "marathon to-do" list yet.  The tables with the boxes of bibs stretched for about 150 meters, and each box was manned by super-friendly volunteers - all who seemed to know how important this step in the marathon journey is to the runners.  Camera flashes filled the room as family and friends took photos of the runners getting the first
glimpse at their actual Boston Marathon bibs.  Smiling faces could be seen in every direction you looked - mine was one of them.
As I picked up my own bib, a swelling wave of emotion took over me.  I think I was smiling so wide that you could see my molars tucked back inside my mouth.  Noticing that I was alone, one of the volunteers offered to take my picture of me with my bib.  I was gushing with pride and holding back the tears. 

But there was no time to sit and cry - my Boston Marathon jacket awaits!  I went into the next hall and picked up my green race bag with my long sleeve technical t-shirt and hurried off to the expo to find my jacket.  The massive Adidas booth was immediately inside the front doors of the expo....and I could see that it was absolutely jammed with people before I even walked in.  The only thing I could compare the Adidas booth to was the subway at rush hour.  People moving and pushing in every direction - trying to find their beloved Boston Marathon memorabilia before their size was all gone.  Yes, the stock was moving that quickly.  It was only the Saturday and sizes were already disappearing.  Feeling the urgency of the moment, I flagged an employee and asked him to direct me to the official jackets.  He navigated through the sea of people at led me to the racks of jackets.  I was really hoping they would be the official Boston Marathon colours (yellow and blue), but they were Boston's beloved green on a black and white jacket.  OK...I'll take two.

With jackets, shorts, a tank top and some mugs in hand, I made my way to the checkout.  After waiting in the longest line I have ever seen, I paid my money and escaped the madness of the Adidas booth.  Phew!  The rest of the expo was fairly standard - nothing runners haven't seen before...except for maybe Ryan Hall!  Ryan Hall, the American men's marathon record holder, was there selling autographed copies of his book.  I took my place in the queue and enjoyed a brief "hello" with one of the great runners of our generation.  He's a soft spoken guy with a modesty that transcends words and the patience of
angels.  He gave me a smile, shook my hand and wished me luck before posing for a photo. 

I spent several hours at the booth before making my exit with sore feet and what felt like a million bags in tow.  I knew I needed to get off my feet, but not before passing by to take a peek at the infamous Boston Marathon finish line.  I walked down Boylston Street taking in the ambiance.  It was Mecca for runners - everywhere you looked you saw people carrying their green Boston Marathon bags with their bibs and gear inside.  We were all drawn to the finish line like moths to the flame - craving a closer look at the finish line so many runners dream of crossing. 

I've met a number of wonderful Bostonians during my stay here - one of which I met at the finish line.  Arlenn is a former Montreal who has been living in Boston since the 80's.  She saw me photographing myself and offered to help me capture the moment by taking my picture.  We spent a little time talking about Canada/USA culture, life and other things.  With an open heart, she gave me her phone numbers and offered to be available if I needed help while in the city.  What a kind soul - I'll never forget the generosity of her actions and her spirit. 

Exhausted from a full day in downtown Boston, I took the subway back home - green bag proudly slung over my shoulder indicating that I soon would join the collective of runners who have had the opportunity to run the Boston Marathon.  I felt like a star.

1 comment:

  1. Yay I'm so happy I found your blog and it was so nice to meet you!
    You are a star!