Thursday, November 18, 2010

Boston Ain't 'All That'

Trust me, the last thing I intended to do was add yet another unsolicited opinion about the Boston Marathon into the deep blue muddy murk of the interwebs. But the very volume of opinions compels me to…throw another one on the pile. You know, for posterity. Won’t someone think of the children?

From someone who has run Boston, let me let you in on a little secret (assuming you haven’t already run it yourself): Boston ain’t all that and a bag of potato chips. Beardsley’s lips to your ears.*

Now, before I hear the outcry, let me be very clear: It’s a perfectly nice race in a perfectly nice city with a perfectly interesting course and perfectly terrific crowd support as well as being perfectly well-organized and I had a perfectly good time experiencing it. But it’s not, like, PERFECT, you know?

I’ve held a BQ for the past four possible Boston Marathons but only exercised the option once in 2008. I’ve made no secret on this blog of the desire to return but, if you paid attention, it wasn’t because BOSTON IS THE BEST RACE EVER AND I WILL DIE IF I DON’T DO IT AGAIN. No, I’d merely like to ‘correct the record’ and exonerate my poor race time by posting a better one. In short, when someone asks if I’ve run Boston, I say yes but then cringe for the inevitable ‘what was your time?’ follow-up. See? Nothing intrinsic about the race or the city itself, I’m being purely selfish. Altruism, thy name is not Nitmos.

I get why most runners want to run Boston. It’s the Top Dog. It has the rigid qualifying standards. It has the history. Prestige, prestige, prestige. I had Boston fever and I don’t blame you one bit for a burning desire to BQ so you can go too. I’m not trying to convince you otherwise.

My thoughts on the Boston Marathon came into focus a month ago – the weekend before registration, ironically, where I had every intention of registering first thing Monday morning – while down in Detroit for a marathon team relay with some friends and Mrs. Nitmos. We were discussing running and marathons as a group and one of my friends asked me straight up, if I only had one marathon left that I could run, which would it be. The question caught me off guard. I simply never thought about it like that before. I mumbled something positive about every marathon I’ve ever run while trying to come up with an answer. One marathon to pick? I couldn’t answer because I’ve only run 8 at 6 different locations (2x Chicago, 2x Bayshore, Flying Pig/Cincinnati, Disney, Detroit, and Boston). Not much first-hand experience from which to choose. I think I ultimately settled on Chicago just because I love the city and it was the home of my first and third (and most memorable) marathons.

But the name I didn’t say surprised me. It surprised my friend too who followed up with, “Not Boston?”

I was stunned for a moment. And then the clouds parted and a light shone down on me…maybe it was one of those cartoon light bulbs coming on over my head or maybe Beardsley was sending me an illuminating lightning bolt from atop Mt. Runmore. No, not Boston! Huh, go figure, I guess I never defined what that race meant to me before.

Boston is like the popular girl in school. She’s the prom queen, the head cheerleader, and the class president all rolled into one right down to the Marilyn Monroesque beauty mark on the cheek. From a distance, it’s perfection personified. All the guys want to get with her. But maybe, one day, you do get with her. It was nice, terrific, everything you thought. You are laying there satisfied with ruffled hair and a filter less Pall Mall hanging out of your mouth looking down at Prom Queen Boston’s head on your shoulder. You know what? That "beauty mark" looks more like a flat-out mole. And is that a hair sticking out? Does she shampoo with VO5 because that hair smells like floor cleaner sprayed with Strawberry Essence? Well, it was nice…but I gotta go. And on the way out the door, you are thinking about that cute little band geek flutist named New York that shared your love of bridges during a long discussion on the bus the other day.

The point is…Boston is certainly something to strive for but don’t beat yourself up - or the race up - for not being able to register if you couldn’t get in this year. You might be missing out on the race medal and the prestige of running in an exclusive club but you are not missing out on some orgasmic race route and some unrepeatable race experience. At least, I don’t feel that way and I think most people believe my opinion is the only one that matters, right? I’ve had better crowd experiences in Chicago. I’ve had more smiles in Disney. While the turn onto Boylston St. is certainly one of my favorite race memories, the view off the bridge to Canada overlooking Detroit is, surprisingly, equally as memorable. But, admittedly, I’m not very emotional. I don’t spill tears when crossing finish lines. Those are reserved solely for the birth of children and stepping on nails.

So, enough already, with the blog posts (like this one) complaining about Boston’s charity runners and/or justifying their registration process. Blah blah blaggity blah popular girl blah Boston blah blah. I know, it’s easy for me to say, I’ve already had her. But, since I have, I can tell you that Boston is a perfectly good race…but with a hair hanging out of the mole just like many other less hyped races. In fact, the marathon right in your hometown may be just as memorable in the long run (double entendre intended) though you may not get as many high-fives from your friends when completing it.

So, if you could only run one marathon for the rest of your life, which would YOU choose?

Now, I’m off to go ask out New York. She might turn me down once…maybe twice…but I’m pretty sure she won’t say no three times.

Happy trails.

*Beardsley never said this (as far as I know). Remember: Snark makes up 80% of this blog.

20 comments:

Phil said...

I completely agree. Boston crowds are amazing and that alone is enough reason to run the race. The course - meh. I didn't even find it that well organized. The expo was a mess, and so was the finish line.

Best marathon... it's close between Big Sur and Chicago.

Trophy Wife said...

I really liked the Boston/Marilyn comparison. Excellent metaphor. Or is it a simile?

Jamoosh said...

I have no desire to experience your sloppy seconds. Um, I mean Boston...

The Sean said...

I would return to Portland Maine... where I found out how a series of little steps can thoroughly trash you (for the first time...). Alternate choice- Big Sur, always wanted to run there.

Ironman By Thirty said...

Nice article. I still have to drop 15 minutes before I can even start worrying about Boston. Besides, I had some d-bag at my last marathon tell me I would never BQ unless I gave up triathlons and only focused on running. He was truly an inspiration. *end sarcasm*

Hate to rain on your parade, but unfortunately, New York can (and probably will) turn you down again. It takes 3 rejections for her to give in and give you a chance. Keep at it though. I'm sure you can wear her down just like Mrs. Nitmos. :)

Viper said...

I think if I were closer to a BQ, I would have more desire to strive for it, but I'm quite happy running in Akron every year. Cheers!

elizabeth said...

I REALLY want to run New York, and qualifying and running Boston are definitely goals of mine, as unrealistic as achieving them may be. A lot of people really like the Philly marathon. I have run it twice, but since it's the only marathon I have done, I don't have anything else to compare it to. Overall I liked it a lot, but I didn't care much for the out-and-back "death march" on Kelly Drive. Marathons that require a plane ride don't really appeal to me. I am doing the Run for the Red Poconos marathon in PA in the spring because the hills appeal to me, but I think it is a very small race.

Jen G. said...

Depending on how fast you are you don't have to wait on the 3x rejection. You can qualify for NY and gain automatic entry. The standards are actually tougher than Boston's. There are half and full marathon qualifying times. Check them out at nyrr.org

Robin said...

Wow, that's a tough question. My dream list includes NYC, Big Sur and Pike's Peak, but I'm already a fan of the Cleveland Rite Aid marathon and Cincinnati's Flying Pig. I love Chicago, so I'm guessing the marathon must be top notch as well?

Kristin said...

London. London. London.

Xenia said...

Rome or the Great Wall. Either way I'd annihilate my knees on some serious stonework. Now that's the way to make a race memorable.

Julie said...

You are a gifted writer, seriously! Isn't it funny how the prom queen never turns out like you think she will:)

Boston is a race that I don't know if I will ever get to run. I am nineteen minutes short of a BQ after my first marathon. It would be very cool if I were to qualify and run it just once:)

I loved Twin Cities and will run it again for sure! NY is another one that I would love to run:) BTW, good luck with New York! There is no way that she will turn you down three times....you got this one:)

Sun Runner said...

I had the experience of a lifetime at Boston, mostly because I was kind of stunned I was there at all.

I had more FUN at NYC. Now that was a run for the ages. I would do that one again and again (and I hope I do). I got in on my first try, so I'm hoping you have the same good fortune.

Vava said...

Only having completed one marathon in my life my pool of experiences is severly limited. With that being said I think there's something to running the Athens marathon, for the dubious though mythic historical implications. And I'd love to be able to run the Comrades someday, though that's a bit longer I hear... Imagine how long the hair on THAT mole might be!

BrianFlash said...

I am happy to read your comments about Boston. Mainly because I'm not currently fast enough to get in and don't expect to get fast enough.

I have a hard time not enjoying every race I've run in. My race reports are typically glowing optimism! But ironically, it is the home town race (the Go! St. Louis Marathon) that has been the most generic experience.

Comrades on the other hand, is the apex. Unbelievable and I never expect having that great a race experience again.

As for New York, you might already be qualified, but I'm living proof they'll let someone in the first time you apply. But they had a strategy - extract money from me for three years while waiting for brother to get his ticket in...

Jess said...

Thank you! I've qualified in all 4 of my marathons but have never made the trip up to Boston. It's expensive and I want to wait until funds allow and I'm in PR shape. People can't believe that I haven't gone yet, but if you're a lifelong runner who intends to keep running marathons, I don't see the rush.

Nick said...

Nitmos, here is my take on this.

First off probably unlike most of the people on here, I killed my running career, I was FAST in high school and let it all go to shit. Now I am starting up again and who knows whats going to happen, perhaps I can get to that point again.

BUT

I have always thought of Boston as the "Super Bowl' of running. You have to qualify, you have to be fast to qualify and you now have 8 minutes to register for it!! And that is why I want to run it. I want to qualify, I want to know I am a "elite" runner and have "made" it. Per say. Perhaps this is why I want to attempt an Ironman in the future, I want to know I can do it, I can be best of the best.

But here is my question. Are there any other marathons that you have to qualify for? Are there any other marathons that equal or better Boston in the elite level status?

Pretend this is real said...

I know what you mean. I haven't run Boston, but if I could only run one marathon again it would be Cleveland. It's home for me, and there's something really nice about running a route where you know people and places throughout the route. Plus, it's a really great race and well run.

Drea said...

Santa Barbara Marathon. I would never leave this place.....paradise

Adam Culp (Crazy Floridian) said...

Sorry, have not done enough races to really speak on it. However, I did have a great time at West Palm Beach last year.