How to run the Boston Marathon barefoot, which is better – being fast or being rich, how many girls you need to kiss on the run, who did I give my sneakers to, do yellow straights lines intersect, and why not rush to the finish line?
Dreaming of a Six Star medal
It was ten years ago when I set myself the goal of running all the coolest marathons in the world, the World Marathon Majors. This most prestigious series of races in the world consists of the so-called major marathons: London, Tokyo, Berlin, Chicago, NYC, Boston.
I dreamed of completing them all and getting a Six Star – a super medal awarded to finishers in all six marathons!
Now I smile when I recall that strange motivation to run for medals. But back then I wanted to prove to everyone (and myself first and foremost) that I was tough. And medals are proof of being tough. So, I trained a lot and traveled around the world a lot.
After running a dozen regular marathons, I started collecting medals of the Six Star. First there was the hard NYC, the next year Chicago, and a year later Tokyo, London, and easy Berlin.
Everything was going according to plan. All that was left was to take Boston. But it didn’t work that way…
How do you get to the Boston Marathon?
If you ask any runner what they associate the city of Boston with, most will roll their eyes up and whisper languorously: ” Boston Marathon…”
Let’s find out what causes such an unobvious reaction to the average person. Why do runners respectfully give way to someone with the Boston Marathon logo on their jacket? Why does it happen that a runner who has run the Boston Marathon immediately becomes a god, broadcasting from heaven to his subjects about how to train, eat, drink, love, live and what last words to whisper on their deathbed?
To put it simple, the Boston Marathon is the oldest, the most prestigious, and the most unreachable. That’s why every marathoner in the world dreams of running it and proudly hanging a medal with a unicorn around their neck. Here, take a look:
The thing is, there are only two stalking horses l that can get you into the Boston Marathon:
1. Being fast
That’s simple. To participate, a runner has to prove that he is faster than 99% of runners in the world (for his age and sex). To do so, they must run one of the qualifying marathons around the world (the Chisinau Marathon, by the way, is one of them, too). Every year, the Boston Marathon publishes a qualifying time table for all ages and sexes.
Of course, I was determined to run a marathon faster than 3:15. Said, done. It’s been a year of tough training, the toughest race in Malaga and voila – finish in 3:12! Well-done? Not really…
It so happened that year that there were a lot of runners aged 40-44 who ran the marathon faster than 3:15. And since the Boston Marathon is not unlimited, the organizers picked the 2,000 fastest in that age category. And suddenly it turned out that I was one, Carl, ONE minute short of making it to Boston…
Maybe I should have trained a little more, but I started preparing for the record for the coldest run in the world and put it off for later. A year later, after Oymyakon, I realized that I didn’t want to run anymore. At all…
Then there was a short depression, a knee injury, learning barefoot running, the joy of training again, a barefoot marathon, and the obsessive thought, why not finish the challenge for majors?
2. Being rich
That year, the organizers considered I was not in the 99% of the fastest runners in the world. Okay. But there was still one more stalking horse – get into the 99% richest. 🙂
It’s very simple: you join one of the official charities, get an interview, collect a tidy sum, and… run Boston!
You don’t have to train, you don’t have to keep to diets, you can drink, smoke, and weigh half a ton, but if you have money to spend, you are welcome!
I was a little embarrassed by this format. Although I had already donated at various marathons and raised money through races and events, the amount seemed obscene to me here. But remembering my even more expensive events at the North Pole, the Sahara Desert, and the Gibraltar Strait, I realized it’s not good to skimp on a dream. In fact, we work to make our dreams come true. Brains are so clever 🙂
It’s decided! Going to Boston with the Red Sox, supporting them in the athletic development of underprivileged youth!
A few facts about the Boston Marathon:
• This is the oldest marathon in the world. The first Boston Marathon was held in 1897 with 15 participants.
• Worth mentioning that the start is always on the third Monday in April, Patriots’ Day in the USA.
• On April 15, 2013, at the finish line of the Boston Marathon there was a terrorist attack. Three people were killed and several hundred injured. Because of this incident, the competition took on a special importance and symbolism.
• They don’t set world records in Boston, all because the significant height difference on the course does not meet the requirement of the IAAF.
• The legendary Boston Marathon course starts in Hopkinton and ends on Boylston Street in Boston.
• The place the runners most frequently “hit the wall” is considered Heartbreak Hill. Legend has it that John Kelly overtook Allison Brown, his main rival, by patting him indulgently on the shoulder. This made Brown so angry and motivated that he pulled himself together and finished first, which “broke Kelly’s heart”.
• Another famous section on the course is the Wellesley Screaming Tunnel, located at km 21 of the course. This “tunnel” is formed of girls – students of the Wellesley Women’s College. According to tradition, they cheer the marathon runners as much as they can and try to kiss them.
• It was here that Katrin Schwitzer became the first woman to officially run the marathon in 1967, which at the time was open only to men. The legendary photo captures one of the organizers trying to push her off the course.
This year’s marathon brought $200 million to the city. All the hotels and apartments are booked well in advance, despite the hiked prices for the marathon weekend. Restaurants and cafes are full. There are lines at the sports stores. Boston benefits from the marathon, the city appreciates it and invests in it.
I wanted to leave the text blank because I thought I had nothing to write – I was on winter vacation, in March I took off my shoes, ran a quick 12 km barefoot and got an injury, inflammation in the Achilles. Like a child, really.
Then I slowly jogged for 5 or 7 km, thanks to Andrey Khokhlov who got me out of the house. That’s how I limped to Boston in the hope that my old services to God of Running would let me reach the finish line in six hours.
My goal was to finish without injuries, but with joy. 🙂
But there’s one hitch. Boston is supposed to be run with a Mission, with a message to the world. Without hesitation, Eugen Boico and I decided that we should go for the refugees’ theme. Ukrainian refugees to whom our small country has opened its doors and sheltered hundreds of them. The T-shirt can be a good explanation of who I am, where I come from and where I left my sneakers. 🙂
After 13 hours on the plane, there I was, striding barefoot on Boston’s cobblestones. Wait a minute, where in the U.S. did paving stones come from? I can’t think of a single city in America that isn’t paved with asphalt.
In fact, Boston is not a typical American city, rather like the cities of good old England – lots of red brick, a network of streets looking like lines, not perpendicular or parallel, cobblestones, and an atmosphere of a European city. I walked around the old city, and only the jets lags making me want to sleep during the day reminded me that I was not in Europe.
In short, red-brick Boston is now my favorite among American cities.
But tomorrow is Thursday, and I need to take care of the bathhouse and the company (my friends and I take a steam bath every Thursday). We called around the diaspora, and here I am with the Moldovans going to the Russian banya.
And a couple of days later Moldovan runners came up, and we visited an epic expo and had a mamaliga party at a Moldovan restaurant.
In connection with the war, Ukrainian sentiment is very strong — a lot of Ukrainian flags, and all the Russian runners this year were excluded from the list of participants.
Well, that’s it, tomorrow is the start. I take a picture of my meager pre-race shot and go to sleep.
Because of jet lags, I got up at 3 a.m. and couldn’t sleep until morning. Classic routine – toilet, clothes, pasta breakfast, full checkup, door, road. The weather is windy, but thank goodness there is no rain, otherwise bare feet turn to tartar after just a couple of miles. The rising sun gives hope for warm asphalt, and the runners walking nearby for a cheerful race.
We are driven to the start by hundreds of school buses. Today is a school holiday – Patriots’ Day, the day of the first battles of the American War of Independence.
Before the start, there are thousands of runners on the field: stretching, praying, eating, running. Around them are mountains of old warm clothes, and in between are half-dressed people trying to keep warm. Sounds irrational? Yes, but not before the start of the marathon.
By the way, I’d give the Boston Marathon an award for having the shortest lines to the toilets – hundreds of toilets, which is pretty cool. The crowd carries me out of the waiting area into the hallway and drags me to the starting line.
And there I am in the corral. Shot! And I get ecstatic: after so many years of striving, here I am at the start of Boston! Go!
A hallway of fans – screaming, shouting, waving. So cool! And right now, in Chisinau, my son and my friends are starting with me. Mishka decided to support me and set his personal best – 14 km. We call each other and yell “Go for it!” to each other.
The euphoria wears off after about ten minutes, and I suddenly realize that it hurts to run. I look at the asphalt and realize that I’m in trouble: it’s not smooth and sleek like ours in Chisinau, but brutally rough, like tarred bread crumbs. And my feet, delicate after the winter, get irritated after the first kilometer. Shit, what am I to do? I’m gonna give in soon…
And then I see my savior, the yellow brick road, as I called it. It’s two yellow, heavily painted lines in the middle of the track. I run along – ooh, what a relief, it’s almost smooth, and pieces of skin stop falling off my feet.
Sergey Magdalyuk catches up with me and we run together, enjoying the race. You know, if you ask me what makes the Boston Marathon different from others, I’ll tell you: the fans make the difference.
I have run more than thirty marathons around the world, but nowhere have I felt as much support as in Boston – incredible, sincere, cheerful, inexhaustible, and so human. It was as if these people, standing all 42 kilometers along the road, were seeing you off to Heaven, and Apostle Peter was waiting for you at the finish line. It was especially cool to hear thousands of people shout: “Moldova, Go! Look, he’s barefoot! WOW! Exciting, You inspire! Awesome! Moldova, go ahead!”
There are over 10,000 volunteers engaged in the Boston marathon. Doing a good job – serving water, oranges, gels and energizers. If you’re overheated, they will give you a handful of ice that you can put under your armpits! Wet sponges, a water hose and sweat towels – these guys have all that stuff. Besides, every 1.5-2 km they have water and gel stations, worth admiring.
Halfway through the marathon we hit the famous Wellesley Scream Tunnel. You could hear women screaming from a mile away. As we run up, we could not just hear, but also see so many beautiful women vying for a kiss. I think they’re on a quest to see who can get the most kisses and get automatic credit. “Kiss me, I won’t tell your wife”, “Kiss me, I’m a programmer”, “Kiss me, I’m Graduating”, “Kiss me, I’m clever”, “Kiss me, all the cute ones run away”. Of course, I couldn’t resist and filled up on young, hot energy. Sorry, Vica, I couldn’t act otherwise.
With new vigor, I sped up. But soon my injured Achilles warned me of problems ahead if I didn’t slow down. I slowed down, hugged Seryoga, and he raced to the finish line, while I leisurely jogged along, enjoying the marathon.
I had run the previous five majors as fast as I could, at the highest heart rate, trying to make the most of it and squeeze the best out of myself. Yes, I was able to set personal bests, but I don’t remember much of the race. Only hours, heart rate, pace, distance, cadence, pain, water, gels, toilet, cold, wind and a feeling of shame for not doing my best at each kilometer.
Here are some pics from NYC marathon:
There, fans, costumed runners, the beauty of the cities, kids reaching for hands foe a high five flew past my attention. And in general, the holiday atmosphere turned into an atmosphere of misery and pain for me.
The Boston Marathon, on the other hand, turned my understanding of this amazing celebration upside down. First and foremost, the goal is not to run to the max, but to enjoy, to give high fives, to see the city, to chat with the runners, to kiss the girls and dance with the volunteers. In a word, to have a great time, so that I would run to the finish line happy, full of energy, emotions, and a desire to do it all over again.
This way I ran, trying to enjoy each kilometer, each smile and each spot with welcoming people where the yellow brick road led me.
As I reached the famous Heartbreak Hill, where runners’ hearts break, my heart rejoiced as I leisurely climbed it on foot, sipping water.
Nothing seemed to disturb my meditative contemplative complacency. Suddenly my life-saving parallel yellow straight lines, which never intersect anywhere (you remember that from school, don’t you?) and which I had personally checked for 36 kilometers, suddenly broke off. The Boston suburbs began, with their trademark asphalt, which in some places was worse than the Moldovan one. Patches, potholes, stones, and other delights.
My feet were already burning, and there was another six miles of sandpaper-like pavement. My moves started resembling an acrobatic performance: I was catching any hint of paint, balancing on curbs, finding traces of solid tar. “Had as much fun” as I could. I stopped smiling, and time stretched on like Helen Parr the Elastigirl.
This way I waddled to the finish line, where I unfurled our flag and crossed the finish line as the fans were screaming “MOLDOVA”!
The slowest, the longest, the most relaxed, the most barefoot, the longest and the most iconic marathon of five and a half hours became a story for me. A story I will tell my grandchildren about Grandpa who ran on a real yellow brick road like Ellie in the Magic Land, who kissed all the girls, who wiped his feet to his knees on the pavement and who got six medals at the finish line at once!
By the way, at the finish line they gave me not only a finisher medal, but also the cherished Six Star medal, which I had been dreaming of for so many years.
But that is not the main thing. The main thing for me today was the understanding that I should live my life away from anxiously counting money, overtaking competitors, elbowing and always having no time. At the finish line you won’t be able to remember the good times, the people you love, the moments of rest and relaxation, the times you spend with friends or family nights. Then you might ask yourself: “Where have I been rushing around like a madman all my life? To get to the finish line faster?”
I don’t want to have to ask myself that scary question at the end of my life. That’s why I stop, take off my watch and shoes, pour a glass of wine and, with my family, friends and co-workers, walk leisurely to my finish line, enjoying every moment of my life.
Hope I won’t get there too soon…. The same to you!