POSTED BY THE VEGAN HUSBAND
In training for the 26.2 mile Jimmy Fund Boston Marathon walk, you may recall that I had a dream. In my dream, the event ended up being easier than our physically demanding twenty mile training walk. Let’s see if it came true.
We set our alarms so we could get to Hopkinton by 5:30, the earliest possible start time. We allowed ourselves barely more than thirty minutes to dress, stretch, eat (just me), apply sunscreen and vaseline, and make sure we had everything. I had a hard boiled egg and gazpacho, and it felt rushed.
We trained so much in hot, humid conditions, I was anticipating a Mother Nature curveball in the form of a 50-60 degree day. We would have been freaking out about what to wear. Long pants or shorts? Long sleeves, short sleeves, or layers?
We did freak out, but not because it was cold. The temperature was forecast to perhaps hit 85 degrees (it settled in at 79) with clear skies. We would know what to wear: our lightest weight sweat wicking shirts and shorts. As much as I wanted (needed) a hat, I opted for a bandana. When we walked for five hours, even a hat became uncomfortable. We could dress to keep cool, but would it be cool enough?
Two full buses of walkers pulled out of Hopkinton High School before we could catch a ride to the starting line. We got away in semi-darkness at 5:45. Steps taken before sunrise almost felt like they didn’t count because you couldn’t make out landmarks, only vague shapes. It was like being on a treadmill in a dark room.
The first problem we encountered was with our sackpacks, lightweight shoulder bags for snacks and things that we didn’t want in our pockets. We wore them backpack-style, but between their lightness and the speed of our steps, they flew around like balloons. I was cinching the straps of mine every ten minutes to try to limit the movement. I tried to wear it hooked on one shoulder but that was even worse.
The vegan spouse came up with the sackpack solution. I would wear mine on the left shoulder, but with the straps going across my chest and back, and the bag resting on my right hip. Now I had more control of it and easier access to it. And access would be key because water, sports drinks, and snacks were positioned roughly every three miles of the course.
Having walked the twelve mile distance so often, the first half of the walk was uneventful. I enjoyed walking through parts of Ashland and Framingham that I had never seen. With the temperature warming, we tried to resist the temptation to get water or Gatorade at every opportunity. Ten miles in, we got the emotional boost of some family support. The only question was where we would meet up with them. A text came saying they were at Dunkin’ Donuts. But which one? The one two miles back or one of a handful still to come? We found them and it was awesome.
At the eighteen mile mark, we reached the lunch tent. The idea of stopping is both appealing and terrifying. The hardest part of the course awaits, and the streets of Brookline and Boston will be packed with walkers. Our feet were starting to really feel the pounding they were taking. Sitting now for even a few minutes could cause our muscles to tighten up. Last year, the vegan spouse blew right past this stop, because she just wanted to be done. We elected to stop and survived it.
My biggest fear from here on was not that I wouldn’t finish, but that I would have a sunburn to add to my pain. I didn’t bother to put sunscreen on much of my face because it would just sweat off or get in my eyes. I didn’t bring sunscreen with me, because when would I apply it? And the sunny parts were outnumbering the shady ones.
But, within a mile or two of Heartbreak Hill, a sunburn took a backseat to a strain in my right calf. I couldn’t pinpoint when it happened. I think it kind of came on over time and just got worse. Occasionally, I would reach down and grab at the leg in mid-stride, almost as if scratching a mosquito bite. It wasn’t helping.
Luckily, Heartbreak Hill is not so much steep as it is long and I was able to manage it. We even passed a few people along the way. The vegan spouse said it was less congested than last year.
When we got to familiar territory in Brookline, I was limping noticeably. We dialed the speed back and went with the flow the rest of the way. We crossed the finish line a few minutes shy of eight hours. The Boston Marathon gods even smiled on me and kept me from getting sunburned.
Looking back, a couple of things stick out. First, after buying expensive socks to fit into my sneakers, I ended up doing just fine wearing two pairs of much cheaper socks and sneakers that fit. Second, there are parts of the body that chafe that you don’t expect to chafe.
I have found that a lot of people are surprised we would attempt a 26.2 mile walk to support a cancer charity. When we told them why, a few still didn’t understand it. I can only say to those people that I took inspiration from my Dad, my mother-in-law, and two people that I never even met.
And I also took inspiration from a woman who stood in her driveway early in the walk, as night was becoming day. She held a simple sign that said, “Survivor, Thank You!” As we walked past, she said in the tiniest of voices, “Good luck, guys.”
I think the dream came true.