Getting Back To ‘Normal’ After the Boston Marathon

Part of the thrill of crossing the finish line at the Boston Marathon Monday — aside from being surrounded by cheering throngs, having a pretty woman slip a lanyard with a finisher’s medal around my neck, and eventually hugging my son, Tom, who set a new Fagin Family speed record — was the realization that my life could finally get back to “normal.”

Every marathoner I know, including several former champions, has a love-hate relationship with long distance – from those who train with friends embracing camaraderie to those who train alone, savoring contemplative solitude.

Though we all exult in endorphin-pumped surges during tough cardio workouts as well as transcendental, meditative reveries during LSD (long, slow distance) trips, we also dance along a precariously narrow path that leads either to the glorious summit of superior fitness or to the deep, despair-ridden chasm of sore muscles and exhaustion.

For every joyous ramble on a sunny day we endure a miserable slog in sleet and wind – staring at Patriot's Day marked on the calendar like the Sword of Damocles waiting to fall.

A recap: Last year was to have been my 10th and final Boston, coinciding neatly with the first Patriot’s Day marathon for Tom. He dashed through the course in 2 hours and 42 minutes, but some two hours later, terror bombs stopped me, wingman Phil Plouffe and thousands of others less than a mile from the finish. Like most we resolved to return.

I spent much of the winter and early spring training with 1968 Boston Marathon champion Amby Burfoot and his extended group of family and friends, with the intent we all would run together this past Monday.

As much as I groaned during those hilly training runs up and down Fort Hill in Groton and Brook Street in Noank, I delighted in loping alongside Amby and his wife, Christina; brother, Gary; brother-in-law, Bill, future daughter-in-law Kris; and a rolling gang of others — Kip, Neal, Ed, Bob, Jenna, Laura ...

M-Day: Herded in a mob of more than 36,000 runners in Hopkinton we not surprisingly became separated during a chaotic start, but I bumped into fellow Burfoot acolyte Kip Parker of Stonington, and we decided to stick together, regardless of how many times we stopped to greet friends, chug water, take pit stops and otherwise interrupt the business of moving toward Copley Square.

“This isn’t a race,” we agreed, “it’s a celebration.”

Somehow at the top of Heartbreak Hill near the 21-mile mark I lost Kip and wound up lumbering the final 5 miles or so in a sea of strangers, propelled by wildly enthusiastic throngs. I choked back a sob on Boylston Street.

My son, Tom, meanwhile, already had bounded across the line in 2:38:19, good enough for 269th place overall. When we finally reunited a couple hours later at Boston Common we embraced, just as we had after last year’s horror.

“A great finish,” we both agreed.

Anyway, now that Boston is in my rear-view mirror I’m looking forward to resuming other favorite activities I bypassed while preoccupied during training runs.

I’ve missed a number of kayak outings with my paddling pals. Ian, Phil, Robin – can’t wait to get back on the water.

I skipped a fun hike on the Nehantic Trail with newsroom buds.

I’ve also missed hiking in the mountains all winter. A month before last year’s marathon I injured my Achilles tendon while backpacking with Phil and Steve Kurczy in New Hampshire’s snowy White Mountains, and didn’t want to do that again.

Over the past month or so I also scaled back on my wood-splitting and rock-moving to avoid wrenching my back. The maul and prybar now await; there’s a woodshed to fill, walls to build.

I also have more trees to transplant and a garden to tend.

Soon enough we’ll be plunging in the pond and Fishers Island Sound — I’m already getting emails from swimmer friends.

Finally, I just want to run again without obsessing about those 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston.

Don’t get me wrong: Running the Boston Marathon is an extraordinary experience, always rewarding in retrospect. But as I’ve often remarked, a marathon is like a plane-landing – any one you can walk away from is a good one.

 

Reader Comments

MORE BLOGS

Go Ahead Hornet, Make My Day: Dispatch from the Front Lines of the Bug Wars

Every year at this time, just as we’re enjoying favorite outdoor activities after having been bundled up, hunkered down or cooped up all winter, a Pandora’s Box of stinging, blood-sucking, destructive, disease-spreading insects...

Swimming and Kayaking Among Snapping Turtles: Be Glad At Least There Aren't Any Komodo Dragons or Saltwater Crocodiles Nearby

While kayaking on Bush Pond on the Ledyard/North Stonington border the other day I noticed something thrashing around among the lily pads.

Kayaking With a Migrating Son Amid Migrating Seals on Fishers Island

With our son, Tom, back home in Connecticut for just a week from Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, we’ve tried to pack in an abundance of such favorite activities as whitewater kayaking, frigid plunges in the lake and running with...

Who Needs Clean Air and Pure Water? Bring Back Unrestricted Strip Mining, DDT and Toxic Waste Dumps to Make America Great Again

The main problem with President Donald Trump’s efforts to boost the economy by eliminating oppressive environmental regulations is that they don’t go far enough.

The Good Book Has It Backwards: To Every Season, There Is More Than One Thing

Forget about what Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says (and Pete Seeger sang) about "To everything there is a season.' As far as I’m concerned, it’s always the right time for fun and adventure.

Kayaking Over the Falls on the Salmon River

The thunder of tumbling water roared as I gripped my paddle the other day, waiting my turn to plunge over a 4-foot drop at a broken dam on the Salmon River in East Hampton.

Home Is Where the Hut Is (Warning: Don't Read Part of This if You Have a Weak Stomach)

Embarking on a winter expedition to Mount Katahdin a few years ago, I hooked up with a few casual acquaintances accompanied by other climbers I only met just as we began the long drive from southeastern Connecticut to northern Maine.

Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing in New Hampshire's White Mountains, Part I: A Voice in the Wilderness Saves the Day

While snowshoeing on a tamped-down section of the Ethan Pond Trail in New Hampshire’s White Mountains the other day, our group approached an untrammeled stretch of the Zeacliff Trail that descended into a ravine below frozen-over Whitehall...

Who Doesn't Love a Blizzard? (OK, Maybe a Few Softies and Killjoys)

I know there’s a good chance I’ll be eating these words when I’m shoveling, shoveling, shoveling, or huddled with a candle next to the wood stove while melting snow for drinking water after the power has been knocked out for...

Destructive Deer, Bugs, Vines and Snow: It's Always Something

In a "perfect" world – i.e., one in which all living creatures and meteorological phenomena benefited human comfort and bowed to our supremacy – there would be no need for deer fences, bird netting, herbicides,...

Prime Time for Eagle-Watching by Kayak on the Connecticut River

While kayaking just north of Lyme’s Hamburg Cove on the Connecticut River the other day, Robin Francis, Phil Warner and I watched a wildlife drama unfolding above us.

In Waning Winter, An 'Above Par' Snow-Kayaking Adventure

With snow cover stubbornly lingering and whitewater kayaking season still more than a month away, what’s an impatient paddler to do? Easy: Snow-kayaking.