At 51, Clare takes on the Boston Marathon

By Dr. Terry Clare

The Boston Marathon is run on Patriot’s Day, this year on April 18.

In essence, for me the race was really run in the cold, wintry months of December to February.

It was during this time that the real work and discipline for the race took place. On those cold, dark, snowy evenings, the appeal of a hot meal at home followed by a Canucks game on TV was very strong. It was tough to motivate myself to put in the miles necessary to prepare for a marathon.

In truth, it wasn’t a bad winter for training. With some creative planning and a careful eye on the weather forecasts I was able to get in the necessary six runs per week, gradually increasing the distance and intensity as April approached.

I admit there were times when I was out there battling the elements when I questioned my decision (and my sanity). Boston is the oldest and most prestigious of all marathons. Every entrant has to run a qualifying marathon in a specified time in the 18 months prior to Boston. I ran the Kelowna Marathon in October 2009 and my time of 3 hours 25 minutes was good enough to qualify. So, it was now or never, or else I would have to re-qualify. The die was cast!

The Boston Marathon was unlike any other running event I have ever experienced. I have run about 20 marathons and ultra marathons, mostly in my twenties at university. Boston is an event as much as it is a race. The city embraces the marathon and it has become an integral part of its history and culture. Twenty-five thousand runners converge on the city for the weekend and there are banners and posters everywhere. Runners bustle around the city, clearly evidenced by their Boston Marathon jackets and shirts. This is the time to flaunt it!

The race starts in the town of Hopkinton, 42 kilometers east of Boston, and the organizers provide transport for the 25,000 runners from downtown Boston using 593 school buses.

One of the enduring images I have is coming out of the subway at the Boston Commons Park and seeing an endless line of yellow buses sucking up runners and heading out of town. I was impressed by the incredible organization necessary to pull it all off.

We were deposited at the high school in Hopkinton, and I was reminded of scenes from Woodstock (minus the drugs and beads of course). Athletes were all over the field, huddled in blankets and sleeping bags, trying to find some warmth and relief from the bitterly cold wind. I took solace in the fact that the wind blew from the east and would be a tailwind blowing us towards Boston. In fact, conditions were perfect—cool temperatures, sunny skies, low humidity, and a tailwind. The stars were aligned and I was fit and ready.

The run itself is a standard marathon distance of 42.2 km and meanders through the New England countryside, taking in a number of small towns on the way.

The start of a marathon is always a collection of conflicting emotions—relief that all the months of training have come to fruition, apprehension of knowing what lies ahead, and, of course, great excitement about just being there. This was no exception.

The first few kilometres flew by and were spent trying to interpret physiological signals from the muscles in my legs and from my breathing in order to gauge a sustainable pace.

Initially there was a lot of buzz amongst the runners, chatting and interacting with the crowd. After the first hour or so, the runners became quiet, focused in on their effort, and accompanied by the ever increasing noise of the spectators. It is estimated 500,000 people watched the race and they were very vocal in their support. It was great to see some Canadian flags in the crowds.

At around 20 km, we approached Wellesley College. This has become a famous and much anticipated land mark amongst the runners over the years. The girls waved creative placards enticing runners to stop with the promise of a kiss. Mindful of the mission at hand (as well as of my age category) I resisted the temptation and powered through the halfway mark in one hour, 39 minutes, 15 seconds;  bang on schedule and still feeling quite strong. I later heard that one of the runners dallied at Wellesley College for 45 minutes. I can only imagine!

Shortly afterwards, I caught up to a young fellow dressed as a hotdog. The crowd went crazy and I felt a surge of energy, soon leaving him behind. Try as he might, he was unable to “ketchup”. So much for fast food!

The next 10 km of the run contained four hills, the last of which has famously been named “Heartbreak Hill.” This part of the course comes at a time when the body is starting to tire and exposes any deficiencies in the athlete’s training schedule. It was here that I was thankful for all those tough runs in the winter months and I ran the hills without too much difficulty.

The last 10km of a marathon are always hard, no matter how well trained the athlete is. My legs were tiring and starting to feel heavy, and I could tell my pace was starting to slow. This is when I always try to focus just on the next few yards and not think of the seemingly endless road ahead. I was no longer aware of the crowds. I understand that the Boston Celtic cheerleaders were helping at one of the drink stations around this point. I never saw them (I think I’m getting old) and was now working hard to keep going.

At 38 km I “hit the wall.” This is the stage where the body runs out of energy and sends signals to the brain that it must stop running. I felt an overwhelming need to walk, to stop, to end the suffering. At this point the conscious mind must override these physiological signals in order to keep going. My pace slowed dramatically as I struggled to keep running.  After what seemed like an interminable distance with this internal conflict raging on I turned on to Boylston Street and saw the finish line. The pain and fatigue no longer seemed as overpowering and I crossed the finish line in three hours 19 minutes, and 49 seconds.

It is hard to describe the feeling one gets when finishing a marathon—a mixture of euphoria, fatigue and pain. The elation and satisfaction comes later. Initially there is a sense of relief and almost a strange emptiness—the intensity and stress of exertion is suddenly gone. What now? I was handed a finisher’s medal but hardly even noticed. The reward for me comes from within—a deep sense of satisfaction of having done something worthwhile and at the limits of my ability. Fighting off cramps, I walked over to meet up with my friend. I started to feel good and we began to swap stories of our runs. Runners’ camaraderie took over. The race was done.

I heard later that the winner Jeffery Mutai of Kenya had completed the run in two hours, three minutes and two seconds, the fastest time ever for any marathon. I feel lucky to have been part of that historic day. I like to think that he felt pushed by the pack. Maybe he looked over his shoulder at some point, concerned that #9833 from Barriere was catching him and that this spurred him on just a little. I think not, but I’ll hold on to that thought anyway.

My time qualifies me to enter the Boston Marathon again next year, but I will not be back. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to be a participant, to be a small part of something so big. It was on my “Bucket List” and now it has been ticked off.  I will continue to run for the mental and physical benefits but have no intention of running a marathon again.  Having said that, the New York or London marathons do hold a lot of appeal for me.  Who knows? Maybe one day, I’ll take these thoughts and run with them.

Dr. Terry Clare’s medical practice is in the community of Barriere.



Just Posted

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

Four Paws Food Bank-Barriere helps area pet owners

Leia Kett (as in Star War’s Princess Leia) has been a Barriere… Continue reading

Barriere resident Donna Genier was happy to be able to gather with a small group of family and close friends to play a game of scrub last Sunday at the Barriere ball fields in memory of her youngest son Kurt Genier. Kurt passed unexpectedly in 2014 Since then, starting in 2015 an annual Memorial Slow Pitch Baseball Tournament has been held in Barriere to remember the young man who loved to play baseball. Unfortunately, the tourney had to be cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. (Elli Kohnert photo)
Kurt Genier remembered with ball game in Barriere

The annual Kurt Genier Memorial Slow Pitch Ball Tournament was not able… Continue reading

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

An old growth cedar stands in a cut-block within the Caycuse Valley. More than 100 prominent Canadians, have signed an open letter calling for the immediate protection of all remaining old-growth forests in B.C. (Submitted)
Brian Mulroney and Greta Thunberg among 100 celebrities pushing to save B.C. old growth

List includes Indigenous leaders, scientists, authors, Oscar winners

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on Friday, February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
U.S. border restrictions to remain in place until at least July 21

Safety minister says Canada, U.S. extending restrictions on non-essential international travel

Himalayan Life helped finance the construction of Nepal’s Yangri Academic Centre and dormitories after a 2015 earthquake devastated the valley, killing more than 9,000 people. (Screen grab/Peter Schaeublin)
B.C. charity founder pledges to rebuild Nepalese school swept away by flash floods

Six years after an earthquake killed more than 9,000 people, Nepal faces another catastrophy

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

Most Read