Actually, this was Day 9.099!
After a quick breakfast, a slather of sunscreen and Bodyglide and a decanting of five or six gels into my handheld bottle, I set off for Boston Common. My trip took one bad turn as I got onto an arriving-but-not-departing green line train having got off my red line train, but having been prompted to get off again, I decided to walk to the bag drop.
Although there were no hold-ups, it took a bit longer than I anticipated and in the end I was running a few minutes late for the meet-up with my forum compatriots at the band-stand. Thankfully they had given me a little grace and were still there, so we set off to get on a bus to the start line.
The journey is long. Really long. And lots of it is on highways. How were we getting back again?
The Athletes Village where the buses dropped us is unlike anything I have experienced anywhere else, a huge field full of runners, portajohns and food tents. We found a spot and settled down to wait, eat, panic, line up for twenty minutes to relieve ourselves and other necessary activities. Time passed, the first wave were called to leave for the start line, and then our turn came.
The walk down to the start line (0.7 miles) was very well organised. Just before the corrals is a last-chance portajohn field and a water station. As we arrived the guy in front of me was taking a photograph of two state troopers standing by while a dozen or so runners at a time (mainly guys but a few women) were peeing in a patch of undergrowth to the side. A few of us figured we could also leave the cubicles to those who really needed them and took our turn. As I was finishing off, one of the troopers must have got new orders as he suddenly approached the guy two to my left telling him to "Put it away now, or you'll be arrested and miss the start!" I figured he was joking at first, but he was not. We made a quick exit.
I hung towards the back of my corral when we got there. When the start happened, we started walking slowly towards the starting line. There was a brief moment of excitement as we started running as the TV cameras were pointing at us, but other than that it was a slow walk until just before the line.
My memory of the first few miles is of loads of runners, it was hard to change speed or direction even slightly without getting in someone's way - even if the change was to avoid someone doing the same thing. Water stops were well organised, but it was a reflection on the day that I felt I needed to be sure to take on a full cup of water at each one (along with a sip of my diluted gels in the handheld).
By mile 2 I was 30 seconds or so behind my pace band, but not too worried. By mile 7 the gap had grown to nearly a minute. Somewhere around there I realised that my inner thighs were chafing quite badly - had I forgotten to put Bodyglide there? - madness! I spent a few moments over the next couple of miles wondering if there would be any opportunity to do anything about it until I saw a lady offering sticks with a glob of vaseline on the end and thankfully took one and smeared some around as I ran the next few steps.
By half-way, the gap between my pace band and my actual progress had grown to nearly two minutes and I started to feel that my legs were less fresh-feeling than I would expect. My pace to this point was still respectable, but I started to suspect that this was not going to be a great day.
I threw away my hand-held (basically empty) at the post-mile 14 water-stop. I don't remember exactly when I finally gave up tracking my pace altogether. It was probably around mile 17 or 18 in the Newton hills, but not really as a result of the hills. During mile 20, one of my friends caught up with me - he started two corrals back and had a slightly-more-modest target, so he said he was sorry to see me as he caught up. I ran with him for quarter of a mile or so and then wished him well.
I kept running (albeit rather slower than planned) up Heartbreak Hill and for the next mile or so afterwards, then I took my first walk-break. I took regular walk breaks for the next four miles, enjoying thanking the people who cheered me on, high-fiving kids and college students and generally remembering that I was running the Boston Marathon. By now, any thought of a really good result, a PR, a safe qualifier to run again next year, a BQ, a decent time had disappeared (in that order) and had only one aim left - to enjoy the experience and get to the end in reasonable shape. At some point I tucked my remaining Geetah straw away in my Flipbelt - since I was sure I could walk the remaining water stops and drink like a normal person. I'd dropped the first of two straws while trying to tuck it back under my Garmin after the first water stop. I did better after that!
As I turned into Hereford Street, I was scanning the crowds to my right to be sure of seeing the family who had planned to be there. About half-way I spotted them and gave them a big smile, stopped for a hug, reassured them that I was having a good day despite my late arrival and then set off. I ran the rest of the way, tearing up a little as I turned onto Boylston Street. I realised that I had one target I could still achieve - bettering my very first marathon time - and I did - by about two minutes.
I profusely thanked each volunteer who I interacted with after the finish - water, thermal blanket, food, medal, bag-drop bag, randomly standing around, etc. It had been a lousy race, but an amazing experience.