Apr 21, 2015

An Unforgettable Experience

As I write this blog I am en route from Boston after a fantastic 3 days in Bean Town with a great group of Cape Bretoners. I can sum up the trip with one word: “WOW!” As mentioned in one of my previous posts (Shipping Off to Boston), there was a larger than normal contingent of Cape Bretoners who qualified for “Boston” this year (including two close friends), so I decided it was time to return to “runnings’ holy grail.” I have competed at Boston three times before (2008, 2011, 2012), and this was far from my best time, but it was, without a doubt, my most enjoyably trip to Boston to date!

In addition to the large group of Cape Bretoners, there are many reasons why it was the most enjoyable. First and foremost, to see two of my good friends (Justin Lalanne and Herbie Sakalauskas) train through a very tough winters, run yesterday on a very windy, rainy, and cold day, and still reach the targets they set out for themselves, was quite remarkable to experience in person. I was there when Justin qualified 18 months at the Valley Harvest Marathon in 2:57 in his very first marathon. He then set his sights on running Boston and later deciding that his target would be to break 2:50. I knew this was possible, but to do it in Boston (a very hilly course) on a very tough day made it even more special.

Herbie took a more conventional route (but still impressive) to Boston by qualifying in Fredericton 11 months ago in 3:01 in his fourth marathon. The natural goal was to try to break 3 hours in Boston, but that didn’t mean it was going to be easy. Very seldom do you see someone (training in Nova Scotia) run a personal best in Boston – mainly due to the weather you have to train through and the adverse effect the rolling hills of the famed Boston course have on the quads. Despite this, Herbie, like Justin, had a goal, worked hard, and got the job done. I had the luxury of witnessing about two thirds of Herbie’s personal best race. Based on my qualifying time, I was due to start the race in corral two. Justin was in corral three and Herbie in corral five. If I had stayed in corral two I more than likely would have run the entire race shoulder to shoulder with strangers (as most do). This is I decided to move back and run with Herbie, who was targeting a time that I thought was realistic for me based on the fact that I’ve been focusing on Ironman Lake Placid, and consequently have done very few long runs. Much like the experience I had back in 2012 when Corey (Deveaux) and I ran together in Boston, it was a blast! We ran side by side until about the 17-mile mark – at which point the hills got the best of my quads and I had no choice but to dial back to the pace a bit. I crossed the line in 3:05, which ordinarily I wouldn’t be happy with, but my trip to Boston wasn’t about time – it was about being there to witness the results of lots of hard work by a great group of Cape Breton athletes.

Another running friend of mine, who is a coach to many of those who ran yesterday (including Herbie), Tanya Brann-Barrett, also ran a personal best time of 3:26. The smile on her face when I saw her for the first time after the race said it all. As she should be, she was thrilled! For others it was not about personal bests but more about experiencing the historic Boston Marathon for the first time. It was great to witness the excitement of other first timers like Joey Tetford, Carol Dakai, Lee Ann Astephen, and Gary Ross. No matter what age you are, qualifying for Boston is not an easy feat. This is precisely why it s so bitter sweet when you finally get there! 

Another impressive feat to witness was Lauchie McKinnon’s race - who completed the marathon distance in a very respectable time of 3:26 only four month after hernia surgery. Also, to see longtime friend run a solid 3:12 after battling through injuries was great to see! Lastly, the "God Father" Peter Hanna completed his 6th Boston at age 74 in 4:20 - good enough for 39th is his age group. Peter continues to amaze me! He, along with Lauchie and Terry have a remarkable 20 Boston Marathon finishes between them.  To all the other Capers who crossed the finish line yesterday - congrats! I was glad to be able to share the experience with you. I can’t say for sure if I’ll go back to run Boston again. What I can say is that it will be very difficult (if not impossible) to top the experience I had at this year’s Boston! 

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