Tuesday, April 22, 2014

118th Boston Marathon

I will write a more upbeat report soon I hope, but at this point, I need to put down the WHYS of what lead me to withdrawing from the marathon.  After everything that happened last year, all of us who were stopped talked about what we wanted to do.  We felt denied what was our RIGHT, the right to finish the marathon we had started.

The Saturday prior to the race Owen was out playing with a friend when his friend came running to our house to tell us Owen was throwing up.  We went outside to find Owen being sick.  This was not the usual Owen who has always been one to know prior to being sick in order to do so in the proper place.  He continued to throw up most of the day and then started to have diarrhea.  We checked his temp throughout the day and there was no fever.  He crawled into bed around 5pm and laid there for a couple of hours sleeping on and off and then  finally drifted off to sleep for the night.  In the morning, he woke up, seemed to feel great had a small breakfast and then we headed off to church where he had a BIG breakfast and seemed good to go.  We thought, heck it must have been food poisoning.

Fast forward to race morning.  As I was driving down to Boston to catch my bus at the Sheraton, my tummy felt a bit upset.  I started to wonder what it could have been.  Once  I parked my car at Columbia and Berkeley the pain went away.  I thought it must have been nerves.  I walked to the hotel and just as I entered I remember, this was the Hoyt's hotel.  What a great bonus seeing all my great friends prior to what was going to be the greatest race of my life.

The ride out to Hopkinton was fine.  Funny thing is I ended up on a bus with no other runners.  It was filled with all the cycling volunteers who would be following the wheel-chair and hand-cycle competitors.  We had a great time chatting.  I got a message from a friend then that DandC had mentioned me on their show again.  The highlight of the ride came when I got a call from my dear friend Trisha.  She had been on Boylston waiting for me last year when all heck broke loose. She was calling to give a boost and it sure worked.

We arrived right at the starting line and I hurried over to the VIP tent where all of the mobility impaired (MI) runners would be staged.  The weather was gorgeous at this point and we all started to get ready.  I was proud to be there again with so many great friends.  Scott Rigsby was returning again and he has always been one of my greatest motivators.  He was the first double leg amputee to finish KONA (twice now).  Juli Windsor was also starting with us, and she would end up being the first LP to finish Boston (certainly the fastest as well).

As we prepared to start, we had a moment of silence to remember the victims of the blasts last year.  The highlight of the entire day would happen now as my friend Dave McGillivray (the race director) came over to stand beside me and we put our arms around each other.

And off we went.  Everything seemed to be going well throughout the race.  Passing the 5K and 10K marks all seemed well.  Just as we went through Framingham I was passed by the pro men.  Who then came up behind me, but Dave on a scooter.  He asked me how things were going and I said I was feeling good.  After he passed,  I thought to myself, am I really feeling good.  I started to break up my run/walks from 3min run/1min walk to 1.5min run/30 sec walk.  As my stomach started to feel woozy again I thought I might need a gel.  I took that and more gatorade (I had been drinking as usual) and it really didn't seem to help.  Then as I neared the 15K mark I went to a solid walk.  I tried to run but could only manage 20 sec or so at a time.  Countless people were cheering me on, both spectators and runners.  I tried but could not run.

I got to the next medical tent and asked for help.  They asked me a bunch of questions to test my mental state and I passed (all marathon runners are NUTS!).  They suggested I try to possibly keep going to the next medical tent and have a reassessment.  As I proceeded along I remember I was soon coming along to a group of friends who were cheering people on.  A number of families with LP children were there (Sue and Owen cheered there last year too).  As I came upon them I think they knew immediately I needed help.  My friend Renee offered to walk with me to the med tent.  I was thankful to have her with me.  At this point I asked her to call Sue as she handed me the phone I talked to Sue to tell her I was in distress and things did not look good for me to continue.  I told her I would call again when I knew more.

The medical tent was not where they had said it would be (I found out later, it had been moved by the town of Natick).  We neared the Natick Center and then all hell broke loose inside of me.  I told Renee I needed to throw up.  Before it happened, Renee  pointed me towards a sewer grate.  Nothing like puking in front of 100's of people.  This was the most violent retching I have ever down.  Luckily there were fire fighters there and they came over to assess me.  We talked for a while and I asked for some water.  I quickly downed a whole bottle and asked for another.  I thanked Renee and suggested she return to her family.  She hugged me (probably not very pleasant) and then left.  The firefighters told me I had 3 choices: trip to the hospital, ride to the med tent (1/2 a mile down the course), return to the course.  I sat a while longer and then decided to try and continue.  I did feel better after the purge.

Off I went and again, I could barely run.  I ran for possibly 20 seconds or so and then walked again.  When I got to the med tent, I started to consider withdrawing.  They escorted me into the tent and checked my vitals.  Except for an elevated heart-rate, I had no fever and BP was good.  They suggested I lie down and I promptly nodded off.  I awoke and they said I needed to decide what to do as the bus to the finish line was arriving.  I made the decision to withdraw.  I called Sue and told her what I was doing.  I would later find out both her and Owen were able to see Juli cross the line.  I am so proud of what she has done for LPs, but even more so for LP women, and women in general.

I rode the bus to Babson College where we to transfer to a larger bus to ride into Boston.  Waiting for the bus to leave, as fast as it happened last time, I had to puke again.  I made it outside of the bus just in time and again,  purged out the two bottles of water I had just downed.  OKAY, maybe stopping was the right choice.  I would end up doing it again one more time after I arrived home and again, it came upon me pretty fast.

I have read countless stories of people finishing the race in a terrible physical state and that's what I keep beating myself up about.  Could I have walked the remaining 15+ miles to cross that line?  I was totally empty of both fluids and any energy.  And I was now realizing, I would not be able to keep anything down.  The day would only get warmer.  I wanted to get to Wellesley College to see Brit and Leslie.  I wanted to get to Coolidge Corner, Kenmore Square, Comm Ave, make that turn onto Hereford St and of course, turn onto Boylston to run to Sue and Owen.  But that was not going to be.  It wasn't the fact that other LP runners would be there first.  Both Juli and Dahn are MUCH FASTER than me. I know that.  I didn't want to beat them, but I wanted to be WITH them.  I missed the party!!  I did all the planning and knew I was ready for this.  But you can never be sure of anything.  This was certainly a case of the worst timing ever.

I also have to think about this summer.  I have a number of triathlons planned, including three of them before the end of June.  If I had kept going, there is a very good chance I may have ended up in the hospital, or worse.  I am 100% sure that both Sue and Owen are happy I stopped.  I was able to return to work today and will very soon be on my bike and swimming as well.  As Owen stated, "Sometimes you're the hammer and sometimes you're the nail." At this point, I think I am going to take a seat from marathon running and put a lot more of time into triathlon.  Running so much has really taken time away from my bike training especially.  If I truly want to do an Ironman in 2015, I need to get to work SERIOUSLY.  It might not be in 2015, but I will be back BOSTON.  Some year, I will be back.


  1. John, I am so sorry this happened. I read about last year's race in RW and met you at TriMania expo and was so interested in your results this year. Bad timing for sure. I hope to see you around Salem and M'head and at a few tri's. Great attitude, smart decision. be well.

  2. John - it just wasn't your race this year. Try not to beat yourself up - you have run marathons before and you know what they are supposed to feel like. A smart athlete knows when to walk away...there always is another run. Best of luck to you - God Bless You! You are an inspiration to so many. :)