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Monday was the best of times in Boston

April 20, 2006|by ANDY MASON

At 11 a.m. Monday, I was half-naked in a grassy field in Massachusetts, lubing up the nooks and crannies of my body with Vaseline. From where I stood, I could see hundreds of gaunt-looking people of all ages and nationalities doing the exact same thing, while hundreds of others were breaking the law against public urination.

There were police officers everywhere, but no one even came close to being arrested.

Maybe the police just figured that trying to chase down any of these violators of common decency would be fruitless - or that having to run the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston was punishment enough for us.

Either way, when the 110th Boston Marathon began at noon, order immediately was restored. The Kenyans went to the front and the rest of the 20,000 runners - including me - followed, some more closely than others.

I've never even dreamt of running with the Kenyans. But I used to dream about running the Boston Marathon, the world's oldest and arguably most prestigious foot race.

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It took me a couple of tries to qualify for my first Boston in 2001. I've now run the race six straight years, and I have experienced the best and worst of times.

In 2004, I struggled mightily to the finish line in 3 hours, 55 minutes and needed wheelchair assistance immediately afterward.

Monday, I hit new gears, posting a personal-record time of 2 hours, 44 minutes for a 238th-place finish.

Of my six Boston finishes, I'm most proud of those two because of the seemingly unconquerable battles that were fought and won with each.

I realize all of this marathoning stuff can sound a bit masochistic because of the reactions I get from people - mostly nonrunners - when I share some of my training and racing stories.

"Why do you put yourself through it?" they ask.

Good question.

As a kid, I took the Presidential Physical Fitness Award test twice, and I failed it both times - miserably in fourth grade and then just narrowly in fifth. I would have given anything to have been deemed athletically fit enough to join the winners on their special daylong field trip each year.

Maybe that's why I feel the need to take the field trip to Boston every April, to affirm and celebrate my adulthood fitness and prove that I belong in the Vaseline-lubed crowd of renegades.




Andy Mason is assistant sports editor of The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2334, or by e-mail at andrewm@herald-mail.com

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