4:09:43: The Newton Hills
Excerpted from 4:09:43
My latest book, 4:09:43: Boston 2013 Through the Eyes of the Runners, follows 75 runners during that fateful race, the one that ended when the first bomb exploded with the numbers 4:09:43 on the finish line clock. This was a moment both horrible and memorable in the history of the Boston Athletic Association Marathon. The following chapter, excerpted from 4:09:43, describes a happier moment in the race as runners face the challenge of the Newton Hills, climaxing with Heartbreak Hill. Only later would runners realize what true heartbreak might be. 4:09:43 is available in major bookstores, online in both print and electronic editions, and I will be happy to personally autograph a copy for you or friends here on halhigdon.com. In the meantime, enjoy this excerpt from 4:09:43: Boston 2013 Through the Eyes of the Runners. --Hal Higdon
NOTHING COULD HAVE PREPARED Kara Thelen for the crowd support she encountered in
Rows of spectators five-deep cheered so loudly that it took Kara’s breath away. How long have they been cheering like this? she wondered. How long could they keep this up? “Go,
“What an emotional wallop,” Thelen would blog later. “The cheers were so enthusiastic and emphatic, they took my breath away. And the tears soon followed. I prayed for all the people standing there along the course. And I offered thanks. I was overcome with gratitude for them and their jubilant support. This positive-energy exchange we had struck up was so intimate. For the few moments of my passing, we no longer were total strangers.”
Long after her participation in the 117th running of the Boston Athletic Association Marathon, Kara Thelen would still be able to picture many of their faces. “Spectators are a special breed,” she remembers. “These spectators were even more special that day.”
Shalane Flanagan had experienced the same level of crowd support when she had passed through
Yet the experiences of Flanagan and the other elites was far from being unique among those running
Flanagan discussed crowd noise with David Willey of Runner’s World. “My ears were ringing,” said Flanagan. “I almost wanted to say, ‘Okay, this is a bit much. We can tone it down.’ The hairs on my arms were standing up. It was almost too loud for me to concentrate, particularly through the
Here was the section of the Boston Marathon course that builds character. Here was where Men were made—and Women, too! A few miles past
Bob Campbell’s hill serves the function of weakening marathoners before their true test. One might compare it to the horsemen sent into the ring to stick banderillas into the neck of the bull to both weaken the animal and make him angry before the arrival of the matador who, red cloak swirling, will claim all the glory: two ears and a tail for behavior most bravado.
Ah, Joe, such arrogance! Achieving what runners call “negative splits” is no easy task, because
“No, no.” Masya cautioned him. “Stay back. Stay back.”
Ndeti obeyed, but eventually left Masya and covered the second half in (the final 10-K in 29 minutes), closing faster than anyone before at
But Joe Findaro had not been born at mile-high altitude in
When Heather Lee-Callaghan passed the Newton Fire Station, she spotted her husband, Matt, standing beside the road. “I managed to barrel through several runners to hop up and kiss him, say ‘love you,’ and run off.”
Several ladies standing next to Matt started cheering. One shouted: “Kiss and run!”
In retrospect, Lee-Callaghan would decide that the first
Lee-Callaghan remembered wiping tears off her cheeks when she saw that sign: “The course had chewed up my quads during the first half of the race, then destroyed my hamstrings during the climbs, and I still had that bloody toe.”
On the other hand, Jen Marr actually found running uphill easier than running downhill, or on the flat stretches. Reason: Less pressure on her IT band. Once over Heartbreak Hill, the course passes
Lee-Callaghan would claim later that she probably hit 50 hands on the downside of Heartbreak Hill. She heard someone shout, “You’re beautiful!” but was not sure if the compliment was directed at her. She heard someone else shout, “Nice tits!” She knew that was not directed at her.
On the hills leading up to Heartbreak, Amy Zebala began to struggle despite the best efforts of spectators to inspire her to achieving athletic immortality. “The crowds were amazing,” she recalls. “They were at their most supportive when the course was most challenging.” Unfortunately, her stomach still churning, Zebala had been forced to take a second bathroom break. She felt her goal time of slipping away, but still believed another BQ of to be in the bag.
Nearing 21 miles, Zebala spotted her husband standing beside the road. He did not see her, so she passed him, then came back and tapped him on the shoulder so she could “give him some sass for not paying attention more closely.”
Kate Johnson took
Carissa von Koch also played mind games that involved “miles-to-go.” She began to think of her 8-year-old son Lukas waiting at the finish line: Eight more miles until I see Lukas. He had been traveling for a week with her mother-in-law, thus von Koch definitely was feeling Lukas-deprived. Seven more miles until I see my boy. The anticipation drove her forward.
At 16 miles, Aubrey Blanda felt a muscle cramp in her abdomen, actually a chronic hernia that had nagged at her during the training leading up to the marathon. Blanda waited for the muscles around the hernia to relax, then pushed it back in. “I felt a blister on my left foot. My right big toenail was coming off. Every step at that point felt like a hammer pounding my upper hamstrings.”
Still, she thought, “all things considered, it could be worse.”
She pushed a mind button to shift from Thoughts Negative to Thoughts Positive. This was her 26th marathon. In 80 percent of them, she had finished between and . She reset as her goal.
“I can be happy with a ,” Blanda decided.
The above excerpt, "Newton" is from 4:09:43: Boston 2013 Through the Eyes of the Runners. To order a copy, click here!