|Jesus Hates the Yankees - finishing up|
Racers: Jason Wildhagen and Jesse Morrow
Event: Relay Race
Distance: 7.5 miles – 4.5 miles by me; 3 by the Wildhagen
The website clearly states: “The Transportation to the exchange location leaves at 8:45 A.M. from the parking lot of the American Legion Marsh Post #442. There will only be one trip - so make sure you are on time:>).” So my cousin, Jason and I still had 20 minutes when we got off the Red Line at Harvard Square. Well that turned out to be not entirely correct. After crossing JFK to avoid the college girl behind us who was explaining the plot to “The Bucket List,” my cousin-in-law Laurie who was already there with her wife Tina called us:
“The truck for the relay is getting ready to leave,” she tells Jason.
Alas, we had a quick unexpected warm up for the relay race. We had to run from Harvard Square to the Eliot Bridge (about 1 mile). We were in the range between jogging and sprinting. The extra large black coffee I was carrying definitely slowed me a bit. The coffee was spilling from under the lid down the cup and beginning to soak through the cardboard thing that makes it not that hot to carry. (I believe the proper name for that item is “one of those cardboard things”). So the running to get to a running race not only burned some of our muscles but burned the hell out of my hand.
When we got to the American Legion Post, Laurie was standing there holding her wife’s schwag bag. “That’s your truck!” she yells to me as pointing onto Memorial Drive.
Dazed from lack of coffee (drinking hot coffee while running is impossible – I tried) and an unstretched one-mile run, I was even more confused at the vehicle. I was expecting some sort of bus or van, but no. Instead, there was a 16-footer bright yellow Penske moving truck pulling into traffic. Frantically, I began waving both arms above my head like I was on a desert isle and saw the rescue plane. The driver just pointed with his thumb to the back of the truck.
I ran out into Mem Drive and to the back of the truck. I jumped from the side, grabbing the leverage handle on the rear and swung myself onto the running board. I do not know who was more surprised at the sight, me swinging onto the truck or the thirty or so people crammed into the back of the moving truck as I seemingly appeared out of nowhere – splashing more of my coffee.
As the folks already sardined in recovered from my surprise appearance, and the truck had started moving, they responded with unenhtusiatic heys. Now the website had very little information about the relay, and what info it did have was questionable. I therefore, figured I’d cover my bases. “Everybody here is doing the 4 and a half mile part, right?”
“Yep” was the general consensus. Thank god.
The truck drove us along the route. We drove across the Eliot Bridge and down a lonely, almost deserted Soldiers’ Field Road. I sat with my feet on the running board drinking my coffee. Some State cops that we drove by pointed out that we may be cheating, instead of running.
We got to the handoff point, the stretch on Soldiers Field/North Beacon at the Daly Skating Rink. The driver told us to stand “over there” while pointing to a hand written sign, “relay exchange.”
The relay race was happening concurrently with the 7.5-mile race and a 5k fun run. The route was pretty easy with only a few slight hills (Watertown Square). It ran along the Boston side of the Charles to Watertown and then back on the Cambridge side. My cousin, “the Wildhagen” was doing the first part of the relay (3 miles) while I was anchoring it with the final leg of 4.5. Meanwhile, his sister, and obviously my cousin as well, Tina was running the whole 7.5-miler.
At this point, there was nothing to do but mill around and prepare. It was only 8:45, which meant the race didn’t start for 15 minutes and the Wildhagen wouldn’t be here for around 40. So, I started stretching and had a cigarette. Fortunately, there was a good amateur soccer game going on in big field next to the skating rink. The guys in blue and black were a bit better than those in red and black.
At about 9:15 or so the first runners started coming by. We dutifully cheered these burners of the 7.5-mile race. Then about 2 or 3 minutes later there was a yell from the back of our group: “Hey, here comes a relay guy!” The first relay runner was coming up to the handoff point. We all let out our largest cheers. Slowly my group began being replaced, from fresh people stretching to tired people who had run 3 miles already. Jason was probably the 7th or 8th of the relay runners to come in. I went to grab the baton.
“You don’t have a baton.”
The Wildhagen’s exhausted response was: “They didn’t give me one.” It was probably one of the best 3 miles Jason had run as long as I’ve been running with him. Jason had not found a baton at the beginning of the race, but he had found his sister. So, as the race started he used her as his rabbit. At about one and a half miles Jason had let her go, unable to keep up with her pace.
Since there was no baton, I high-fived the Wildhagen and started my run. While I did not see Tina, she informed me later that I blew by her “like a horse” soon after the four-mile mark. Which, of course, was only the one-mile mark for me. Indeed, I spent the first 2 miles of my leg passing almost everybody, except those relay runners who were considerably faster than me and were making up the lead the Wildhagen had built against their teammates.
At about the 5.5 mile mark, I hit a bit of a wall and was noticeably slowing. Fortunately the Muses sent a chariot from Atalanta to me. The Penske truck returned. As it passed it was filled with the runners of the first leg of the race. All those runners were cheering for me (as they did with all the other anchor relay runners they passed). It was a refreshing cheer that recouped my run for another mile or so. Then, however, the horse latitudes of “is this thing gonna end?” set upon me. But, finishers of the 5k, which had run along a different route, were now lining Memorial and cheering us all on. It is amazing how one stranger’s cheers can ameliorate exhaustion for brief period.
Jason and I had set two goals for ourselves for this race. First, we wanted to beat his sister. Secondly, we wanted to break 1 hour for the race. As I sprinted into the last 200 yards I thought the first was impossible, as I hadn’t seen Tina and the second attainable. Well, in fact, the reverse was true. I crossed the line at 1:00:32. Still it was a good time, especially considering the 8 minute mile Jason and I put in to get to the race.