My 28 Mile Warmup

BY Scott Ludwig

I decided to do this about two years ago, when I mentioned that the 2003 Boston Marathon would in all likelihood be my 100th lifetime marathon. Al innocently suggested I run the course twice, by running from Boston (at the finish line) to Hopkinton (the starting line) and then the actual marathon to commemorate the occasion. As those who know me would expect, I said I would. At that time, Al said he would do it with me.

Al suggested we make it known that we were doing a ‘Boston Out-and-Back,’ so that we would get media coverage, PR, or whatever else we were due. I explained to a BAA official in February what our intentions were, primarily to make sure we would be allowed to run the course in reverse prior to the noon start of the actual marathon. I was told it was acceptable, as long as we were off the course by 11:00 a.m. The next thing I know Don Makson from WCVB Channel 5 in Boston (an ABC affiliate) sends me an E-mail asking for specifics of our upcoming adventure. Once I did, he said he’d get with me the week before the marathon to go over the details of their ‘coverage’ of the event.

Sometime in March, Al hit me with some bad news: he wasn’t going to do the out-and-back with me. He didn’t think his back would hold up for 52+ miles. Of course, since I already stated I was going to do it, DARKSIDEregulations dictated that I had to do it (besides, if I remember correctly, this was one of the rules I suggested). The week before the marathon, Don Makson called and advised me to find Heather Unruh in Hopkinton Commons for alive interview at 10:20 a.m. I decided I would start my journey at 6:00 a.m., as I wanted to run the first 26.2 miles in four hours.

Race morning, I left a little early: 5:45 to be exact. I wanted to allow myself a little extra time in case I got off course (I took a map with me). As I expected, Al had second thoughts about not joining me the instant I left our hotel room. He expressed regret about backing out, but offered to take my change of clothes to the starting line for me.

I couldn’t believe how the course looked without the spectators and other runners…DIFFERENT! So different, in fact, I had to look at the map several times. Each time I looked at the map, I was reminded of one small detail I overlooked: it was impossible for me to read it without my glasses…which I didn’t have with me. Not to worry: I could just ask someone for directions. Certainly all Bostonians know the route, right? Wrong! Of the 20 people I asked if I was on the proper course, only 10 knew. Naturally, some of those that ‘knew’ really didn’t. In time, I could tell the difference between a definitive ‘yes’ and an ‘I’ll never see this nutjob again so I’m telling him yes to get rid of him yes.’

Fortunately, I only ran 15 minutes off course, losing the route somewhere near Beacon Street. Once I was sufficiently lost, I retraced my steps until I got back on course. Thinking back, I don’t know how I got lost, but I think it was because I started following the Marathon banners on the street poles and once I felt confident I couldn’t get lost, I ran out of banners…and got lost.

Once I returned to the course, I began following the porta-johns and/or the ESPN towers. This worked out a lot better, as these two objects were a lot larger than the fine print on my map. The run to the start was pretty uneventful, except for these few ‘highlights:’

  • 5 or 6 people along the course yelled ‘hey, I heard about you on TV/the radio.’ No one, however, asked for my autograph or wanted to take my picture.
  • One man in a car at a stop light offered me a ride to the start, even though he was going in the opposite direction.
  • Too many people to remember were kind enough to tell me I was ‘running the wrong way.’
  • I passed one other runner doing what I was doing but his ‘out’ distance (of his out-and-back) was only 12 miles. He was basically walking, taking photographs, and training for the Western States 100. (I’ll be nice and not make any rash generalizations about trail runners)
  • Wellesley College is amazingly quiet at 8:00 a.m. Are there really students living there?
  • Water is hard to find along the course prior to noon. In fact, I found that in some gas stations, when you ask for ‘water’ the attendant will give you a key to the bathroom. Whatever that means.
  • My unofficial time for the actual 26.2 miles (excluding the ‘extra’15 minutes) was 3 hours 30 minutes…the time I was hoping to run in the actual marathon.

I arrived at the starting line around 9:30, almost an hour early for my 10:20 interview. I stretched out on the road for almost 30 minutes (still thirsty!) before I began looking for the Channel 5 tent. Once I found the tent and met Heather, she took me to their hospitality tent where I drank cranberry juice (I couldn’t find any water). She then conducted a ‘practice’ interview (which, to be honest, was better than the live one), which included the following exchanges:

Heather:  Boston today will be your 100th lifetime marathon.  So the run OUT here this morning was your 99th, right?
Scott: No, I only count official marathons in my total.
Heather: What do you call the run out here then?
Scott: A 28-mile warm-up.
Heather: So where’s Al?
Scott: He’s physically exhausted after winning his age group three weeks ago at a marathon in Macon.
Heather: (Looking at my singlet) What is the DARKSIDE Running Club?
Scott: A group of people I run with who consider what I’m doing today normal.
Heather: Are all runners as good-looking as you?
Scott: Don’t count on it, sister.

OK, so actually only her first two questions were real; the final three I imagined. But I did have those answers ready anyway…just in case she asked!

After the interview I made my way to the ‘Athlete’s Village’ to meet up with Al, Paula and Keith (who I was going to run with in the actual marathon). I was eager to put on a fresh, clean running outfit (including a BRAND NEWDARKSIDE racing singlet) only to find that someone had accidently spilled a bottle of Gatorade inside my bag, saturating my entire change of clothing. Fortunately, it was cool in the morning so I didn’t sweat much (wait, COWS sweat, people PERSPIRE). Fortunately, it was cool in the morning so I didn’t perspire much. So wearing the same outfit again wasn’t too big an inconvenience (but don’t tell Al…guilt is good!).

The marathon itself? Pretty unventful. I waited for Keith at the two-mile mark and ran with him for eight miles. At that point we lost contact, which I used to my advantage. For the last sixteen miles, every time I needed a walk break, I looked back over my shoulder and called out Keith’s name…as if I was actually looking for him.

One last thing: comedian Will Ferrell passed me around the 25 mile mark, and I didn’t have the legs to stay with him. Not to worry: he didn’t actually qualify for Boston; he was invited because he’s a celebrity (at least to somepeople). Since he wasn’t an official runner, he wasn’t really there (another DARKSIDE rule!).