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A Lizard on Lobster in Boston

Adam, Torrey and Chris at mile 10 (in Natick) during the 2016 Boston Marathon

By Adam DiVergilio

A visit to Boston isn’t complete without a meal or three featuring lobster. Despite the fact that lobster was once a food relegated to prisoners and the less-fortunate, today it is a treasured seafood dish and regional specialty of New England. The question floating around this lizard’s brain on a recent cross-country journey was whether or not “lobster-loading” would be an appropriate fueling strategy before a race such as the Boston Marathon. Now that’s an experiment worth tasting.

This would be my first Boston Marathon. I once lived in Boston, less than a mile from the famed route where it passes through Framingham & Natick. However, the most racing I ever did while living there was the Big Man Run… a 6+ mile slog through Somerville’s finest pubs where each checkpoint was completed with a beer and a hot dog. Like the Boston Marathon, the Big Man Run also had qualification standards, but we won’t discuss those here today (in fact, I’m not even sure if any of our lizards could, or would even want to, qualify). Though a marathon was the farthest thing from my mind in those days, it has been the first thing on my mind these days. OK, beer is still a close second.

We decided to take advantage of this opportunity to revisit Boston (this time with 2 kids in tow) and scheduled a full week to explore the revitalized, post-Big-Dig city and sample a few lobsters along the way. After a direct flight out of Portland on Thursday morning, we arrived at our hotel in the seaport district of South Boston. Weather was cool and windy, but beautifully sunny. We spent the next few days enjoying Boston, exploring the Freedom Trail, the delectable North End, the marathon expo, and enough local eateries to fuel a lounge of lizards. I even had the opportunity to meet Meb Keflezighi, the Boston 2014 champion, where he signed my bib for good luck. I was going to tell him that we raced together in high school in Southern California, but then I reminded myself that running in the same race doesn’t really mean we were racing each other.

As Monday approached, the time had come to focus. My tanks were filled with a uniquely-Boston mix of lobster, chicken parmigiana, cannoli, and Harpoon IPA. I was ready. Heeding the advice of lizards before me, I managed to score a prized seat aboard one of the luxurious coach buses to the starting line. It was THE seat to have in the event of inclement weather. But this year it was 70 degrees and perfectly sunny in Hopkinton… oh well. At least the bus provided a comfortable spot to relax outside of the pandemonium of Athlete’s Village.

My bib number was 619, indicating that I had run the 619th-fastest qualifying time in this year’s field, earning me a spot in the first corral of the first wave, along with the best of the best… Oh wait, what are Torrey and Chris doing here?!? Well, a spot with the pretty-good of the halfway-decent at least! And with several sightings of other lizards and Portland-based runners near the start, it was a comforting sign of home.

The energy in Hopkinton was palpable… literally. We were crammed into our corrals tightly, like lobsters in a tank, awaiting our fate under the heat of the intensifying sun. But this was Boston, baby. The spectacle of the race and its history trumped all. After the national anthem and military helicopter flyover, the gun was fired and we were off.

The first few miles are a steady downhill, which can be traumatic if you run them too hard. I took it pretty easy in this section, giving my legs a chance to warm up. For the most part, Torrey, Chris, and I stayed together, occasionally losing contact for brief periods as the crowd spread out, but then regaining cohesion after some shuffling. Though I am typically a camel, today was warm and there were many miles to go, so I religiously grabbed a cup of water at every aid station in an attempt to stay hydrated. This would prove to be a very warm marathon, as temperatures stayed in the low-to-mid 70s for the first 20 miles. The clear skies, lack of shade, and very low humidity only amplified the conditions.

Once we entered Framingham (mile 6), the crowds really began to grow. The course leveled out and our pace had settled into a nice rhythm around 6:00/mile. Through Framingham and into Natick, we forged ahead. With three lizards abreast, we had officially constituted a “lounge” of lizards… or at least a cadre of slightly-obsessive aging runners dressed in matching red singlets, all wearing sunglasses, and 3000 miles from home. This should have provided enough inspiration to keep us all on track for an epic day!

Through Natick and into Wellesley we plodded on, hoping to defy the heat and impress the ladies awaiting us in the scream tunnel. But the sun and the heat had different plans for our group this day. Like lobsters on the stove, we were slowly being cooked and our team of three had begun to splinter even before reaching Wellesley College. Perhaps I should have stopped for a kiss, but my mind had begun to drift into survival mode. Through Wellesley and into Newton I drifted. My dark time was coming early.

Despite months of high mileage and countless long runs, I could feel my body beginning to rebel at a surprisingly-early point in the race. I had underestimated the impact of the heat and dehydration and knew those final 10 miles would be rough. But the crowds, oh, the crowds! Those final 10 miles seemed like a never-ending sea of spectators, all of whom were clearly in a much better mood than I! At this point, I abandoned my time goals and tried to enjoy the experience of Boston, albeit through a shell of pain and discomfort that casts a murky cloud over the memory now.

After several walking breaks along Heartbreak Hill and down the backside into Brookline, I was finally able to rehydrate enough to regain some composure and pick up the pace again. With 3 miles to go, the mental math began. A PR was impossible now, but I still had a solid shot at keeping it well under 3 hours. So as the leg strength returned, I focused on finishing strong and regaining position. Though badly scalded, this lobster had escaped the pot and was making a mad dash for freedom.

The final turn onto Boylston was magical. Yes, the crowds were unreal. Yes, the noise was deafening. But that bloody FINISH sign was like an optical illusion. Was I falling into a black hole, with time slowing down as I accelerated towards my final destination? Why is it not getting any closer???

I had lost track of how many countless people passed me during my dark time at Boston. And I had also lost track of how many people I passed in my frenzied sprint down that final mind-bending tunnel. But things in this universe have a way of working out sometimes.

I came into this race seeded 619th… and I finished exactly 619th. Hmmm, what are the odds?

So while I may have missed my original time goal that day, I take special pride in knowing that I pulled off a statistically-improbable act of precision in one of our sport’s largest and most historic events. Cool. Time to celebrate with another lobster…

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