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Also Ran, Part 8

By Rohit Grover

When I got the acceptance email to Boston 2019, my Mum said she’d be my sponsor and paid for airfare, so Theresa Hailey wasn’t the only sponsored member of Team Red Lizard at Boston. I wrote to my friend Chinmay I’d be in the area, hoping we’d be able to meet, but he responded with an invitation to stay at his house in Melrose, MA. This meant I could not only save on hotel costs, but also have ready access to a kitchen and control what I ate before the race much better than I would be able to otherwise.

Training for Boston went well …

I had planned to hit the same weekly mileage as Chicago, with a mix of half-marathons and back-to-back long runs. I hit a half-marathon PR in December at Holiday Half before taking a break ahead of Boston training, and another PR at the start of training at Cascade Half, both big confidence boosts. I’d also got a good result at the Y2K half immediately after the break, though it left me very sore and needing a refresher course in strengthening exercises.

… until it didn’t.

Five weeks before Boston, I had two long runs left. I decided road runs would be boring, so I elected to run in Forest Park and run Leif end-to-end-to-end. I loaded up some music on my watch and took off. After 3 hours of listening to some Radiolab, All Songs Considered, The Beatles, and Crunk Hits Vol. 2, I was sore, but not too bad. I got through a couple more days of training but by Wednesday I couldn’t walk, and had a swelling down my left side. I was forced to take a few days off. After some Thai massage with DJ (club member DJ DeAustria) and a chiropractic session with former club member Dr. Steve Hanson, I came back to running gingerly and slowly about 5 days later. I managed to complete the last long run and started the taper.

Fortunately, by the end of the taper, I was feeling great, though I still felt a bit tentative about my left hip flexor – the fear of re-injuring it was constantly on my mind.

Just before I left for Boston, my daughter asked me what my goal was …

“I’d be really embarrassed if I died on the course.”
“You’re not going to die!”
“Yes, I am.”
(Pause) “Oh.”


I flew to Boston Thursday night, reached Chinmay’s house on Friday morning, got in a shakeout run with Chinmay, and started the process of catching up on nearly 20 years of life. One of the wonderful things about friendships is when you can pick up right where you left off, which is exactly what we did – swapping stories of professors from IIT Bombay, and where various classmates were. Chinmay and I were best friends from middle school through college, but had lost touch after moving to the US, other than the yearly email exchanges on our birthdays.

After I’d caught up on sleep, I went off to the expo. I hadn’t expected to meet any friends there, but ran into friends from Oregon, and we walked the expo together. I also gave in and bought the jacket, partly because my friends let me cut in line – they’d been in line for 45 min.

The race organizers had been sending increasingly frantic emails every day warning participants that race conditions were likely to be like 2018. The weather prediction was for temperatures in the 40s in the morning, with the leading edge of a storm along the course, with snow expected in the afternoon. I had layers ready for deployment.

However, by Sunday night, it looked like the temperatures would be a manageable 50 degrees, with occasional rain …. I’d trained for exactly that weather in Oregon! Chinmay gave me some old t-shirts to wear to the race start and discard, and I decided to forego my Lizard singlet for a much lighter singlet (I did use my Lizard socks).


Race morning arrived. My toenails – damaged from Chicago – had peeled off the night before, exposing fresh soft nails underneath. No aches or pains. I chose to interpret this as a sign that my body was ready for the race (it wasn’t).

Melrose is a surprisingly convenient home base for the Boston Marathon – located about 30 min from downtown by train. I followed some fellow runners from the train to bagdrop, and settled into the bus. As we drove to Hopkinton, the rain came down with a vengeance – people waiting for the next set of shuttles were probably drenched. However, when we reached Hopkinton, the rain had died down to a drizzle. Over the next two hours, I tried to relax in the tent, and chomped down a couple of bagels. And then it was time to make our way to the start corrals.

By this time the rain had completely died down, the temperature had climbed into the low 60s, and the air was generally muggy and thick. The call came for female elites to head to the start at 9:15 am, and the proceedings got under way. The rest of us started heading to the start corrals soon after. As we walked to the corrals, I overheard the guy next to me talking about his goal time, and realized he was shooting for a pace slightly faster than I was, so I asked him if I could run with him – he was kind enough to agree.

After about 15 minutes in the start corrals, the elites took off, and at 10:02 am it was time for wave 1 (I was in wave 1, corral 3).

I stuck to my new friend, Ryan, and started well. I knew the weather would become a factor, so I kept it at a manageable pace. After the first mile, I felt settled, so didn’t try particularly hard to keep up with Ryan, especially since the first 6-8 miles were very crowded, with potential for jostling near the aid stations.

The temperature climbed steadily, and the sun came out when I was around mile 6 – I was sweating profusely and knew I was getting dehydrated. I tried to drink water at each aid station, but as the heat increased, all my best efforts failed and I had to switch to survival mode. After the first couple of gels, I couldn’t even eat my gels – started throwing up in my mouth between mile 10 and 15. I crossed the halfway mark in 1:28:21, marginally faster than Chicago. By then it was clear things weren’t going well. I maintained pace till mile 16 but then arrived the cramps, and I was forced to slow down ahead of the Newton hills. None of the hills were particularly intimidating, but of course, I was in no condition to take them on.

The Wellesley scream tunnel was amazing – I think my cramps let up just during that section. I wavered about stopping to kiss the girls, but decided I didn’t want to stop and cramp and be unable to continue. Other than that, every time I went past an aid station, I’d drink some water, and throw the rest on my head, and be able to run faster for a couple of minutes, till I got hot again. I looked for the sides of the road to be able to run in the shade, but it was of limited help.

As we neared the finish, some spectators were shouting, “It’s all clear and blue skies from ahead!” I wanted to reply that I wanted overcast conditions and rain, dammit! (But I didn’t.) Finally, it was time to turn right on Hereford, and left on Boylston.

I crossed the finish and did not collapse! I was just dizzy, and a couple of awesome volunteers walked with me till I stopped being dizzy. I drank a couple of bottles of water, ate a banana, and poured some water on my head to cool down. After 1:28:21 at halfway point, I’d finished in 3:07:35. Very, very far from negative splits.

I picked up a medal, someone draped a foil blanket on me, and I retrieved my bag.

Then it was time to go to the family meeting area where Chinmay and his family were waiting for me. Chinmay and Lynne’s son, Linus, held up a sign to cheer me and gave me a hug. I put my medal around him, but was careful to note that I’d want it back after some time (he returned it).

Then it was off to home for a shower, and the grocery store for some supplies – I wanted to cook for my friends – and the wine store for some New England IPA and Oregon wine. Dinner on Monday was a version of Cape Malay Curry, and Tuesday was my adaptation of Samin Nusrat’s buttermilk chicken.

If it were easy, they wouldn’t call it difficult.

The race kicked my butt, but I was with friends, there were long conversations to be had, Pokemon to be played and books to be read with Linus, and I was not yet dead.

The celebration would continue when I got back to Oregon. My Mum said she’d sponsor me for Boston 2020, so I guess I’ll be running it again.

PS: Linus, if you ever read this, I know you cheated at Pokemon.


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