Runners Feed writer and Boston College graduate, Nikki Tufts, shares a college student’s perspective of Marathon Monday and the days leading up to it…
Well folks, this is it! We are a mere two days away from the world’s oldest annual marathon. April 18th 2011 will mark the 115th Boston Marathon and, as we enter this final stretch, runners and college students alike could not be more excited. I went to school in Boston (Boston College/BC), it was a great school; good academics, good athletics, yadda yadda….but what made this campus so very special was its location. Perched right at the top of the infamous Heartbreak Hill at lucky mile 21, there stands BC. This location makes the Boston Marathon a pivotal day in the lives of its participants (both runners and BC college students). Ask any runner their favourite part of the marathon course and the majority will tell you it is the energy in those miles near BC’s campus (insert overly excited drunk students here). Likewise, ask any students on campus their favourite day of the year and they will tell you, without hesitation: “Marathon Monday, of course!”
I have had the privilege of being in Boston for the past 6 Boston Marathons and, every year, I witness the city undergoing major transformations during this final week leading up to race day; billboards spring up out of nowhere, Porta-Potties outnumber Dunkin’ Donuts and, suddenly, it’s like invasion of the fit people. The week leading up to race day also sees transformations unfold in other forms. Runners, knowing that all of the work is done by this point, alter their training so that their body and mind are in peak condition come race day. College students, well, let’s just say their mind and bodies go through a transformation of their own. The week leading up to the Boston Marathon always fascinated me because I had the unique experience of witnessing it through the lens of both a college student and a competitive runner. Because of this combination, in that final week, I watched in awe as these two starkly different worlds orbited the city until they would inevitably collide in one epic day; Marathon Monday, the biggest self sacrificing-drunk fest-sweat dripping- heart throbbing – gut wrenching day of the year. Here is a little recap of what I witnessed:
Day 5: It’s just that good Hydration
It is important for runner’s to stay well hydrated throughout the week leading up to their race. While you can’t wait until the day before to hydrate (think of your body as a sponge), you’d think Boston had turned into a desert watching all of these visiting runner’s cling to their water bottles as if that very bottle housed the last drops of water on earth. Meanwhile, college students splurge on their meal cards as they strategically plan their water and Gatorade consumption over the next few days to ensure that their bodies are in peak hydration so as to not interfere with their blood alcohol levels on Monday.
Day 4: The Finesse Factor
Runners steer away from mileage and instead focus on shorter runs comprised of pace work and faster intervals at this point. It is common to see runners familiarizing themselves with the course as they leave students sitting on the always unreliable and slow moving public transit in their dust. Meanwhile, in hopes of overcoming feelings of staleness themselves, it is not uncommon to hear strategizing and cheering behind closed dorm room doors as students practice their flip cup and beer pong techniques. Identifying the weakest link and determining who to draft off is crucial to securing a win on the big day.
Day 3: The Carbo Load
In anticipation of depleting the body of all its energy during the race, runners need to incorporate more carbohydrate rich foods into their diets throughout the week to ensure optimal levels of nutrients. When these runners come to town, Italian restaurants are more popular than rat tails in the 80’s. If you don’t have your reservations booked for the 2012 marathon, I would seriously considering calling now. Similarly, to ensure optimal pre, mid and, post drinking snacks, this is one area college students have down to a science. By mid-week, the dining hall shelves are left barren as students stock up on the standard munchies (who doesn’t love Tostitos and salsa to compliment a nice, warm Busch Light?!) Furthermore, each year, the dining hall receives requests earlier and earlier for an increased production of mozzarella sticks to be ready at promptly 4:00pm on Marathon Monday. The student’s preparation and organization in this area is commendable, really.
Day 2: Loose n’ Limber
Runners come to Boston from far and wide for this race. With travel, it is especially important to keep the muscles loose and relaxed. If a non-runner is to walk around downtown Boston this week they would think they were taking crazy pills. You cannot walk one block without seeing someone stop mid stride to fling their leg up on ledge or thrust their butt out as if they are trying to sit in an invisible chair. As runner’s, we know that when the need for a good stretch comes on or, we spot a ledge that is the perfect height for a solid hamstring stretch, we must seize this opportunity under any circumstance. As for college students, they find their own ways to stay loose and limber and that I will not get into during this article.
Day 1: Last Minute Prep
To avoid feeling rushed on race day, runners prepare everything they will need the night before. Setting out what clothes they are going to wear, having gels and fluids packed and, setting five alarm clocks are all ways to reduce stress on the big day. Students also prepare the night before but, in a slightly different way. Every year there is a mad rush to Gimbels, the local liquor store, where cases of Busch Light and Natty Ice are purchased in absurd amounts. Ping pong balls are dug out of the closets and dusted off, solo cups are uncased and beer pong tables are laid. Preparation complete.
After tossing and turning, runners and college students wake up anxious for what lies ahead. Marathon Monday has arrived and it will see individual’s limits being stretched in ways they had never dreamt of before. When that gun goes off, only 21 miles separates these two worlds from colliding. It may be ironic that for the runner, Marathon Monday represents a monumental feat of both mind and body while, for the student, this very same day represents the biggest drunk-fest day of the year. However, there is no denying that when these two worlds do meet, the eruption of energy and inspiration that fills the air is completely indescribable. The days leading up to Marathon Monday weren’t easy; they required immense dedication and preparation from all but, in the end, without fail, it pays off each year as the runners and students dig deep within and bring the noise!