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MIT student blogger Sam M. '07

Go, ninja, go. by Sam M. '07

A four hour tour of Boston, with Gilligan, and the Skipper too.

UPDATE — April 16, 2011 — Five years ago I ran the Boston Marathon bandit and posted a mile-by-mile account in this blog entry. It was pretty exciting. My parents drove up from Harrisburg to watch me. My friends painted their chests to read GO SAM! I ran it with Mitra, my best friend from college and probably my best friend from MIT to this day. We got our picture on the front page of The Tech. It was kind of cathartic; I was a chunky kid in high school and standing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon looking up at my time made me feel like I was standing on the threshold of a new world of possibilities, like I could really achieve anything in the world, mental or physical, if I just put some time and training into it.

In the past five years I’ve done a lot of thinking, I’ve done a lot more running, I’ve read a lot of accounts from legitimate Boston runners, I’ve run (and paid for) a few other marathons, and I’ve come to the following conclusion: running the Boston Marathon bandit is a bad idea. Not only do bandit runners like me steal physical resources (water, road closure, medical facilities) paid for by the entry fees of legitimate runners, we also steal the prestige that those runners earn by training hard enough to qualify for Boston. There’s a reason that Boston is the most famous, most elite marathon in the world, and the only one that anyone runs bandit–you have to qualify for it. You have to run really fast just to get into Boston. I feel kind of dumb now thinking that my moment of ultimate catharsis came standing under a clock that was displaying a time over an hour slower than the qualifying time. What I did wasn’t impressive. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon and running it officially–that’s impressive.

So, yo, I’m talking to you, Greater Boston college student thinking about running bandit. Maybe you know some people who did it last year. Maybe your friends have promised to take the bus out to Wellesley to cheer you on. Maybe your parents promised to come up and watch you. Maybe you’re thinking about training really hard. Maybe you have something to prove to yourself.

Don’t do it.

If you want to run a marathon–there’s a nice one in Cape Cod. Take the Bolt Bus down to New York (not the Chinatown bus, that one might explode). I bet your hometown has a nice marathon for you to run, and then your parents won’t have to make the trek all the way up to Boston. You’ll still get in great shape, you’ll still feel great at the finish line, you’ll still have a lot of people cheering you on, and I promise that it will all be a lot more fun than wandering around the woods in Hopkinton at 6 AM trying to sneak by cops. If you absolutely, positively must high-five your 8.01 TA in Kenmore Square, there are a lot of charities for whom you can raise money to circumvent the qualifying time. You’re still not quite really running the Boston Marathon, but, hey, at least some money went to a good place.

I’ve thought about taking this entry down in the past, because now, five years later, I have a completely different outlook on everything that I talk about here. But, well, getting into running, doing some training, and running Boston bandit was–for better or for worse–kind of a defining experience of my time at MIT. So, anyway, take this for what it is: a snapshot in the life of a twenty-year-old student who didn’t know much about the world, who was doing something that really made him excited when he was twenty, but who would come to think better of it by the time he was twenty-five.

DID YOU KNOW? Ultramarathon runner Pam Reed of Tuscon, Arizona was the first person in history, of either gender, to run 300 miles without sleep. It took her almost 80 hours.

But me? Well, I just ran one marathon. One more entry about it and then we can get back to my regularly scheduled blogging. Here’s some pictures and a mile-by-mile recap of what was going on inside my head.

Mile -20 — Back at MIT, I have a delicious breakfast of three servings of steel-cut oatmeal (introduced to me by my personal hero Alton Brown) and an Odwalla Bar. Mmm, carbs. This was after an Italian dinner at Bertucci’s the night before, which I began with an appetizer of 5 complimentary rolls.

Mile 0 — So, apparently they have people in army fatigues along the side of the road to deter bandits. After meeting up, quite fortuitously, with fellow bandit Kyle ’08, who had considerable experience in banditry, we headed far enough down the road that there were no longer any armed guards, waited for the second wave of runners to come by, and hopped in somewhat arbitrarily around number 13,000. “Oh my God, we’re running the Boston Marathon!” said I, giddily.

Mile 2 — So, since it was 55 degrees outside, and since I had sent an e-mail for my floor asking for their support in Kenmore Square, I thought that it would be a good idea to wear my long-sleeve, heavy cotton, black, one-size-too-small floor shirt to the marathon.

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It’s pretty cool! It says “Conner 2” on the front and “Varsity Apple Bake” on the back.

Note that I am emulating MIT’s mascot, Tim the Beaver, in the above photograph.

…anyway, around the beginning of Mile 2, I had stripped it off and tied it around my waste. A few minutes later, I chucked it into some lucky Hopkintonian’s yard.

Mile 4 — Mitra had the forethought to go to The Coop and buy a red MIT tank-top on Friday. So, the entire race people along the sidelines were yelling, “Yeah, MIT!” and I pretended that they were cheering for me too.

Anyway, Mile 4 was the only time somebody yelled “Yeah, shirtless guy!” I was so happy that I jumped up into the air with my arms outstretched. Somebody else yelled, “Yeah, Jumpy!”

And that was all the cheering that I would personally get for a while.

Mile 5 — This is about the first time we heard, “Yeah, Mit!” Pronounced as in “baseball mitt.” We never figured out whether it’s a Bostonian colloquialism or if somebody thought that this was really Mitra’s name.

Mile 7 — It was around here that I realized that there are really going to be people lined up the ENITRE ROUTE cheering you on. Okay, maybe it’s like that for every major marathon in the world… but, seriously, this thing is huge! Non-stop yelling. Live rock bands playing Rush (heh)! Girls chanting the Michael Jackson classic “Come on, don’t stop now! Don’t stop ’til you get enough!” in unison! People hand out orange slices, ice pops, sponges, little popsicle sticks covered in vaseline (I was really disappointed to find out it was this, and not popsicles). If you ever feel down or lonely, just run over to the side of the road and get a high-five from one of the hundreds of people there. That’s what really made this such an awesome experience for me–feeling beloved by tens of thousands of people along a 26.2-mile stretch of road in Massachusetts. Because I am a famewhore.

Mile 13 — This is Wellesley. Now, I’ve been to Wellesley once before, and it’s beautiful, but I didn’t really know what to expect here. Basically, Wellesley is one giant scream for about a mile and a half. The entire population of the college, seemingly, comes out, pressed against the barriers in a crowd as dense as a neutron star, screaming for you in one cacophonic birdsong, and screaming extra-loud for your college shirt. About a third of them are carrying posters that offer you hugs, kisses, or other things in that vein. One even offered kisses specifically to gay runners, and I thought briefly about taking her up on the offer, but figured that she probably wanted to kiss gay girls instead.

Mile 15 — This is where I had lunch–two bites of an Odwalla SuperProtein Bar, half a banana provided by friendly spectators, and gatorade.

Sam’s Mom said that she would never take food from strange people along the Boston Marathon route, but I guess we’re really pretty diffrerent people anyway.

Mile 17 — So, this is where the hills start, and where I first uttered, “Come on, Mitra, if we just get up this hill it’s downhill the rest of the way.” Technically true, yes, but said hill lasted for about the next three miles.

This is also where I hit “the wall,” so to speak. I’d run 17 miles before without really breaking down or anything, so I was wondering what it would feel like. Basically, it felt like somebody threw a curtain over me, and then I felt like I was falling asleep, as I was running, and then I started crying. But only for a few seconds.

I don’t know, your mileage may vary.

Mile 18 — This is where the guy in the gorilla suit jumped in, and I said, “Come on, Mitra, we can’t let the gorilla beat us! He’s not even a biped!” Because I had done a 20-page paper on the evolution of hominid bipedalism for AP Bio, and so I know such things.

Mile 19 — If memory serves me correctly, this is where they started handing out “PowerGel” or something like that. Whatever it was, it was basically a tube of frosting spiked with caffeine. I was impressed; they have about 10 different kiosks so you can choose your preferred flavor and dosage of caffeine (maximum). Well, I guess if you were a Mormon or something.

Mile 21 — So we just got over the so-called “Heartbreak Hill,” where Sam’s Mom and my dad were waiting from around 2 PM to the time we finished. Sam’s Mom didn’t end up seeing us, but it is a big, busy, loud road, so it’s pretty much understandable. She does, however, claim that she took a picture of somebody who she thought looked like me, except that she didn’t think I had a beard when she dropped me off. The only such picture that I could find on my camera was this one:

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…however, Sam’s Mom is a pretty smart cookie, and I think she would also have enough sense to realize that I was probably not juggling for the entire marathon, like that guy was.

Mile 23 — This was the first “Sam!” I heard. My entourage in Kenmore Square had planted Maryann ’06 and Russell about two miles upstream at Tufts to let them know we were coming. I ran over to the side of and said “You guys are awesome! I love you!” I get the impression that’s how most people feel around Mile 23 of a marathon.

Mile 25 — “Mitra…” said I. “Let’s take a break before Kenmore Square. I want to look happy if there are a lot of people there to see us.” So, we walk for about a minute and a half, and then start on our (relative) sprint to the finish.

And, well, I guess we looked okay, all things considered:

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Mile 25.5 — The first person I saw was Javier ’08, who was waiting at the front of the crowd to get a picture. Then I saw all the people Mitra invited. I pointed them out, so we could run over and give them all high-fives, since that side of the street was conspicuously empty. I turned around to yell “You guys are awesome!” then looked forward again to see all the people I invited. Bobby ’05 ran alongside us for a little bit, but we lost track of him in the crowd. Anyway, his girlfriend Alicia ’06 way outran him anyway. Then we saw people who I didn’t even know were coming and told them they were awesome too. Then we saw one of Mitra’s TAs.

Then, at the end of the Kenmore Square crowd:

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…Gina ’09, Gina’s two siblings, who I never actually met either before or after the marathon, and Moria ’06. Wow. Thanks, guys.

Mile 26 — And this is where JKuo yells “Mitra!” and jumps over the huge iron barrier separating the Hereford Street spectators from the runners, and then starts running in front of us, backwards, taking pictures. And that’s how I got my new facebook picture:

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…now, without sounding egotistical, I think that Mitra and I would usually would be able to run faster than a girl in a track suit carrying a backpack and a camera pack, taking pictures, running backwards. Maybe it was the other 26 miles of running, or maybe it was my desire to have this occasion photojournalized for all eternity, but whatever the cause, our slow, slow approach to the finish down Boylston Street was one of the most joyous occasions of my life, and one of the only times I’ve ever cried tears of joy, or at least I would have, but I think my body had produced so much sweat that it didn’t have any more tears left.

And then I realized that 55 degrees was still pretty cold to be walking around in only track shorts, if you’re not running a marathon or anything. So, I grabbed a free Subaru shirt from some promotional booth, and headed off into the Boston sunset as a seasoned marathoner and walking advertisement.

Okay, guys. This time last year the only German word I knew was “Schadenfreude“, and I had never run more than 1.25 miles in my life, and that was only so I wouldn’t fail gym and get an angry letter from Marilee Jones asking why I was failing classes . Now I just ran the most famous marathon in the world last weekend, and in just about a month I’ll be leaving for a sweet internship with Bayer thanks to the efforts of the MISTI program. I’m living dreams now that I didn’t even think I’d have when I got to college.

You don’t have to go to MIT to do that, but it couldn’t hurt.

12 responses to “Go, ninja, go.”

  1. Mikey says:

    sweet post. as always, you crack me up sam. : D

  2. Ruth says:

    You didn’t hug and scream affection for everyone…

    Matt and I were stuck on the other side of the road. It takes 20 minutes to cross Commonwealth during the marathon.

    But yay for Sam nonetheless!

  3. Hema says:

    Hi SAM ,

    could u help me on this , I was reading Ann’s Blog and today I can’t find it anywhere & I just wondering If u can tell where Can I find it, Because It contain alot of Informtion for International students ,

    thanks

  4. Hema says:

    Hey Sam ,

    Thanks , but I’ve Tried to Enter The Ann.mitblog.com many times And It not open , I think the blog removed ,I just want to know If there’re other Places or web-Sites that can Find the Ann blog’s Enteries Archive

  5. Brianna says:

    This is absolutely amazing.

    I’ve resolved to run the Boston Marathon next year…and I’m all for “PowerGel” too.

    Is it easy to find a running buddy? I’m currently a pre-frosh and I’m in between choosing to run on the team or just doing something intramural and running on the side.

    And Good Eats is wonderful. My family cooks the steel cut oatmeal!

  6. nehalita says:

    I love the conclusion. Especially the last line.

    Congrats on the great time!

  7. JKim says:

    Okay, I could never, EVER do that in a million years. You crazy kids :D

    Congrats on even FINISHING!

  8. lahl says:

    That’s so awesome! How long did you train, and what did training consist of?

  9. Anonymous says:

    “Note that I am emulating MIT’s mascot, Tim the Beaver, in the above photograph.”

    for some reason, this one cracked me up big time…lolz

  10. Shana's Mom says:

    Sam–You made me laugh and cry. You really are fabulous.

  11. Sam says:

    gm, Mikey, Shana’s Mom, anonymous, nehalita, JKim — Thanks! You could do it, too! Believe in yourselves!

    Ruth — Sorry, we saw Javi first! Don’t worry, we missed seeing both of our mothers along the route too, so you weren’t the only one who missed out.

    Hema — Yes, it actually turns out that Ann’s site has been taken down. Sorry for the misunderstanding; I only recently became aware of this.

    lahl — I just started running last year around this time. I started off running 3-4 miles a day. By the summer, I was running 3-6 miles a day. I started doing long runs up to 12 miles last term, and this term I did longer ones. I would run 4-5 days a week for a total of 30-35 miles. Every week I would do a long run on the order of 12 – 17 miles. It wasn’t a huge huge commitment, but I’m really glad that I trained! It wasn’t nearly as taxing as I thought it would be, probably because I had done 17 about 4 times before running it. Next year, I’m training even harder and working for a good time!

    Brianna — I’ve never run for any team before. Just convince another frosh that it’ll be a great way to put off the Freshman 15! Or look for an upperclassman who has nothing to do and wants to make up a dream. I don’t think it’ll be that hard to find someone. It actually gets pretty hard when the weather gets cold, especially when everybody starts going to the gym after New Year’s. The resolutions eventually taper off, though.