36 Hours in Boston — 2017 Boston Marathon
August 7 2017
Boston, MA, USA
“I’ll be at my hotel in Southborough by 7 or 8pm…the latest”. That is the plan; it doesn’t last long. It doesn’t even last the train leaving Penn Station at 2:40am. This is the story of my 36 hours—it isn’t actually 36 hours—in Boston for the 2017 Boston Marathon. Well, most of 36 hours in Boston. Some of it is fuzzy. A lot of it is fuzzy. Most of it is fuzzy.
The initial plan:
- NYC > Boston Train 66 2:40am ~ 7:58am
- Meet Dom for breakfast
- Pickup bike
- Bike in reverse over the Boston Marathon route to start line
- Track Dom during the race into finish
- Party like it’s 1999
- Boston Train > NYC 67 9:30pm ~ 6:30am
Piece. Of. Cake. Ha!
While in Brooklyn the plan balloons to include the Red Sox game. Big deal. It’ll just be a later start out of town. I’ll enjoy the biking in the cooler evening. Yeah…that’s the kind of stuff ignorance lets you believe.
Chance encounters leading to chasing sweat up and down stairs in the 86F (30C) sun with choking humidity after schedule changes leading to extra KM’s alongside the noodle soup that are Boston streets, too much gear, heat induced poor decisions and compound interest on all of the above…a hot mess.
My Sunday before the Boston Marathon didn’t make it to Wellesley College, and ends with my head in a toilet bowl around 2am.
A hot mess.
I really know how to party before covering a marathon. Enjoy the shit show that is my 2017 Boston Marathon.
Unexpected 2:30am Penn Station rendezvous with new friends before the red eye to Boston really cements the idea that sometimes the world just puts people in your life that you should spend time with. It’s these chance encounters that have to make you wonder about how this whole thing called life works.
02:36:54 am on 16.04.2017 — f2 @ 24mm iso4000
That red eye sunrise from NYC to Boston waking me up on the way into Boston aboard Amtrak early Sunday morning that includes little to no sleep. Typically not an issue, but this didn’t help me on this particular occasion. Half step of my demise.
07:15:06 am on 16.04.2017 — f2.8 @ 24mm iso400
Walking from South Station out to MIT, you can’t hide from the marathon. It is a flood engulfing all of Boston proper. People running in blocked off streets. Boston Marathon runners in their shiny new royal blue 2017 Boston Marathon jackets with stripes shaded darker, and lighter, blue flashing over the shoulder—rubbernecking everywhere they stroll.
08:01:54 am on 16.04.2017 — f8 @ 14mm iso200
I can’t just walk by Tracksmith. I mean, it’s the Tracksmith Running Trackhouse. Not just something you dismissively walk by when in Boston. Evidently, I am not the only one who needs to take a gander at the goods.
08:29:22 am on 16.04.2017 — f2 @ 135mm iso250
I meet with Mr. Dominic Rankel less than a mile from the finish line on Newbury St. as I make my way west towards Harvard. We have breakfast and chat about Dom’s race prep and how he is feeling. I came to Boston today to capture Dominic’s race, and get photo’s of him and his dad on the race course. Sounds simple…right?
09:53:52 am on 16.04.2017 — f2.5 @ 24mm iso50
Shuffling to and from Cambridge out to Harvard due to a re-schedule and my lack of a cell phone, I am now 13km’s of walking into my day, and the temperature is climbing consistently. I finally roll up to Harvard Stadium just in time to catch the NP’ers in the now blistering hot sun. You don’t forget the first time you stand at the top center of the horseshoe of Harvard Stadium looking north-east toward Harvard campus.
12:58:10 pm on 16.04.2017 — f2.5 @ 24mm iso200
An absolute scorcher of a day is the byproduct of the glorious sun at the peak of this pig roast. Chasing folks up and down the stadium, might not have been my best choice, but look at this place. The bright sun and harsh shadows make for some pretty incredible photos. I don’t actually do the workout, but my Garmin tells me I get a solid 4.98km’s in during the workout. Now getting close to 20km’s on my feet, and it’s not even 2pm. What could possibly go wrong?
01:03:22 pm on 16.04.2017 — f2.2 @ 135mm iso200
The out-of-towners make it an extra fun work with the likes of Rob “puffy” McCombs finishing up his work a couple sections from the finish. Anyone who’s seen me work, knows I am like a predator hunting. Literally stalking the photos I see. This stadium in this light with these shadows is an immediate trigger and I don’t stop moving the entire time.
Step one of my demise is hustling to get photos of the workout in the heat of the day at Harvard Stadium. It is totally worth it; peep the full set of photos: NP @ Harvard Stadium
01:20:00 pm on 16.04.2017 — f2 @ 24mm iso200
Directly from Harvard Stadium, I hustle through the busy streets of Boston on my State Bicycle over to Fenway Park to try and find some runners to interview about the Boston Marathon. I’m a big baseball fan, but even if you aren’t, the annual weekend isn’t complete without taking in a Red Sox game Saturday or Sunday before the big day on Monday. Like baseball, it’s tradition. I want to combine two of my loves, running and baseball.
02:49:58 pm on 16.04.2017 — f2.8 @ 14mm iso50
How to spot a runner. Ben Cook mistakes me for another photographer as he approaches in the upper concourse in right field as I head to the Bud Deck at Fenway Park. I suppose it’s fair, I’ve got a camera out and I’m clearly looking for a shot. Little does Ben know that I may not be the photographer he is looking for, but he is exactly the runner I am looking for. As mentioned, I came to Fenway Park the day before the marathon in hopes of talking to some runners participating in one of the biggest marathons in the world.
04:06:51 pm on 16.04.2017 — f2 @ 135mm iso50
Ben is going to run a 2:55:00 tomorrow if conditions are ideal. It isn’t suppose to be as hot, so it’s hard to tell what he’ll actually run, but sub-3 hours is in order. Ben is the type of runner that clocks 80 miles a week (125’ish km/week), and is expanding his running into ultra’s this year. A devout baseball fan, hitting Fenway is a no-brainer when running Boston. I wish Ben luck and continue on my afternoon taking cover in the shaded areas of the ballpark when I get the chance. It doesn’t help. I’m slowly cooking inside and don’t know it.
04:08:38 pm on 16.04.2017 — f2.2 @ 135mm iso50
Circling the lower concourse near section 25, I want a photo of the green monster in focus and exposed properly, and silhouettes of a crowded tunnel in the foreground for an “end of game” photo. As I circle I don’t see quite what I want and then I see them. The cutest of cute couple’s looking into each others eyes in a manner that screams something more is going on. I start composing in the viewfinder, adjust exposure, and have a few frames fired off before I even think about it.
05:16:03 pm on 16.04.2017 — f2 @ 135mm iso200
When the crowd rises near the last out in the 9th, I keep firing frames and move in closer having got the shot I want with the tunnel. I wasn’t looking for this. I’ll never see anything like this again at a ball game, but it’s what baseball is all about. 81 home games a season. If you go to every single one, and look for something unique, you’ll find it. You never know what a day at the park will bring. They keep being cute, I keep taking photos being careful not to be noticed. I hand them a note with my contact info before I lose them in the crowd. “Please…just don’t be weird about it, and contact me” I think to myself as I wander off toward my bike locked up near somewhere.
05:20:15 pm on 16.04.2017 — f2.5 @ 135mm iso200
My suspicions are correct and the moments I captured aren’t your typical ballpark date night photos. On Instagram a couple days later, the woman in the photos comments that I captured the moment he proposed. I obviously package up a set of photos I captured and send them to the couple. I am now off on a little bike ride out to the start line some 40km’s west.
Step two of my demise. Spending the entire afternoon at Fenway running around, and apparently not drinking enough water or eating enough hot dogs. The Garmin has me walking almost 8km’s total at Fenway, now over 27km total for the day on my feet. I’ve only biked 13km’s at this point.
05:20:38 pm on 16.04.2017 — f2.5 @ 135mm iso200
Moving around Boston during the marathon weekend is a nightmare. Moving around Boston any time is a nightmare, and I am a fan of sticking to what you know. A fixed gear bike. Thank-you so very much Ben from Cambridge Bicycle for going out of his way to rent me a bike I wanted.
Renting a fixie is harder than you think. I can’t thank Ben enough for hooking me up!
Step three of my demise. Biking some 80KM’s with 50lbs of gear in a backpack to cover a race is never a plan. It’s a bad plan. I’ll likely attempt far worse plans in the near future. I’m quite certain of it. In fact, I will do so on this same bloody trip: https://jodybailey.ca/2017-bmo-vancouver-marathon/
05:28:54 pm on 16.04.2017 — f2.8 @ 135mm iso50
This is all I have from the time I leave Harvard Stadium, until I find myself throwing up in my Boston Hotel bathroom to cap my night. I keep stopping my watch and forget to start it a number of times, so I don’t have a full account of the events. But from what I can recall, I get through Newton Centre, but never make it to Wellesley College. I get lost a few times trying to go off course to find workarounds for spots I won’t be able to follow the course.
At some point I decide to turn back—for whatever reason—and am not even sure where back is. I stop at Boston College around midnight on the way back when it starts to pour rain and take shelter in the home team dugout at the baseball field there after hopping a fence. I’ll just eat a bar and wait it out is the plan. I pass out before I even sit down.
When I wake up an hour later—unwrapped Cliff bar in hand—I have the first productive thought in a few hours and realize I need a hotel room, now…like…right now. Starbucks leaves their wifi on after close thankfully, so I can find and book a room. A very short painful night later, a stop at Whole Foods for every bottle of liquid everything they have first thing in the AM, and I am on the road to Mile 18 the morning of the Boston Marathon.
Mile 18 at the Boston Marathon. It is like nothing you’ve ever experienced at a race before. First off, it’s the Boston freakin’ Marathon. Second, it’s the loudest, largest, energyest cheer station you’ll ever damn see. The energy that comes from the November Project folks is electric and I get countless photos of runners almost brought to tears of gratitude as they pass through the gauntlet of love and positivity.
12:49:56 pm on 17.04.2017 — f3.2 @ 300mm iso200
Matt Powers takes a break from rolling around the Mile 18 NP cheer station to take a little break. Okay, so maybe he is lining up a shot. Like Pow, I too work hard to find new and interesting angles. It is new for me to be so stationary for a race, and not moving around on course. I do a fair bit of laying on the ground myself throughout the day.
11:27:39 am on 17.04.2017 — f3.2 @ 300mm iso160
Paul Leak is on top of his cheer game right from the hop. The lead packs have just come through Mile 18 at the Boston Marathon, and runners who finish top 50 are filtering through now. The cheer station is starting to really get packed in anticipation for the wave of runners about to start filling the street in front of us. Shit is about to get real.
11:32:55 am on 17.04.2017 — f3.2 @ 300mm iso200
All. The. Hugs. It is a November Project cheer station after all.
11:34:19 am on 17.04.2017 — f3.2 @ 300mm iso200
Multiple time US 50 km champion, Michael Wardian comes through the Mile 18 cheer station with his left hand up because he ain’t too cool for school as this elite ultra-marathoner even knows that you get a little battery recharge by staying left at Mile 18 of the Boston Marathon. Michael would finish 45th overall at 2:27:45. So many of the fast runners can’t resist the energy of staying left at Mile 18 despite racing at the top level.
11:39:31 am on 17.04.2017 — f3.2 @ 300mm iso200
The man, the myth, the legend…Mr Brogan Graham. Today is my very first Brogan Experience. I have a ton of photos of Brogan because he is at the forefront of the chaos that is Mile 18. Every single runner passing get’s the 100% Brogan treatment. Energy. Excitement. Cheers. High fives. Brogan sets the table that everyone here is eating at. It’s fucking amazing to witness.
11:54:54 am on 17.04.2017 — f3.2 @ 300mm iso400
The emotions displayed on the faces of runners as they come through Mile 18 are incredible. Pure elation, pain, joy, and near tears. It’s one after another after another. The energy from the large crowd of November Project’ers is unmeasurable, and those not ready for hit feel it full force if they happen to be to the left of the course.
12:12:50 pm on 17.04.2017 — f3.2 @ 300mm iso400
Mission accomplished. All I wanted was a good photo of Dom on course in Boston. Done. It is quite an impressive feat to have spotted him in the myriad of runners. Dom’s race didn’t go as planned so he comes through a lot later than expected. I am getting nervous that I missed him, but stoked when I spot that familiar stride a couple hundred meters out.
12:21:00 pm on 17.04.2017 — f3.2 @ 300mm iso400
Dom sees me now as he closes in on the cheer station and pulls left. It’s the backup plan we chatted about the day before. If I am not chasing you for most of the course, stay left at Mile 18, as that will be my backup plan. Dom nails it and I get the photos I want. The freezie in hand is a total bonus.
12:21:05 pm on 17.04.2017 — f3.2 @ 300mm iso400
Hugs and high fives on repeat. All. Day. Long.
12:39:29 pm on 17.04.2017 — f4 @ 24mm iso250
Beth Blendell knows what’s up when you stay left at Mile 18 of the Boston Marathon.
12:40:15 pm on 17.04.2017 — f3.2 @ 300mm iso400
At the end of a long day and extremely exhausting 36’ish hours where I once again bite off more than I can chew, but rally and recalibrate to come back with what I want. I can’t thank all the November Project folks from all over who make Mile 18 such a memorable experience for my first Boston Marathon. As I walk towards South Station to catch the train back to Brooklyn, I can’t wipe the smile off of my face and put my camera away after snapping this photo of a lone runner on the streets of Boston post race. She sums up how I feel right now better than I can express.
06:36:16 pm on 17.04.2017 — f3.2 @ 300mm iso1000