-- Marathon Running Information, Coaching and Advice from Coach Joe English

Coach Joe goes to Boston: Getting there.

This is the first installment in my personal journal of my experience at the 2008 Boston Marathon. My regular reader knows that I tend to write detailed, often very personal accounts, of my own races. Well with running’s most exciting weekend on tap, I figured this would be something you might like to read about. So here goes.

Chapter 1: Getting there.

Yesterday was a long, long day. Actually, it’s been a long week. I haven’t slept much and it’s been catching up with me. On Saturday night it was the London Marathon, up ’till 4:45AM watching and writing about the race. Then it was tax day on Tuesday. Hey, with a business to run and a new baby at home, those taxes just don’t file themselves. So it was 1:45AM into bed on Monday night.

Wedesday I was preparing for this trip. There was a lot to get ready. I plan to not only run the Boston Marathon on Monday, but to write about it, photograph it and capture some of it on video. Putting together the three notebook computers, three cameras, and all the accoutrements took some time and energy. And then on top of that I had to think of a way to transport the stuff that will go with me in the race, something that I’ve been working on for awhile now. Anyway, all of this added up to 1:20AM in bed on Wednesday night.

That does’t sound too bad. But our flight was at 6:00AM on Thursday morning. So after getting into bed at 1:20AM, it was up again at 3:15AM to get myself and my family out the door to the airport.

This all has left me a little tired. Thankfully, it’s only Friday today and I have a few days to catch up.

The trip almost ended at the airport. I dropped my wife Stacy and my six month old son Cash off at the curb and then headed to the parking lot to deposit my car in long-term parking, something I’ve done a million times before. In all of the times that I’ve parked at Portland’s long-term parking, it’s never taken more than say 10 minutes to catch the little bus and get back to the terminal.

On this day, however, there were about 20 people standing at the bus shelter when I got there. That’s not a good sign, I thought to myself. It got worse a minute later, when the first bus drove past us, without stopping, because it was full. A second bus did the same thing a few minutes later. I saw an empty bus coming into the lot, so I went around and got on the bus going the other direction, figuring I would then have a place on the bus, when it got back here to the exit.

That part worked. The problem was that the bus driver was the slowest, safest, most courteous person in the world. She would stop at a pick-up spot and sit there with her doors open waiting for someone that had just pulled into a spot three rows over and still needed to collect their luggage, before walking over to the bus shelter. I’ve never seen a bus driver do that, and although it would have been nice to have been on the other end of the gesture, the people on the bus with me, most of whom were also now late for their flights, were getting a bit upset.

At one point, she came back to the luggage rack and rearranged all the suitcases, so that more luggage could fit on, just in case someone came on that couldn’t manage it themselves. I’m not kidding. She was taking bags off, moving them around, and building a masterwork of luggage architecture, while the minutes ticked away.

I sent a text to Stacy at one point that said, “Freaking out. Don’t think I’m going to make it.”

That was closer to true than I thought.

Finally, the bus rolled down the road to the airport and found itself stuck in a line of cars waiting while a dumptruck re-arranged itself in a construction zone right in front of the terminal. OK, I’m down with progress and all, but do we really have to be working on the airport drive when I’m late for MY flight!

Maureen, that was the driver’s name, at last pulls up to the terminal, finding another bus sitting in the spot where she needs to drop us off. She picks up her radio and, in the nicest possible voice, requests over the radio that the supervisor radio the other driver to see if they might be able to move forward just a bit so that she could slip in behind them. Tick, tick, tick.

When the bus doors opened, I flew out of the bus and ran toward the security checkpoint, praying that there was no line. I had about five minutes until the flight doors were going to close, so I needed to haul ass and hope that I wasn’t “selected for additional screening.”

I looked around me and I was shocked. There were five other guys keeping up with me through the airport. I’m pretty fast — and they were too — OH, YEAH, they’re probably going to Boston for the marathon too!

Security wasn’t a horrible mess. No line actually. I took off my coat, shoes, and belt. I pulled out my three laptops, my video camera, and then shoved the mess into the x-ray machine, hoping that none of this equipment would set off alarm bells. It didn’t.

I picked up my stuff and ran toward the gate. The door was shut. A very angry woman asked if I was Joe, to which I said yes. She told me that she had already off-loaded me from the plane and that I was two minutes late. She went on to tell me that 120 other passengers had made it on-time, but — she continued — my wife and baby were already on the plane, so she was going to make an exception.

She opened the jetway door (something I’ve never seen happen before once it has closed) and there was Stacy with baby and all of our stuff in tow walking up toward me with three flight attendants and the guy that works the ground-crew following her. They were pleading with her to come back down and get on the flight. “No,” she was saying, “if my husband isn’t coming, then I’m not going.” Stacy, my hero, had somehow convinced them to give me more time, and then she’d delayed the flight further by getting back off again. What a rock star.

We smiled when we saw each other. We had a nice moment.

Then we both wondered to ourselves which of us they might be about to arrest. Her for getting off the flight and me for getting through the jetway door.

They didn’t arrest either of us.

We turned and went down the jetway, got onto the plane, and in the happiness of our moment, avoided the stares of the 120 other people that were glaring at us.

It’s hard to get to Boston. This trip reminded me of that. For many people it’s the training. For me it was twisted ankle in 2004. And for some, it might be Maureen the bus driver at Portland’s airport. There are many obstacles that get in the way of getting to Boston.

Thankfully we’ve arrived.

Check back for Chapter II and as I chronicle the entire weekend here at

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon USA
from Boston, Mass
for Running Advice and News


4 responses so far, want to say something?

  1. 1. Guus April 18th, 2008 at 8:12 am

    Glad to hear you made it 🙂

  2. 2. Amy Ferber April 18th, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    Stacy’s so cool -what a rockstar wife!! Remember you’re a hero to so many people and try to enjoy the race with all you have on your plate!

    GO JOE!!

  3. 3. tracy helmuth April 22nd, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    Can’t wait to read about the rest of your experience!! I’m so proud of you! A STAR!

  4. 4. Wayne April 24th, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Great story. Hope your trip back was less ‘eventful’. We use AirPark. About the same price (maybe even cheaper if you find their coupon on the web). They even pick you up and drop you off at your car!!

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