I had planned to begin my Sept. 12 26.2-mile run at 9 p.m., but the weather was so pleasant, and I was so impatient, that I started an hour early. My route around Boothbay Harbor and through town measured 1.64 miles, which meant I’d have to lap it about 16 times. The route I designed was decidedly flatter than the actual Boston course with its famous Heartbreak Hill.
When I started running, the town was still bustling with diners, shoppers, strollers and cars. The Tugboat Inn’s rooftop dining area had a lot of energy, and Ports of Italy’s second floor dining room sounded like a Brooklyn bistro. I ran across Pier One, which was bustling with folks eating ice cream, and those entering or leaving one of its several restaurants.
And two Boothbay Harbor police officers, who were stationed on the Pier, nodded every time I passed through. Eventually we began a conversation that continued with every lap.
“How far are you running?” “When did you start?” “How many laps to go?”
As the laps wore on I was able to watch the town close down. Tugboat was down to just one table of guests. Ports was quieting down. But Pier One Pizza and its adjoining bar actually seemed to getting more crowded as the evening wore on.
And my two police officer friends gave me encouragement every time I passed through.
Initially I had just one fan, my wife Pat, who waited on the front porch of our home and timed every lap. The porch also doubled as my pit stop, fully stocked with bottles of Gatorade, energy gels and drying towels.
The first 10 laps went pretty smoothly, but as the town got more quiet, it became a lonelier run. Thank goodness Pat was there to give me encouragement at the conclusion of every lap.
Then, at about 11:30 p.m., as I crossed the footbridge, I heard cowbells and cheering. Who would be cheering for me?
It was Stacie Miller and her husband. Stacie, a Boothbay Harbor resident, runner and Boston Marathon veteran, had read about my virtual marathon attempt in last week’s Register and came to lend encouragement. And noise.
(I apologize to any neighbors who may have been woken up to the sound of cheering and cowbells, but it was great!)
Now with renewed energy, I felt strong as I entered my final six miles, considered the toughest part of a marathon. The temperature started to drop and the town went quiet; Tugboat was empty and Ports had gone dark. Pier One Pizza, though, was still partying on. And two skateboard kids were enjoying high-speed fun on the town’s empty streets.
“One more lap,” I told the police officers as they gave me a final thumbs-up.
“You’re our hero,” one of them yelled as I climbed the hill one last time that begins in front of the Ice Cream Factory, toward the Bridge Street Cafe and the footbridge.
Just before 1 a.m. as I ran toward my home, I saw Pat wrapped in a blanket waiting for me. She gave me a Gatorade and I gave her a big, sweaty kiss.
At 4 hours and 46 minutes, it was my fastest marathon in years. Not bad for a 66-year-old duffer, if I say so myself.