Running in Boston

First of all, iamarunnerandsocanyou is going to call me out on this for not getting in touch with him, but my public apology goes like this: my schedule was such that I only had time to run before the sun was up while I was in Boston, which I figured no sane individual would want to join me for. So, my apologies, and I hope that my next visit to Boston is more leisure and less business so I can enjoy more of the city.

I was there for a field-related conference, giving a paper, which went swimmingly well and was by and large a great event. The conference hotel was in Copley Square, which is in the lovely Back  Bay area of Boston (and yes, is about two blocks away from where the bombings occurred in April). While my primary purpose for visiting was this conference, I do not think that blogging about it is going to keep anyone awake, so I’m going to bore you with other details about running and sightseeing.

I arrived late Wednesday evening and had enough time to quickly get the lay of the land before going to bed. The conference wasn’t to begin until noon on Thursday, so I woke up just before sunrise and went for a run along the Charles River Esplanade as it was rising, per Andy’s suggestion. It was chilly, but absolutely breathtaking – Thursday dawned a clear and bright day, and it was such a joy and privilege to be able to greet the day from that riverside location. I explored some of the Back Bay neighborhoods as well, and marveled at the architecture thereof (I’m a sucker for brownstones with gorgeous windows). It’s no secret that I fell in love with Boston at first sight when I first visited in 2006, and I vowed one day to move there, which is still a threat I think is valid. Every time I leave, a little piece of me stays behind.  (I know I’ve said this about New York City, too, but Boston has a spirit that New York just can’t catch, not that I can put that into words but if you’ve ever visited both places I think you know what I mean.)

After that, I got ready for the day and went over to Harvard to check out an exhibit sponsored by their Russian center. It’s called the Blokadnitsy Project, and it’s a collection of twelve photobooks compiled of pictures and interviews of and with a group of women who survived the German siege of Leningrad during World War II. It’s absolutely astonishing, and I think anyone in the Boston area should go see it. I don’t get moved to tears that much, but I had to choke back a sob when I saw a picture of one woman’s hands and her description of the way she used them to move and stack dead bodies of her fellow citizens into mass graves. It was incredibly moving, and I was glad that I had made the trip out there to see the exhibit. Plus, okay, walking through Harvard Yard is pretty neat, too.

After THAT, conference stuff began.

When I arrived from the T at Copley from the airport on Wednesday night, I did a triple-take at one building that I walked past on my way to the hotel. It wasn’t the Trinity Church, which I had been told to check out if I could (and as it turns out, I didn’t have time, alas! – but check out the building slideshow), but, as I later realized, the Boston Public Library’s Central branch, which I also later found out did “Art & Architecture Tours” on Thursdays at 6pm. Wouldn’t you know it – my conference stuff ended at 5:45pm on Thursday! So, when that happened, I booked it over to the library and got a wonderful treat. Seriously, click on that link and then click on the links and look at some of the pictures of those halls and murals – just gorgeous. I was in heaven. My favorite part – as hard as it is to choose just one! –  was the statue in the courtyard, which is lit up at night and looks simply amazing.

After the tour was over, I wandered around for a bit and chatted with the security guard about working in a place of such absurd beauty, and when my stomach gave an angry, empty growl, he smiled and we agreed that I should probably go fix that. On a completely unrelated note, I had no idea that Sam Adams makes a small-batch Gingerbread Stout – it’s no Hardywood Park gingerbread stout, true, but then again, what is? – that I discovered is rather quite good, to my surprise. Sam Adams has been doing a lot of seasonal small batches over the past couple of years, and this is one I’d drink again with pleasure.

On Friday I did not run, which was a wise decision since it rained all day. I conferenced instead.

On Saturday, I ran 7ish miles before sunrise that took me far down Commonwealth Avenue and past Boston University through Allston/Brighton and ontothe wrong side of Memorial Drive such that I was running in the grass next to a guardrail next to 40-mph-traffic, separated from the sandy ground of a train yard by a chain-link fence to my right. This was not the wisest idea, but I was not about to go playing Frogger in the dark with those cars, so I decided to just run as fast as I could to get the bridge I needed to cross back over to Brookline. When I got to that bridge, I had to go up a very dark and very tall staircase, which was a bit unnerving, but hey, stairs-speedwork! Next time, I will listen to the guy driving the truck who is motioning to me to tell me that no, Memorial Drive isn’t actually on that side of the road.

I conferenced the rest of Saturday, which was when I gave my paper and celebrated with a lunch beer and then had a fantastically amazing and satisfying dinner at The Salty Pig with some old friends. (Vegetarians, beware that clicky-thing.) Beers were had, laughter flowed in abundance. It was good.

It was also VERY sharply cold and windy outside. This did not change Sunday when I went for a run at 5am.

I can now say that I have gone on a run and not encountered a single other runner on my route, which, no matter where or when or in what weather I’ve run before, has never  been the case. So that felt kind of badass, but at the same time I had a few moments in which I seriously questioned my judgement. This isn’t because of the route I chose, but rather because of the wind, which was blowing at a steady 15MPH and gusting to a hearty 30MPH, when it was already only about 20F outside. (I later learned that this was a wind chill of about 9 degrees…!) I was dressed fine – long pants, gloves, and two base-layer shirts, one of which had a collar – but it was the sort of wind that no matter what you were wearing, it just cut right through you and hit you in the bones. I accepted that this would be true for my entire run (7ish miles again) pretty much when I stepped out of the hotel door and nearly got blown sideways, which I think helped a lot in my decision to not quit. It also helped that I kept telling myself that I’ve skied entire days in such conditions, albeit with more layers on and much more snow, and it helped even more that I loathe running on the treadmill and had first-hand evidence that the hot water in our shower was indeed capable of getting very hot.

So, on I went, past the gorgeous-when-lit Museum of Fine Arts  (another place I wish I’d had time to visit!), to the Longwood area of medical colleges, to the Riverway and the fens behind Fenway (though I missed Fenway Park by a couple of blocks, oh well – I consoled myself by saying it was too dark to appreciate anyway), over the Charlesgate and back to Commonwealth Avenue and Beacon Street, past the Boston Common and up that goddamned hill that I always forget exists to Park Street and then over to Stuart Street until reaching my hotel. Again, beautiful buildings, even in the dark and pre-dawn light, and the few pedestrians who were out waiting for buses or on their own way to work or the airport gave me “lady, you must be nuts” look that made it worth it. So what if I almost tripped over a crack in the sidewalk because my eyes were full of tears from the wind? You run faster when it’s cold, and this run was no exception: it was the fastest pace I’ve held above 5 miles in a very long time, and it felt amazing, even given the conditions.

God, I love Boston. 🙂

After getting ready and packing up, I did last-day-conferencing, got myself to the airport early enough to have a gateside beer while watching football, and was able to continue watching football thanks to the magic of JetBlue and their free DirecTV. I also got to watch the sun set from the sky, which was a brilliant shade of red I’m not sure I would have gotten on the ground, so that was pretty neat, too.

I arrived in good stead, was fed a lovely hot dinner by Saint’s parents, and got myself back home late last night to breathe for two days before taking off for Thanksgiving madness with my own family – provided the weather cooperates – after which I think I will take a small break from traveling because as much as I love Boston, and running in Boston, and being and feeling such joy in Boston, my own bed is a wonderful place all its own.

My paper, by the way, was on the concept of “home”, which I think is somewhat apropos for this post. 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving, a bit early, y’all. Thanks for reading.

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2 Responses to Running in Boston

  1. Busy busy! But way to squeeze in some runs, hopefully next time friends can join! 🙂

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