BOSTON -- "In my dreams I am Kenyan."
That slogan on a nearby runner's shirt summed up the fantasy for many of us in the starting corral at the Boston Marathon on April 18.
A few more quick stretches, some nervous fidgeting, then a countdown. Finally the starter's gun sent off thousands of runners, including 34 from Clark County, onto the 26.2 mile course.
Only in my dreams would I stride with the perpetually dominant Kenyans. For me and 99 percent of the 27,000 Boston runners, the only competition are the course and the clock.
With a goal of breaking 3 hours, I started on that pace of slightly under 7 minute miles as the course's first few miles meandered downhill toward Boston. A bright sun warmed trees just starting to bud, a sharp contrast to the damp, dark drudgery of training during Clark County's recent winter.
Even in the city's rural outskirts, spectators lined the road two deep. Held on the Patriot's Day holiday, Marathon Monday feels like a party with barbecues, bands and booze enjoyed by the onlookers. Their support went beyond the typical "Go runners! Looking good!" Many made an effort to remark something unique about each runner. In my case, my University of Oregon football shirt was met with several "Go Ducks!" or "Boo Auburn!"
As the miles wore on, I couldn't have guessed how much I would need that encouragement.
Just past halfway and still at 3 hour pace, the course's toughest part awaited. From miles 16 to 21, runners ascend a series of rises, culminating in the notorious Heartbreak Hill.
Like a pellet gun firing against a wall, the first half's rolling hills had slowly chipped away at the strength in my thighs. The course's real hills struck them like Howitzers. Slogging upwards at 8 minute mile pace, a sub-3-hour time was now out of reach.
Yet, as I crested the race's most famous point, I was hardly heartbroken. The crowd was now four deep on the sidewalks, the noise a constant jumble of shouts and cowbells.
It's a scene worth relishing for any runner who has logged thousands of solitary miles, the quiet broken sometimes by "Run Forrest, Run!" or a similar taunt.
I finished in 3 hours, 9 minutes. Though not a personal best, the race was a success in that I ran as fast as I could and still soaked in the experience of competing in the world's most famous marathon.
Though the record book will show Kenyans, as usual, finished fastest, it's 27,000 individual victories that comprise the Boston Marathon.
Boston Marathon finishers from Clark County
1941, Dan M. Reed, Vancouver, 3:04:38.
2581, Micah Rice, Vancouver, 3:09:04.
3396, Mario Brusasco, Camas, 3:14:15.
3794, Jacob Bell, Vancouver, 3:16:36.
4328, Dan McElrath, Vancouver, 3:19:38.
5749, Breton C. Freitag, Vancouver, 3:27:25.
6152, David W. Gilmer, Vancouver, 3:29:23.
6317, Bob O’Brien, Vancouver, 3:30:14.
6480, Alan Ohara, Vancouver, 3:31:12.
2122, Katy L. Sears, Vancouver, 3:35:55.
7454, Mark R. Miller, Vancouver, 3:37:30.
7617, Bradley Benz, Vancouver, 3:38:37.
3497, Poksil C. Himrich, Vancouver, 3:45:10.
3514, Anita Burkard, Camas, 3:45:15.
8652, Matt McDonald, Vancouver, 3:46:18.
8701, Scott E. Bussing, Vancouver, 3:46:44.
8965, Scott McGuire, Vancouver, 3:48:52.
9093, Allen Frank, Battle Ground, 3:49:48.
4405, Tina L. Holmes, Vancouver, 3:50:39.
4570, Julie Drimmel, Battle Ground, 3:51:48.
4917, Lorinda Limpf, Battle Ground, 3:53:50.
9890, Thomas R. Wortman, Camas, 3:56:30.
5473, Ashley D. Shaddy, Vancouver, 3:57:08.
6018, Michelle R. Hjort, Vancouver, 4:00:52.
10774, Lance Heppler, Vancouver, 4:06:14.
6621, Danielle Frost, Washougal, 4:06:44.
6930, Michelle E. Boyce, Vancouver, 4:09:58.
11090, Bo W. Liebe, Camas, 4:11:15.
7889, Judy Loy, Vancouver, 4:21:45.
8403, Alisa L. Wise, Camas, 4:30:23.
8408, Liana K. Gulzow, Camas, 4:30:25.
8589, Nancy Carter, Vancouver, 4:34:09.
12381, Bruce W. Wilkinson, Vancouver, 4:34:58.
13349, Woody Starr, Vancouver, 5:10:49.