Take 26.2: Back To Beantown For A Wicked Good Time At The 116th Boston Marathon

The young lady behind the main counter at Nill Bros Sporting Goods in Overland Park looked at me with all the compassion of a meter maid.

“We can’t do that,” she said with great effort before returning to staring down at a printout and ignoring me.

I tried again to coax some effort from her youthful indifference.

“I just need to talk to someone who might be able to screen print or burn a decal on this singlet,” I repeated. “I just need an interlocking ‘KC’ for the front of this singlet.”

“We can’t help you,” was her sluggish reply.

I gathered up my white Nike singlet and stuffed it back into my Dick’s Sporting Goods bag from where it came. I didn’t really expect Nill Bros to go out of their way for one measly singlet, but I thought it was worth a try. I wanted to run this year’s Boston Marathon with the Royals’ familiar interlocking KC logo on my chest. I thought it would be cool to run in front of those sports-loving Boston fans, all the way from Hopkinton to Copley Place, showing my hometown pride. I started thinking of alternate plans to get my singlet personalized as I turned toward the door.

Before I was able to turn away from the counter, a pleasant and more energetic salesperson approached me.

“Let’s go back and talk to Lee,” she said. (At least I think it was Lee. It might have been Brad.) “He might be able to help you get that logo for your jersey.” She had witnessed my exchange with the Girl With The Draggin’ Attitude and taken pity.

This act of kindness brought an immediate and unexpectedly energetic response from The Draggin’ lady.

“He can’t do that,” she said with surprising earnest. “He’s too busy.”

The other salesperson ignored The Draggin’ and smiled as she led me to the back of the store. She introduced me to Lee/Brad and explained my needs. He was just as nice and accommodating as she. He got out his measuring tool and asked me where I would like the KC logo to be displayed on the singlet. He suggested a four-inch logo over the six, to allow for room on the singlet for my racing bib number. I was stunned by his attention to detail for so minor of a sale.

About a week later I got a call from Lee/Brad that my logo was in. I stopped by with my white singlet and he dropped what he was doing to adhere the logo to my shirt. He charged me $4.00. What started as a bummer of an experience, ended in an example of good-old-fashion Midwestern customer service. I would not have thought any less of Nill Bros had they passed on my $4.00 sale. But I will now make sure I tell everyone I know what a great experience I had at their store. You are one of the first. Spread the word.

Running Boston again this year was not in my plans when I finished that torturous course last April. I am not a marathon junkie, having run only five since my first 26.2 race in Tucson in December 2009. I thought one tour of the famed Boston course would be plenty to satiate my aging athletic ego. But then they made the qualifying standards tougher for 2012 and I knew my qualifying time was still good enough to guarantee me a spot in the field of 27,000.

So I thought, “What the hell.” I was healthy and I didn’t want to look back years from now and think how I shoulda when I coulda now that I can’t. So once again I am Boston bound this weekend for the 116th running of the Boston Marathon this Monday at 10:20 AM (ET). This means my blog with likely be stagnant through much of the next week while I am doing wicked hard things in Beantown. I also plan to return with a Boston accent or at least bore my friends with my interpretation.

If you are so inclined, you can follow me online during the race Monday at http://www.baa.org/ and type in my bib number, 11172. I am in the second wave again and this year I plan to be in the correct wave and in the right corral when that starter’s gun goes off. At least that’s the plan.

The weather forecast as of Friday is calling for a high of 86 on Monday. If that holds, there will be some dehydrated runners who never make it to Heartbreak Hill. I am hoping not to be one of them but every race presents its own special challenges.

I am running Boston with three friends from Kansas City who I have been training with over the mild winter months.

Greg Heilers (the tall thin dude in the orange jacket) is in his early 40s and is the youngest and fastest of our group. He has a shot at breaking three hours at Boston to set a PR. Heilers has no wife, no pets and lives in an apartment. He is self-employed and appears somewhat free to wander the country running distance races. We all hate the son-of-a-bitch. Greg is somewhat new to this sport and he seems to get to better every time he races. This will be his first trip to Boston and he is taking in all the sights. He arrived in Boston on Friday and made a point to run the Newton Hills and Heartbreak Hill just to know what he’s in for on Monday. I am betting he will do very well.

Ken Beach (on the left with the evil grin) is 59 and a veteran of at least 50 marathons. Ken last ran Boston in 1982 when Dick Beardsley and Alberto Salazar battled each other in searing temps in what became known as “The Duel in the Sun.” Ken has a marathon PR around 2:40 from his younger days. He is well known to anyone his age who has had plans to beat him on race day but ended up with a view of his rear end. Ken has posted some impressive age-group times over the years and he is getting ready to do the same as he turns 60.

He is a madman when it comes to training. A 30-mile Sunday run is almost routine for the health-conscious vegetarian. Beach is also more competitive than a Brazilian soccer team. He broke his toe after mile four during a trail marathon last November but he finished the final 22 miles despite the swelling, blood and pain. Marathoners are not normal folks and Beach is less normal than most. He will be tough in Boston.

Yael Abouhalkah (on the far right and just to my left with the frosty beard) is the most famous of our Boston foursome. The Kansas City Star editorial columnist will be running only his second marathon after reviving his distance running career five years ago when his son Luke began running cross country for Raytown High. Yael might be inexperienced at the marathon distance but he is fast for an old bearded coot. He has a chance to shatter 3:30 at Boston and beat both Beach and me.

But you know I’m now going down without a fight. And I know that crazy Beach thinks he can beat Heilers! I’ll take some notes and have some stories for you when I get back. I’ll try and tweet from Boston while I’m there so follow me at greghall24 for updates.

[email protected] and Twitter / greghall24

About Greg Hall

Software guy who has been writing my Off The Couch column in KC newspapers, publications and websites since 1994. Has been bounced from some of the finest media establishments this side of State Line Road. Dad first and everything else second...and there are a lot of everything elses.
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12 Responses to Take 26.2: Back To Beantown For A Wicked Good Time At The 116th Boston Marathon

  1. Smartman says:

    Good luck and safe streets Greg. I’ll give you a pass for running with Yael. Could be worse. You could be running with Hugo Chavez or Vladimir Putin. Too bad Lewis Diuguid isn’t running with you. It would be interesting to hear about how the white man stole the sport of running from the black slaves, who had to chase rabbits, squirrels and pigs on the plantation in order to eat and turned it into a commercial enterprise which primarily benefits whitey.

    So indulge me if you will. Maybe you can get some info from the BM stats folks. It would seem to me that in much the same way that blacks are responsible for a disproportionate amount of crime based on their overall percentage of the population the same would hold true for the BM. Blacks probably make up….what….10% of the participants in the BM but represent over 80% of the winners?

  2. Siv Adnar says:

    Love your running tales, especially the 2011 Boston stories. I look forward to reading about whatever mishaps and adventures you old dudes conquer in Bean Town. I crushed some hill repeats last night in your honor. Good luck in Boston!

  3. Jip says:

    I love that singlet. I’ve thought about doing either the KC like you did or a Jayhawk logo on a singlet but I haven’t pulled the trigger yet. I don’t live in Kansas City anymore so it might be a little bigger challenge for me.

  4. Phaedrus says:

    Good luck Greg. Hope the KC on the singlet doesn’t cause any excess chafing on your nipples.

    What time are you shooting for?

  5. Super Dave says:

    Good Luck Greg

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