The weather for the Boston Marathon on Patriot’s Day, the 3rd Monday in April, is quite unpredictable. It can be brutally hot as it was in 2012 with New England’s bare trees offering no shade or respite from the sun. Or it can be cold and rainy or anything in between. As the marathon runners train through the winter months their only focus is on their training and preparation, but as the day draws closer they start to look at the weather apps on their phone or computer, hoping for a day like 2011, when the temperatures were in the low 50s, and their was a strong 20 mph tailwind blowing from Hopkinton to finish on Boylston Street in Boston. On that day Geoffrey Mutai ran 2:03:02, the fastest marathon in history, and Ryan Hall ran an American record time of 2:04:58. The very next year, 2012, the temperature soared to 87 degrees, and many runners dropped out, and over 2,100 were treated for heat related issues.
Imagine the runner’s dismay this year when they saw the weather forecast, with a nor’easter headwind, rain showers and heavy rain predicted for much of the day. As runners approached the starting line for the start of their wave they were dressed in assorted garb to ward off the elements. Many had on “throw away” rain gear that they would shed after the start, or even later into the run. Some had plastic bags over their attire.
My friend, Elpidio Vilchez, was undaunted by the conditions and determined not to be deterred by them. He came to running late to lose weight, but through persistent training and coaching has developed into a formidable runner, often placing well in his age group in local races. You can read more about his transformation on a previous post on my blog.
His training had gone well and he was hoping for a sub-three hour finish. His signature is running bare chested, even in sub-freezing conditions, because, as he says, “I believe it helps me run five seconds per mile faster. My breathing is a little bit slower without a shirt. It’s like it regulates my body temperature more efficiently”
So why should Boston 2018 be any different for him with temperatures in the low 40s and a bone chilling east wind slowing the runners down? So I was not surprised when I saw pictures of him on Facebook running shirtless, and definitely standing out in the hordes of other runners. In many of the pictures he is running confidently, while those around him stare in disbelief, because they are freezing, and here is this diminutive soul, shirtless, seemingly unperturbed by the cold and the rain and the wind.
El Pidio, why did you decide to run without a shirt in such brutal conditions? Here is his response, “People kept telling me ‘You are Crazy.’ If only they knew that all those extra wet layers made them feel more cold than me naked!”
He finished in 3:04, which would be a respectable time under the best of conditions, but was remarkable, and particularly satisfying for hi on this day when so many runners ran much slower than usual, and many dropped out, including some of the elite runners. So when you think of Boston 2018, remember the gutsy race of the two winners, Desi Linden and Yuki Kawauchi, but also remember our very out bare-chested El Pidio, who also was a courageous, gutsy runner that day too.
Oh, I forgot to add that he has tattoos on his back comemmorating each of his marathons, so I suspect a well deserved new tattoo is in order as well.