By Bill Mullaly
Be careful what you wish for! Tom and Trina Romanowski had always hoped and wished for the chance to run at the Boston Marathon. Finally, their dream opportunity came to fruition a week ago Monday, as they participated in the 116th annual Boston Marathon road race. Unfortunately, the Romanowskis were in Boston during what turned out to be the hottest marathon on record with scorching temperatures that made running the 26.2 miles nearly impossible. The 89-degree day was the hottest April 16th race ever as the event is always run on the third Monday in April, which is a state holiday in Massachusetts known as Patriots Day. Despite the record-setting heat the show must go on and the Romanowskis passed up the chance to defer their race day to 2013.”We were there and we wanted to participate and we figured we had come this far so we weren’t turning back,” said Tom, who had qualified for the event with a time of 2:54 (two hours, 54 minutes) at the Toledo Marathon in April of 2011. “We had the opportunity to defer and return next year to run the Boston Marathon but my wife, Trina, and I both wanted to do it this year and it was the right decision but we both barely made it through.”
Race officials in Boston were allowing runners to not run this year and came back next year or the year after in 2014. “Over 4,300 runners took the deferment but we were not going to do that,“ said Tom, who noted over 28,000 runners were signed up and just over 21,000 were able to finish due to the extreme heat that had many runners dropping out before they finished.
Trina never wavered in her desire to complete the 26 mile 385-yard course better known as the 26.2 mile road race from Hopkinton at the start to the finish in Boston. “I wanted to earn that medal that you get for finishing and I finished but it took a long time,” said Trina, who had qualified at Toledo also with a time of 3:37 (three hours, 37 minutes). “I was determined that I was going to finish one way or the other and I did.” Tom also finished but both of them forced their bodies to complete the race when their bodies were both less than willing. “When you think of any marathon, but especially Boston, you think of running the race but both of us had to walk a lot of the course as we simply couldn’t run anymore at different times due to the heat and the problems it caused us,” said Tom, who finished in 4:38 (four hours, 38 minutes).
Tom first realized about eight miles into the race he was done running for awhile as he started to walk due to cramps, pain in his legs and just the intense heat that was wearing him down. He was able to continue walking, jogging and running but at the 21-mile mark things were looking bleak. “I was near finished as the cramps in my legs, pain in my thighs and a real pain in my leg were telling me to stop,” said Romanowski, who added there was dizziness and becoming light-headed at times also. “Somehow I made it to the finish but I remember a runner from Wisconsin that I talked to at the 21-mile mark and before the finish I saw him being loaded into an ambulance as he needed medical attention.”
Trina did more walking than her husband, Tom, but that was just part of the story for many runners in the 2012 Boston Marathon as it was a very unusual day. “They warned us not to run hard, not to try for personal bests and to just enjoy the experience and slow down,” said Tom. “I remember they had several of those huge blinking signs that you see during road construction and the signs said ‘slow down, slow pace, walk’ and that was so different as they wanted runners to be careful,” said Trina, who finished the race in 5:45 (five hours, 45 minutes).
The heat was the story of the day as Tom took off at 10:00 am and it was 84 degrees already and by noon it was up to the record temperature of 89 degrees. Trina left 20 minutes behind her husband and the heat never let up. “I got sunburned and I just did whatever I needed to do to make it,” said Trina, who was doused with lots of water at several different stops by fans and people just wanting to help. “They offered us water, ice, powerade and whatever we needed as people were simply overheating due to the heat,” said Tom, who had never walked so much during a running event in his life. “I had run close to ten previous marathons and never had to walk before but I had never run in heat like this. Just giving up and not finishing crossed my mind at numerous times but I was determined to finish even it was by walking.”
He made it and so did his wife, Trina, who had a few issues holding her back at times. “I was dehydrated, had a sharp stitch of pain in my stomach and lost a toenail but I was not going to quit and give up as I truly wanted that medal,” said Trina. “I was there and we had come a long way and I had to finish the race but I did plenty of walking.”
After training most of the winter and running in snow and cold temperatures the Romanowskis were both out of their comfort zone and the previous marathons they had run were with temperatures anywhere from the high 30′s into the 50′s or 60′s.
The highlight was the experience of all the people being there cheering, yelling, encouraging, the music and the excitement of it all. “It was crazy and a real spectacle and it was an amazing experience,” said Tom. “This was something we always wanted to run together and we did but I am not sure how much running we did” added Trina.
The Romanowskis will continue to train and run and they are next looking at running the Detroit Free Press Marathon in mid-October with cooler temperatures almost guaranteed. They returned home from Boston with medals in hand, plenty of memories and stories to tell and they were more than thrilled to get out for a nice leisurely run last week in the cool, windy weather of a Michigan spring.