By: Jay Survil
My daughter Taylor are both members of the Runners Roost Racing Road Team and we qualified for the 2015 Boston Marathon and due to work schedules, we booked a Saturday red eye flight out of Denver that arrived in Boston at around 5:30 AM Sunday the day before Marathon Monday. We got there with enough time to check into the hotel, get 5 or so hours of sleep and head over the expo for packet pickup before it closed. Everything went like clockwork on that trip and we enjoyed maximum “altitude effect” having only been at sea level for just over 24 hour prior to running the world’s most prestigious marathon.
So when we qualified again to run the 2016 Boston Marathon, we decided to book the same outbound trip since it had worked so well, even though most of our friends and Roost teammates running with us were skeptical of our plan and most planned to travel on Thursday, Friday or early Saturday at the latest. Everything was on track during taper week until the weather forecast for Friday into Saturday showed a big winter storm warning for the Denver area, oh oh. The storm rolled in Friday morning and flight delays out of DIA started in the afternoon, most of our wiser friends and teammates had already caught their flights and were in Boston, not us. The airlines started cancelling their Saturday flights Friday evening but I continually checked our red eye and it showed “on time” even as late as 7:30 Saturday morning. Then at 9:30 am I got the dreaded notice, our flight to Boston was cancelled and the next flight Jet Blue could offer us was on Monday, um no thanks we needed to be there on Monday, they knew it as Jet Blue is a Boston Marathon sponsor. At about the same time, DIA had just closed due to the storm – no flights were getting out to anywhere Saturday. Crap, we’re not going to Boston this year… I needed a Plan B and fast.
I called Taylor and broke the bad news and asked her how bad she wanted to go, she reminded me how great Boston had been in 2015 and that we represent the Roost but if we couldn’t get there then that was that. I said don’t give up yet, there may still be a chance, she said she’d be up for anything I could come up with, but time was ticking and the storm was raging. I got online to try to book a trip to Boston from scratch leaving ASAP. I looked at any possible route to Boston from any city which hadn’t yet been impacted by the storm. Within 1 hour I came up with Plan B – rent a big SUV, drive 6 hours to Albuquerque through the blizzard, catch a 6:00 am flight Sunday morning to Dallas and a connecting flight to Boston getting us there with just enough time to go straight to expo to get our bibs before it closed Sunday night, it all would have to go like clockwork though, might have been hoping for too much.
So 3 hours after our trip was cancelled, we were thrilled to be on our quest for Boston grinding through the blizzard in a big SUV to Albuquerque. And except for a few hairy moments of backsplash south of Castle Rock, the road trip to ABQ went smoothly and we made it to the airport hotel in time to grab some sleep before the 4:00 am alarm. Once we boarded the 6:00 am flight, we finally thought, hey we’re going to make it to Boston – not so quick. After a 20 minute delay, the pilot announced that the big storm was now directly over Dallas and DFW was on a ground stop. We sat on the plane for another hour before the pilot came on and told everyone to deplane and take your bags, never a good sign, turns out we would have missed our connecting flight to Boston anyway at that point.
We were told the flight was not cancelled but officially on a 3.5 hour delay, however the 3 flights to Dallas after ours going out of the same gate were all cancelled, making for a large, unhappy crowd in the gate area. At that point our Plan B clockwork was gone because if we couldn’t make it to the expo before the 6:00 pm close to pick-up our bibs, it was pointless to go on. Feeling desperate, I called the phone number for the Boston Marathon on the website and was shocked that actual human answered the phone. I explained the sorry details of our situation to a very understanding woman (I wish I had gotten her name) and she told me that we weren’t the only people who had been caught in the storm and had called asking if there was any way to pick-up bibs after the expo had closed, if they could somehow make it to Boston. She said “this is not the policy and they never do this but would make an exception if we could make it there,” that our bibs would be at a specific location in the secure area at 6:00 am but we had to be there at 6 sharp – thank you Boston Marathon! They had just made it possible for us to continue our quest for Boston.
Now that I knew we only had to make it to Boston sometime before 6:00 am on Marathon Monday, I looked where we were with the 3.5 hour delay and felt it was just a matter of time before the delay would turn into cancelled flight. So I got on the phone with American looking for any other way to Boston and after about 20 minutes, the agent came up with an option – a flight that left in about an hour out to LA then a connecting flight cross country to Boston getting us in after 1 am, I took it – seemed better to have something solid at that point versus waiting out a weather delay. But wait, not 10 minutes after I had booked the “LA detour,” the gate agent came on and said that if there was anyone left in the gate area who had been on the original 6:00 am flight (plane was still sitting there) to start boarding as the flight was leaving in 20 minutes and any open seats would be filled on a first come basis to the 100+ people in line from the 3 flights that had been cancelled – are you kidding me? I quickly got back on the phone with American and asked if any seats on that flight were open, there were 2 and there were 2 seats on the later connecting flight to Boston, so she put us back on the original flight, but with no boarding passes instructed us to go to the front of the line and try to explain to the gate agent our situation, which we did, talk about the stink eye from all the people waiting in line for open seats, sorry folks, we’re on a quest for Boston (they didn’t find it amusing).
We boarded the plane (for the second time) hoping to leave in the 20 minutes they had announced as the layover in DFW was tight for our connecting flight to Boston. Déjà vu all over again… as we sat on the plane for over an hour before finally leaving Albuquerque for DFW but, you guessed it, missed our connecting flight to Boston, at least we were one step closer. From DFW, there were 3 more flights left to Boston in the day – we cycled through standby on 2 with no luck finally able to secure the last 2 seats in the last row on the last flight to Boston which was, surprise, delayed due to weather by 45 minutes. It wasn’t until the wheels touched down in Boston at 12:30 am Monday that we finally looked at each other and realized that we may be running Boston after all – if our luck held out and our bibs were where we were told they would be.
Luck seemed to finally be on our side, our hotel room was ready and they didn’t charge me for the first night we missed (Thanks Marriott). I got maybe 3 hours sleep before it was go time. We went to the location that the nice woman on the phone had instructed at exactly 5:55 am and found an elderly gentleman in an official Boston Marathon jacket holding a small stack of bibs. We gave him our names and crossed fingers hoping our last and most critical piece of luck would hold (or else we were looking at really long training run in Boston) and YES, he had our bibs! No expo, no shirt, no bag, no swag, just those beautiful bibs. It was at that point at 6:00 am on Marathon Monday that we finally knew for sure we’d be running Boston 2016 – 31 hours of travel, 8 flights on, off or cancelled, driving through a blizzard – our quest was over, all we had to do now was run a marathon, easy. Go Roost!