Saturday, April 26, 2014

Boston on my mind

Ever since last week, the Boston Marathon has been on my mind. I just haven't had any quiet time to record my thoughts. I remember last year when the bombings happened at the finish line, my first thought was (re. terrorism), "Really, a marathon?" Then I felt angry because the Boston Marathon is the most austere and premiere marathon in the country. My next thought was, "Is nothing sacred anymore? Terrorists have to hit one of the most uplifting, positive, healthy and inspirational events in the United States?" Of course they did.
My Boston Marathon medal from 1998

I ran the Boston Marathon 16 years ago, and I will never forget that experience. It is an event that lives forever inside you once you complete it. I was able to run in the race as a member of a charity team (I was nowhere near any sort of qualifying time). I raised money for Boston Children's Hospital and was able to secure a number. Boston was the first (and to date, only) full marathon I'd ever attempted, and although I put in many, many training hours, I was a pretty slow runner. My finish time was just shy of 5 hours, but I still made it in time to get a finisher's medal, a medal I cherish to this day.
The crowds along the Boston route are amazing! The best by far that I've ever encountered. There is something a little unnerving taking the bus with all the other runners out of the city to Hopkinton, 26 miles away. I can remember thinking that I was pretty much out in the middle of nowhere with only my legs to get me back home. When we drive to Boston now for pleasure, I always reflect on the fact that where the Mass Pike and I-95 meet, you can glimpse a view of the Boston skyline. It is just about the distance of the marathon from there, and I ran that. DAMN! It still blows my mind. 
It is funny how I can remember certain details of that race 16 years ago like they were yesterday. I liken it to the fact that my husband can recall nearly every detail of every round of golf he's ever played. I guess when you find your sport, you have a mind for those kinds of details. I remember the huge crowd at the starting line and the fact that it took a good 15 minutes or longer to even get up to the actual official starting line after the race gun went off. I remember the song "The Long Run" by the Eagles blaring at the starting line from the home of someone who lives right there. I remember being in the back of the pack chatting with people as we ran along, offering encouragements, laughing over the fact that by the time we were at about mile 8 or 9 the front runners were already done. I remember being passed by a guy/girl dressed in a foam rhinoceros costume. I remember seeing blind runners tethered to sighted guide runners. I remember the weather was pretty perfect for running, not too hot, not too cold, not too much sun or wind, but I also remember the wind pushing down in to my face as I ran up a long, slight hill in the Needham area somewhere around mile 18 and feeling very cold, tired and wiped out. Then I remember seeing a work colleague at the next water station, and hearing her words of encouragement, I perked up enough to get through to Heartbreak Hill. I have to admit, I don't remember much about Heartbreak Hill, other than I walked a few steps of it near the top. After that, it was all downhill to the finish line. :) I remember the Wellesley College "Wall of Sound" and thinking how cool it was that they were all screaming for me. I remember another work friend jumping in somewhere around mile 23 to run with me for a few blocks, helping me to take my mind off of the pain. And I remember making that turn on to Boylston Street, seeing the finish line straight ahead, scanning the crowd and finding my husband-to-be, mom, best friend and mother-in-law-to-be like a shining star of light. It was a most unimaginable experience to trek those 26.2 miles, and it is both humbling and triumphant at the same time. Your body is pushed to the limit, but your mind can get you there, along with some well-placed supporters along the way. 
So to hear that terrorists attacked the marathon last year was just so disheartening. That experience of accomplishment and triumph was taken away from so many runners, only to be replaced by fear, injury, disappointment, anger, and sadness. All the things the most glorious marathon shouldn't make you feel. I was overjoyed to see Boston come back so strongly this year. I'm so glad the marathon took place without incident. Although, as I said to my mom, "God help anyone who tries to mess with the city of Boston and their marathon this year. The residents of the city will seriously turn out in mob rule to take care of anyone who tries anything." 
The stories coming out of this year's marathon were full of inspiration. It was amazing to see all the stories of those returning to finish the race they didn't have the chance to run last year. Seeing the runners who lost limbs in last year's bombings participating was just incredible. If faced with the same situation, I don't know that I would have been as brave or motivated. I'm thrilled that an American man won for the men, and although I was hoping for Shalane Flanagan to take this one for the hometown ladies, she ran an amazing race. I even had to laugh when I saw Dean Karnazes's post on facebook after the race. He ran the marathon from start to finish in 3:42 and then turned around and ran from the finish line back to the start in 3:25. What a rock star. 
Meeting Dean Karnazes last November

Everyone has their own personal race story. Everyone has their reasons for running. I'm just glad that this year everyone was able to finish and revel in the moment. It is something that can never be taken away.

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