Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Boston 2014 Reflection

No race report here. Haven't had enough time. Just standouts from last weekend in my mind. 

I remember last April 15th's afternoon quite well. I was about to finish teaching my last class when another teacher came in to ask if I had heard about the Boston finish. I hadn't. He showed me his phone and the headline. An explosion?! What was going on? Were my friends OK? Who would hurt runners and spectators? Why Boston?

I could not stop checking the news that night or the nights that followed. Having run Boston before, this run felt personal. Why did they attack our race? That beautiful city? Those souls?

I went for a run that night. My mind was uneasy. I needed to run because it felt right. It was my way of connecting with the event and to begin to process it. I couldn't control the news that was resulting, but running helped to calm me down. And on that run I knew that I would run Boston in 2014. I knew that I had to be there, to show whoever those people were that committed this act that you can't take us down.

Last Saturday Tom and I stepped off the plane at Logan airport. I was already feeling the excitement from seeing the other runners in the DC airport in their Boston gear. We were a pretty fit flight, and while no one talked to each other about running, we all knew that we were heading in the same place. 

As we stepped into the terminal - who did we see? Shalane Flanagan walking in front of us. I turned into a giddy 5 year old seeing the Easter bunny for the first time. We followed her as we made our way to ground transportation. She met up with her escort and made her way to baggage claim. I headed to the bathroom, because, you know, a runner likes to keep hydrated before a race. 

While washing my hands I looked over to see Shalane walking up to wash her hands in the sink next to mine. Holy CRAP! Shalane was in the same bathroom as me! Here was my running idol - the woman who I had just watched on 60 minutes the night before. The woman who trained her heart out to win Boston. Right. next. to. me.

I leaned over and whispered, "Good luck on Monday!"

I knew I would never be the person to ask for a photo if I ever met a celebrity. I wouldn't want to start the photo-taking trend, and I wouldn't want to take away from their time. But I did want her to know that I knew who she was and that I was totally cheering for her. 

God, I love that woman. 

And what a great start to the weekend.

Breakfast: it happens to be my favorite meal of the day. While I hate to miss it to run, I'll sacrifice it to run with a friend. Especially a former teammate. 

Tom and I met up with our friend Doug, who has an impressive marathon time of his own (in the 2:20s). Our shakeout run brought us into Boston Commons and to the start line. Even at 8:30am there were plenty of people out there. Again, without talking, all of the runners knew why we were there. There was a special vibe and feeling of energy in the city that morning. 

Breakfast after a run is necessary (even if you already had breakfast before).  The three of us met up with another UVM Catamount, Aly, who also has her own fantastic marathon time. It was the first time since 2010 that we had caught up and we spent the morning talking running over eggs and french toast.

Now that's my ideal breakfast!

Being back with friends makes breakfast an even better. 

Sunday evening I got a message for Laura from Catching My Breath!  I've come to know her through blogging and daily mile. We were starting in the same wave and wanted to meet up race morning. How freakin' cool would it be to meet someone I have come to "know" so well on race morning, someone who I had grown to respect and had seen hit PR after PR over the last month?!


Tom and I left the hotel on Monday and had to walk only 5 minutes before reaching Boston Commons. It was worth the few extra dollars to be that close to the start. It only took three years to figure this out (go with the Courtyard Marriot on Tremont if you plan to run next year!).

Laura said she was on a pink towel. I found her and officially introduced myself to her and three other ladies - Lindsey, Ashley, and Sarah . Here we were! Boston was really happening! 

Boarding the bus was easier than in the past. We wanted to stick together and headed to the back of the bus. Rock on back of the bus groupies! Our morning was shared with stories, past races, and strategies for finding a restroom before the start. We discovered what a horrible idea it was to finish drinking our water bottles while still stuck on the bus.

That bus ride was the most fun Boston bus experience I have had  to date. 


There were many folks already out to cheer us on our walk to the start. While our minds were focused on the possibility of finding a porta-potty, I did take note at who was around us. How could I think every cop? I couldn't. But right now I want to take the time - Thank you to every single person that came out there to support us. We are the crazies that are obsessed with running and you thankfully took the time out of your lives to cheer for us and to protect us. Thank you. 

My goal was to be mentally strong at the end of this race as to not panic. What that actually did was made me live in the moment.

I kept watching the crowds throughout the whole race: looking at all of the faces, watching the moms with the line of kids and leading them in a cheer for the runners. In the last 6 miles of the race I heard tons of people scream "Go PR!" because of the PR that was on the front of my race bib. People were totally there to cheer on the runners. Everyone that had a name on their bib or shirt heard their name the entire race. People wanted to personally cheer us on and wanted us to know that they saw us.

While I ran I watched, and I tried to soak in the entire experience. In my mind, I wanted to be able to relive this memory forever. The support of the crowd was unlike anything I have seen and meant more than before. People were thanking us for running, but I wanted to thank all of them for cheering. I ran because of what Boston had given me in the past. It was my way of thanking the city. Yet, many of the spectators were out there to thank us. Without each other, this event would not be the same.

Boston was the event that brought together millions of people, not just in the city, but around the country and around the world. It was an honor to be part of this experience. I felt humbled. My pain was unlike anything that the victims had gone through. I didn't have any right to complain about sore legs in the days after the race, especially after passing wounded amputee soldiers, or the man who "ran" the whole thing on crutches. We all have our own stories that brought us to that race, but on that morning, we were all running it for the same cause.

This event brought out dedication from many. Many people poured their souls into this race, sweated for months in preparation for it. One horrible act sparked a fire in thousands of individuals that wanted to show that we are, no- Boston, is stronger than that act

When I turned onto Boylston, a place where I normally feel dread, I couldn't help but watch my left side the entire time. Normally in a marathon I dedicate each mile to someone I know. At that moment I realized that I had only dedicated one mile to my mom, and that for some reason I had forgotten to dedicate the rest.

But that was not correct. As I continued running down Boylston I knew who that race was for. That race was for the families of the victims from last year. It was for Krystal, Martin, Lingzi, and Sean. It was for everyone that helped in some way on on April 15th or the days leading after. It was for all of the runners that were there that day, like Shalane, Laura, Doug, and Aly, who had spent months preparing for this day. It was for the people of Boston who came out to support us.

On that day, Boston was Strong. 

1 comment:

  1. Love love love this, it was such a great experience getting to meet you and spend time with you. I can't thank you enough for all of the support and encouragement along the way!! I'm also incredibly jealous you were that close to Shalane!