This post is definitely going to be different than I expected it to be. And I'm left not even knowing how to start or where to begin.
With the tragic events surrounding this years Boston marathon it leaves a participant of the event with a difficult decision about how to share their experience. As runners we want to share our experience with the races we run, but at the same time, taking into consideration this particular event, there lurks the question of if it will seem disrespectful to talk about the mundane and insignificant personal experiences when overshadowed by something that was so traumatic and as deeply far reaching as the bombings of the 117th Boston Marathon. Do the personal stories of my race even matter anymore? Does my journey seem irrelevant now? Is sharing it disrespectful and unimportant?
I've thought about it, and I came to the conclusion that I still want to have a record of my experience. All of it. The "mundane" "insignificant" race aspects as well as the far reaching traumatic events of that day. I hope I can cover both and show, not only respect for what occurred, but my personal experience as well.
Months and months ago, almost as a joke, and unbeknownst to everyone - even my husband - I submitted my marathon qualifying time to the BAA, to see if I would be accepted to run the Boston Marathon. The reason I say it was done "almost as a joke" is because most people who really know my deepest thoughts and feelings about running know that I have not only never wanted to run the Boston marathon, but I have actually said I never would. The joke comes in at me thinking that if I was accepted to run the marathon, the forces of Murphy's law would take me away from Massachusetts before the actual race. Maybe I'd find myself being able to move back to Colorado?
I was accepted to run.
I came clean and told one person. My husband; Who laughed and thought I was crazy, but didn't judge me for going against "everything I stood for as a runner."
See for years I have said I would never run the Boston marathon because the required qualifying times took away from running what I love most about it: that everyone can do it. That the recent couch potato all the way to the elite professional athlete can compete in the same race! What other sport can say that? What basketball player can say they played an actual game with Michael Jordan? What layman casual golfer can say they literally competed along side Tiger Woods? But in running we can do this. And I love that. I felt like the required BQ took that away.
I also felt that the BQ contributed to many individuals insecurities as runners. It makes me sad that many runners feel like they aren't adequate, fulfilled, or complete without ever qualifying for and/or running the Boston. I know many AMAZING athletes who just aren't FAST, but are more hard core runners than myself who will never qualify for Boston. Are they any less than those who can? The BQ sets a precedent that I feel is a disservice to those runners who can't see beyond PR's and Qualifying times. No disrespect to the Boston Marathon, but I just didn't see it as the be all and end all of everything running. Nor did I see it as the most accurate measuring stick of a runner/athlete/person.
I know many will think I'm crazy for thinking this, but that's just how I think. Many of the friends I divulged this persepctive to tried desperately to talk me out of this way of thinking and said I should just run the Boston anyway. But I wanted to stand "true to my principles...." or something like that....
So needless to say, I was accepted by the BAA to run the marathon but I was by no means committed to actually running it.
And as to be expected about a month after I received my acceptance was when we found out we were going to be evicted from our house and moving out of state became our reality....
I guess my plan worked!...? :)
Definitely at this point, facing a huge move out of state, potential unemployment, an uncertain financial situation, and homelessness for an indefinite amount of time, it didn't seem prudent or even rational to try and justify a trip BACK to MA for a race I never really wanted to run anyway.
I kept putting off the decision, and putting it off. But two things did intrigue me. I wanted to see what it would be like to run a race with (from what I'd heard) amazing crowd support; and I supposed that I should run a marathon in the state I'd lived. And if so, then I suppose it should be the Boston Marathon.
So about a week before we moved from Massachusetts, I bought a return ticket for just a few months from then.
Continuing my marathon training in the middle of a major move and significant family upheaval was extremely difficult. The stress was eating away at me, the emotional and mental fatigue of our situation took it's toll and I was barely holding on to my training plan as well as my physical running capabilities. Not to mention what the move to such an high elevation did to me mentally.
I didn't tell many people of my plan to return to MA to run the Boston Marathon. Just those few select family and friends who I felt really understood me, my perspectives, my priorities, and my life situation. If I was going "against my principles" I kind of wanted to keep my participation as low key as possible. That became a little more difficult when bombs went off at the finish line.
So off I was to Boston for the Marathon. The trip was made wonderful by the fact that I got to see so many of my friends that I just left a few months before. I got to have some great down time with one of my dearest friends and her new little baby. Perfect. Just Perfect. Justin met up with me a day later or so and we all had a great time. Of course the pre-race expo is always wonderful!
I must admit, I was more wary of running the race than excited. I felt a bit ho-hum. Blame it on my Broken-down mentality and moral, or the stress of the previous few months, or the falling off of my training. I was just hoping to have an enjoyable time running in the city that I had grown to love over the years.
The morning of the race I met up with some friends from my running club and another running friend. Great to see their faces. Their excitement for running this great race helped lift my spirits to where they should be before running a marathon.
(this guy here, Roger, is an inspiration!!)
I started off the race with my running friend Sheila. We happened to be in the same wave and coral. We accidentally got pushed into the wrong coral at the starting line. I felt the need to get in the correct coral even though the race personnel told me to just stay put. We snuck out and moved forward anyway.
The first few miles flew by as Sheila and I finagled our way around the thousands of other runners on the road with us. It was very crowded.
Justin was waiting to cheer me on at mile 6 or so and that was fun to see him there.
I enjoyed Sheila's company and conversation as we ran together. But I had pushed her along far enough and fast enough and she wanted to stay back as I notched it up a gear around mile 7.
From then on I ran alone, but not really alone since I was engulfed in the middle of 27,000 other competitors. Not to mention the crowds! Just as I had hoped the crowds did not disappoint. I don't think there was a square inch where there weren't people hollering and cheering us on. It was invigorating.
Having lived in Boston I knew what a spectacular day Patriots Day is. We Bostonians look forward to it through all those horrid winter months. It's a breath of life to our souls. We live and breath for this marathon, this day of celebration. But as I ran, this knowledge hit a more profound cord with me. Bostonians LOVE this marathon. They LOVE it! It touched me as I ran, to see and feel their spirit, their enthusiasm. Their support was all encompassing and it lifted my spirits the entire race.
I consciously tried to focus my mind on more than just running and keeping pace. I didn't want the miles and the scenery to fly by me unnoticed. These were the streets I had lived on, traveled on, trained on over the past 3 1/2 years. I let the sentiment flow into me and fuel and drive me.
I knew many of my friends were spectating around mile 15, but by the time I got there I assumed they would have moved on with their day. But there they were! Many many friends surprising me with their cheers and their encouragement! How fun to see their faces as I "sped" by.
Getting closer to Heartbreak hill I was pulled along by the knowledge that Justin was waiting for me somewhere around mile 19. The plan was he was going to run up Heartbreak hill with me.
And there he was! It was wonderful to see him and to more than just run by him with a quick high five! I was able to talk *a little bit* and he was able to encourage and push me on up the hill just as I was starting to hit The Wall. He had wanted to meet me at the finish line. I had talked him out of that, knowing how crazy and crowded the finish line would be. I felt it would be much more important for me to have him at Heartbreak Hill. And it was! It helped so much! We flew up that hill, way faster than I had planned!
He pealed off at mile 22 or so and headed to the car to meet me downtown after I had finished the race.
The last few miles were tough, as they should be.
But from Boston College (around mile 21) to the end of the race, the crowds and the cheering are crazy! It's so loud you can barely hear the hundreds of slapping feat on the pavement, the beep of your watch, or the labored breathing of marathoners finishing a race! It is intense and exhilarating!
I didn't have a hard and fixed time I wanted to finish in. I knew this wouldn't be a PR. No way. Not with the last few months that I had had. But I did think it would be nice to do better than my qualifying time.
I fought those last few miles to help make sure that happened.
Straight down Beacon St. and Comm Ave., Right on Hereford,
and then you start to hear it.
The roar of the crowd.
And when you turn Left on Boylston.
It hits you like a wave. The volume of the cheers vibrates all the way through you. You feel like an Olympic athlete! No matter how fast or slow you have just ran those 26 miles as you push yourself those last .25 or so you feel like a superstar! What a thrill!
If only for that moment, running the Boston Marathon definitely was worth it!
I pushed across the finish line at exactly the time that I thought I could. I did it! I finished!
But then something weird happened. Immediately I felt horrible. For the entire run I hadn't suffered with more than fatigue and some slight leg cramping in the last few miles. I don't typically finish a race and feel worse.
But I did. It hit me like a ton of bricks. And all I wanted to do was get out of there. I wanted to find Justin and leave. So weird. So weird for me.
Post Boston Marathon is extremely organized, but also very intense. I'm used to finishing a race and almost immediately being able to sit down, rest, stretch, eat. But there are so many runners that they have to get out of the finishing area, so they just coral you like mad down the road.
"Here's your medal." "Here's your mylar blanket." "Here's some water." "Here let me take your picture."
"Here's a bag of food." "Go stand in this line and get your drop bag." "Thank you very much and good job...but move on."
With each step I felt worse.
I was supposed to meet Justin at the family meeting area. Accidentally I went too far and exited the barricaded area. I didn't want to make my way back through all those runners so I headed on side streets towards the area. I didn't make it. I felt too crappy. Calling Justin on my phone, wondering where he was, and crying about how I didn't think I could even walk back to where he had parked the car. He found me on the street, helped me sit down and got a recovery drink in me.
Being the photo journaling fanatic that I am, no matter how I'm feeling, I don't leave a race without taking a good arsenal of photos. I will push through pain, discomfort, sickness, cold, anything to document my experience with photos.
Especially in this situation, in this location, this event, you'd think I would be going CRAZY with the photo taking.
But like I said. Something weird had over come me. All I felt was an overwhelming need to get out. To leave. I barely stayed sitting for even a few minutes before I was standing up and just wanting to get to the car and leave.
As we waited to cross one street on our way to the car I tried to snap one photo. This "photo" is all I have. Nice.
We made it to the garage and I could see the Boston Public Library one block away. The beautiful architecture of Boston. I thought to myself that I should be documenting this. "We should walk up there and take some photos....."
But we went into the parking garage instead. As we approached the car I said to Justin, "In a week when I'm regretting not having any photos of myself or us after the race, remind me how I'm feeling right now."
He promised he would.
And we got in the car and pulled out of the garage. I texted my friend that we were on our way. It was 2:54 (The first bomb went off at 2:49)
We turned toward the Library. Sitting at the light to turn into the tunnel to the freeway the guilt of no photos overcame me.
I took this photo.
That is the library behind me.
Then we saw two police cars go flying through the intersection. Then the traffic cop started yelling at us to "Go, go GO!!!" rushing us into the tunnel and I didn't get a chance to try taking a better photo.
We turned and immediately cop car after cop car started flying by us towards the marathon. I thought "man someone must have been really hurt."
Here is a visual to give you an idea of where we were in relation to the bombings.
A little too close for comfort right?
We hit the freeway and there were more streams of cop cars flying back towards Boston.
And as we drove along it was like an endless stream of cop cars FLYING into Boston!
"Geez. What happened? Was there was a bomb or something?" Justin says.
It was a few minutes later, after some texts from a friend, that we realized that it actually was.
A bomb had gone off at the finish line of the Boston marathon. Probably at the exact moment that I was entering that parking garage.
I feel like so many who were there that tragic day in Boston - that the littlest decisions seemed to be what saved me from experiencing the full force of the trauma. A directing force, through the mercy of God, steered my decisions that day, if only to spare me the stress and emotional trauma of having to really be a part of those horrible events. God spared my eyes, my ears, and my mind. He got us out of downtown, just in the knick of time. He directed us to a place of complete safety.
I've heard a great number of stories that day of so many that were spared by this same directing force. I believe the numbers of the injured and dead could have been so much higher. So many were spared. Those that were injured and those there on Boylston St. at that moment suffered the deepest impact. But the force of those events was far sweeping. We all felt a small portion of their pain.
So very many people have said, written and shared amazing things regarding that day's events. It leaves me not knowing exactly what else to say. So I will just state that I echo their words of pain, hurt, devestation, but also their words of hope, peace, forgiveness, and strength.
My heart broke that day for runners for the running community, for spectators, for Boston, and for the World.
Seeing this tragedy certainly reminds us that satan exists. But if satan exist then, without a doubt, God does too. Let us remember that for each single evil individual that exists there also exists, and stands opposed, an entire army of saints, angels, and heroes..standing ready to conquer and fight the dark powers that threaten the innate goodness, kindness, and Godly potential of the human race.
I'm grateful for a God who allows us, His children, their agency to make their own choices. At times this means hurt, abuse, pain, and suffering for many innocent people. But I also believe that as those two misdirected brothers exercised their God given gift of agency to hurt as many people as they could, that God did His part to protect as many as He could. And then so many other individuals exercised THEIR agency as well, but to rescue, protect, help, sacrifice, and serve. In moments of hurt, crisis, trauma, strife and yes even great evil we still have the gift from God to choose. To choose anger or compassion. To choose fear or selflessness. To choose discouragement or inspiration. To choose to be beaten or to rise up. To choose hate or forgiveness. I have been touched to see that so many have chosen to act with love, resiliency, determination, forgiveness, and kindness.
"Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love." - Gandalf
I chose to grieve for a day or two. Then I chose to focus on the good of people. On the potential of the human race. I choose to forgive. I choose to not let this evil take over my mind or my emotions but to drive me to be better. To help me seek out all that is good in this world.
“Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” -Dumbledore
I feel honored that I can call a part of myself a Bostonian. I think they responded with the same fight, resilience and determination we could only expect from Bostonians. I'm proud to say I remain Boston Strong along with so many others!
In the end, I believe good always wins.