Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Boston 09

Isn’t it a shame that it is over?

Crossing the finish line of a marathon always brings a mix of emotions. Crossing the finish line of Boston only deepens them for us locals, as we know that our family and friends eagerly await our arrival, and remember that during each mile, we said a little prayer for each of them. The race encompassed everything in the world that it just so much bigger than us.
As many of you know, last year’s Boston was my ABSOLUTE worst marathon by a long shot. I was married to my terrific husband Bill just three weeks before the marathon, and let’s just say that the bachelorettes cut into the training a bit. (I guess running down the Strip at 4 in the morning does not count as cross training.) On top of that, I had recently started a new medication for Multiple Sclerosis, and it certainly was fighting some sort of internal war within my body.

Finishing Boston 08, I doubted my identity as a runner. I was not sure if I deserved it or not. Honestly, a half hour slower than my slowest? My husband, a very practical man, told me to stop my crying and focus on the positives. Did I run for a time, or was I running to celebrate the fact that I could run?

All summer, I refocused. I ran the bike paths in Nantucket and the beach of Nantasket. I rediscovered running with a friend, both of us with I Pods in tow, along the beautiful little way that we on the South Shore call Jerusalem Road. No fall marathon for me; I bagged New York. Instead, I ran the most awesome Eiffel Tower to Versailles Race while I was in Paris for work. (And then wore m y finishers’ medal at USA College Day.) I helped a friend at work discover the joys of running, stepping out with her at lunch time to get a few miles in and have some fresh air away from our office. My husband and I ran up Diamond Head to watch the sunrise in Honolulu, and I remembered that there was more to running than our marathons.

Why do I mention all of this? I know that these months, and this shift in my thinking made running fun again. It turned away from looking at BQs and marathons, but focused on why I loved running. I love the sense of accomplishment that just one mile gives, I love L St (go figure) and I love that for those times that I am on a treadmill or on the road, the rest of my life must wait. And, I just adore my friend that made sure I was at the start line this April 20th.
With this attitude, I traveled out to Hopkinton. We had a great training season. No, we were awesome! When we finished the 20 mile run from Natick, I think we all realized just what we were capable of. We had tested our mettle. And, I realized that running with some great company through the rainy streets of Boston cements both friendships and memories. It certainly helps that we all act as each other sherpas, guiding us through to the end, bringing us to the top of our own personal Everest that we face in the run.

The morning of the race, I was mellow. For those of you who don’t know me, there is NOTHING mellow about me. I work in college admissions, teach Spinning at the crack of dawn and talk faster than the normal Bostonian. After saying goodbye to the L St bus, I walked up to the start line, joined my coral and then we were off. From step one, I was in a trance. I was the definition of runner’s high. No offense to Ashland, Framingham or Natick, but I don’t remember them! In fact, it was so relaxing and every mile seemed to go so easy. I thought of something positive each mile, rather than focusing on the road ahead. Mile one was definitely for my husband, and throughout the race, I thought of each of you who gave me encouragement throughout the training season. All of a sudden, I was at the half way point and the Newton Hills loomed. I faced a problem I had never experienced before- I was “afraid of the bonk” and slowed down because I could not figure out why I felt so good! I did not have my own personal sherpas- Leann and Maureen- near me to pace off of! Could I finish this final part by myself?

I made it, over the hills, past my alma mater and into Brookline. Kenmore Square appeared, and I was into Boston, onto Hereford, and running into the wind down Boylston. I crossed the line, making the simple sign of the cross. I made it thanking the heavens. Not just for the ability to run, but I also gave my respects for such a positive experience. Don’t get me wrong- I trained hard, showing up on Sunday mornings and running on the treadmill during lunch when birthday cakes were served. (I am a sucker for frosting!) But, I think that my renewed attitude toward running helped me to remember that I will never be Kara Goucher, but I can be thankful for the fact that I am healthy, surrounded by a wonderful support crew and that my husband’s birthday (April 20th) was not ruined by a grumpy wife who had a bad day!

Boston 09 will go down for my records, not just because I was happy with my time. I rediscovered my identity as a runner this training season. I tested my mettle. Most importantly, I experienced how allowing myself to be part of the network of support that we all offer each other produces energy that cannot be described. We may all have a bad race now and then, but we can utilize the great tribe of runners as we round the bend.

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