Monday, April 29, 2013

What The Marathon Means to Me

Imagine this: New Years Eve, July 4th, Christmas, your birthday, and the SuperBowl all rolled into one day.  Pretty impressive, don’t you think?

That, my friends, is what the Boston Marathon has been to me for nearly 15 years.  All year, every year, I am counting down to this day.  For about a month leading up to the race the excitement for my upcoming trip builds to massive levels.  Then I get to Boston.  I’m back home!  Apprehensions start to pop up.  I worry about little things, because I want the day to be perfect.  Sunday night, I can’t sleep, the day is almost here.  I get a couple of hours of sleep and then I’m off.  The minute I get to Hopkinton the fears wash away.  I’m about to run Boston!  My day is finally here!  This is what I live for!!!  And then when it’s over, it STILL drives me.  For weeks afterwards it still powers me through my day with some extra oomph.  You see, this one day really defines nearly two months of my year

What’s that you say? ‘But it’s just a road race, right?  How could running for four hours be so important?  It sounds crazy to me!’

How do I even begin to explain?  Marathon Monday is a big day for tens of thousands of people in Boston every year.  Unless you’ve been part of the Boston Marathon, as a runner, as a volunteer or as a spectator at least once it’s impossible to understand.  But let me try…

This race embodies EVERYTHING I love, and everything that is good in humanity.  Try to follow me here… try to see this the way I do…

First of all, there is the exuberance of the crowd!  I thrive on energy.   The crowd gets me going, and I play to that.  Conversely, I get the crowd going.  The result is lots and lots of energy.  There are half a million people lining the Boston Marathon course, and close to 30,000 runners.  For someone who loves the crowd, it doesn’t get much better than that.  As a little extra personal motivation, the marathon is the one day a year during which I can relive my college days as the crazy face painted sports fan… but this one day I get to be both the fan and the athlete

Who are these people that make this race so great?  The spectators are my friends and family.  Even those I don’t know.  These are people from all walks of life spending their day to cheer on runners.  The course is lined almost from start to finish with crowds often several deep.  All day they cheer on runners.  A special shout out to the girls at Wellesley College and my fellow Eagles at BC.  You rock!    Keep bringing the noise every year

Many spectators are there looking for runners they know - that’s what brought them out.  They get to cheer on those individuals for a few seconds.  The remainder of the day, many of them are out there cheering on any and every runner that passes by.  Often giving those runners a much needed boost.  Lining the course, slapping runners five as they go by, handing out cups of water, fruits and other bits of fuel for the runners.  They read names written on peoples bibs, and cheer them on with a personal touch.  They’ve never met, but the marathon brings us all together.  This day, we are all friends

Then there are the volunteers, folks who give up their day to help make this race run smoothly.  Staffing water stations and medical tents, or handing out heat sheets, medals and food, these folks get a jacket for their efforts… but more important, they get to be an integral part of the marathon.  Every volunteer I’ve ever talked to has loved their experience, most coming back again and again to be a part of this race

Over 20,000 involved are fellow runners.  Folks who know the effort that goes into this race.  They’ve trained and prepared for this day.  They are well aware of the challenge they are undertaking, and well prepared to conquer it.  26.2 miles is not a comfortable distance… it is a difficult but rewarding race.  For the elites, this is a way to make a living and they race to win.  For well over 99% of the runners there are no losers.  Every person that runs, walks or crawls across that finish line is a winner.  There are NO losers.  Although many think running is an individual sport, nothing shows better than a major race how inaccurate that is.  During the marathon, we are all on the same team.  Every runner helping each other to cover that distance, to cross that finish line.  Should a runner falter or fall, countless others help them up and provide the boost to get them going again.  I’ve seen this personally many times… whenever I’ve needed to slow, or seem to be facing a tough stretch, some runner I’ve never met shares words of encouragement and helps me to keep on moving.  No matter the motivations, we all work together to accomplish our personal and collective goals

As for motivations?  Here there are so many incredible stories.  There are competitive runners aiming for a PR.  There are newer runners aiming just to finish.  There those who run to raise funds for so many deserving causes.  Some run as cancer survivors, or to complete their recovery from a major accident.  Others run it to reach the pinnacle of distance running, having undertaken goals of couch to 5K to marathon.  There are so many different stories.  Team Hoyt and John Kelley are among the legends of this race, but here every runner has their own story and they all lead to one goal: finish

Whatever the details of each individuals participation, the Boston Marathon as an event is a showcase of humanities triumphs.  It is a showcase of goodness.  It is thousands of people out only to help each other, to support each other and to encourage each other.  It is a day of enjoyment and celebration for everyone involved.  For the runners it is a day of triumph, of overcoming ‘impossible’ obstacles

I could go on forever about how awesome the Boston Marathon is, but you really need to experience it for yourself.  Will I be seeing you on April 21st next year?

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