My friend Karen posted this blog on my Facebook Wall yesterday. It’s a beautiful tribute to the people who are spectators at marathons. The senseless act that was committed on Monday at the Boston Marathon was truly cowardice and hate in its truest sense of the word. I can barely stand to think about it because of the revulsion it brings up in my stomach. When this kind of thing happens, I find myself wanting to ignore it because I hate feeling the fear that life is just no longer safe anymore. I so want to think that life can be lived out in fairness where the good guy doesn’t finish last, the guy always gets the girl, and the good never die young. And, of course, I’m a runner, so this really scares me to death. I know that I am angry about it, but I know anger is a secondary emotion, and the primary emotion I feel underneath is fear. I hate it.
I started marathoning in 2003 or 2004. I had decided to start running in February of that year….in Michigan. Now… in Michigan in February, the weather sucks. But, I got motivated by reading my ex’s Runner’s World that showed up at my house every month. I read articles about people without legs running marathons. People who had severe injuries from terrible accidents made it back to run marathons. I think it was a woman who was 68 and ran her first marathon that finally got me. I have to be able to do this. So, in freezing temperatures with the roads covered in ice and snow, I got out and started the slow process to start running. I ran a lot when I was in college. I always loved running. I played basketball in high school, and, much to my Father’s dismay, I sucked at it. But, I loved the running that we did at practice. I loved the suicides, the sprints, the feeling of being hot, soaked to the bones sweaty, worn out from tearing my guts out in an un-air conditioned Louisiana gym. I know I’m weird. Most runners are. Somewhere in my early 20s, I stopped running. But, running came back to me.
Ironically, I ran my first half marathon that December in Memphis where I currently live. I would later run my first marathon while I lived in Memphis, but I ran Chicago. I ran my first marathon for purely personal reasons. I needed to achieve something. I was trying to rebuild my life in the wake of a divorce, and Kristin Armstrong (Lance’s ex) inspired me to do it in the context of running a marathon. In my experience, running a marathon is a life-changing event. There’s life before the marathon where I wasn’t sure what I could accomplish. Then, there’s life after the marathon, where I know what I can accomplish. The training is brutal. There are hours and hours of running, sacrificing a personal life on the eve of long runs because I have to rest and then being worn out the rest of the day after the run. If your heart is not in it, you won’t run a marathon. I had a failed attempt back in Michigan. My heart wasn’t in it, and I quit the training when it got really tough. It takes about 6 months of a pretty singular focus for your first. Boston is another story.
Boston is THE marathon. After a runner’s first marathon, Boston is the next big hurdle. You have to qualify for Boston. You have to be able to run a certain pace to even register for the race. I would have to be able to run 26.2 miles in 3 hours, 30 minutes to qualify for the 2014 race. I’m lucky. It’s not even attainable for me. My fastest marathon time is almost 6 hours. My coach has been working with me to better my times in the lasr 6 months, and I’m getting faster, but I will never be that fast. And, it takes a lot of work and time to get faster. This sport isn’t easy. People run race after race in the quest to qualify for Boston. It takes money. Traveling to marathons is expensive. Race fees are usually between $80 and $150 for marathons. Even if it only takes two or three tries to qualify, the time adds up. It can eat up years of your life, trying to qualify.
Like the blog my friend posted said, the spectators are what make it worth it. I’ve read that marathons are moving festivals. That’s the way I see them. There is fun. There is usually music. There is a tour of a cool city or maybe even a rural countryside. My first was Chicago. There were 47,000 marathoners that year, snaking 26.2 miles through the neighborhoods of Chicago. My friends Irene and Staci volunteered at the halfway water stop. They had a blast but spent money, time and many hours standing out in the cold to VOLUNTEER to help me and others accomplish their goal. I was so glad to see them and hug them when I got there. The Chicago Marathon is one of the best marathons to run, in my opinion. Crowds line the streets every step of the way. And, I needed it. Miles 15-20 were brutal. I kept wondering why I was doing this. We rounded the corner in Chinatown, and the streets were full of cheering people. It lifted my spirits. I remembered why. When I got to mile 25, I was dragging. My head was hanging, my feet were hurting, my IT band was tight and throbbing, and I was hurting. This African-American woman ran out to me, bent down so she could lock eyes with me and screamed “You are AMAZING!! Do you know how incredible you are?! You are going to do this.” I was a bit stunned, but I felt this sudden jolt of energy that took me to mile 26. The last .2 just happened.
I don’t know why people do things like they did at Boston on Monday. I can’t even fathom the depth of sickness it takes to hate so much that you want to hurt innocent people and spoil their dreams. I’m glad I can’t. I’m glad that all I can see is the guts it takes for people to choose to accomplish a feat such as a marathon. I’m glad that I am so grateful when a volunteer hands me a cup full of water. I know how early they had to get up. I know that they have been standing out there in the heat or cold amidst splashing water. I know that it took time for a little girl to write a sign that says Run, Mommy, Run. I know that, in her innocence, she believes that her Mommy can and will do anything. I see what it takes to qualify for Boston even though I don’t have it in me. I have fear now that colors these things I see. And, it makes me angry. But, most of all, it makes me very, very sad.