This past Monday, April 21, was Patriots’ Day. In eastern Massachusetts, that means it’s a day off from school and work to celebrate the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord. But to most of us, it is a holiday known as Marathon Monday.
I have never been in Boston for the marathon. Last year, I was watching the whole thing online from my computer at work. My friend Alison was running. She didn’t get to finish. You all know the story. Alison and her husband ended up being fine, and I didn’t know anyone else who was directly affected. But I was profoundly impacted by the tragedy. This was the city I knew I was going to grow old in, and someone was trying to take that away from me.
One year later, Marathon Monday wasn’t going to be a day off from work for me. In fact, it was quite the opposite. My colleague Cathleen manages the PR for our runners, and she needed me to meet the official B.A.A. documentary crew at Mile 25.
Mile 25 is where our patients, and family members of patients who have passed away, stand on the Beacon St. bridge to cheer on the runners for the final mile and some change. It is at the top of a moderate hill, and many runners are totally gassed at this point. It also happens to be right outside my office. Here’s the view from my desk:
I first went outside around 10 a.m. I saw one of the first National Guardmen running in his uniform and boots. This year, they weren’t allowed to run with their rucksacks due to safety concerns, but still – running in those boots has to suck. As he passed by me, I started bawling my eyes out. That’s what I do – I cry.
Then I introduced our families to the videographer and did work stuff.
An hour or so later, I went back outside again just in time to see Rita Jeptoo pass by on her way to breaking a record and winning the women’s division. I love that she was faster than the Green Line! A little while later, Meb ran by. He won the men’s division. How annoying must it be to have a cameraman on a motorcycle so close?!
The best part of my day was every time one of the runners saw their “patient partner” in the crowd. They would stop to hug them and take a photo before dashing off to the final stretch. It’s a good thing it was hot and sunny and I was wearing sunglasses – I was crying like a baby.
l had gotten to work so early that day that I could’ve gone home at 3:30. But I couldn’t tear myself away. By 5 p.m., most of the people left on the course were walking. Some looked miserable and defeated. That made me never want to sign up. Then there were the ones who were still running, albeit slowly. Or who saw the Mile 25 and decided to run for the final 1.2 miles. But then there were the ones who said, “Thank you for staying,” to those of us left still cheering. By this point, my hands were sore from clapping, I had shouted at least 200 strangers’ names to encourage them and remind them they were almost there, and I had high-fived probably 1/3 of them. Some were too dazed to notice, or maybe they were ignoring our cheers. But most of them at least looked in our direction, smiled, waved, or saw our DFCI shirts and thanked us for everything we do. We, of course, thanked them for all they do – especially our runners.
It was a truly magical day. I finally left around 6 p.m., even though I was feeling guilty for the runners who were still on the course who I was abandoning. I don’t care if you were walking or crawling by then – you did 26.2 miles more than me, and 23.1 miles more than I could have done!
I have to admit, I’m really inspired. Last night, I downloaded a 12-month marathon training plan geared toward beginners. I realized I could start at Week 6! I haven’t run since my 5K – trying KT tape instead of my shin sleeves for the first time was a poor choice and one I’ve been paying for all week. It’s not awful, but definitely uncomfortable enough that I know better than to try and run.
Today, I’m feeling strong enough to run but of course it is cold and incredibly windy outside. I can deal with the cold but the wind and the wind chill factor? Not so much. Instead, I’m heading to the gym and doing my first treadmill run in several weeks. I took some advice from actual runners and downloaded a 40-minute podcast (last weekend’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!”). I’m going to cover the time clock on the treadmill with a towel or something, and when the podcast is over, I will have run at least 3 miles 🙂