What follows is a convergence of both Lynda’s and my writing – mine will be in italics.
*** *** ***
I arrive at my designated spot early. I don’t want to be the guy who promised to run someone in over the last 10 miles and then NOT be there. I find a spot just after the runners pass Newton-Wellesley Hospital and watch the throng. It is bitter sweet to say the very least. I want to be out there with my people – with all of those runners.
All I could think of as I watched everyone go by was, "I wish I was out there!"
But the looks on their faces says it all. Today is not a race. Today is a battle for survival. Some are walking, some are trudging, some are just trying to put one leg in front of the other. No one is running fast.
And there is still 10 miles to go.
Just standing there watching them, I am already sweating. I can only imagine what the heat had been like in Framingham and Natick.
My phone buzzes. The athlete alert text tells me that Lynda has just passed the half-marathon mark. She iss moving more slowly than she had hoped – quite honestly, I am happy to see that. It means that she is running smart and bending to the heat instead of fighting it.
While waiting for Lynda I see several of my friends go by. Marathon Brian sneaks up on me and give me a big hug. He is looking strong in this heat. Moments later I see Ally Spiers, who this year took over for Really Not a Runner Doug Welch’s spot on the Children’s Hospital Team and Team Brenya. With her is 2-time Cayman Island Marathon winner (and her husband) Steve. He is keeping her company for the duration. We do a sweaty group hug before they move on. A few minutes later I see my friend Mike. He, like Brian, is running for the Liver Team. I am surprised to see Yoda (yes, Yoda) attached to his back – I can see him whispering in Mike’s ear throughout the race, “there is no try…there is only do or do not!”.
Mike and Yoda post-race. He carried Yoda the whole way.
I know I’ve got a little while before Lynda arrives, so I run about a quarter-mile with Mike to chat. He tells me how brutal the heat as been, but he is looking strong.
I make my way back to my spot and start looking for Lynda. I’ve been eyeing the Dana-Farber singlets the whole time. I see a pair approaching me. One of them is waving at me.
Our 2 roads are about to converge…
Wellesley seems to stretch out for a loooong time. I’ve run this part of the course a few times, but the landmarks look different. My running partner Patty agrees.
There is an ambulance just before Newton-Wellesley Hospital. The back door is open and there is someone on a stretcher. I feel good but it seeing this makes me really nervous. This is my first marathon. I don’t know what to expect and it is crazy hot.
We are close to meeting Luau, so I scan the sidewalk. Just past the Woodland T stop is a bright orange shirt. Getting closer, I wave. It’s him!
I’m running pretty slow, almost half of his normal race pace, but he is cheerful and tells me about his last Boston, when I ask. I can’t imagine what it must be like to maintain a 3:15 (or thereabouts) pace for the duration. I would love to be faster but my goal today is just to finish.
Lynda has been running a slow and steady race. The heat is definitely been taking it’s toll, but she is smiling and happily waving at anyone who either shouts out her name of yells “Go Dana Farber” My goal at this point is to keep Lynda entertained and distracted from the growing fatigue of being on the course for this long.
It is charity runners like Lynda that I find are the most endearing and moving heroes of any marathon. Many of them are not typical runners in that they don’t go out there year round and run 30 – 40 miles per week. In fact some aren’t runners at all. These are people who, for whatever reason, found inspiration and decided that they could help make the world a better place by doing something that seems almost inconceivable to any non-runner.
Many of the charity runners like Lynda will run at a much slower pace that those of us so obsessed with qualifying for Boston. Despite having to spend sometimes twice the amount of time running their long runs, they do it – and they do it with a smile on their face because they do this not just for themselves, but for those that need their help.
In addition to the long training they must endure, they must also commit to raising a certain amount of funds. Should they not meet the minimum set by their charity, they are responsible for the balance. Some charities require as much as $5,000 to be raised. That’s not easy, especially when they must balance that with their training AND the every day demands of their lives.
Lynda was running last Monday, scratch that, Lynda has been running and raising over $6,000 for the last several months in honor of her mother, who passed away from cancer. In battling the Boston Course on this brutal day, she breathed life into her mother’s memory and deserves to be called a hero.
Luau is like the Mayor, saying hi to people he knows along the way, and even picks up a beer from the Race Menu “water” stop. We get to the top of the hill and he helps me figure out how to find my husband in the next few miles. It makes a funny photo – me holding his beer, Luau running and texting.
Nothing like a little Pabst Blue Ribbon at Mile 20.
Kind of erases any shred that I’m taking this marathon seriously, but hey, whatever works! I feel relieved to know where husband will be at mile 25.
*** *** ***
As we approach Heartbreak Hill, I am looking forward to yelling “On On” to the Hash House Harriers. They traditionally cheer from a spot about halfway up Heartbreak and hand out shots of beer to any takers. I plan on taking a whole beer. Unfortunately, on this hot day, it seems that all the runners before us have decided to partake and by the time Lynda and I arrive, they are out. I am disappointed to say the least. Fortunately, the RaceMenu team is at the top of Heartbreak giving cold sponge-baths to anyone who wants one. I see team member Brendan and relay my earlier disappointment. He smiles, and says they have beer, pours me a cold PBR and send me on my way. This would be the first of three beers along the way to getting Lynda to the finish line.
At mile 22, Lynda decided she needed to walk. A very large college student started yelling at her to keep running.
I looked at him and said, “if you’re going to yell at her and you want her to run…give me your beer!”
He was taken aback. “But, it’s a Whale’s Tail.”
“I don’t care, give me your beer!”
He hesitantly handed me the very full cup.
It is ice cold.
I hand him the empty cup.
I turn to look at Lynda who fortunately has started running. I turn back to the very large kid.
“Thanks, dude.” And I’m back at Lynda’s side.
As we make our way through the course, I make sure that Lynda’s water and Gatorade bottles remain full, zipping up ahead to fill them whenever they are close to empty.
*** *** ***
The last miles are a blur. There are now four of us running together, Luau, Patty, her husband, and me. I take a few walk-breaks during which Luau runs ahead, asking what I need. I gratefully take cups of water and dump them on my head. I try to drink more Gatorade and hold some ice cubes. It’s very slow progress, but Luau enthusiastically notices we are passing some walkers and Team Hoyt. He says, “Chomp, chomp, you’re eating them up! Only 2 more miles to go!”
*** *** ***
Lynda’s slow and steady pace is now paying dividends. She may be exhausted, she may be fatigued, but she is passing people left and right. Every medic tent we pass is full of people. I briefly wonder if I would have been one of those people has I got in this year.
Just after Mile 25, I see Jess’ hair stylist, Marisa of Stilisti (the awesome woman who donated turning my hair blue for New York last year!). We have found Lynda’s husband now and he is running with us so I feel like I can stop for a second and say hello. Marisa offers me a beer and I eagerly accept (my third of the day) chugging it down in 2 or 3 gulps. I give her a sweaty hug and I race back to Lynda. I’m gonna let Lynda finish this post – Boston 2012 was her race!
*** *** ***
In Kenmore Square we find my husband and Luau takes a bunch of photos and a video. He takes more photos throughout the last mile. In some, I barely look like I’m running, but I am **so happy**. I have a huge smile on my face. I don’t really remember the last mile, but these photos are the best. I cross the finish line with my teammate Patty.
Lynda and her training partner Patty getting ready to cross the finish line.
I did it! With a big assist from Luau, my family, and teammates, I just ran a marathon! My legs are so ready for a rest and I’m suddenly starving. There are quick hugs and Luau slips away to head home.
Almost a week later, I’m still wowed by the complete kindness of a stranger and the powerful common thread that all runners share. Running Boston was amazing. And… (don’t tell husband) I’m thinking about training for MCM next year!
Read Full Post »