A Revived City
Tom and I are waiting in Charlotte to board our plane. You can’t help but notice the fit bodies dawning the brightly colored Garmins and Boston Athletic Association swag. It’s then you realized you’re in good company. We find our seats and as we watch people walk by we see one lady with her University of Arizona gear. I make light conversation at first finding our common ground of Arizona and then she can’t hold it in any longer… She bursts with pride as she talks about her daughter’s first Boston marathon. Her excitement gets me excited! I think of the pride the Katie Maass is wearing for her daughter this weekend and how much support Emily and Jess are receiving from their loved ones.
I know that the hustle and bustle of the Boston Marathon will only build from here as we see other proud mothers, fathers, families and friends. We’re proud because we see the countless hours spent running and cross training. We see the sweat after you come home from a “long easy” 12 miles. We see the determination in your eyes as you talk about your strides to get where you are the morning you toe the line.
We arrived to the bustling city of Boston to see it decked out in “Boston Strong,” “Run Boston,” and blue and yellow strewn about. Smiles are beaming across the faces of those dawning this year’s teal colored jackets with the Boston Athletic Association logo. Luke greets us with a sarcastic grin and Mike’s Pastry, both a must have when you arrive in Boston.
I reach out to my old friend Sachith, hoping he still lives in the Boston area. Sachith was one of my high school cross country and track teammates. He was always a fast runner and a good friend. Luckily he made time and we spent the morning catching up.
Sunday we make out way to the commons and stroll to the finish line. This is our only chance to see it because Monday thousands of families will be making their way to greet their runner with hugs, congratulations and likely a beer in hand. Tom, Luke and I join the Maass women, Jessica and Cydney for chicken pesto pasta, aa staple pre-race meal for Emily (and one of my favorites). Emily and Jessica’s nerves build as the night goes on and they do their routine stretching an rolling to get out any last minute knots or tightness due to traveling. they talk about their race strategy and their goals for the marathon, THE Boston Marathon.
How to be a good Cheer station
I haven’t been a spectator at many races, but for once I’m more excited to cheer than I am to run. It’s 11 o’clock and Luke’s house is full of people excited to cheer on runners at tomorrows race. Keep in mind that Tom, Luke, Cydney and I are all getting up at 5am to run 5 miles to November Project. So step one of cheering is make sure you don’t get enough sleep the night before. We pull out the brightly colored poster board and sharpie markers. Cydney settled on “It’s Funner with a Runner.” Luke’s sign got a a key message across that “Finishing is the Best Part.” Tom struggled between incorporating a tree and zootopia in his sign so one side read, “Treet yo’ self to the Finish” and “If you were a movie, you’d be Zootopia.” I couldn’t pull anything creative out so i opted for two that were graciously shared by Kelly. The first was “Smile if you’re not wearing underwear” and the second, “If Trump and run so can you.” I don’t like to share my political agendas so i was very nervous about this one.
Before the marathon Tom, Luke, Cydney and I get up early to run the 4.5 miles to November project. This is the least we can do considering Emily and Jess are running 26.2 miles. We all secretly hope the others will sleep in. Eventually I roll out of bed. NP in Boston is huge today because people from all over the country are here to support their other NP runners who at this time are on a bus to the start line. The workout is great and gets you to interact with new people. Between a relay and freeze tag, everyone is sweaty and muddy. So end the workout with sweaty hugs with your new and old friends.
We make our way to heart break hill and on the train we see several excited fans with signs and noise makers. As we walk up we see more people walking away than walking towards. In my mind I’m panicking at the thought of missing Emily and Jessica at this point. We get closer and closer and see law enforcement posted on arterial streets. The noise of people gets louder and louder. Excitement grows inside of me as I see runners go by, then a wave of happy tears floods my eyes as I think of Emily running. She’s been through more things than I can explain over the past two years and lets just leave it that this is not the hardest feat of hers. I can’t wait to see her accomplish this dream of hers to run the Boston Marathon.
We walk about halfway up heart break hill and I see a new friend of mine, Ryan Van Duzer. I got wind via Facebook that he was going to be cheering at the official Clif bar cheering station. He was across the marathon path so a giant hug was out of the question. I opted for a thoughtful one, snapped his photo and shared it with him later.
We continued up the hill to find an open spot. We opened our signs and saw many smiling faces, probably because of our innuendoes. After about 10 minutes holding “Smile if you’re not wearing underwear, to which I got a handful of smiles, I flipped to the Trump sign. The first runner to take note of my sign stops dead in front of me and asks, “Are you a Trump fan?” I respond no, hesitantly not knowing what was coming next. He smiles and says, ” I can run too, but I’m not an asshole.” From then on as I held the trump sign I had spectators taking photos and runners yelling out awesome sign, that’s my favorite sign, along with tired nods and smiles because they didn’t have the energy to get out their true feelings of appreciation for the sign.
We have the girls tracked so we know they are getting close. I pull out my phone to get ready. Jess is moving fast that I don’t even realize she’s running past and I fail to get a photo. So I rush up the sidewalk to try to catch a great photo of her crushin’ her race!
We are looking for Emily next and this time I’m better prepared. I have my camera ready, and my sign barely up. I’m filled with such joy as I see her go by, but I can tell she’s struggling a bit. She later admits that she had been drinking too much water and ralphed shortly after seeing us. But she was still smiling! These moments go by so fast and you have so much emotion building that its really hard to have a reaction right away.
We stay at our spot for a little bit longer before walking the marathon line towards the finish/train. We walk through the whole Boston College section. These students take the day off of classes and I compare the energy level to that of country thunder or some weekend music festival. Students are drunk, yelling, and so excited to be cheering for these marathoners. We see several students succumb to day drinking and are passed out on the lawns of their dormitories. The best I can describe it is picture any hollywood moving involving a frat party, then think of the morning after scene where lawns are covered with red cups, party streamers, clothes and future walk-of-shamers.
We take a long time getting about to another part of the course, but we get to see Luke’s roommate, and she comes up to me delirious and says, “Wait, you’re not Jess (Luke’s other roommate).” We are seeing all of the foundation bib runners and this is where I get emotional again. These are runners that are finishing triumphantly for a loved one. They take each stride with pain in their hearts. They wear the colors of battles that their loved ones or they have won or lost. They wear their heart on their sleeve as they battle with the road.
Whether you worked for a Boston qualifying time or work to raise money for a foundation to get the start and the finish line of the Boston Marathon, it’s an admirable one. Each person endured something to get there. They worked hard and deserve that medal at the end. The Boston Marathon is not the end though. Its the beginning of a story, each unique to a different runner. It’s the beginning of new goals, new heights and more. I think for runners and spectators we were all inspired by this race and will continue to inspire others.
P.s. We can forget the greatest reward after completing a marathon… Guilt free calories!