Remember the time I finished the Boston Marathon – in 93 degree heat?

April 26, 2012 § 11 Comments

It’s a week and a half later and I am still only considering running.

My cousin Stace says that I look like a hungry t-rex in this picture – I can only tell you that this is somewhere in the range of the 20 miles… as in in the miles containing the Newton Hills, and that I wanted to die… Not like that happy lady in front of me. That’s my running buddy Karen in purple next to me; whom I would not have finished that marathon without.

For a week the feeling of the warm sun on my back was enough to bring about waves of nausea.

To say it was the most difficult race I have ever run would be the most gross under-exaggeration of my life… ” ‘Twas a rough night.”

There is still a man in the hospital trying to recover from a heat stroke – hundreds of people were taken by ambulance, thousands went voluntarily – I feel VERY, VERY, VERY fortunate to have finished in the condition that I did.

OK, I think that paints a picture for you.

No? We were literally already at an elevated heat WALKING to the start line.

By .25 miles in I knew it was going to be bad, we had slowed our minute mile down by 1 minute 30 seconds, we slowed it down another 30 seconds and committed to walk EVERY water stop, NO MATTER WHAT WE FELT LIKE.

Blah blah blah blah blah – we finished, it was terrible, hard, difficult, etc.

This is what I want to say.

From before we started running to yesterday at lunch people have not stopped cheering. (Explanation of this sign)

As I ran into every little village I would yell, “It’s good to be in ________”

In Ashland there was a rowdy biker bar, they – by far – gave the best rowdy yell.

Wellesley gave an expectedly polite, but enthusiastic golf clap. You get my drift.

Here’s the thing. It was REALLY HOT. Not just for us, we EXPECTED to be hot. People cheering were there by choice. They didn’t have to stand there. They didn’t have to clap. They didn’t have to hose us down.

They didn’t have to hand us oranges. They didn’t have to buy ice bag, after ice bag, after ice bag… There were people that would run with us to make sure that we got ice. When we were still running. FIVE HOURS IN, on Beacon Street people were standing IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET with ice, water, gatorade THAT WAS COLD (the water stations had luke warm stuff that was starting to make me gag – NOT THEIR FAULT, but REALLY hard to drink…)

I am crying typing this. When we got to the Fenway we were in the blistering sun, we were in so much pain, we were so hot… Strangers were yelling their hearts out, “We know it’s hard! Just a little farther! Hang in there! YOU CAN DO THIS!”, when we looked like we were going to fall over from heart sickness, “DON’T GIVE UP! YOU’RE ALMOST THERE NOW! REALLY!!!” When we turned onto Boylston for the last half-mile it sounded like the Superbowl, so many people yelling, it felt like the WHOLE WORLD WAS THERE. Six hours after the marathon started, NO ONE HAD GONE HOME. They followed the instructions on the signs also:

We SO needed them, and they just YELLED!

You guys, this marathon was awful, this is not the hardest course I have ever run, but it is ARRANGED in the most difficult manner I have ever encountered. MANY professional runners don’t finish.

It was so hot. It was so so so hot. It felt like we were cooking.

It’s mentally debilitating to watch busses of runners who have quit carted past you as you run, people hauled off on stretchers, and the constant sound of ambulance sirens. To turn onto Boylston just hoping that my little cheering team would still be there and instead I felt like I had just won the gold medal at the olympics – it was unreal.

I crumbled. I was so deeply thankful.

Those people just had no idea.

The people back in Hopkinton. The people on Hereford.

They had no idea.

And then we were done. And it has not stopped. When people find out I finished they just keep saying, “It was so hot! That’s incredible! You must be so proud!” and my immediate answer is, “I am, and I am so proud of Boston.” And I mean it.

I do not love this city almost 99.9% of the time, but April 16, 2012 has endeared me to this city forever.

(these are cheerers taking a break so that they can keep cheering – that’s how hot it was – and how incredible they were.)

This is actually not about the marathon though – WHAT? I know. Trickery.

This is about life.

I finished the marathon for a myriad of reasons. I had great coaches, a great Jillian, an incredibly supportive husband, AM/UK, and TEAM. I had friends who offered endless support, family who cared, and friends like Scott and John whose parents became sick along the way that reminded me why I was running.

I literally thought of Scott’s dad at least once a mile, and when I saw the Citgo sign at Fenway I vowed that he would go to games with his grandson at that ballpark on the tail of the research that this money raised would fund. What if Scott hadn’t shared his story?

What if that man and his wife hadn’t had that blue cooler on Beacon – and handed us cups – and told us to hold them in our hands to cool our core temperature.

What if Kendra and Tara hadn’t cheered for me RIGHT WHEN I THOUGHT MY ACHILLES was snapping?

What if the strangers hadn’t come out and stayed out?

We wouldn’t have finished. Literally. We needed every one of those water hoses. We needed every cheer. Every high five from tiny people.

And then this is what happened.

Real life.

You take the medal off.

It’s too hot to wear your finishers jacket.

You don’t have the tell-tale post-marathon stiffness (I still kind of do in my achilles.)

Hello cruel world.

I’ve been doing the Blissology yoga videos for recovery (this is because trying to get in the class at the West Roxbury Y is like trying to get a ticket to Prada’s show at Paris Fashion Week.) Eoin Finn is a surfer gone yogi – definitely an acquired feel. As in, I don’t think Justin’s going to be able to deal with him. However, he talks a lot about our attitude toward the world around us and the impact it has on our happiness.

Also, I was driving recently, and instead of cheering for me, people were cutting me off and screaming at me for not letting them turn right from the middle lane (I am a jerk, I know.) And I had an epiphany.

How much easier would life be if we treated life like a marathon? If we recognized the truth, everybody is running a VERY long race.

Some moments are ebullient, and some are heartbreak  – but what would happen if we treated everyone like they were running a marathon and cheered like this

In marathons people aren’t thinking about themselves, they are thinking about the end goal – EVERYONE FINISHING.

EVERYONE IS THINKING ABOUT THAT.

There is a cacophony of thank you, there is good will by all, there is kindness, deference, preference, and generosity.

Everyone is for everyone.

It comes effortlessly.

It’s a big party, people love it, entire cities are in a good mood, they are inspired, sacrificial, and united.

I believe it’s worth thinking about. Holding up our invisible signs for our fellow man, our fellow marathoners in life, handing out water when we can, cheering when possible!

And remember to keep our invisible, “You’re the SH*T” signs in front of us at all times –  because hey – life’s not easy – and we can all attest to that. Way to go to anyone who’s making it on this journey! Have an orange slice, and keep your eye out for the Citgo sign – when you get there just two miles to go.

(Most photos borrowed from this incredible post on the Lulu blog)

Addendum A:

I think this is especially important in our most important relationships. Karen and I had plenty of horrible moments in our 26.2 (actually my Garmin read 28.1 at the finish line) mile journey. We committed at the beginning of the race to each other. We just did. Leaving each other was not an option. There were points when it might have been easier for one of us to run, or one of us to walk, but in the end if we had we BOTH would not have finished. It spoke so deeply to me about my marriage and my dearest relationships. Sometimes it’s sweaty and miserable and sh*t, but you knew that was going to be the case when you started, stick with it. I promise you, at mile 15-25 I wasn’t easily convinced that mile 25.5-26.2 would make the previous hell worth it, but I am so incredibly glad that I didn’t give in. And I am so incredibly glad that Karen didn’t give up on me.

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