Saturday, April 19, 2014

Boston 2014: Running Together

My buddy and training partner Andrew sent me these thoughts as he headed up to Boston to run the marathon on Monday. Andrew would be the first to say that he is not an eloquent writer, but the thoughts he shared with me struck me deeply, and I think they will resonate with everyone in the running community. He's given me permission to share them.

I have to admit, I wish I was on that train with him -- but for those of us who are not at Boston 2014 in person, we are there in spirit, stride for stride. Good luck to all the runners: may you endure well.

My old cross-country coach used to say it like this: "shared pain is less pain." 

*  *  *

Where to begin?  As I sit on a train headed toward Boston, I figure it's about as appropriate time as any to put down some thoughts and reflections on what brought me here.  April 15th, 2013 was a day that I'll always remember.  I don't think I need to dwell on what that day meant to me and to us, to runners and our community.  

I say community because that's what it is.  This was a direct assault on our community of runners that is not bound by walls, borders, ethnicity, gender, age, or religious affiliation.  People often think it's fun or funny to "attack" runners, either by verbal jeers, hand gestures or the mocking cat calls that we've all come to expect...and most times they get an unexpected result.  This "runner" isn't quite as docile and timid as they think, and the standard 1 finger salute heads their way.  Well back to me now, cause really this is all about me...I tend to take things that like extra personal and lash out with a touch more retaliation then may be necessary.  (See Lords of The Sidewalk.)  Over the years I have yelled, cussed, chased down, spit in windows, kicked in sides of doors, and overall just plain lashed out against those that attack my run.  It makes me angry to know that while I'm trying to get away from it all, people will butt their heads into my world and try to disrupt my attempt to distance myself from them.  So that's a bit of me...and when this attack happened you can pretty much multiply that feeling by a million.  They didn't just attack MY run, they attacked the running community.  Fuck that.  Fuck you.  It's time for someone to get punched in the face. 

So what options did I have?  What options did we have?  Well I did the only thing I could think of....I got on the mighty internet and looked for a race.  I found one 6 weeks out that seemed like it wouldn't be too hot, or too crowed, or too sold out.  I don't typically run well in the heat so I knew that if I had any chance to quality for Boston 2014, it would need to happen fast....without much "marathon" training.  So I ran.  Not away from what happened, but toward retribution against those that attacked us.  My training gathered up steam and I focused with renewed interest on a singularly particular goal.  Boston 2014.  Must.  Happen. 

I started to realize how many other people felt this way and were doing the same thing.  Friends came out of the woodwork with similar goals, internet message boards flowed with stories and plans for people to make it to Boston 2014..the entire community was angry and filled with a renewed passion to fight back!  To attack not just the people that hit our symbol, but to fight back against anyone and anything that stood in the way of what we wanted..  Summer marathons, small marathons, big marathons, hilly marathons, it didn't matter.  People attacked them to fight back and take their goals.  We would make it to Boston 2014. I was overwhelmed with how unified we had become.  

It took me 6 years of running marathons to get my first BQ.  There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears put into that race.  That's one I'll always remember and I literally cried on the ride home thinking about all of the effort, time, and miles I poured into that.  Since then I've qualified a few more times, but it was never the main goal after that race.  I moved on and made breaking that 3 hour mark my main focus, which I accomplished twice.   So you see I'm not a great runner and I'm not a bad runner, I'm just a guy that works hard and enjoys the struggle and accomplishments that come along with that.  So when I started this 6 weeks focus on Boston I was a guy nearly 4 years removed from a sub 3 hour marathon, and I hadn't run a BQ since 2010. 

After I signed up for my race attempt to BQ I got a call from one of my best friends, Jeff.  He was going to fly on his own dime up to the race I registered for, pay for it himself, and help pace me to my goal.  I suspect there are others with stories like that.  People within our community trying to help each other out, trying to arrive in Boston at the same time.  Jeff wasn't planning on running Boston, but it was enough for him that I run Boston.

As it sounds we ran BOSTONSTRONG that day. It was all business, focus, and desire.  We ripped down that final stretch together and I had my BQ, my PR, and my 1st Sub 3 hr marathon in 4 years.  2:56:41  I booked this train ride to Boston that day.  It was done.  As I crossed the line that day I headed right to my car so I could text my friend Mike.  He too had poured his heart and soul into another marathon going on that same day.  He was "retired" from marathons until April 15th, when that bomb shook us all.  The text came back....2:56.  Success!  The feeling I had that day will likely never be duplicated.  It was a feeling of relief, excitement, and still so much anger. 

Later that summer I had a chance to try and repay the favor, to help pace my college roommate and former training partner to a BQ.  I jumped at the chance...and as strong as he was, we didn't make it.  Training through the summer was difficult and making the gains needed were too much in too short of a time.  One thing that I take from that day is that none of us are alone and we're all in this together. Jeff was there beside me for 26.2 miles, and without his strength I don't think I would have made it.  I was right there next to Ray for miles until we couldn't hold the pace needed any longer.  Today I take strength from him as I prepare to represent myself...and my community well in Boston. 

Over the next several months I trained.  I trained hard, focused, and I ran literally thousands of miles to get me to this point.  In shape, ready to not only conquer the 26.2, but to do it better and faster than I have before.  Like many, I'll be toeing the line with mixed emotions.  Happy that I'm there, but sad that it took something tragic to get me there.  Happy that I'm fit and in shape and ready for a PR, but wanting to soak in the experience and enjoy the celebration with my friends.  Nervous that I'll let down people that are looking to me for strength and excited at the opportunity to make people proud.  But like everyone, I'll run.  It's what we do: my buddy Mike says it best, "Runners Run."

For those of us in Boston there are thousands that we're carrying alongside us, pushing and pulling us toward that finish line.  I am fortunate to work at a running store, able to share my passion for this thing we love with other people.  I draw so much strength from my local community of runners when they accomplish the goals laid out in front of them.  It's been overwhelming to hear the thoughts, well wishes, and excitement from people training for their first 5k through marathon.  They are with me.  To them I am a part of the iconic symbol that is this Boston Marathon.  We all are, and we all carry the thoughts, hopes, and dreams of many.  Monday we run.  Monday we'll carry the strength of everyone we've ever run alongside of, the strength of 36,000 people running to the same place, and the strength of literally millions that will be in attendance and watching. 

I'm just a guy sitting on a train headed for Boston. These are my thoughts.

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