This is an article I wrote for the Deseret News the day after I ran the 2012 Boston Marathon. It was a special day since my parents and my grandmother were all out to watch me run. My grandmother had never seen me race before. Sadly, my grandpa had already passed away. I thought of him a lot and of how proud he would have been to watch me run. It was an awful race. 80 degree start. 90 degree finish. Factor in the heat radiating off the pavement at the end and, well, it was ugly. It’s the only Boston Marathon where I’ve sought medical attention. I was woozy and sick to my stomach at the end. The medics doused me with water, forced me to eat a bag of magical potato chips and VOILA! I was better! Kind of. It was a long and rough recovery. Because it wasn’t the greatest of days, I immediately made plans to return in 2013. I’ll post that recap later. For now, enjoy.
Yesterday I ran the Boston Marathon.
Just writing that sentence gives me goosebumps. Makes my heart beat a little faster. Makes my eyes well up.
This wasn’t my first Boston Marathon and I hope it won’t be my last. I’m certainly no stranger to running 26.2 miles. So it’s a little surprising, even to me, that I still get so emotional when it comes to this race.
The thing is, this isn’t just a race for me. It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and dreaming.
Five years ago I had just had our second daughter. I hadn’t been a high school teacher in four years. I was a stay-at-home mom and a fitness instructor, but I was struggling. Something was missing in my life, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. I knew that there was something out there for me. Something to lift me out of the day-to-day tasks of a mother. Something to bring some much needed sunshine to my cloudy mind.
As a teacher, I had specific objectives I had to meet on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. Those objectives and expectations were clear. The results were measurable. I had structure and purpose.
As a mom, I certainly had purpose, but I lacked specific benchmarks. In other words, I was flailing. I loved staying home with my girls. I still love it, but there were too many moments where I questioned my skill as a homemaker. Even today, my kids will laugh at the thought of me slaving over a hot stove or even sewing on a button.
Then I found running. Suddenly here was an activity that not only gave me a few moments of quiet solitude, but goals to set, paces to hit, successes to celebrate. The reward was instantaneous. My victories were measured in miles, minutes and sweat.
Then my husband gave me the ultimate goal: qualify for the Boston Marathon. My runs took structure. It was structure I reveled in. If the training plan called for six miles at marathon pace, I would do it if it killed me. Once completed, I would put a big, fat, red checkmark next to the workout, signifying to the world that I did, indeed, meet that objective. With each red checkmark, my burden got a little lighter and my confidence a little bigger.
As I toed the line at that first Boston Marathon in 2010, I was a bundle of nerves. I didn’t reflect on the journey. I focused on the race. I missed out on a lot.
You see, Boston isn’t about the race at all. It is about the journey. Listening to the stories from other athletes proves my point. I challenge anyone to find a runner whose road to Boston was simple. These bib numbers are hard won. Runners fight, struggle, plan, and pound out the miles for those numbers. It cost more than an entry fee to run in Boston.
For me, the sacrifice to get to Boston turned out to be not such a sacrifice at all. Sure, there are always tears. There are always doubts. But for every mile I gave to training, I found an inner-athlete that had been screaming to be set free.
Boston allows everyone from Ryan Hall to Kim Cowart to run it’s hallowed roads. It stuns me to silence each year I run when I reflect on the fact that I run the same course Kathrine Switzer, Bill Rodgers, Alberto Salazar, Kara Goucher, and so many others run.
Patriot’s Day is one day where the professional and the amateur celebrate at the same party. It’s the one day where a man who lost 100 pounds on his 10-year journey to Boston runs behind a man whose face appears on a box of Wheaties. It’s the one day where the boys at Boston College cheer as loudly for a 37-year-old mother of two from Utah as they do for Geoffrey Mutai.
Getting to Boston isn’t the most important job I have, but it gives me the confidence to tackle the job that is most important to me: being a mom, a wife, a friend.
This year was a little more special than others as my grandmother came to watch me run for the first time. It was three years ago this month that we lost my grandfather to Alzheimer’s. They both taught me how to set the bar high, work hard, stay persistent and consistent and never, ever give up.
As I ran this year, I thought about my grandpa who never had the chance to see me run. Although not a runner himself, I thought about how proud he would be of me to be among the best runners in the world. I think I ran a little faster for him.
Boston is a celebration of running, health and living life to its fullest.
Thank you to the spectators for making me feel extraordinary. Thank you to my family for sacrificing pancakes on Saturday mornings so I can run long. Thank you to my friends for lending me your ears when the training got dark. And thank you to Boston for giving me something to strive for.
I’ll be back.