Yesterday I ran the Boston Marathon. And, despite one illogical moment when I turned around fully convinced that no one would be behind me, I did not lose the race. Much to my surprise, a remarkable 9,500 or so people either did not finish or finished behind me and I ALMOST beat Tedy Bruschi. Almost. (Joey McIntyre schooled me, though… lame.).
There was a lot that pushed this moderately athletic, five-foot-one-inch (if you round up) girl to the finish line. What was once a fleeting ambition became more of a reality this summer when I started training with the Tufts team. Seven miles turned into nine and then eleven as I got back on the running bandwagon. Negative feelings were melted away by the community I joined under Coach Don, our fearless leader and a man who has achieved God-like status on this campus. Who can complain that you’re hot or tired when Coach is waiting at the various mile markers, water, cookies, popsicles and goldfish crackers at the ready, eager to chat for a minute and swap pictures of pet cats?
After an anxiety ridden application process this fall, nearly 400 names were whittled down to the official “Tufts Marathon Team of 100.” I felt as if I was in the shoes of our applicants, hoping that Don would remember my show of commitment, and see a need for a bib to go to a staff member like me. I hardly slept the night before the team was announced, and celebrated briefly when my name made the list. Then it sunk in: I was going to run the Boston Marathon.
The winter months are a blur of reading applications and running in subzero temperatures. My cold tolerance changed significantly this year, and my ability to read essays while balancing frozen edamame on my knees was honed. Friends and family stepped up to support my fundraising effort, and those closest to me had the pleasure of answering questions like “Does this look swollen?” and “Do you think that toenail’s really dead?” (According to a poster on the route yesterday, “Toenails are for sissies.”)
It all came to a head yesterday, and I quickly realized that 26.2 was significantly more grueling than the 13.1 I had raced in the past and even the 20 I had trained to with the team. This was compounded by a lovely spring day, which was fabulous for spectators but actually a 30-35 degree bump from my warmest training run. I would be lying if I claimed it was anything short of the hardest thing I’ve done in my life.
But, one way or another, I was dropped off in Hopkinton Massachusetts and made it, on foot, to Boston. Long months of training and my own stubborn grit (Taurus here!) deserve some credit for this feat but a huge debt of gratitude goes to the supporters along the course. It meant the world to see my mom and fiancé in Natick, my old coworker at the firehouse, a former senior intern at some point I can’t recall (Abha, where were you?), and the entire admissions office in Coolidge Corner, rocking signs like “I’d Admit That!” Sweaty hugs were abundant.
Beyond the faces I recognized were the complete strangers who came to my aid in the lowest of lows. The Tufts alums who screamed “Go Jumbos!” as I ran past, the current students who literally roared me up Heartbreak Hill, the small children who gave me high fives and orange slices, the elderly couple doling out ice chips. There’s something incredible about being called out by name for 26 miles and, even more so, being part of a Tufts community that had my back at every moment. The Tufts singlet was a powerful tool on that course.
Until yesterday, I had never run a marathon. But I joined the Team of 100 and the Team of 56 (rollovers who did not finish last year), along with elite and casual runners from around the world on one of the most challenging and revered courses in existence. It was beautiful and terrible and something I would both hate and love to do again. I’m sore, sunburnt, and forever grateful.