One month from today, my friend Jack and I will be running in the 118th Boston Marathon. Both of us were there last year but neither of us got to actually finish due to the tragic events that afternoon. More importantly than the fact that we were not able to finish is that Jack’s wife, Barbara, was unhurt even though the first explosion was right across the street from where she was. (You can read about my experience last year by clicking here, if you are interested.)
This is me with Jack at the finish line last year the day before the marathon.
Time for a brief commercial… I am raising money again this year for the MEB Foundation and would appreciate donations of any size. Just click here to go to my fundraising page. No donation is too small!
With Meb at last year’s Team MEB meet-and-greet the day before the marathon.
Those that know me know that I do not quit anything. In fact, my mentality my whole life has been to prove someone wrong when they tell me I cannot do something. That can be a good trait in many ways, but it can also work against me at times. When I was in high school, my wrestling coach (Coach McNutt) would take us to a room the day before every match. He would run down the list of matchups and have almost every one of us losing our match. When he was done, his “projection” was that we were going to lose to the other team badly. Just the fact that he would put on that chalkboard that I was going to lose made me even more determined to prove him wrong. In fact, I wanted to beat my opponent that much more convincingly just to show Coach that I would not just win, but I would dominate. Looking back, I now see what a psychological head game he was playing with us at the time. And it worked!
That mentality has stayed with me. With Coach McNutt, it worked to my advantage. That is not always the case. When I ran the Run for Life Marathon in Madison, Mississippi, a couple of years ago, I started having some pain in my hip within the first mile. The course was a double loop, meaning that the half marathoners completed the first loop and entered Liberty Park to cross the finish line. The marathoners had to run the loop a second time before entering the park to cross the marathon finish line. Although my hip was bothering me, it was something I thought I could tolerate. Then I got to mile 12 as we were approaching the park and my hip started to really hurt. I stopped at the mile 13 marker at the entrance to the park and stared at the half marathon finish line for several minutes. In my mind, I was debating with myself about whether I should just run on in, complete the half marathon and call it a day. I kept telling myself that I did not drive over to this race to run a half marathon. Eventually, the “can do” attitude won out and I decide to finish the marathon by taking off on the second loop. Unfortunately, I only got a mile into that loop before my hip started to really hurt me. I stopped at the mile 14 marker and tried to decide what would be more embarrassing to me — should I run backwards for a mile to get to the park and finish the half marathon or should I continue on knowing that I would have to walk most of the remaining 12 miles with a painful hip. If you guessed that I chose to walk the remaining 12 miles of the marathon, you would be right. It was a painful, miserable 3+ hours but I did finish the marathon. Of course, I could not run for a week and my hip hurt when I walked. But I did not quit!
Because I approach almost everything with an all-or-nothing attitude, it has bothered me for a year that I did not get to cross the finish line on Boylston Street last year. The way everything went down left an empty feeling in my stomach that I still feel whenever I think about that marathon. That is the only race that I have started and not crossed the finish line. Even though I have a medal and an “official” finishing time from last year, a part of me feels like I did not finish the race. Since I was stopped by the police with only about a half-mile to go, there is no doubt that I would have finished. I just cannot get over the fact that I did not cross the finish line. I know it is petty and I do try not to look at it that way. It is just hard for me, I guess.
This is the place where I was stopped by the police during last year’s marathon. That’s me in the red shirt and hat in the bottom right corner.
It is the other side of last year’s event that still creates a lump in my throat when I reflect back to that day. The Boston Marathon is the most iconic marathon in all of running. It is partly because it is the oldest annually contested marathon in the world and was inspired by the marathon at the first modern Olympics Games in 1896. Because of its stature in the world of running, thousands and thousands of spectators come to watch. When the bombs went off, the people finishing the marathon were “average” runners like me. The elite runners had long since finished. The other “really fast” runners were also most likely back in their hotels resting. The time on the clock showed 4:09 of the third wave when the first bomb exploded at 2:50PM local time. The bombs were set down among the spectators in backpacks. Who are the spectators at that point of a marathon? It is primarily the family and friends of those average runners. You see, these runners are not “winning” anything in terms of the race results. That is especially true at the Boston Marathon because it is has such a fast field of runners. As one of these regular runners, I would contend that every one of these runners are winning, and winning big. When it comes to running 26.2 miles, I believe everyone that crosses the finish line wins something. It may be just that they checked an item off their bucket list. Win! It may be that they did something that they did not think they could do. Win! It may be that they are running to raise money for a charity or some cause that affects them personally. Win! It really does not matter why they ran. If they finish, they win. That is why everyone gets a medal.
I digressed a bit, but it is my blog and I can do whatever I want. To get back on point… Because of the class of runners that were finishing the marathon at the time of the explosions, those cowardly punk terrorists were targeting innocent people who were just there to watch someone close to them complete something significant. That’s it! The streets were lined with friends and families, including kids. Including kids! Being in Boston then, the local television coverage was wall-to-wall about the bombings and its aftermath. It was story after story about the victims and the authorities asking for anyone that might have seen something to please come forward. In the end, three innocent people were killed that day (another was killed by the bombers later) and over 260 were injured (many losing limbs in the process). I still cannot get the images of Martin Richard out of my mind. He was the 8-year-old boy who was killed as his sister and mother were severely injured. His 6-year-old sister lost her leg and his mom suffered serious head injury. Martin and his family was just there to watch his dad finish the marathon. Since he was the first victim identified, his picture was all over the television coverage. Did you catch that he was 8 years old and his sister was 6 years old? (You can help the Richard family by clicking here.)
Who knows what these morons thought they would accomplish. If they thought they would scare people back into their homes or put an end to the Boston Marathon, they are even dumber than they look. This is Boston, Massachusetts, after all. The same Boston that was pivotal to the American Revolution where we fought and won a war against the most powerful nation on the planet to gain our freedom and independence. Has anyone ever heard of the Boston Tea Party? The marathon is run every year on Patriot’s Day, which is celebrated on the third Monday in April. Patriot’s Day commemorates the April 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord. These were the first battles of the American Revolutionary War. In the days following the bombings, the world saw that the same resolve still resides in the hearts of Bostonians. Runners, especially distance runners, have that same kind of will. If these terrorists thought runners would be afraid to come back to the Boston Marathon, they also underestimated the runner’s resolve. In fact, there was so much interest for running this year’s marathon that the Boston Athletic Association had to add a fourth wave for another 9,000 runners. Most of us that were denied finishing last year chose to come back this year. We were not going to let the terrorists keep us away.
The anticipation of going back to Boston has been building inside me for months. It was last May when the Boston Athletic Association sent an email to those of us that were stopped before finishing to let us know that they were extending an invitation for us to come back this year to resolve our unfinished business. I have been eagerly looking forward to this return trip ever since. In fact, I submitted my registration within minutes of the special registration period opening on 19 August. Now, it is just a month from today that we will ride the buses out to Hopkinton to begin the trek back to Boylston Street in Boston’s Copley Square. This time, I will get to turn “right on Hereford, left on Boylston.” I have no doubt about that. I also have no doubt that the scene on Boylston Street will be back to what it is supposed to be, one of celebration. It may have taken a year, but we will finish what we started on 15 April of last year. We will win!
This is a picture of the finish line on race morning last year just as the sun was coming up. I was walking to catch my bus when I took this picture. I walked behind the grand stands because I did not want to cross the finish line on race day until I was completing the marathon.