It’s race day, the alarm clock goes off at 5 a.m. and you jump out of bed. Today is the day that all of your hard work is going to pay off. Although you were unable to get a good night sleep last night, you feel energized because today you are one of the select few who get the opportunity to run the Boston Marathon. For the past six months this race has been at the center point of your life. You have sacrificed a lot to get to this point but it’s worth it because as a runner this is your chance to stand side-by-side with the some of the best runners in the world.
As you await the start of the race in Hopkinton you are filled with so many emotions. On the one hand, you are nervous and you ask yourself, “Should I be here with all of these great runners?” On the other hand, you say to yourself, “I deserve to be here, today is going to be a great day.” Because once I cross the line, I will forever be known as a Boston Marathon finisher.”
As the gun goes off, you race down the hill with 35,000 runners, all of whom have the same goal, which is to “just get to Boylston Street.” As you go through the towns, you are greeted by cheering fans who offer you high fives and drinks. You are greeted by signs that make you both laugh (Kiss me, I’m gluten free) and cry (26.2 miles for the kids from Sandy Hook). Over the course of the next 26.2 miles, you have a roller coaster of emotions, but that is to be expected because nobody said this would be easy.
As you arrive at Boston College, the crowds begin to grow and the course becomes more challenging. You attack Heartbreak Hill with everything you have and the cheers and college kids help you get the top. As you approach the city, you see the Citgo sign and you know that you are getting close to your destination - Boylston Street - it’s there where the final 200 yards will be easy.
As you make the climb to Boylston Street, all that remains is a sharp left turn and 200-300 yards to one of the best moments in all of sports: the finish line of the Boston Marathon. This is the easiest part of the race for the runners. They know that this is where their family and friends have been all day for a glimpse of greatness.
This is where, as I ran with my wife last Monday, everything changed for so many people.
My wife, Mary Jo, crossed the finish line approximately 30 minutes prior to the bombing that we all witnessed on television last week. She is one of the lucky ones able to experience one of the greatest finish lines in all of sports. She was lucky and I thank God that she was lucky. As we all know, so many others were not as lucky as Mary Jo.
As we stood in our hotel room and watched what was happening approximately a quarter of mile away, our hearts were filled with such sadness for the victims of this tragic act. How could this be? Thirty minutes ago, I was running down Boylston with my wife ready to celebrate all of her hard work and dedication. In a moment’s notice, tragedy struck so many people and changed a city forever.
As we watched the news unfold, I looked down at my phone and I had over fifty text messages from friends and relatives. People wanted to know if we were okay. It was amazing to me that so many people dropped everything and reached out to me to make sure that Mary Jo was OK.
Over the course of the next day, we see several people showing incredible love and support to the runners. My wife spoke to a girl who had not finished the race; however, she was given a medal by a stranger who had crossed the line before the bomb. He simply walked up to the girl and, without hesitation, gave her his medal because he realized she did not get a chance to finish. Runners are an interesting group of people. We are known for having some pretty strange habits and tendencies (i.e. We consider GU food). I am a runner and I can attest to this. However, one thing that I have witnessed firsthand over the years is that runners are good people. We support each other during the race and shake hands at the finish. We stop if a runner is hurt, even if we are having the race of our life.
What makes the Boston Marathon the greatest running race in the world is that everyone who lines up in Hopkinton realizes that the people next to you have made the same sacrifices as you (months of training, stricter diet, long runs in the rain, snow and 20 degree weather), and with that comes respect and admiration. You see runners helping one another at the end of the race, cheering each other on to continue, some arm and arm holding one another up as their tired legs are cramping all having the same idea… “We finish and we finish together.”
We all witnessed the amazing courage of so many people last Monday. In an instant, spectators ran and helped total strangers just so they would not have to suffer alone. As I stood on the street in Boston last Monday, so many emotions were running through my head but I kept coming back to the innocent people who, on a picture perfect day, thought they would be hugging someone at the finish line and instead were hanging on to their life. Having three kids of my own, I was numb to the fact of what could have been.
Too often we get caught up in the little things in life. One of the keys to having optimal health is knowing that people genuinely care about you. I hope that everyone who reads this has a network of friends like my wife and I because I realized last Monday that when you’re scared, you need to have people who you can turn to for help.
For the people who lost loved ones, I can’t imagine what you are feeling. However, I hope that you realize that you are not alone and that the running community will always be there to support you.
Have a question for strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller? Leave a message in the comments below.