Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Spirit of Boston

The following was written by Jackie Kascic, a fellow RRCA-certified coach, after finishing the Boston Marathon last week. We think it embodies the spirit of the Boston Marathon- and running in general- and reminds us that even when we're not setting a PR or having a perfect running day, it's important to remember how lucky we are to be able to get out there and run.

The Marathon

I remember the day that I qualified for the Boston Marathon – how happy my family and friends were for me. They were really probably just tired of me talking about it for so long. I qualified for Boston on my 8th marathon on a day where running seemed to come easy for me. We all have good and bad days. Never put too much emphasis on a bad run – there is always another one around the corner. When I first started running, I never thought I would run a 5-K let alone a marathon or the Boston marathon. I had little confidence in my athletic abilities. That changed slowly over time – very, very slowly. I qualified to run the Boston marathon at the Baltimore marathon – two days before registration for Boston opened. I thought – how lucky could I possibly be? Now I just had to wait until April tor run the marathon. I put myself through my usual barrage of fall torture (do as I say and not as I do) – running the NYC marathon and several other races.

I started training for Boston in January and everything was going fine – until I tweaked my IT band (the tendon that runs from your hip to your knee) a few weeks ago. It is a common running injury and not severe, but it needs time to recover which was something I didn’t have. I thought why did this happen to me now? How could this be fair? I was devastated but started aggressive physical therapy immediately. My physical therapist assured me that I would be able to run the race, but my leg would not feel completely normal. I had little confidence in the three weeks leading up to the race that I would be able to finish it. I said as little as possible every time someone asked me about the race as I had no confidence that I would be able to finish. I didn’t even make a final decision to go to Boston until Thursday before the race. This was a step forward – at least I committed to getting on the plane.

My husband and I flew to Boston on Saturday and took in some of the sites of Boston, including a Red Sox game. I went to the expo and felt a sense of panic that all of these people would finish, and I might not achieve that accomplishment. Sunday was filled with more apprehension.

Finally, Monday was here – Marathon Monday! I left my hotel room at 6:00 am to catch the bus to the little town of Hopkinton where I would sit around and wait for hours. It was great to see so many runners coming together for a common purpose. We arrived in Hopkinton before 8, and my wave wasn’t scheduled to start until 10:20. This part didn’t bother me – this is similar to the way the NYC marathon works. The girl sitting next to me seemed distraught. I tried to calm her down the best that I could. This made me feel better - it was a distraction from my own apprehension.

I got into my starting corral near start time and before I knew it – we were off! The first part of the race is downhill. My knee felt tight (not painful but tight) from the first mile. The downhill isn’t easy on the IT band. I just kept concentrating on moving forward. The miles seemed to go by slowly, and I wondered how I would ever be able to finish. I called my husband around mile 8. I am not sure what I wanted him to tell me - it is ok to quit or to keep going. He didn’t answer, and I just kept moving on. I figured it was easier to keep moving forward then to figure out how to get back to Boston J. I started listening to music at some point which I never do during marathons, but it was all I could do to keep focused. I stopped every so often (sometimes for long periods) to stretch. I was so worried about my knee tightening up.

Then the Turning Point!!! The course rolls past Wellesley College around mile 11. There are women everywhere with signs that say “Kiss Me”. I loved that part of the race – so much energy! I stopped to stretch and take some pictures before moving forward. After that, I was in the hills of Newton near the infamous “Heartbreak Hill”. The hills felt better on my leg, and I actually passed people at times (still stopping to stretch as needed). Heartbreak Hill had nothing on me – I never even knew when I really passed it until I saw a sign saying, “The Heartbreak is Over”. Once I got to mile 18, I knew I would finish if I continued to take it easy and follow my plan. I was close enough to Boston and started to think about the medal around my neck. I started high-fiving people and enjoying the energy of the crowd! A friend of mine said once you see the big Citgo sign – you are there! I saw it from a distance, but it seemed like it took a long time to pass it. The crowd support was great – lots of people everywhere!

Finally, I turned on to Boylston Street, and I could see the finish line. My husband yelled at me from the crowd, and I actually saw him! Two of my friends had made the trip to see me finish as well. They got to see all of the elites go by earlier in the day with a world famous time in the elite men’s race.

I crossed the finish line and got my medal and mylar blanket. I had tears in my eyes. I couldn’t believe what I had accomplished since my days of not being able to run a mile. It may have been my worst marathon time ever, but it felt like a big accomplishment in the face of adversity. Someday I will get back to that course and show it who is boss!

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