Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Spirit of Boston

The stories from this year's epic Boston Marathon are numerous- inspiring tales of perseverance, reluctant defeat, humbling realizations. We were privileged to coach Christi towards her goal of running the Boston Marathon along side her husband, Tony, who has MS and is mobility impaired. Christi and Tony ran as part of Team Strike Out MS and didn't let the oppressive heat stop them in their pursuit of their goal of finishing Boston, making Tony the first wheelchair racer with MS to complete the Boston course. With Christi's permission, we're honored to share her experience on Monday:
First I want to say a huge THANK YOU for all of your guidance and support throughout this incredible journey! I am so blessed to have you two as my friends and coaches. Even though I was injured and the weather played nasty tricks on us, I felt strong in spirit and confident in my training that I could face the day and whatever it may bring my way.
It was a tough day not only physically but also emotionally as we were faced with limitations beyond our control with Tony's MS. All the more reason to keep pushing forward! Twice we had to stop so that Tony could use a bathroom. We had not run into this before in training or at MCM so we were not expecting nor prepared for this situation. Both times we had to find a store/restaurant that would allow us in and to use their facilities. Both of these stops took close to 30 minutes each.
I felt pretty good until we hit Wellesley. I was so excited for Tony to experience this and made the mistake of trying to take a picture of him running alongside the women and their kisses. I stopped short and felt like my calves were being twisted beyond repair. I literally collapsed in pain and it took several minutes before I could stand again. That was possibly one of the most painful experiences I have ever had and it felt like an eternity before I was able to focus and stretch them out. We continued on albeit at a slow crawl but I was determined to not give up. I was able to recover but only for short spurts before I could feel the warning signs that the calves were going to cramp again. So we continued on like this, run, walk, run, walk for what seemed like an eternity.
By the time we reached Newton not one single person that we saw was running the hills. Totally different than from my experience in 2009!! I have never seen so many faces of doubt and defeat. It looked like a funeral march and aside from the crowds trying their best to cheer the runners on, it felt like one too. This is about where we saw the first of many casualties that day. People began dropping like flies, it was downright scary. We saw more people vomit than I care to ever remember and also witnessed 2 people unconscious with the paramedics giving them oxygen and trying to resuscitate them. These happened to be about 3 miles apart and talk about scary. It really made me realize just how hot it was and how dangerous it can be if you don't listen to your body and your coaches!!
When we came upon the Citgo sign and Fenway Park, Tony was so excited. He pointed to the sign like a little kid and with the biggest smile he said, "Hey look, it's the Citgo sign! I remember you telling me all about that from your last race here!" He got it! He actually got exactly what so many of us feel when we see that sign and recognize that we are now in the home stretch. At the same time we also saw the temperature posted and it was reading 91*. I can tell you it felt so much hotter and probably was due to the pavement and lack of shade.
What happened next was nothing short of a scene made for a movie. We were trudging along and everyone was doing their best to stay positive and we had grown very quiet. A guy who was running for the MS Society came along side us with tears streaming down his face. He grabbed Tony's hand and said "Thank you. You have no idea what you have done for me today. So many times I wanted to quit and just give up but then I remembered you and your story you shared on Saturday night. You are my hero, you saved me today and gave every reason as to why I should never quit. Not now, not ever." And then he was gone. We were all so lifted by this guy that we found it in us to run the last 2.5 miles and push through the pain and the feelings of defeat we were all experiencing. The finish was magical and Tony cried. I was a complete blubbering mess.
When we got to the MS Society reception a short while later, we found out that the guy who came up to us not only continued on to finish but also re-qualified for next year!! This is when Tony declared how much he really loved what we were doing as a team and that he wants to do MCM again this fall! I was beyond shocked to be honest with you and was worried that the extreme heat of Monday and the long time it took us to finish would have done him in. Not so! I told Tony I was not committed to doing MCM that if I got into New York then that was my fall race otherwise I may just do a few halves. He didn't care, he said he would just race with Iwan and then really have a chance at qualifying for Boston!! I died laughing at his spirit and enthusiasm, but man if he wasn't dead serious! Today he googled the BAA and found out all the info for the mobility impaired qualifying times!! My husband is officially a runner, he is hooked!!
Seriously though, I could never have gotten through this journey without your coaching and support. I cannot put it into words just how much this has meant to me. You two are incredible and I hope someday you both realize just how special and talented you truly are. I am honored and blessed to know you and have you in my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

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