21 times I cried during the Boston Marathon

  • This was not actually part of Mind Over Miles, but it’s a very important part of the story 😉  This was published on the front page of The Madera Tribune on April 21, 2015. I wrote it in the lobby of our hotel near Boston right after the marathon (and a shower!) and sent it to my editor across the country and three time zones away.

11011202_894248950597893_562350284866496707_n11149380_10100573718570491_6286983913869450910_nThe day finally came. Audrey Crow and I, after months of training, planning and fundraising, ran in the world-renowned Boston Marathon on Monday.

The slogan “There is only one” is completely true – there is no marathon like theBoston Marathon. The race, the crowd, the feeling you get when you cross the line, it is all completely indescribable, even by someone who makes a living by as a writer.

I can’t tell you what it feels like, but you can get a pretty good sense if I describe all of the moments when I nearly broke down in tears. This is the story of our Boston Marathon, explained through the times that I choked up, shed a tear or full-on sobbed:

  1. The start. We were just two women in a crowd of 30,000. We had blue bibs on, signaling that we were to run in the third wave beginning at 10:50 a.m. I felt so small in that big crowd, but so excited to be among the world’s best runners, who – just like us‑ trained all winter, some in snow and ice, to be there.
  2. A quarter-mile into the race. I looked around and saw hundreds of people lining the street, cheering on the runners. It was raining when we began the race, and the drizzle turned into a downpour at times. Strong winds made the large raindrops pelt us like hail. But the spectators acted like it didn’t phase them. They had huge smiles, high fives and cheers for each of us.
  3. Mile 1. When it hit me that we were actually running the BostonMarathon. This was no longer a dream, something far off in the distance; this was real, and we were doing it.
  4. When someone yelled “Go Farin!” I wore a royal blue Gazelle Gear headband that had my name on it in big, bold yellow letters. Our coach, a two-time BostonMarathon runner, told us to wear our name so that everyone in the crowd could yell it. Hearing my name excited me, but also made me wish that I could have had family or friends in Boston — people who actually knew us.11053610_10100576230845871_796684341007422348_o
  5. When we passed a blind runner and his guide. It was a testament that anyone can run Boston, even the disabled, if they work hard enough.
  6. When we passed a double-amputee running with blade-style prosthetics. Another testament that anyone can run Boston. It’s not about having the ability to see ‑ or even about having legs to run with — it’s about having a runner’s heart.
  7. Mile 5. Tiny children were lining the streets next to their parents, holding out their cold hands in the rain to high-five the runners. I made it a point to cross to that side of the street and slap a high-five with each of those kids, all the while thinking of my own two, ages 5 and 2, watching me at home on the computer via the marathon’s live stream.11155043_10100576231853851_1587441113237649619_o
  8. When I saw a woman running in a parka that had “Baby on board” written on the back of it. Another woman, who was also pregnant, congratulated her. The second woman was 32 weeks along. Yes, anyone can run Boston. Even pregnant women and their unborn children!
  9. When Audrey started to complain about her feet. I am so proud to run alongside that 46-year-old woman. She suffers from neuropathy in her foot which makes her unable to wear socks, IT band syndrome that forces her to wear a brace on her knee, and the inability to find a shoe that will alleviate both. Yet she perseveres and keeps pushing.1926298_10100576231075411_2488289331332375018_o11016815_10100576231085391_4482343394180780348_o
  10. Mile 10. I told Audrey at that point that we were on pace for her to BQ , or qualify for Boston, again. Although we had said we would take it easy at this marathon in preparation for the Miwok 100K (62-mile) race 11 days later, I had it in my mind the whole time that I wanted Audrey to re-qualify in Boston. She just didn’t know it yet. She needed to run the 26.2-mile race in less than 3 hours and 55 minutes.
  11. When I saw a man wearing a blue jersey with the number 8 on it and the name Martin Richard. Martin, 8 years old, was one of the three people killed by the Boston Marathon bombs in 2013. I looked around at the crowd of spectators that lined every mile of that race and thought ‘how could someone do such a thing?’ How could anyone plant bombs with the intent to harm or kill these people, who this year are standing out in freezing cold rain and giving high-fives, smiles, licorice, orange slices and even small cups of beer to the runners? The spectators are as amazing as the participants.
  12. Mile 14, when Audrey said, “I don’t think I can keep this pace. We’re going too fast.” I wanted that BQ for her more than she wanted it for herself. I had to get creative in how to motivate her to keep up with me. I cried because I felt bad for pushing her when she hasn’t had proper training for the past month due to injuries.
  13. Mile 16. We were still on pace for Audrey to BQ, but she was struggling up the hills. The look on her face told me she was about to cry, which made me cry.11083793_10100576229523521_3661297146655266708_o
  14. When I chose the proverbial “low blow” to motivate Audrey when she began to walk. Her sister-in-law’s father, Ray Flores, passed away over the weekend, but before his death had asked his family to ask Audrey to run Boston for him. I told Audrey, “I thought you were running for Ray, not walking for him.” It hurt to say that, but Audrey began to run again.
  15. Conquering Heartbreak Hill. There is an infamous hill about Mile 20 on the Boston Marathon course where back in the 1936 race, defending champion John Kelley overtook Ellison “Tarzan” Brown, giving him a pat on the shoulder. Tarzan ended up beating Kelly, who was heartbroken about losing, so that hill became known as Heartbreak Hill. I didn’t know where it was and how hard it would be, but when Audrey and I both crested it and then read signs that said, “Heartbreak is over” I realized what we had accomplished and knew we were in the home stretch.
  16. Mile 24. Audrey again began to walk because of the pain in her foot. The rain throughout the race, and the lack of socks, caused her shoes to chafe her skin so badly that it was bleeding. Still she pushed on, after I yelled, “Wascallys don’t walk!” (Our running group is called the Wicked Fast Wascally Wunnahs.) I had to remind myself of the same thing, when a hint of a cramp started tugging at my right hamstring.
  17. Mile 25. Audrey, distraught, in pain and with a look on her face that said she would rather be doing anything but running right now, said, “Shouldn’t we have gotten to Mile 25 already?” I glanced at my watch, knew the mile marker was just up ahead, and then did some quick mental math to realize that we could still run a Boston Qualifying time for Audrey — if she could finish the race at about an 8:50 per mile pace. We were gonna do this. She was going to hate me, but I was going to push her to go faster.
  18. Rounding the corner from Hereford onto Boylston. This is the home stretch of the Boston Marathon. The crowd is at least 6-people deep, with everyone cheering wildly and runners picking up the pace to kick it into the finish. At that point I realized Audrey wouldn’t BQ, but we were still about to accomplish something amazing, and that is finishing the world’s oldest annual marathon.11174514_10100576230930701_9016443613700511574_o
  19. Running down Boylston. I could barely breathe because I was so choked up. The blue and yellow finish was just ahead. Audrey in her white shirt with purple letters reading “They shall run and not grow weary, Isaiah 40:31” was just behind me. “Come on, Audrey! We’re right — ” I couldn’t say “there” because the words caught in my throat.
  20. Approaching the finish line. I was outright sobbing, but then quickly wiped my face with my cold, wet glove, and put on a smile for the finish line camera. I struck the “Wascally pose,” which we adopted from the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt. Then I resumed my loud sobbing.11136136_10100576226669241_1409271840069744232_o11187186_10100580310265681_3796586876796301023_o
  21. Watching Audrey cross the line. A mere 8 seconds behind me, Audrey also struck the pose on the finish line and then walked toward me. “We did it!” we said to each other, and both began to cry. April 20, 2015, is a day we will never forget. It’s the day we ran our first Boston Marathon and crossed the line before the 4-hour mark.

The one time I didn’t cry:

I laughed the most as we ran the 13th mile of the race, where the students attending Wellesley College, an all female university, lined the street holding signs that read, “Kiss me!” I kissed so many Wellesley women I lost count.

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