Monday, May 1, 2017

The meaning of Boston

At the risk of overdoing it on the Boston posts, I wanted to write just one last post to sum up my thoughts on race weekend.

A quick recap: I've qualified for Boston three times.  I qualified and registered for the 2012 race but didn't get to go because the new registration rules shut me out.  I finally got to run Boston for the first time in 2015.  The 2017 Boston Marathon was my second, and as I've said many times, my last for a very long time.  I'm happy to go out on such a high note.

This was easily one of the best weekends of my life, and after the shitstorm of the last few months, it couldn't have come at a better time.  Boston came at a time when I needed it most to remind me that yes, life can be good.  That there are things in life worth working towards. That there are things in life worth celebrating.  To put it mildly, I'm so glad I did not drop out of Boston like I considered over the winter.

I went to Boston completely by myself.  I could have spent all weekend feeling sorry for myself that not a single friend or family member was there to support me (my dad had a pacemaker put in 6 days before the race, so we'll give him a pass), but instead I went in with a positive attitude and tried to make the most of it.  I ended up meeting and talking to so many different runners and had the time of my life.  The fact that the race itself was hot and at times miserable and I ran my slowest time in years is immaterial.  The weekend as a whole was just that good.  I used to not understand the kind of person who returns year after year to Disneyworld or Disneyland.  But I get it now.  The Boston Marathon race weekend is magical to runners in the same way that Disney is to others.  One easily feels sucked in and a part of something larger than himself, and that sense of belonging is a powerful emotion.  If anyone thinks sports can't transcend mere athletics into something more beautiful, I dare them to experience the Boston Marathon and continue to believe this.

Boston is one of the most hyped races sporting events events on the planet, but I believe it truly lives up to it.  There is an excitement in the air, a sense of pride from the locals, a feeling of community in a city of millions when everyone has the same thing on the mind.  It is incredible, and incredibly hard to describe in words.

I read somewhere about the process of becoming a volunteer to hand out water on the course.  Volunteers have to attend meetings and watch tutorial videos on the proper way to hold the cups.  Each table has its own team leader that coordinates with higher ups in the race.  They put in a full day's work between setting up, distributing water, and cleaning up. And it is an honor to do so.  Nothing less than perfection is acceptable when it comes to Boston.

I've often thought about which is better: the journey to Boston (a.k.a. the training cycle that allowed me to qualify at Philly in 2015), or Boston itself?  But I realize now it's like comparing apples and oranges.  Both experiences were incredible in their own way.

As incredible as this weekend was, I know that happiness is best when shared.  While I am content to go out on top and leave Boston behind for awhile, one of my greatest goals in life is to someday run this race with my son, Neale.  This depends greatly on his own interest in the sport of running, not to mention ability, but I can think of nothing greater than to share the finish line with him someday.

For now, I'll leave you with this: if you are just starting out in running, and you're wondering if Boston might be a worthwhile goal, I will shout at you a resounding "yes."  If you are wondering if you can make it, if you are wondering if you are physically capable, if you have the heart and the resolve; yes, you do.  Keep at it.  There are so many people who believe in you.  And I can guarantee you: it is worth it.

I'll close by quoting myself from my 2015 race recap:

"Now, I have had the privilege of experiencing many great things in my life, and I can honestly say those four blocks on Boylston rank among the best of my life's memories.  When I grow old and my muscles weaken and my joints creak, and my days of marathoning have long since ended, I will still hearken back to the deafening roar of Boylston Street and remember what it was like to touch greatness."

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