It was nothing of what I expected, but everything that I needed. . . .
In the week leading up to The Boston Marathon I had been a mess of nerves. Following the Carmel ½ Marathon I had been experiencing a cranky nagging discomfort in my inside left ankle.
I was religiously going to see Eric at Beyond Exercise (one of my sponsors) to speed along my recovery and make sure I was ready. Active release therapy was followed by sessions with the Deep Muscle Stimulator and myofascial release. I grit my teeth and embraced the taper that Eric and the Russians prescribed with hopes that my body would be ready.
On race morning, I walked up to the start line with thousands of other wide-open sets of eyes, the chill of morning air crawling into my race kit.
The booming of the race announcer and music surrounded me.
Wave One please enter your corrals.
I had poured my soul into training for this race.
The familiar sound of the National Anthem filled the air as stillness took over the crowd.
I looked out over the runners, and spectators. The posters lining the start that usually flaunted witty sayings and offered beer; this year encouraged a greater kind of determination. American flags embellished the sea of Boston blue and yellow, proudly displayed to remind each of us that today was not just another race. Today was not simply another Boston aimed at championing the fastest athletes in the sport, but instead a celebration to reclaim an iconic event representing the human spirit’s drive to persevere and to never give up.
The race emcee recited the names of the four people who died in the attacks on Boston last year:
Martin W. Richard
Krystle M. Campbell
Officer Sean A. Collier
The shuffling had stopped and each name cut through the crisp morning air as four National Guard Black Hawk helicopters roared overhead.
Runners, take your mark.
The voices, the cowbells, roared giving us a hero's sendoff.
I settled into my pace as the crowds spread out down the road out of Hopkinton.
Time to focus, Falcon.
The hyper-frenzied first mile propelled me down the hill into Ashland, but the tightly packed crowd tempered my pace.
The loud music and raucous crowd at “TJ’s Food and Spirits” whizzed by with spectators offering outstretched arms of beer and cigarettes. Out of the corner of my eyes I saw a runner accept a smoke from a green Newport box.
The crowd exploded with laughter and cheers.
I steadied my stride trying to block out distractions. Before I knew it, I had zoomed past the 5k and 10k check points. Target pace. No issues.
Take a gel.
Take the water; a cup to drink another over my head.
This was my mantra as I entered into Wellesley.
The stories of the screaming girls are true. The sounds of high-pitched shrieking can be herd a half mile out from the college. It builds with critical mass from a low din to the most overpowering roar that reverberates deep with your soul.
I began to shake as I ran past the signs begging tokens of affection –
Kiss me for a PR!
It’s hot but so are you!
I majored in kissing!
Kiss fast girls for faster times
I laughed out loud and could feel my pace begin to slow. I absorbed the landscape of runners stopping dead in their tracks to embrace total strangers. One girl held a scoreboard high in one hand with 30 hash marks counting her support in the form of kisses. In the other hand, a man who had passed me at an impressive pace only a mile before was completely still locked in her embrace.
I could feel my face begin to ache from wide grin that spanned my cheeks.
In those middle miles the crowds grew larger and with each step I was sucked into the overwhelming emotion that energized both the runners and the crowds of the Boston Marathon. I knew my pace had slowed, but somehow the experience of the day became more important then a personal goal. Participating in the marathon and high-fiving children trumped the need to post a particular result.
Newton is where the REAL hills start. As the iconic Fire station came into view I heard a small echo move through the cheering crowd.
An American won The Boston Marathon!
Who? Who won?
Was it Shalane?
No. Not Shalane.
Meb won. Meb won the Boston Marathon!
The same crowd that cheered in the shadows of the morning cheered in the brilliant sunshine of Marathon Monday: USA USA USA!
The crowd breathed new life into me. Their energy pushed me. My pace quickened again--my body seemed to get just a little bit lighter.
Ready to work. Ready to climb.
I put my head down and began to grind the false flats to the climb up the first, second, and third hills.
Just one more. Steady pace; no broken hearts today Falcon.
I fought for every inch of road as I looked down and saw the chalk labeling the epic mountain that begins Heart Break Hill.
Five miles to go.
I entered downtown Boston and the gigantic CITGO sign filled my vision. I glanced down at my watch and realized I was back to my race pace. I realized that even if I could not PR, I could still set a personal record for the Boston course.
With new energy I focused all my efforts on a 3:09 finish.
I hit the last mile marker. The crowds grew larger, louder, and brighter.
Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston, I repeated over and over barreling past the endless sea of cheering faces, between the fences, and into the finishing shoot.
I closed my eyes and suddenly felt a warm passionate embrace. For a moment I thought my husband had caught me…but then realized this was impossible, as his wave started 30 minutes after mine.
I opened my eyes and looked down to see two arms much darker then my husbands.
I spun around and saw a man I did not know.
He was weeping.
We did it. We did it. He exclaimed over and over.
I leaned into him, and smiled as tears streamed down my face.
Laurah Lukin is a triathlete and distance runner. She lives and trains in Cincinnati, Ohio.