A Day in Beantown- The Boston Marathon
When I arrived at the Boston Marathon Expo on April 13th, I was given a “Welcome” book that outlined the itinerary for the race. Upon opening the first page, the first sentence read, “This is personal.” I was immediately captivated by those words so I continued reading. The remainder of the message said, “The Boston Marathon. It’s more than a race to you. It’s the culmination of a longer journey- a personal one. It’s your chance to make a statement to the world about who you are and what’s important to you. This is about your goals, convictions and hopes. This is your day. This is your marathon.”
The words written in that book resonated in my mind for the remainder of the weekend. I had trained so hard for the Boston Marathon and I had anxiously waited three years for this day to come. Finally, I would prove to myself that I was worthy of running in this race and I would validate why being called a runner is the most prestigious title one can have.
From the moment that I woke up at 5:30 am on April 15th, the Boston Marathon was nothing less than a spectacular journey. As I rushed to the Dedham Corporate Center train station at 6 o’clock in the morning, I began repeating my mantra in my mind: This is your day. This is your marathon! While waiting for the train to arrive, a man at the station immediately befriended me. He introduced himself as Malcolm from Toronto. Malcolm shared his running success stories with me and I was immediately drawn to his energy. Malcolm had run more than 40 marathons, including one where the temperatures were below 10 degrees. As we entered the train, the train employee asked me for the $6.00 fare. “I thought it was free for runners,” I thought. I looked down and told Malcolm I didn’t have any money. Without hesitation, Malcolm took out a $20.00 bill and told the train employee, “Make it two tickets.” With a sigh of relief I shouted, “You saved my life! You are a good Samaritan Malcolm.” After the train ride, Malcolm and I hurried through the streets of Downtown Boston to catch the bus to Hopkinton, which was the start of the race. I was in disbelief when we arrived to the park. There must have been about 2,000 runners waiting for the school buses to arrive. I’m going to be late for the first wave at 10 o’clock, I told him. “Erika, I will hold your spot in the back of the line. See if you could get a spot in the front. If you don’t come back, I’ll know you got through.” Those were the last words Malcolm and I shared. I clandestinely got into the front of the line and into one of the buses-this must be my lucky day I thought.
Forty five minutes later, I was finally in Hopkinton. As I waited in the “runner’s village,” I snuggled in a blanket to shield my body from the low temperatures to conserve energy. At 9:40 am the first wave runners were escorted to the start of the line. The distance from the village to the start of the line seemed like a marathon itself. I was shaking from the cold and from the overwhelming sense of excitement. As I got into the corral, I began stretching and praying to God for a safe and fun race. At 10:00 am on the dot, I was ready to go…
By the first mile in the race, I took off my ear warmers and gloves and I lowered my arm sleeves. I was warned about the first mile downhill, so I steadily kept my pace at 6.38 minutes (per mile). I had set a goal of finishing at 2 hours and 55 minutes, so I consistently kept my pace between 6.38 and 6.39. There were moments throughout the race where the crowds would provoke a burst of energy within me. The streets were flooded with thousands of people wearing Boston shirts and caps. I saw red and blue everywhere. There were young and old people. There were young children putting out their hands to receive a high 5 from the runners. There were beautiful college girls holding up signs that read “Kiss me!” Everywhere my face turned I saw glimpses of smiles and laughter. I saw young people kissing and older women yelling “Never give up!” At about the 13th mile, I heard an older male panting behind me. I immediately shortened my steps and I asked him if he was ok. “You have an excellent pace,” he said. “We BOTH have an excellent pace,” I told the older man. As I continued running a young female runner yelled at me, “Come on girl, let’s do this!” “I’ve been waiting for these hills all my life,” I said to the young girl.
A burst of energy filled my body as soon as the 16th mile began. Someone had told me that the race really began at mile 16, so I cautiously ran through it to save my legs for the Newton Hills starting in mile 17. As I ran through the hills I prayed to God to help me overcome all pain and to help me conquer my dreams because all things were possible through Him. I repeated those words until the last hill at Heartbreak. Running the Newton Hills was like a roller coaster, both physically and mentally. My quadriceps were tight and the little voice inside my head had moments of weakness. Somehow my body and mind fought through the moment and I regained momentum when I reached mile 23.
As I ran down the hill at mile 23, I suddenly tripped over a railroad track. I immediately stood up and a young male runner shouted, “We fall to get up!” His encouraging words helped me wipe the dirt off and off I went running. I limped for a few yards and then began jogging. “I have come too far to quit,” I thought. As I continued limping I fought through the pain and imagined the finish line. I was sweating profusely and panting in agony. By mile 25 I saw the big Citgo sign and I knew I was close to home. I ran and ran and ran without looking back.
My left knee
By mile 26 my body begged me to stop. The pain was growing worse but the spectator’s cheers masked all my doubts of finishing. Their voices and praise helped me finish that race and my heart was thankful when I passed the finished line.
Looking back at the Boston Marathon I have to say that my experience was very personal. It was a personal journey and a personal race. I did not finish in 2 hours and 55 minutes, but somehow I managed to finish in under 3 hours (2:59:18). I proved to myself that faith goes a long way. You have to believe in yourself and what you’re capable of doing. I am thankful for the runners who ran with me and for the spectators who helped get through the race. It was an emotional journey for me and I am honored to have been a part of the most amazing marathon in the world.
The paramedic at the medical tent was very attentive.