Friday, August 23, 2013

Reflecting and healing

I just finished reading Hal Higdon's 4:09:43: The Boston Marathon Bombings, his compilation of stories and accounts from that day. April 15.  As I read, I ran the course again in my mind. I remember almost all parts of the day vividly.  Some parts were surreal, as if my mind's eye was outside looking in. As if my soul was outside my body, looking on, telling me what to do next.  And that feeling was there even before the bombs went off. 

April 15 was an emotional day to begin with.  I kept thinking of my Papa, and of the arduous 18 weeks that had lead up to that day.  When I decided to run and, my original CRB and kindred spirit had warned me: You will have a meltdown, if not more than one. It will be one of, if not the hardest thing you will do.  And she was right.  I had a meltdown the night before a 14-miler, about a month before the big day.  It wasn't one of my prouder moments.  But I pushed through.  

When Marathon Monday arrived, I told myself to remember everything. Remember what you see, what you hear...this may be the only time you do this.  

Reading Hal's book, I re-ran the entire day. Mine started early in Hudson, when CRB and I awoke early and he drove me to Hopkinton.  As I read, I relived each mile through the stories shared. I remember the wave of emotion that flowed over me as I trotted over that painted line next to Hopkinton Green. I remember all the amazing things I saw on my way from Hopkington to Boston. 

I feel fortunate that I live and work close enough to the epic route that I tend to drive it from time to time.  Today I drove along 135 from Westborough to Ashland, so of course I went through Hopkington center.  The surge of emotion that came when I drove over the starting line, down the hill toward Ashland, is the same as it has been the last few times I have driven over that line. It is close to what I felt when I traversed it on foot.  It happens every time.  I zone out - remembering sights and sounds of the day. I couldn't tell you what was on my radio, how much traffic was on the road, or why I was going to Ashland.  At that point in time, I was back on April 15.  

That day changed us. It changed our memories, our reactions.... Conversations come up at parties, dinners out, seemingly casual conversations about what happened, how crowds freak us out, how the sounds of fireworks and helicopters always make us tense up and take pause.  We are all still thinking about it, whether we let on or not. 

I have never met the other people whose stories Hal included in 4:09:43, yet we are all connected.  I feel fortunate that he included my story, although there are thousands of stories that will take years to be told (Hal's words, my agreement).  Janeen Bergstrom summed it up accurately: "All that time. All that sacrifice. Everything you do is for that moment, the moment of stepping on the mat. And it never came. But the lack of accomplishment and the emptiness I feel is compounded by the guilt."

Hal, you did good, fellow runner. You captured our memories and nightmares from that day, and gave the oft unspoken running community a voice.  The body and tail of the serpent, snaking its way 26 miles and 385 yards, not the head finishing with the laurel crowns and prize money.  Those who struggled to attain a qualifying time, or those who qualified themselves by fundraising thousands and thousands of dollars for their selected charities (I, in the latter population). Tears fell as I read and reread sections. You incorporated our stories with bits of history that anyone could appreciate - runners, non-runners, locals and visitors.

Amby Burfoot's closing quote is spot on: "Our institutions did not become great by following a path of timidity and cowardice. We can only hope that the Boston Marathon, though pummeled, will rise again stronger than before." 

We will. I will. I will be there in 2014.  

Tempus fugit

I've been delinquent in my blogging lately - well, for the past 2 months actually!  I was in a bit of a funk....ok, maybe more than that.  I went on vacation with CRB to Cape Cod, went to a concert, broke my toe, didn't run for a month.... So, I guess I've had a lot going on.  

Vacation was great.  We spent the week hanging around the world-renowned beaches of Dennis, visited with my family, toured Truro Vineyards, and made our annual climb to the top of the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown.  Oh, and of course ate our way through the Cape - oysters, fish & chips, chowder, quahogs - you name it, we ate it. 

We were there for the week encompassing the 4th of July.  I couldn't help but think about Papa a lot.  I have vivid memories of Independence Day up at camp: rides in the boat, water skiing, staying in the lake until our fingers resembled raisins, and Uncle Rob shooting off the best fireworks displays on the whole lake.  
Papa and yours truly circa 1983 @ Camp in Ashburnham, MA
Papa always said that July 4th was the end of summer. Memorial Day starts it, and it's all downhill after July 4th.  Us kids would groan because we had not even been on summer break for a month.  Now, as I am staring down the end of August, I realize what he meant.  It does go by so fast.  The last 4, almost 5, months have passed quickly, yet it seems just like yesterday we said goodbye to one of the greatest men I know.  

Between missing Papa and not running for about a month, I had a rough time.  We went to the Jason Aldean concert at Fenway in July, where I proceeded to trip over a girl who stopped coming out of the ladies room, catch my baby toe on the corner of a cement wall, and break it.  Yup, silly little broken toe.  (Or little sausage toe as I called it, because once it swelled up, it looked like a little sausage! I can laugh now, but then I had a vocabulary that would have made Papa *very* disappointed!)

Rather purple and sausage-like
That did it.  I couldn't run for nearly a month. I was 4 weeks out from the Monadnock Half Marathon in Jaffrey, NH, which I was really looking forward to running. I moped for a week and a half, feeling like a sad puppy when CRB went out for a run and I stayed at home, peering out the window waiting for him to get back.  I couldn't even wear shoes let alone run a few miles.  

I tried running after about a week and a half after I broke it. 

Note to runners with broken toes: THIS IS NOT A GOOD IDEA. IT SUCKS, BUT YOU HAVE TO WAIT IT OUT. There.  I moped for a few more days, then dragged myself to Bikram yoga.  It felt good to use my muscles. My balance was not spectacular given the inability to stabilize my right foot, but boy did it feel good to sweat and push myself.  I returned to Bikram four days in a row (!) and felt better and better.  By the middle of the next week, I gave it a go.  Four weeks of felt good!!  Little twinges occasionally, but the toe was better.  I ended up switching to the 5k trail run instead of the half, so at least I got to race that weekend.  Yipee!  Then a week later I ran 7 miles..and felt great! Yipee again!  SO, I am back on track for the Smuttynose Half Marathon in October.  I have a goal to PR this race, and hopefully break 2 hours.  

In other exciting news... The B.A.A. was in communication with the 5,633 of us who did not get to finish the marathon. We all got a special code to register this week.  And I did. I am in for the 118th running of the Boston Marathon on April 21, 2014.  I can't believe that I will begin training for my second marathon in just a few months. 

And I will finish this race.