Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bring It On

I'm ready to run 26.2 miles.

Maybe I should clarify: I'm mentally ready to run 26.2 miles. The physical preparations are just starting.

My surge of excitement to take on this crazy task comes after a day of watching the runners of the 113th Boston Marathon -- the elite athletes, the struggling ones, the happy ones, the crying ones, the ones in pain, the ones in costumes.

Nearly every single one passed by me yesterday as I stood atop a small perch on a street corner near the Finish Line.

I never thought standing for 5-plus hours on a chilly day could be so rewarding. But watching the pure emotion of the runners
, so close to accomplishing this monumental goal, was inspiring.

When I returned from my first half-marathon in Disney last year, I remember thinking it would be hard to put into words exactly what the weekend meant to me. How would I truly be able to capture the experience?

I find myself struggling with the same thing today.

My mind is fille
d with snapshots -- rows upon rows of water bottles lined up at the finish line, sidelines packed with cheering fans for hours, the raw emotions painted on the runners faces as they rounded the last corner.

Despite the million spectators and 25,000 runners, a few stand out.

I remember the man crumpled on the ground holding his leg in agony as the crowd cheered him on for the final stretch. Awkwardly and in obvious pain, he rose to his feet and somehow kept going.

I remember the older woman in a homemade T-shirt marking it as her 40th straight Boston Marathon. Yes, forty consecutive marathons.

I remember runners waving their arms to build up crowd support and runners on the verge of tears -- some actually crying.

I remember the runner clicking his heels at he topped the hill at Mile 26.
I remember many runners stealing kisses from loved ones on the sidelines.

I remember the runners with one leg -- and another with none -- both running on specialized fin-like prostheses.

I remember the costumes -- Capt. America, a Batman and Robin duo, tutus, tuxedos and top hats, shirts with every name and slogan imaginable, head-to-toe body paint, crazy wigs. And many, many more.

I remember countless runners encouraging their fellow runners -- almost there, you can do it, they told anyone in need of a little boost.

It's one of the reasons I love running. Support and camaraderie, even from strangers. They see a true appreciation for reaching a goal -- and there's never a hesitation to help someone else achieve theirs. It comes from runners and it comes from a supportive crowd on the sidelines.

I intently watched the thousands of runners pass by, reminding myself of the mental and physical challenges they had just experienced. I think most were running on pure adrenaline -- and heart -- by the times they reached the corner of Boylston and Hereford.

At that point, finishing was within reach. They could do this. And they would.

Each one of those runners -- the elite, the well-training and the struggling -- deserve that respect. They earned it. And based on the cheers, the signs and the constant ringing of cowbells, it seems as if the million spectators agree.

Just makes me hope that a similarly supportive crowd turns out for the Manchester Marathon in November.

I'll need them. Bring your cowbells.


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