The following NH Runner column appeared in the New Hampshire Sunday News on May 1, 2011.
I have what feels like an impossible task in front of me, something that somehow seems more difficult than running 26.2 miles two weeks ago. I need fit in the experience of the 115th Boston Marathon into 750 words.
As one reader suggested, I might be able to do it if I use only adjectives. I’d go for words like “overwhelming,” “loud” and “impressive.” I’d throw in words like “exhilarating,” “life-changing” and “inspiring.”
A description wouldn’t be complete without words like “well-run,” “organized” and supported.” And, of course, I’d probably include a few words like ”tough” and “painful.” It is a marathon, after all.
There are so many things to share about the experience of running the Boston Marathon. It seems like the easy way out to say it’s something you have to do to fully appreciate it. But it’s true. There is really nothing like it.
The Boston Marathon is more than just a marathon. I knew that going into it, having stood on the sidelines for the past two years, I was not prepared for just how exciting it would be.
Simplified, my running of the Boston Marathon was both better and worse than I thought it would be. It was better in terms of the overall experience – the sights, the sounds, the sheer magnitude of the event. It was worse in running-related ways that reminded me once again to respect the marathon distance.
I crossed the finish line with my arms held high and a smile on my face, but what I’ll remember most about this experience isn’t anything about running.
What strikes me most is the way that this adventure has brought me closer to so many people, many of whom never knew Marathon Monday existed. A marathon, they thought, wasn’t something that people they know did.
Thanks to the power of social media and the Boston Marathon’s top-notch tracking system, my friends and family experienced a marathon in ways they probably never imagined they would. I, in turn, strengthened connections and friendships along the way.
The Boston Marathon bib number doubled as the chip-timing system that would track my official finishing time. It also served as a signaling device that would let my friends and family track me at every 5K mark.
As I crossed the giant mats that would record my time, I thought of the signal being sent out. At the time, I was mostly thinking about the information that was being transmitted to my coach, who I was sure was tracking my per-mile pace to see if I was keeping up with the plan.
As I crossed the finish line, it occurred to me that I really didn’t know my official time. It wasn’t until I’d gone through the process of collecting my medal, heatsheet, packages of food and water and other items, that I reconnected with my sweetie who told me my official time.
It hit me at that moment that my friends and family, some of whom were tracking me in various parts of the country and even into Canada and England, knew my results before I did.
Well-wishes and congratulations filled my Facebook page and email inbox. I was blown away by how much interest was taken in my run, from people I knew in elementary school to professional connections I’d made.
When I returned to work and regular life after the marathon, I was surprised to learn that co-workers and other professional contacts had tracked my run, feeling a sense of excitement as I approached the finish line.
A few days after the marathon, I attended the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce’s Centennial Celebration, during which I was bombarded with hugs and words of congratulations. The woman I was walking with at one point asked me, “Does everyone in Manchester know you ran a marathon?”
Pretty much, I told her, remembering that I made the conscious decision to share my marathon experience – the good, the bad and the ugly – publicly with so many people.
At the time, I never knew how important that decision would be. But now, I wouldn’t do it any other way.