(I wanted to try a real artsy shot of running feet, but to do that required an actual photographer who knew more about her camera than how to set it on the automatic setting.)
From what I’ve been told, the Boston Marathon is a big deal for runners. Was that an understatement? I have several runner friends who have expressed a desire to run this race at least once in their lifetimes. If I may be frank, when my friends express their Marathon dreams, I say things like, “Oh, yeah! That would be amazing, wouldn’t it?” What I’m actually thinking is that the only way I’d run 26 miles, 385 yards (I googled it and Wikipedia is NEVER wrong, right?) is if my life depended on it. Even then, my eternity’s secure and I know I’ll be with Jesus when I die, so I’m thinking, death might be a legitimate option if I had to make a choice. I used to say the only time I run is if I’m being chased. I’ve since amended that to say whether I run or not depends on how bad the thing is that’s chasing me. I think I may have mentioned before that I’m not really known for my athletic ability.
However, I am an excellent fan. Believe me, you want me to cheer for your team. The teams I support don’t always win, but I promise you this: They feel the love! So, I was excited when my friend C asked me if I wanted to go with her to cheer on a friend of ours from church who was running in the Boston Marathon. Monday afternoon, C and I piled six kids into her minivan and navigated through the streets of town to find a good vantage point from which to cheer. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I certainly did not anticipate that I was going to get so caught up in the excitement of the day. The streets are lined with people all along the route, all 26 miles, 385 yards of it. Some of the spectators have friends or family in the race, but many were just there to lend encouragement to random strangers running past them.
Some of the runners have their names written on their chests or arms and as they passed, we would all yell specific encouragement to them. “Go, Bob! Great job!” If we didn’t know the runners’ names, we’d yell out names associated with words on their t-shirts or tank tops. “Go, Idaho!” “Way to go, Navy!” “Woo hoo, Nike!” Every now and then a runner would have an identifying physical characteristic that could be used. “Go, Blue!’:
I realized that I don’t know a lot of good running cheers. I tried, “Run! Run!” I tried, “Yay, YOU!” I did a few, “Way to GO!” but I stopped that because that seemed a little cruel in a marathon since it’s a LONG way to go and I didn’t want to remind them of that. Mostly I did the standard, “Woo HOO!”
I can’t tell you how fast my heart was beating while we waited for our friend to run around the corner. We were receiving text messages to alert us of his progress, but we could only wait for him to run through our section.
Recognize the hat?
When our friend rounded the corner, we were SO excited that we all started screaming and waving and jumping up and down like a bunch of crazy people. I completely forgot I was holding a camera and was supposed to get a picture of him and he was going so fast, that this is the best picture I was able to get:
He’s the one with the white cap and the South African jersey. You might not be able to tell, but he was going pretty fast! His final time was 3:02:00. For any other non-runners, that’s 3 hours and 2 minutes!! In a row!! When he ran by he was smiling and waving. I think I would have been cussing and crying. Just kidding about the cussing part…probably. He was a little disappointed because he was four seconds over his goal time. I wanted to be sympathetic, but what I was really thinking that if I finished in the same calendar year that I started, I would throw a party. Four seconds? Really? Yeah, whatever. I hate that for you.
A strange thing happened to me as I watched these runners. I have no idea how long most of them trained, but I’m pretty sure no one woke up Monday morning and said, “Hey, I think I’ll run 20-something miles with a few thousand of my closest runner friends.” Plus, I was told you can’t just get a notion to run the Boston Marathon. You have to qualify. But my point is, these people have worked really hard for this day. You could see the grit and determination on their faces.
And suddenly I was so very proud of all these random strangers. They didn’t seem so crazy to me anymore. They set a goal for themselves, and Monday, April 20, 2009, they were going for it. They were going to make all of their hard work pay. The more I thought about it, the harder I clapped and the louder I yelled. This is going to sound crazy, I know, because it sounded crazy in my head when I thought it, but I was almost a little jealous of them. They were all living a little part of their dreams. They chose an adventure that would be difficult to accomplish and they did what they had to do to make it happen. Runner or not, I think that’s very cool.
For half a minute, I thought that maybe I could do this. Maybe I could run a marathon. I thought, “I’m going to get some crazy, ugly shoes (didn’t see any of those at the race, by the way, High-Heeled Mama) and I’m going to start eating pasta and training.” (I’ve heard there’s pasta in running.) Then I remembered how winded I was after walking up the hills just to get to the place where we were watching the runners. Hmm, maybe I could start with walking a couple of miles and work my way up from there. But who knows? Maybe one day YOU will be coming to Boston to watch ME run the Marathon. (I’d hold off on buying plane tickets until you hear from me first.)