My earliest memories of the Boston Marathon begin in elementary school. Marathon Monday is first and foremost, Patriot’s Day which for Massachusetts kids means … vacation! I remember playing on the blue carpet in my grandparent’s living room with my brothers, glancing up at the television every now and then as my grandparents switched back and forth between the Red Sox game and Marathon coverage. “I ran the Marathon once” my grandfather said as he leaned back into his recliner. “Got a beer and a hot dog at the end”. My grandfather passed away 14 years ago so it remains an urban legend if he ever did cross that blue and yellow finish line. But perhaps, that is where my spark first began. I like to think so anyway.
In high school I dated a boy from Wellesley, the half way point
in the race. I remember it being a gray, cold day as we stood and watched the elites run by so fast it was hard to make out their facial expressions. Being a teenage girl, after a while I naturally was more interested in flirting and holding hands than I was in watching complete strangers run by. But I still remember how fascinating I found it.
In 2012 the temperature reached 88 degrees by mid afternoon. My fiancee and I, sweat-stained from sitting in the sun at the Red Sox game, poured out into Kenmore Square just as thousands of people do each year. I was just days into my weight loss and both miserable and proud that I had sat through 9 innings slowly chewing on a portioned bag of almonds I had snuck in. As we made our way towards the crowded train station I saw an opening at the barricades and pushed my way into it. I told my fiancee that I was pretty sure that the trainer
I had just started seeing was running. I scanned the runners, as if I would pick out someone I had just met in a crowd of 20,000 people. I remember watching people shuffle by, with pained looks on their faces, thinking “Who the HELL would ever want to do this? These people are CRAZY”
. Even though it seemed absolutely insane this little voice in my head made me wonder if I could ever be a runner, if I could ever do something that incredible. The curiosity was there. The spark grew.
On April 15th, 2013
I was inside of a porta-potty on Boylston Street when the bombs went off. That trainer from the year before had become my good friend and just 5 minutes before the chaos I cheered from the bleachers as I watched her cross the finish line. While the walls of plastic protected me physically from the explosion, there was nothing that could protect me from the emotional angst I felt for days, weeks, and months following the race. I was afraid that what I had witnessed would take away my love for running, but in fact it only made it grow deeper. And that spark that I had started to feel grew into a stronger flame. I vowed to become a stronger runner, to someday push myself towards the incredible goal of chasing that unicorn.
“Take Back Boylston” became the theme of 2014, and boy did my friends do just that. Now fully submerged in a community of runners I developed quite a crew of friends and colleagues who trained throughout a miserable New England winter. I listened to their stories of frigid 20 mile runs, I helped them reach their fundraising goals. I went with them to pick up their bibs at the expo. I assisted in the coordinating of race day outfits, envious of every step of their journey. I told myself that someday it would be my turn.
And on Marathon Monday
I headed out on the same route, stopping in the same spots, cheering louder and harder than ever before. I stood in the family waiting area observing runners hobble to meet their loved ones, with medals around their necks and giant grins on their faces. I was envious of all of it. On that day I realized there was no question of a flame – there was a full fire of desire burning within my little runner heart. I wanted it. I wanted all of it.
It has been six months since that beautiful third Monday in April and the flame I felt that day hasn’t diminished. In fact it’s continued to grow, every single day, with every single run I lace up for. It is this burning desire that I have never felt before. A desire to take on that epic course, to cross that iconic finish line, to feel that medal slide over my head. A desire to accept the ultimate challenge.
And with that I am so overly excited/scared out of my pants to announce that this year, on the third Monday in April, I Kathleen – the former half ass, about to become the ABSOLUTE bad ass – will be running the 119th Boston Marathon.
And I can’t wait to share my journey with you. 🙂