I’ve never been as enamored with the Boston Marathon as everyone else seems to be. I’m not a runner and don’t find it inherently impressive to watch people excel at something that I don’t have any connection to. I know it’s a great personal triumph for the winners, but it’s always been something that I found difficult to feel invested in or excited by. But on Marathon Monday around 5:00, as I walked through Brookline along the marathon route with my raincoat hood cinched tightly around my face on my way to meet my friends for dinner, I found a connection. I finally felt excited for the runners that I was watching.
These runners were not a part of a pack or cheered on by a crowd; they were running by themselves and for themselves. By this time, the loud crowds of energetic college students had long since retreated away from the cold and into their hangovers or their homework. There remained but a few plastic covered spectators and I was suddenly excited in a way I hadn’t been all day; I was tempted to throw my dinner plans out the window and stand on the course cheering until the last runner passed. Running a marathon is an impressive feat. 26.2 miles is a lot regardless of your speed. The winners get a lot of attention for their accomplishments, but I am most impressed by those who do not get headlines or public glory.
As I watched these runners, pushing through the weather and the course long after the winners had gone home, I was reminded of my middle school self, a losing member of the cross-country ski team for three years. I watched and I saw myself cross-country skiing alone in a blizzard because my team and competitors had long since pulled ahead and the spectators had left their posts in the forest. I thought of my high school self finishing a swim race, victoriously pushing the touch pad as everyone else hung on the wall waiting the few extra seconds it took me to get there–an eternity in swimming. No matter the sport, I was alone in my race but I didn’t really mind. Maybe that’s why I always fell so far behind; I didn’t mind spending some time in solitude contemplating the intricate details of the snowflakes or the color of the water in the pool. I guess the word race never meant a lot to me.
As I watched those 5:00 runners, I was transported into their minds. I could feel how excited they must have been that they were doing it. They were running a marathon and they had only a little more than a mile left. They were crossing a finish line and crossing something off their list of dreams. They weren’t winning it but they were doing it.
I’ve always believed that a lot in life has to do with showing up. I never scored any goals in soccer, but I was at every practice and every game. I showed up to dry-land practices and I was on deck at 6:00 a.m for every morning swim practice, just to shave off milliseconds that only really made a difference to me. I wasn’t quite the valedictorian, but I had a great attendance record and I was physically and mentally present in every class, even refusing to skip school to go skiing when my aunt visited from Australia, because the 3rd grade was important and I didn’t want to miss a moment. To this day, I still don’t want to miss a moment because if you show up, you can do absolutely anything. You can conquer opportunities you never would have had otherwise–you can run a marathon.
I watched these runners and I thought about the fact that they decided that running a marathon–running 26.2 miles–was something they wanted to do. They made a plan and they showed up each day to train. They showed up to the race and they crossed that finish line, probably marveling at the shapes of Boston’s buildings along the way just as I did at the intricacy of snowflakes and the color of the water in the pool. They showed up, and they conquered themselves, and their dreams. These runners didn’t get a medal or a headline, but in my mind–and I’m sure in their own minds–these runners won that day.
Featured photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/111305912@N04/11372381616″>ekmfinaledag3_57</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>