There’s something to be said for a nice, quiet long-distance run. The peace and solitude one can experience while embarking on such an athletic journey could be very transformational. Considering the run is long enough, the opportunity to metaphorically travel deep within one’s own mind, while the body is actually traveling great distances outwardly is one of the true gifts of running. My husband is a Marathon runner, and when I asked him the other day what he thinks about when he runs for one, two or three hours at a time, he laughed. And here’s what he said, in no particular order..
“Who I am running for”
“The songs that repeat over and over in my head.”
“My pace–gotta pass the guy in front of me who looks older than me.”
“When is the next ‘Gu’ break?”
When you run by yourself, you have to be your own source of inspiration, your own cheering squad. You are motivated by your own thoughts and hopefully whatever is going on around you is enough to propel you along.
But there is a time and place for solitude, and in Boston, on Marathon Monday, all bets will be off. There will be no opportunity to wax poetic internally, the noise in your head will not stand a chance competing with the ambient noise. The splashes of blue and yellow and hot pink and orange that will be whizzing by all around, will give you no time to consider and reflect on how you’re feeling, let alone what you’re feeling. Those emotions will have to be stored away until the end of the race, at a time when you will be better equipped to absorb them. When you’re just about to hit the wall, and your once-stalwart legs would now make a bowl of jello feel downright concretelike, you will have to rely upon the external influences to just-get-you-through.
Many years ago, I ran a race in NYC…knowing no one on the sidelines. As I progressed on the route, out of the corner of my eye I spotted a guy in a suit running along the side, carrying a briefcase and raincoat. He was shouting to me, and I knew then that this was the guy I was going to marry. At that moment, as I could feel my pace quickening, I also learned how a familiar face in the crowd and a cheering throng can get you to that finish line.
The stands are up, the barricades have been set in place and the cheering squads are no doubt gearing up for the big day. The girls from Wellesley College are prepping for their “Screech Tunnel,” and the Boston College students will be positioning themselves along Heartbreak Hill. The Sox fans will be getting ready to run out of Fenway, straightaway. They will all be part of the thousands of fans lining the Marathon route, and they will all be excruciatingly aware that this year the race carries much more on its shoulders than that of being just a race.
I will be part of that cheering squad on Patriot’s Day 2014–Boston Marathon Monday. My sons and I will be out there cheering for my husband and their dad as he runs for the Alzheimer’s Association, in memory of my mother-in-law and father. He’s a determined, fast runner, so I’m not sure he will notice, but if he turns his head just a smidge, he might see us as we race from landmark to landmark, trying to follow him…with our signs and banners. Perhaps he’ll hear our voices, straining, calling his name. We’ll be there, urging him and his running mates on…doing what we can to get them to the finish line…and his sciatica will have to get out of the way.