7

Cheering at the Boston Marathon

Shalane Flanagan (2014 Boston Marathon)

Even though I wasn’t running the Boston Marathon this year, I wanted to be up here for it. I wanted to be here and support my amazing community. Luckily, work decided to give me a reason to head up to our corporate office in Massachusetts this week and offered for me to come up early to watch the marathon.

We got up here on Saturday and spent the weekend hanging out around the city and even took a trip to the expo. The energy in this city was incredible. Just being at the expo and around the city on Sunday made me that much more determined to nail the New Jersey Marathon this weekend and get myself qualified for next year.

Yesterday, we woke up way early so we could make sure we found a place to park the car and stake out our spots on the course. We ended up with a great parking spot and a spot to cheer on the course just a hundred feet from the mile 23 marker on Beacon in Brookline. We got there just in time to plop down on the curb at 9:30am and watch the race start via the live coverage on our phones.

I actually think I was just as nervous for Shalane Flanagan as I am for my own race. Like everyone else here, we were rooting for her. Unfortunately, our spot was just a little too far down the course and she had already dropped back from the lead pack by the time the elite women got to us, but she was still only a few seconds off at the time and the crowd was intensely intense as she came by. Yes, intensely intense. While Rita Jeptoo was already doing what Rita Jeptoo does and was completely owning the race, there was an unmistakable pride in the air for Shalane. But regardless of who was out front, it was absolutely amazing to see these women fly by us! Seeing Shalane out there kicking ass just a few feet from us was incredibly inspiring!

Not long after the women, Meb came flying by with the rest of the men way back behind him. As inspiring as Shalane was and as much as we really, really wanted her to win, seeing Meb out front at mile 23 with no one near him was awesome. We closely watched the rest of the men’s race on our phones while practically shaking with excitement for him. I couldn’t have been happier to see him win the race. He’s a great runner and he deserves it!

We continued cheering in our spot for a few hours, until almost 4pm. But cheering for a race is almost as exhausting as actually running one so, eventually, we needed to get some food in us. We walked a block up to a Thai and Chinese place with outside seating so we could keep watching and cheering.

Being here in Boston for this race was an amazing experience. I can’t imagine how it anyone couldn’t fall in love with running while watching this. As nervous as I am for my race on Sunday, I’m totally pumped now! I thought I was determined to get here before, but it’s a whole new level. I need to get here.

Oh yeah, and I snapped a few photos 🙂

Shalane Flanagan (2014 Boston Marathon)

Shalane Flanagan (2014 Boston Marathon)

Meb Keflezighi (2014 Boston Marathon)

Rita Jeptoo (2014 Boston Marathon)

Rita Jeptoo (2014 Boston Marathon)

Rita Jeptoo (2014 Boston Marathon)

Buzunesh Deba (2014 Boston Marathon)

Des Linden (2014 Boston Marathon)

Ryan Hall (2014 Boston Marathon)

Ernst Van Dyk (2014 Boston Marathon)

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5

On my birthday and the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing

31Today is my birthday. My 31st birthday, to be exact.

Last week, I decided I wanted to write something about today. I wanted to write about the Boston Marathon bombing a year ago today, on the same day I turned 30. I had a whole post written out in my head and it was really good. Unfortunately, I didn’t write this post then, when I was thinking about it, and now I don’t remember any of it. I sat down to try to put some words together, but, honestly, I can’t find the right ones.

I always get really upset at myself for this, it feels selfish and self-centered, but it’s weird sharing my birthday with something like this. I always thought about what it must feel like to have your birthday be on a day that will be remembered for something horrible. While I’ve always shared my birthday with tax day, I hardly found that horrible. More comical than anything really, especially considering I write software to calculate the taxes taken out of your paycheck for a living. Ironic, right? At least in the Alanis Morissette sense of the word. I used to have a friend who was born on 9/11. I remember thinking “damn, that’s gotta be rough.” You just want to have a nice, enjoyable day, but everyone else is thinking about something else. I guess it’s just something you get used to? I don’t know. Right now, I’ve got a good balance going between “Yay! Birthday!” and remembering what happened.

The evening of the bombing, I decided I just had to go out and run. In the running community, this is what we do, right? We run. I was injured, but getting ready to start thinking about running again. I decided that would be the day. I needed to be out there. Does that count as solidarity? I’m not sure, but I just wanted to stand run with my community. My run wasn’t great, what with having not run in seven weeks and all, but it felt good to be out there. I decided that this would be something I would do every year on my birthday, run in memory.

This morning, I got up and did a quick four miles before work. Very different from last year’s run. I’m now tapering for the New Jersey Marathon and I’m probably the strongest (though, not fastest) runner I’ve ever been, much different from the me coming back from an injury. I thought a lot about last year’s run and that day. I’d put the emotions at “conflicted,” but I was glad I rolled myself out of bed at 5:15 this morning to make it happen.

The running community is very strong and extremely supportive. Everything for the last year has shown this in so many ways. This is a community I’m intensely proud to be a part of. I really don’t know what else to say about it right now. I wish I still had those words I had a few days ago, but they’re lost forever. Simply, runners are awesome, strong, and supportive. We’re a good bunch of people.

Moving on from that and to something completely different, I can’t believe my 30th year is over. Besides being one of those milestone years, it was also an extremely pivotal year for me. My life changed a lot over the last twelve months. I’ve now been on hormones for a year and have been living my life as me full time for almost six months now. I started 30 going by Andy to all but my closer friends and immediate family, now the world knows me as Amelia. While plenty of other things happened over the last year, this is by far the biggest. 30 was a good year, but I think 31 might be able to give it a run for its money.

1

My quick, still emotional, feelings on the Boston Marathon

I woke up this morning, on my thirtieth birthday, a milestone birthday, with a set plan for the day. Open my wife’s gifts, treat myself to a Starbucks vanilla latte on the way to work, blow off doing any work in the morning so I could closely watch online coverage of the Boston Marathon instead, get my obligatory birthday burrito for lunch, come home and go for my first run in seven weeks (injury, boo!), eat my favorite dish that my wife cooks, and then relax while forcing one or more of my cats to cuddle with me. I did most of my celebrating for my birthday over the weekend so I didn’t have any *big* plans for the day, just a few little things that I wanted to do.

Up through lunch, everything was going pretty great. I watched the elites run their race and then got my burrito. But just when I was about to finally start to get a little work done for the day to make up for not doing anything all morning, I heard the news. One of the communities that I call my own was senselessly attacked, people were killed and many were injured. My heart immediately sank and, with each bit of information that came out, it continued to sink deeper and deeper. So many things raced through my head. At first, these thoughts were mostly along the lines of not being able to comprehend what is wrong with people.

I thought about the runners and put myself in their shoes. As a marathon runner myself, I know the emotion involved in running a marathon. Every marathon is an accomplishment and there isn’t one that doesn’t earn itself a place as one of the best days of any runner’s life. And, above all other races, the Boston Marathon is the coveted Super Bowl of marathons, a bucket list race for most runners who will work for years to earn their place on that course. It’s THE marathon and many of us will sacrifice our social lives, jobs, and diets just to get there. I think about the runners who had this taken away from them. One of the best days of their lives, forever tainted. Some had the day ruined retroactively after finishing, some didn’t even get to finish. Many runners were in the last 2k of a 42k race, the finish line close enough to taste, and were unable to finish. I can’t even imagine the feeling.

On its own, that’s heavy, but if that were all that happened, life would go on…for every single person. But that wasn’t it. People were killed and many, many others were horribly injured. An eight year old child was among the two that were killed. Eight years old. It’s likely a safe assumption that he/she was there cheering on a parent, or a sibling, or an aunt, or an uncle. I’m not going to try to put this into words because I don’t think I can.

Photo after photo circulated of blood soaked sidewalks and people with mangled bodies. Limbs were immediately lost and others had to be amputated on the scene or at the hospital. As a runner, the idea of having either of my legs injured is terrifying, as a person, I can’t quite put it into words.

At some point, my wife reminded me that we could have been there. Last October, I made a serious attempt to qualify at the Chicago Marathon. I failed, but not by a lot. Had I succeeded, I would have been on that course today and my wife would have been at the finish line cheering. Given the time of the explosions, I would have likely been well done, by possibly an hour even, but after some races, I like to head over to the spectator areas and cheer on the other runners. If I can still stand, that is. We would have been very close to the explosion.

After all this, it’s easy feel that humanity is inherently awful and we don’t deserve to exist. It takes a conscious effort for me to not feel that way sometimes, but the person (or people) who did this doesn’t represent any real measurable percentage of humanity. There are many, many more people who represent the polar opposite of this person and I think we all need to remember that. And the running community is an amazing example of that. We are the kind of people who will sacrifice our own finish times just to help another runner who falls just feet from the finish line. We encourage and support each other. When we run races, no one on the course is an opponent, they’re all teammates. We care about each other and are compassionate. Humanity as a whole is like us, not the person who did this. I have to remind myself of this often, but I believe it. I really do.

Running will never be quite the same after today. Neither will marathons. Or my birthday. Yes, I will always remember my 30th birthday as the day the running community and our flagship event were horribly attacked. But we will go on. At this point, I’m more scared of people blindly blaming other groups and spreading hate. I fear those that will try to gain a political advantage or try to make us live in fear.