Running….from Marcellus to Boston
The journey, which recently took me to Boston to run the 117th Boston Marathon, all started in Marcellus, MI. Our family moved from Illinois to Marcellus in the late 1950s where we would live for the entirety of my school years, culminating in graduation from high school in 1972. These were good years for me growing up in Marcellus…good friends, and good times…and it was in Marcellus that I discovered my love for, and my ability to run. I, like many others kids, participated in school sports like football and basketball, but really never excelled in these arenas. However, when I discovered that I could run distance races with some success, I put my whole heart into it. During track season it was not uncommon for me to go out for early morning runs along the roads before getting ready for school. And remember, this was in the days before it was common place to see “joggers” out doing their thing. Recently, I have regained contact with one of my high school track coaches, Mr. Teremi, and we have enjoyed chatting with each other via email. I think, for a time, I held both the 2 mile run and 1 mile run Marcellus High School records, although there is no doubt that these have been surpassed significantly by now. For my junior and senior years of high school, I qualified to run at the State meet.
The years that followed high school graduation were followed by a lot of travel, including volunteer work in Europe as well as in India, Bangladesh and Nepal. I didn’t go to college immediately, however, I never left running completely always coming back to it in one form or the other. My first full marathon was the Detroit Free Press Marathon in October of 1980. I had never run this distance before, and wasn’t sure what to expect. However, we started the race in Windsor, Ontario and ran under the Detroit River through the tunnel and ran through the streets of Detroit finishing up on Belle Isle. I think I ran a 3:08 that time. The following year, I ran the Free Press Marathon again, not knowing that it would not be for another 28 years or so until I would do it again. I still participated in running and training, but mostly for races like 10K events or even 10 mile competitions like the Bobby Crimm run up in Flint, MI.
In 1995 I finished my Master’s work at Wayne State University to become a nurse practitioner, and then moved from the Detroit area down to Las Cruces, New Mexico where I live now. Living in the Desert South-West gave me very agreeable weather conditions to continue running, and so a few years ago, I registered to run the Arizona Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon in Phoenix on January 18, 2009. I certainly wasn’t as fast as I was back in 1981, but I realized that I could still do the long distance. That is when the thought of running Boston was conceived in my mind.
The Boston Marathon is the “grand-daddy” of all marathons with such a rich history and heritage. Unlike other marathons, you cannot just sign up and pay the registration fee to run Boston…it is the only marathon where one has to run a qualifying time in another marathon to be accepted as an entrant. So, in December of 2011, I ran a 3:30 Tucson Marathon in Tucson, AZ. I was on my way to Boston!
I registered and was accepted for the 117th running of the Boston Marathon and began making preparations for the trip. Hotel and flight reservations were made, and I began the weeks of training involved in getting my body ready for the run. I arrived in Boston a few days before the marathon and was happy to see that the city was gearing up for its annual Patriot’s Day event. The marathon is always run on the third Monday of April, which in Massachusetts is Patriot’s Day…the state’s biggest holiday.
On race day morning, April 15, thousands of us showed up at the Boston Commons to catch buses out to the small town of Hopkinton…about 26 miles west of the center of Boston. Arriving at the start, about 27,000 of us hung out in the athletes’ village awaiting the start. Since the field of runners is so large, the race starts in 3 separate waves based on qualifying times…I was in the second wave so my start time was 10:20 am.
As the gun went off, we all started moving slowly toward the starting line…each of was wearing a computer chip that was under our bib number…our official time wouldn’t actually start until we crossed the starting line. As we ran along the course through different hamlets and towns, the people of the Boston area lined the course by the thousands, offering support by way of cheers, orange slices and other helpful items…the support from the crowds was amazing! The last six miles or so were pretty hard, and there is a famous hill called Heartbreak Hill that takes quite a bit out of your legs…at this point sheer determination seems to be the only operative commodity. Finally, seeing the finish line in the distance, my spirits lifted and I made it across in 3:37!
After finishing a major marathon like this, there is a process that takes place right after the run. Immediately, you are given hydration, and then very soon a “space blanket” is wrapped around you to prevent hypothermia, especially if it is a bit cool…which it was! All crowded together, hundreds of us are in a barricaded street marching on to the next station which is receiving our medals!!! Finally!!! Then, we make our way to the buses that have brought our clothing bags from the starting line. There is also food like bananas, power bars and snacks being given to us as we march along.
After this process, since I had no family with me, I decided to catch the subway train back to my hotel. Going down into the noisy and crowded underground station, we were packed onto the “green line” train. Just as it was ready to pull out of the station, everybody was told to get off and evacuate the station…we weren’t sure why. When I emerged from the station, I didn’t realize the magnitude of what had happened since this subway station was about 2 blocks from the finish line.
So without realizing what had happened while I was down in the subway station, I started walking to another station to see if I could catch a blue line train…I should tell you that “walking” is not really accurate…it would be more like “hobbling”! After running 26 miles…especially at my age of 59, the bones, muscles and joints don’t want to move…so, ambulation is very painful!
Anyway, after going for about 3 miles or so, I finally found a station that was still servicing outbound trains to where I needed to go…and after about 2 ½ hours I finally made it back to the hotel. Since I didn’t have my phone with me, I spent the next hour or so getting in touch with my family and friends to let them know that I was alright…many had been worried when they couldn’t reach me. By that time, I was watching the events unfold on the television, and fully understood the magnitude of the tragic events that I had just missed. And so, after another unrelated airline delay the next day, I finally made it home on Wednesday to be with my family.
Yes, I will keep running, as I know that thousands of others will be doing…and maybe, I will go back to Boston in 2014 to run the Boston Marathon to honor those who were hurt and killed in this senseless act of cowardice. Please, join with me in your prayers for the many athletes, volunteers, and spectators who have been adversely affected by this tragedy. Thanks!