It’s the greatest marathon in the world, they say. Once you’ve done this, you can check it off your bucket list.
During the training season, veterans of the race share their advice and the lore of the course. Don’t start too fast. Pour water on your head. Heartbreak Hill isn’t actually the hardest. Only pass people naturally, not in a weaving fashion. They told us what to eat, what to wear, how to stay motivated when our legs screamed. This weekend I realized that while running is one of the most individual sports, it takes a village.
The city of Boston loves the marathon. Sure, it’s a holiday, but the event is a source of pride and recognition for Bostonians. I saw that love in so many forms. Volunteers at the expo, the drivers that took us out to the start, the sarcastic announcer guiding us to our corrals, the families cheering, the dogs wagging their tails, the medics, the pacers. With 30,000 runners, the production of this event takes almost double that to put on. Knowing this, it felt like a real honor to be running for Revolutionary Love and Trinity Foundation.
At Mile 16, I looked to my right and saw 4 students who were screaming my name. I screamed back and gave them all hugs. It gave me such a boost knowing they were there. In perfect fashion, my dad awkwardly high fived me while taking a picture half covered by his finger. And at Mile 20, I found one student holding a sign with my name (!) and she ran with me. Another great boost. Then I saw Jose, and he ran with me.
The last five miles were tough. I hobbled most of the way, hoping to see the next mile marker around the corner. I know now that if I were running by myself, I would not have made it to 26.2. But the village didn’t give me that option. The village reminded me why this day was about finishing.
Yesterday was about running for something, when over the last year I’ve been running with something. Running has helped me confront pain and trauma, sadness and loneliness. It gave me a community to embrace. Community is not easy for me to find or maintain for various reasons, but yesterday I ran for them. I ran for my beloved Northeastern students. I ran for my writing class. I ran for my new scholarly community at Stanford. I ran for the Revolutionary Love fellows, imagining their smiling faces at the finish line. And I ran for me- never once letting myself utter any words of doubt or fear that I couldn’t do it because I knew it was possible. Love really carried me over that line.
I don’t know if I would run another marathon (halves sound great at this point!), but I would do it again given the chance. I can now call myself one of the finishers of the greatest marathon in the world, and that feels pretty cool.