Sunday, May 25, 2014

Race Recap: The 2014 Boston Marathon -- Part 1

I can't believe it's been over a month and I've yet to write this recap. So much has happened since, that in some ways The Boston Marathon feels like a distant memory. I traveled to Paris and Brussels for a weeks' vacation. My role changed at work, giving me a whole new set of responsibilities. I've been hanging out with some wonderful new (runner!) friends and trying out new workout experiences in the city. (More on that in a future post...) I ran -- and PRed -- at the Brooklyn Half Marathon.

And, yes, these are excuses for why I haven't written. But more it's because I frankly didn't have the words. The Boston Marathon experience -- and I truly mean the whole experience -- was by far one of the best weekends of my life.

So to describe to someone, or in a blog post, "So how was it?" Well, it's a bit difficult to say without somewhat diminishing the emotional impact the weekend had on me. But with all that as a preface, here we go.

I left you last with a photo essay of sorts from the Saturday before the race: Bib Pick-Up day. Sunday I drove back into the city with my parents to attend the Dana-Farber Pasta Dinner. They would drive back to Plymouth after, while I would be staying over night in Boston with friends before the race.

Two bags with me: One to check with Dana-Farber for post-race and the other with my overnight stuff and race-day attire and paraphernalia. Both filled with lots of pretzels.

We arrived early to the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge (DFMC) headquarters at the Copley Marriot, so we had time to take another gander around the finish line area. 

I hadn't been able to get so close on Saturday, so to stand at the finish line of the Marathon --after everything that had occurred last year -- was a very surreal and emotional moment. I had obviously been upset by the events of 2013. Disgusted. Unnerved. Angry.

But it was only at that moment that it really hit me the magnitude of what had happened and what was happening. We -- as a community of runners, a city and a country -- were moving beyond 2013 and towards a new year. It was powerful to see the insignia for the 118th Boston Marathon rather than the 117th. It felt like we could finally move forward.

My parents were, as always, the freaking cutest. Taking pictures and just being so excited. I'm a lucky girl to have such a dedicated cheering squad.

We then made our way to the dinner. I didn't quite know what to expect, but DFMC friends had recommended the event as not-to-miss. 

Upon arrival, we all got nametags. You'll notice the "Pacesetter" ribbon on mine, signifying that I had hit the $8K+ milestone for fundraising. 

Throughout the weekend, there was so much appreciation for the fundraising efforts from volunteers and staff alongside ensuring our comfort and safety for the run. They never forget that -- first-and-foremost -- we are fundraising for an important cause. And it's important because, that means that I never forgot that either. For every "thank you" or "way to go" I received for my fundraising, I must continue to relay that ten-fold to you, my readers. So many of you provided your financial support and it truly meant something to me and to this organization!!

Walking towards the ballroom for dinner, the hallways were lined with "Tribute Cards" that runners had the opportunity to fill out in honor or memory of those they were running for. My Dad had no idea, but I had made one for him, which I found and pointed out to him.

Quotes zoomed in 

All the tears. All the smiles. This is why I was running. It's not about completing 26.2 in a certain time. It's about me doing something that I could do to give back to the hospital that gave my Dad's life back to me. 

And my Dad and I hugged and he told me how proud he was of me (for the thousandth time). And he said -- to paraphrase -- that my performance at the race was irrelevant. I had, once again, sacrificed and trained. And more importantly, I had raised $11,800 (my final tally!!) towards a cause I truly believe in. I had already won in his eyes.

And he was absolutely right. For my other marathons, at this point the day/evening before I was a nervous wreck. But for Boston, I truly believe what my Dad said. The race was actually already run, and the rest was gravy. I was just so enjoying being with my (healthy!) parents that nervousness really didn't cross my mind.

We walked into the ballroom. And Oh. My. God.

1000 people attended this little shin-dig. Runners, family, friends, supporters. Many of them patients and survivors themselves.

The pasta buffet was -- as any pasta buffet tends to be -- wonderful. And then the program began. During the event, we heard from some amazing speakers. Dave McGilvrey (Boston Marathon Race Director), the CEO of The Dana-Farber and Boston Marathon winner Uta Pippig each gave wonhe derful speeches. We focused less on 2013 (although it certainly came up), and more on the importance of the funds we had raised

There were many poignant moments that stay with me whenever I think back to that weekend. There was an In Memorium for children who had been treated for cancer and lost their battle which was incredibly emotional. One powerful moment came when Darby spoke to us. Darby -- in remission for Breast Cancer-- was to run the 2014 with the DFMC team, but while training she found out that her cancer had not only returned, but severely spread. Darby stoically said to us that she would likely not be here next year. And she reminded us that what we were doing was important and necessary. Because maybe, just maybe, another Darby in the future wouldn't have to stand knowing her fate because there would be a treatment. Or better yet, a cure. There wasn't a dry eye in the house, and I have thought about Darby in my prayers and thoughts every day since.

In honor of this, the 25th year, the founder of the Claudia Barr Adams program -- to which all the DFMC funds are directed -- spoke to us. She had founded the program in honor and namesake of her mother and in partnership with some of the early charity runners for the Boston Marathon. 

Historically, you see, the Boston Marathon was only for "elite" runners who could qualify for the race. To give context, the qualifying time for a woman my age is about 3:35 -- a truly daunting number and one I likely will never come near. For "slow pokes" like me, charity is the only way we may dream to run Boston. And so we raise money and we run. While there is some controversy around this change (which is now multi-decades old), I think it's a wonderful element that allows the race to be bigger than the individual. It still allows for those who quality to attain that amazing personal achievement. But it also allows for more of us to participate and to give back. Soap box over.

What I took away from so many of these speakers is the important of why specifically our money was going to this fun. Early basic research is being cut from so many hospitals because it's not always necessarily profitable. But it's necessary if we want to see scientific progress. So what we are doing is keeping one of these such programs not only alive, but thriving. If we do not assure that money is raised and allocated in this manner, progress will stop. Cures will not be achieved. 

This is critical. And we are doing it.

They gave out awards to those who had run 5 years. 10 years. 15 years. 20 years. And, yes, one gentleman who has run every single of the 25 years. These individuals have raised millions of dollars. It truly blows the mind. It's not about crossing races off a bucket list for them or the times that these individuals complete their marathons. This is about passion and drive. It's truly amazing and inspiring.

25 Years of DFMC and The Boston Marathon!!

The Race Coordinator spoke and reveled that, yes, we had met our team goal of $5.3 million. In fact, we had exceed $7 Million Dollars Raised for early basic cancer research. We did that. We in that room did that. 

Applauding our accomplishment
And if you donated, you were part of that. We made a huge impact, and we should all feel very proud of what a group of 700 people -- and their supporters -- were able to achieve. Some day you or one of your loved ones may very well benefit from a cure or treatment developed from the money raised by DFMC 2014.

With a belly full of carbs and a heart full of every positive emotion in the human language, I was ready to relax and start focusing on having an amazing run. I was dropped off at friends Steve and Amy's in Brookline where I would rest my head before my 5:45 wake-up call.

Welcome sign!

I laid out my clothes. I ate more pretzels (one can never eat too many pretzels). I angsted (just a bit) about the bathroom. And then there was nothing else to do but apply temporary tattoos and get a good night sleep.

To be continued....