If you have been following most of my column writing this past year, you will notice that my first summer as an “adult” changed me in a way, and it’s true. I spent this summer living on campus at Springfield College, working the switchboard in the campus union and interning with iHeart Media in Hartford. With that, I usually had my evenings or mornings free.
I opted to make as productive use of this time as I could, and I picked running back up, and when I say back up, I mean I would usually be motivated to run for a week or two and then would drop it once I missed one workout (we have all been there).
This time, however, I had no excuse, so I opted not to make any. I would run a few days a week just for the sake of doing it, no end goal, just running for leisure.
That was, until I discovered the Boston Half Marathon, held Oct. 12.
I sat at work, browsing potential half marathons when I stumbled upon the aforementioned one and decided that I would take part in that one, it was in the city I love and it was an activity I was growing increasingly fond of, what could go wrong?
The application process is what could have gone wrong. As I looked at the Boston Athletic Association website, they said how the race sold out in just over 10 minutes in 2013, and they were expecting much of the same in 2014. With that information in mind, I told myself that if I could register quick enough that I would do it, arguably the most interesting way I have ever motivated myself to do something.
When the clock struck ten in the morning of July 16, I vigorously refreshed my computer until the registration opened. I completed the application in roughly four minutes and then had to wait roughly three hours until I got the confirmation from BAA that my application was in quick enough to be a confirmed participant. I hopped on a 12-week training program and hoped that my good intentions did not turn into embarrassment come October. Upon completing my entry, my mom said, “Great, I’ll book my flight [from Houston].”
No turning back at that point.
I trained and motivated like I never have before all summer, thinking every day of the end product of crossing that finish line, and it got to the point where running became commonplace in my day, like eating or brushing my teeth.
When the night before the race came, I had almost forgotten what my purpose in Boston was. I had spent two days enjoying eastern Massachusetts with my mother, her boyfriend, my sister and my girlfriend, and the visit had been so good that when I climbed in bed Saturday night my nerves were startlingly minimal.
My alarm went off just past six Sunday morning, playing the song “Ask Yourself,” by Foster the People, ironically with the lyrics “You want more and ambition’s taken its toll on you,” resonating as I woke up. In hindsight, those were likely not the most motivational words I could have found the morning of my biggest physical test of my life.
I got out of bed, got changed, ate my pre-run Pop Tart with water and just stared out the window, gazing upon Boston until it was time to head to Franklin Park, where the race started and finished.
After waiting in line for the bathroom for about 20 minutes, I walked to my spot in the starting line. I stood between the 9-minute and 10-minute pace signs, wondering if there was a sign that was for people who had no clue what they were doing. I felt like a guest at a members-only function.
When the gun went off a third time, it released my wave onto the 13.1-mile course. Upon crossing the start line, I felt a horrible cramp encompassing my left side, and before even reaching mile one, I was already doubting myself.
I’m still not sure what caused the cramps, likely nerves, but whatever it was, they melted away when I heard a runner just in front of me say to her friend that we had gotten to mile one in 8:55 (the clocks posted on the course were about 9 minutes ahead since I was released with the third gun).
The pace did not keep up, but my encouragement did as I saw my supporters at mile three, screaming and cheering as I ran to them and gave them sweaty high fives.
At mile five, my pace was at 9:12, better than what I was expecting, and I still felt great. My supporters found their way to mile seven of the out and back course and seeing them got me through arguably the most treacherous mile of the course.
When I hit mile 10, I was running a 9:02 pace. No cramp, no drama, nothing horrid like I was expecting, I felt great. With that fresh wave of inspiration I opted to open up my stride, passing people as we ran through the William J. Devine Golf Course.
As I entered mile 12 in the Franklin Park Zoo, I realized that I was going to finish and that I would be pleased with my result. I saw my supporters for one last round of high fives with a quarter mile left and from there, I was full speed ahead.
I thought about all my support and reasoning to run as I crossed the finish line. I thought about my mother, who was trying to get into running herself; her boyfriend Rick, who was once a track coach; my father, who was supporting me from his new home in Las Vegas; my sister, who had run a half marathon a year earlier and inspired me to do it; and my girlfriend, who I asked on our first date the same day I picked up running back in May.
So many people got me to where I was as I crossed the finish line an hour, fifty-six minutes and fifteen seconds after I started, good for 2,292 out of 6,211 and a final pace of 8:52. Running was never about me, it was about them, it was about the people who knew I could do it and constantly supported me, no questions asked. They were the ones that got me to that finish line, not any amount of training.
Everyone has their reason to run, and mine was the people who are close to me. They had told me yes so many times, supported me so many times, that there was no way I was going to say no, and I’ m glad I didn’t.