April 17, 2000. It cold, and still dark out as we dropped mom off at the start line in Hopkinton. I was a naive high school freshman who knew nothing about the world of running. Although it was something my mom had done my entire life, I wanted no part in it. I was unaware of the prestige and history surrounding the Boston Marathon. In fact I probably was not too happy to have to wake up so early for the two hour drive to the start line. I didn't understand why we were dropping her off so far away, and why it would take so long before we would finally see her crossing the finish line.
The day was cold, I remember wearing my red "State Champs" swim team sweatshirt under my winter coat. I may have been a member of the swim team but it was not because of me that we were so good and freshman year would be my last on the team. But I digress. The day was cold and Dad and I spend it shopping up and down the streets of Boston. He had strict instructions from Mom to entertain himself for the day and then be at the finish when she was anticipated to cross. All we had to do was be at the finish. Easy right? Well Dad had other plans. Now that I have been through my fair share of races I understand the spectator desire to see your loved one at more than one point. It gives them hope and cheer, pushes them to keep going, and right at the end is where Mom would need this from us. So we found the finish line about an hour early, and we would walk in the opposite directions of the runners in hopes of seeing Mom out somewhere on the course.
I said the day was cold but this didn't stop the runners from turning out in shorts and T-shirts, another thing I now understand. As we watched the sea of people go by we tried to remember what Mom would be wearing. We had no signs to get her attention, no plan, just the hope that we could get a glimpse of her and yell out something encouraging as she flew past. I don't remember how far out we walked, maybe only two or three miles, but at that point most runners were in a state It will take my own marathon to understand. At that time I just watched them all go by in awe, observing every different colored piece of clothing, outlandish costume, and writing on their shirts, legs and faces. Try to pick out a middle age, average height and weight, medium length brown haired woman out of that crowd and I wish you luck. Try picking a needle out of a stack of needles, but they are all moving! We stayed out there on the side of the road until the stragglers started coming through. The point at which we realized we probably missed her was when we were passed by a man with one leg running on crutches (Not kidding). I kid you not. This is not to say what he was doing was not an amazing feat, because let's face it, it was incredible, but we knew Mom was probably somewhere ahead of him so we decided to head back.
Since we were right along the T-line, and too far away from the finish to get back in a decent time we decided to catch a ride on the train. Fail. The train got stuck underground at some point, and we had no way of getting out and walking. We couldn't even make a phone call, this was before the days of everyone having cell phones with exceptional underground service. We crossed our fingers that Mom would just be waiting patiently for us at the end.
As it turns out she was waiting but not patiently. By the time we surfaced out of the train mylar blankets were blowing by like tumble weed and the finish line was vacated. We had missed her shining moment of glory as she crossed over 26.2 mark at the end of a physically exhausting and emotionally taxing journey. We found her in the medical tent wrapped in mylar, she was ok just distraught wondering where we had been. Tears were in her eyes when she saw us, I can only imagine how scared she had felt. As a teenage I often felt terrible for doing this to her, how could we let her down at this important moment of triumph? After running my own races I realized that we hadn't let her down. We may not have been there to see the incredible moment at the finish, but she was there. She was the one who had put in all the work, all the miles, all the training, and she was there to finish her race. That was all that mattered. When I cross a finish line, what matters most to me is that I did it. I made it this far. I forget about all the people around me watching and I soak up the glory of the moment. Most times I almost, or actually do, cry. I also look back on this day when friends or family come to watch me race and make sure I plan out specific locations for them to watch that are easy for me to look out for. I tell them not to wander from their spots or I will never find them!
To this day my mom and I still differ in opinion on the validity of running for charity to enter the Boston Marathon. I cannot say she is wrong, for she would not have gotten the chance of a lifetime to run had she not been offered a number. And while I will not judge those who decide to run for a charity, or somehow obtain a legit bib number for the race with out properly qualifying, it is not the path I want to take. When I run Boston, I want to have earned the right to be there. If I am going to run with the best, I want to truly feel as though I deserve to be there. It may take me longer than planned to get there, but the way I see it there are plenty of other races to run in the mean time.