I took a giant step back. The way I saw it, I had woken up that morning with the same choice I wake up with every morning: be happy and grateful for what I have, or be miserable and focus on what I don’t. If a running injury was the biggest obstacle I had to face right now, I had a lot to be thankful for in the grand scheme of things.
I could spend the rest of the weekend moping about my lost opportunity, or be there to support my friends who had worked just as hard to make it to the starting line, and join the others who had nothing but fun on tap for the next 24 hours.
Was I sad? Unbelievably. Angry? Absolutely. Was it productive to dwell on it? No. Anger and sadness would do nothing to change the situation, so I found no point in hanging on too long to either.
With the option to turn back home or continue to Boston, my friends continued heading north. I don’t know why or how, but the one thing I seem to have done right in my life is to find the most amazing friends to share it with. After I finally qualified for Boston, when they told me they’d be there to watch me run, I found it overwhelming. To know that they were just as willing to make the trip to help lift my spirits was extraordinary.
Saturday night's pasta dinner at Josh's parents' house.
I started to see the bright side. Instead of a dinner of force-fed pasta, I could do a few things I hadn’t done for far too long: head to a bar, drink a beer, and eat some nachos. I could devour a delicious, ginormous black-and-white cookie for dessert. I could stay up late, hysterically laughing during an impromptu and ridiculous game of “Truth or Dare” in my hotel room (in case you’re wondering, you’re never too old for that…or a good slumber party). Instead of waking up at 4 a.m. to quiet my nerves and catch a bus to Hopkinton, I could sleep in, take a walk along Boylston Street before it was enveloped by a mass of humanity, and have a leisurely cup of coffee.
Don’t get me wrong: I would’ve traded all of that and maybe more for one injury-free left leg. But those weren’t the cards I was dealt.
We staked claim to some prime Boylston Street real estate and settled in for a day of watching, cheering, and absorbing all that is the Boston Marathon. While I felt small flashes of disappointment when I heard the thunderous boom of the start and glanced down toward the fabled finish line, I also felt acceptance that these weren’t mine to have right now. Not yet. But they will be. After all, a dream doesn’t die until you’re ready to let it go. I’m still holding on to this one—tight.
I relished the rare opportunity to watch the elite athletes finish their races—always an inspiring scene to witness. To my surprise, however, the best part of the day came as the stream of runners just like me started flowing through. We had unknowingly picked a magical place to stand. It was right at that point when the finish line was all but assured, when everything that each runner had worked toward was right there within view. The smiles came by the thousands—and they were infectious. There’s no way to adequately explain that unique mix of joy, euphoria, relief, pride, and sense of accomplishment all in one—if there were, I’m pretty sure everybody would train for marathons.
Ryan Hall airborn, cruising to his third-place finish.
But, it’s also a gamble. No finish line is ever promised. Every time we embark on a journey toward one, pouring everything we have for months or years at a time into arriving there, we take a risk that it may not work out, that we’ll get hurt, that we’ll be disappointed.
Those are chances I’m still happily willing to take. When it comes down to it, that’s just life, isn’t it?
I came home with resolve to heal, get stronger, and get back to it. I miss my weekly training schedule more than I care to admit publicly and a part of me wakes up sad each day I don't have the option to run. I realize there are big lessons I’m learning in all of this, but meanwhile there’s a bag that sits in the corner of my bedroom that I haven’t yet unpacked, filled with the shorts, singlet, and shoes I was supposed to wear in Boston.
If I wait long enough, I won’t have to pack for 2010. The journey continues…