Life, marathons, even a typical day…they rarely play out in our mind as we expect. When I imagined marathon day, it was partly cloudy, mid-50s, the streets were full of people cheering, the Red Sox won and the fans headed to the Finish Line where my family was waiting for me with their cowbells and signs.
Reality…it was the worst conditions in Boston Marathon history, the Red Sox game was postponed for the first time in 34 years, parts of the marathon route were completely empty and when I saw my family in their snowsuits all squeezed under an umbrella, they were excited, but their cheeks were bright red and hands too cold to hold the signs they worked so hard on.
This is the marathon of life. It RARELY goes as we expect.
I have always been curious about running a marathon, but certainly never imagined I’d be running for the Hospital that saved my daughter’s life. I will say though it has been one of the best experiences and I learned a lot of lessons from that day. There will be uphills, but also downhills, moments when you feel unstoppable and moments you want to quit, people who will cheer you on and people who will leave you in the dust, potholes, blisters, puddles and at times even downpours. But with all these conditions, there will also be lessons, growth and belief.
- It’s going to hurt. And that’s okay.
It’s been 1 week since I ran and my legs still hurt. I have chafing in places that I didn’t know could chafe. I spent the entire week before the marathon freaking out asking every person I knew who ran a marathon for advice about running in the rain. This is the one that hit me. “The marathon is going to hurt. End of story. There isn’t some magic pace or potion you get that makes it easy…but remember, it’s temporary and will be worth it.” It was 4 hours and 37 minutes of exactly that. And it hurt, still does in places, but it’s starting to fade and it was 100% worth it. The struggle the children and families experience from Boston Children’s Hospital day in and day out is nothing compared to what I endured that day. Those little warriors at BCH are the very reason I pushed through the pain. If Gabriella endured 150 stitches, then I can certainly get through the day. Like everything in life, the pain will come, accept it and know with time, it will subside.
2. 99% of people wont do it.
Before we headed out to the famous Start Line in Hopkinton, our coach reminded us all that you’re about to do something 99% of people will never do. By nature, most people run to get out of the rain, but today, you are going to run IN the rain…for HOURS. And that is because as we become adults, we become comfortable being comfortable, yet we will also be the first ones to tell our children to take risks, get back up and GO for it. It’s about going beyond yourself, feeling uncomfortable and doing what you don’t even know if you can actaully do. Say YES when opportunity comes your way and figure it out one mile at a time. We all want to know the end result before we start, but life doesn’t work that way. Imagine they called me back in January and said, “Hey Katie, would you like to run a beast of a marathon in the worst weather conditions in history?” Yeah- sounds horrible, sign me up. Sometimes a little blind faith and the ability to take one day/one mile at a time is all we need. When opportunities arise, say YES even when you can’t imagine how and figure it out along the way. And when given the chance, go beyond yourself…do what most won’t. Something magical will happen.
3. Renewed hope.
It has been said that if you are losing faith in humanity, go out and watch a marathon. The amount of encouragement I saw that day is 100% responsible for helping me finish. On the 5 year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing…even torrential downpours couldn’t keep the city quiet. The streets were FULL of volunteers, wild college students, kids in wheelchairs from the hospital, family members and complete strangers screaming your name as if it was your best friend cheering you on. And those runners. When the wind and rain got too extreme, the fellow runners were helping one another finish strong. I saw someone physically carrying a fellow runner through the finish line. My very own brother jumped the barricade on mile 23 when I looked like I was going to pass out and ran the last 3 miles with me (maybe not legal, but worth breaking the rule). Life would be so much more glorious if we all learned to encourage more and compete less.
4. Get quiet. Run with your head up.
Whenever I trained, I listened to music because it would help take my mind off the monotony of running. But on Marathon Monday, because the wind and rain were too extreme, you couldn’t listen to anything. And what a blessing that was. This made me hear the cheers of bystanders, look up to read the hilarious posters, be aware of all the kids in wheelchairs so I could stop and hug them, reflect on my life, feel incredible amounts of gratitude and just be in the moment. If I had music in my ears, I would have missed so many unique moments in the race. Life works that way too. It is only when we learn to get quiet our minds and ignore the distractions of this loud world that we can enjoy the marathon we’re all running.
5. Just after heartbreak hill, there is a downhill.
Heartbreak hill is so brutal because it starts after you’ve run 20 miles and is uphill for about a mile. This is the point in which your legs get numb, your breathing gets heavier, the rain is pouring and the wind is blowing your poncho over your head. Everything is against you. Every ounce of you wants to quit. Your body tells you to stop, your mind starts to agree, but your heart won’t let you. Because at the top of that hill is Dr. Mark Proctor, the neurosurgeon who saved my daughters life. When you feel in life you are on heartbreak hill in the worst conditions, just remember, a downhill is always ahead.
Lastly, you are capable of WAY more than you realize.
The second I agreed to run the marathon; I hung up the phone and freaked out. I told my husband I don’t know HOW I am going to do this and came up with every reason why I shouldn’t. It’s a HUGE time commitment and I have a business and 3 young kids. When will I find the time to train? I have bad knees and can hardly run more than 6 miles without them starting to hurt. How can I do 26.2? I have to raise $10,000 and only have a few months. How am I going to come up with that? It’s winter in Boston and I need to pretty much run a half marathon every Saturday outside for 12 weeks in a row in freezing temps? I can’t do that. My husband looked me in the eyes and said, “then you won’t”. And he was right. It took a major mindset shift. SO I made the time, I had a lot of help with the kids (and a super supportive husband), I got up extra early, I started physical therapy, I bought the right running attire and started sharing my story. Almost $20,000 dollars later from family, incredible friends, business partners and complete strangers… the money has been raised and the doubts have been put to rest. There will always be a reason to not doing something challenging, or risky, but if you have a deep purpose behind what you do, you’ll find a way beyond the excuses. Always remember, you’ll never have the time and the conditions will rarely be perfect, but if it’s important, you’ll make it happen.
So as I ran down the final stretch of the famous Boylston street with the wind and rain smacking my face and ponchos flying all around, as if we were in a tornado, I couldn’t help but think of the Glinda the good witch, saying, ”You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”
Thank you Gabriella for reminding me that we are resilient, strong and capable of anything when there is purpose, discipline and heart…no matter the conditions.
This medal really belongs to you kiddo.