Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Amazing Race

For me, the 2012, Boston Marathon was truly amazing.  I was blessed to experience it in a whole new way and with an entirely different perspective...all due to my broken sacrum.

I never in a million years would have volunteered to be a spectator of the sport I love.  I never would have chosen to "sit a race out" that I had so diligently trained.  But I did (in part).  And what I received from accepting my inability to run 26.2 miles was ten fold greater than actually running it.

I am grateful, truly grateful for loving guidance from friends, loved ones...even above, that allowed me the opportunity to witness an Amazing Race.

It all began the day before as friends began to arrive.  Excitement filled the air as race day strategies were discussed, outfits planned, warm weather was enjoyed, and runners mingled together at the 2012 Boston expo.

(BethAnn, Me, Linda, JenN, Lauren, Katie and Vanessa)

The media was a buzz with news of record high heat forecasted for race day.  Multiple emails went out encouraging runners to take it slow, hydrate, and to be extra careful.  By the end of the day, a unprecedented offer was given to all runners, the choice to defer until next year!  I actually had been given a free opportunity to run in 2013...due to the heat that was expected.  What a miracle!

After giving my broken bone its first trial run since the accident, the day before the race, and feeling pain, I decided the race was not an option.  I was going to most definitely defer and become a cheerleader for my dear friends that were racing.

The morning of the race, BethAnn and JenN had me braid their hair, outfits were put on (totally cute) and off to the buses they all headed to the athlete's village, 26 miles away.

I got ready to meet up with Frank, Katie, Bob, and Laura, where we would be taken to various points of the race to cheer our friends. 

(Me, Katie, Frank, Laura and Bob)

Stopping at mile 13.5, we quickly made our way to the street, waiting anxiously for the elite woman to pass.  It wasn't long before they came, looking completely exhausted due to the extreme heat.  The stragglers that had slowly fell back from the lead looked red faced and miserable with gaits to prove their struggles.

Twenty minutes later, the elite men came whizzing by, looking slightly better but slower than year's past.  It was shocking to see what heat could do to such amazingly fit runners.  Months of training, completely destroyed simply due to the elements.  It hit me how precious life can be.  How quickly the strong can be humbled and brought to their knees.  One day we may be strong and in the blink of an eye, made weak.

Within about an hour, runners from all over the world, both men and women, began approaching us. The crowds were cheering them on, I was cheering too, as some ran swiftly and others were staggering, forced to walk so quickly into this coveted race.

We began to search for the first of our friends.  It was a painstaking challenge to scan the hundreds of runners passing us, trying to spot one in a crowd of many.  But our search was not in vain as we found our friends and were able to hug their tired (and very sweaty) bodies before sending them onward.

My plan was to jump into the race with each of our friends, gather up information and run back to the group.  We would then drive to our next spectating spot (mile 22) and there give more encourgement and hugs.  When JenN, John and BethAnn passed, I ran along and along...and before I knew it I was much too far to turn back.  I decided to stay.

And that is when it truly became an Amazing Race. 

Running with BethAnn, my dear friend who has a brain tumor and fights her battle with courage and tenacity, was a delight.  Not a complaint was uttered. As other runners around us suffered, she was the one I saw encouraging them onward.  A smile, a determination unlike any other, she ran forward, step by step, to her the finish line, of yet another marathon victory.  She finishes strong in each race and she finishes strong each day, fighting her battle with cancer AND fighting for others who are suffering with the disease raising awareness, raising money and raising hopes.

Running with Vanessa, my other close friend who suffered with breast cancer last year, only 7 months from her last chemo treatment, was incredible.  She caught up with us at mile 18 and BethAnn encouraged both JenN and I to run with her.  And although Vanessa was in her "zone" and was thinking she wanted to do this on her own, we snuck in behind and followed along for a mile or so before we joined her side.  Few words were spoken as the sun pounded down upon us, everyone exhausted from miles and miles of running.  Vanessa never stopped, completely focused on her goal of finishing her first Boston Marathon.  At one point she profoundly said, "Nothing is harder than cancer."  Both JenN and I, unable to completely understand, did though, feel the power of her words.  She too is a fighter and finished the race.

Linda ran for the Dana Farber Cancer Research Fund, raising money for those who suffer with the disease.  But what few know about Linda is she too suffered from breast cancer only two years ago.  Running over 10 marathons, she took on this record heat race with grace and a will to finish.  She did, raising over $5000 for the cause.

And I must not forget JenN, an amazingly fast runner who took this race as an opportunity to run with her dear friends.  She was the voice that encouraged the crowds to cheer on BethAnn and Vanessa.  She wore the bulky camera on her head to capture on film BethAnn's journey for young Katie, who suffers with brain cancer.  She was the epitome of friendship, support and love...the entire 26.2 miles.

I was given this opportunity to witness strength unmeasured, in three amazing women, each running their own amazing race.

(John, BethAnn, JenN, Lauren...who had better get her PR at Big SUR! and Me)

I had my own personal miracle that day too. The moment I joined them at mile 14, I have not had one single pain from my broken sacrum. Not during the race, after or today.

Simply amazing.

And if you want to check out my professional pics from the race go here

(more details/pictures about the entire Boston trip tomorrow!)


Judy Havrilla said...

Amazing, beautiful post, Heather. Brought tears to my eyes. Congratulations to you all!

Sandy said...

How inspirational. How can I complain.