Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Love That Dirty Water

In the state of Massachusetts and Maine, the 3rd Monday of every April is a holiday. Patriots Day. It commemorates the Battles of Lexington and Concord and the first shots of the Revolutionary War that started the colonies on their path to freedom.  As President Obama so appropriately said, Patriots Day is “...a day that celebrates the free and fiercely independent spirit that this great American city of Boston has reflected from the earliest days of our nation.”

I spent half my school years growing up outside of Boston in a suburb called Reading. Our street dead-ended at a place where, if you climbed through the brush you'd come to a fence on a rocky ledge that overlooked Route 128 and it wasn't unusual to hear the roar of jets flying overhead as they made their way to and from Logan International. In the spring there were trips into the city to spend time at Boston Common and ride the Swan Boats (especially on Mother's Day). The summer brought games at the famous Fenway Park where the wooden slat grandstand seats from yesteryear are so small that even a normal person living in 2013 feels like they're going to eat their kneecaps and in the fall you could find me sitting, legs dangling over the side of a bridge with my dad as we ate Legal Seafood chowdah while we watched the crew teams competing in the Head of the Charles glide beneath us (or occasionally hit a bridge abutment). Winter would bring trips to the Science Museum where we'd watch in fascination as the worlds largest air-insulated Van de Graaff generator created an awesome indoor lightning storm or visits to the aquarium where everyone knew how to walk like a penguin thanks to the Boston Aquarium commercials. 

But Patriots Day - Patriots Day was a day all on its own and for many of us who grew up in Massachusetts it holds very special memories. 

There were journeys to Lexington to see the reenactment of the Battle of Lexington where, at 5am on a cool April morning, when dew and a spotty fog covered the grass our history and our present collided - spring jackets, sneakers and cameras beside tri-corner hats, petticoats and muskets. A rider on horseback appeared, words exchanged and the sleepy green awakened with Minutemen coming out of the tavern and houses surrounding the green and "arriving" from nearby areas. All were prepared to fight the British - the Red Coats or "lobsterbacks". The reenactment itself takes only moments and is done before it ever really feels like it gets started but it's a unique piece of history - history that lives on every year on Patriots Day.

There's a Sox game - a rare early week, midday game that one year could be filled with sunshine and game goers wearing shorts and t-shirts and the next people dressed in their winter's finest parkas, hats and gloves trying to keep the chill away by holding a steaming cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee or eating a Fenway Frank that I think Steven King once said look like its been cooked in water that came right out of the Charles River.

And then... Then there's The Marathon. 

Just as I'll never forget my first Sox game or the first time I saw the reenactment of the Battle of Lexington, I'll also never forget the first time I saw the Boston Marathon. It was a beautiful April day - the kind that makes you forget that just a few weeks before you were wearing snow boots and drinking hot chocolate. It was just my dad and me and a few thousand of our closest friends as we found a place to stand along the route just before the course takes a turn and the runners head for Heartbreak Hill. We waited for what seemed like an eternity. Just as I started to get bored we could hear the siren blips and blurps of a police motorcycle drawing closer and before long it and a strange looking truck carrying a television camera passed us with the elites cruising not too far behind. I remember my dad leaning down and asking me if I could believe that a human being could run that fast. I couldn't then and I still can't now. They made it look so easy, so effortless and so graceful.

What I remember most about that day though is how a slow trickle of runners continuing on their 26.2 mile journey became a steady stream and then came in wave upon wave upon wave. Heads bobbing, hooting and hollering, smiling, laughing - some dressed up in costume, others in their running best - while those of us on the sides cheered. I was lucky enough to get a high five or two and be a part of one of the state's proudest and finest days. 

So the fact that someone has taken a day - a day that for me and many others like me is associated with so many happy memories and turned it, at least for now, into a day of unfathomable tragedy and sadness is beyond my comprehension. My heart aches for Boston. I feel sick to my stomach for so many reasons - only one of which is the fact that this was a violent, senseless act - yet I am also grateful that those that I knew who were in the area are safe and accounted for.

It's only been within the last few years that I developed a love for running. I tried, unsuccessfully in high school to be a 100m high hurdler and loathed running anything that had the world "mile" in it. I would joke that the only time I would run was if chased and even then it had better be downhill with a stiff tailwind. It at first seemed impossible and I was limited to running short intervals of 15 to 20 seconds with double the amount of walking to recover but with time and persistence I started putting enough distance together to cover a 5k and eventually a half marathon. Somewhere along the way running became less of  a struggle and more of an escape, especially when it included time with The Munchkin. As I grew and developed into a runner I began to have a new appreciation for what it must mean to actually qualify for and RUN the Boston Marathon and with that came the dream of actually running it myself. I know what it's like as a spectator - I grew up loving The Marathon because of it. I want to know what it's like to be on the other side. 

Which is why what happened on Patriots Day - April 15, 2013 - is all the more difficult for me to understand. For the love of "my" city but also for the running community because - whether we know each other or not - we're all one big family. We share a common thread of knowing that no matter how long we've been gone or need to be away, the road or the trail will be waiting for us. We've shared our triumphs and our successes. Like your oldest, most trusted friend it listens to our sorrows and sadness - allowing our tears to fall and our screams to be heard. Because running is unlike anything else - for most of us we've experienced a time when even the shortest of distances has required pure grit and determination to propel our bodies along using only the strength of our legs and the will of our mind - I feel like there's an unspoken understanding. We all chafe. We all do nasty things to our toenails and talk about poop and trots and snot in such candid ways most non-runners think we're crazy. And maybe we are because who, after all, would want to push their bodies to the point of physical exhaustion or rise before dawn because it's better to get the long run done on an 80 degree summer morning than when it hits 90 in the middle of the day. 

Though the title of this Blog is 3M: Motherhood, Munchkin and a Marathon I had put my marathon plans on hold. After injuring my leg the way I did last fall I rethought my plan and had decided to focus on running the half-marathon distance (still no small feat) and on trying to become a half-iron distance triathlete. Yesterday changed that. I don't know when, but I WILL run the Marathon distance and some day I WILL run Boston. Because as the song goes... I love that dirty water... Boston, you're my home. 

1 comment:

  1. Exceptional words Joy. Beautifully said. I might not ever run the marathon, but I wholeheartedly cheer your plan to run.