Finding Strength, Hope, and Joy on the Boston Marathon Course
We hope you enjoy this inspiring guest post by one of our customers, Caitlin, sharing her marathon journey:
For years, Patriot’s Day has been my favorite day in Boston. On the third Monday every April, thousands of runners take to the streets of Boston to run what always seemed to me like an obscene distance—26.2 miles. And even more people—like me—enjoy a day off from work or school to come out and cheer them on. For that one day each year, Boston Marathon runners rule the City of Champions.
At least, that was my experience up until April 15, 2019. That was the day I laced up my own sneakers, hopped on a bus to a small town 26.2 miles from Boston, and ran back, accomplishing something I never thought I was capable of—finishing the Boston Marathon.
Running has been many things to me over my life: an activity I generally tried to avoid through non-endurance sports growing up, a means of offsetting all those Bud Lights and pizzas consumed in college, a source of stress fractures, aching joints, and countless blisters, a constant challenge, and a comforting routine. But in 2019, it became something bigger.
In 2017, my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. A year later, it became increasingly clear that we were losing him, fast. My daily runs became an outlet for anger, reflection, strength, and grief. Five miles wasn’t enough. Ten miles wasn’t enough. I felt the need to do something bigger. Before any self-doubt could talk me out of it, I filled out an application to run the 2019 Boston Marathon on behalf of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. In November 2018, exactly one week after saying goodbye to my dad, I found out I was accepted. I was going to run 26.2 miles in his memory, and raise money for cancer research while doing it.
For four months, I trained in face- and finger-numbing temperatures, dodging snow banks and icy sidewalks. I saw more sunrises than I ever thought I would as a non-morning person. Saturdays normally reserved for sleeping in, brunch with friends, or snowboarding trips gave way to 14, 16, and 18 mile runs with my teammates. Family, friends, and even strangers cheered me on through generous donations and encouraging messages. During the worst time of my life, when moving forward seemed impossible, running gave me the strength to just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
The big day arrived with a whole lot of nerves and even more excitement. Could I really do this? Even with 500+ training miles behind me, 26.2 miles still seemed like a lot.
The morning began with a monsoon, giving way to cloudy skies and cooler temps by the time I crossed the starting line. My training, the adrenaline, and cheers from the crowds made for a solid start, but temperatures soared and I began to fade. Around the 17-mile mark, my family was waiting with cheers, hugs, and matching t-shirts, giving me the boost I sorely needed. I cruised up and over the infamously heartbreaking Newton Hills, took in the thrill of running by my alma mater, Boston College, and high fived friends as I entered the city limits. “Right on Hereford, left on Boylston” is a legendary mantra in the running world, for good reason—I’ll never forget the deafening cheers of the crowds that helped carry me through that final stretch to Copley Square.
As I crossed the finish line, I raised my arms in triumph—and, at last, stopped running. I waited for the tears to come, but they didn’t. I was overjoyed. I was proud. And I knew my dad was too.
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