So many people have written such beautiful words to describe what we all felt in Boston on Patriots Day this year. I expected all the emotion of 2013 to come flooding back on the road from Hopkinton. But it wasn’t until the morning after, while reading messages of love and support from friends and strangers, that I was overwhelmed by it all. The tears at the breakfast table made my newspaper soggy.
I feel so privileged to have shared in the triumph and joy of this proud city on this historic day when Boston reclaimed her marathon.
This day started for me the moment I stepped onto Back Bay station 12 months earlier. I was amazed, way back then, at how powerful this marathon is in uniting people. We were all there to run or to cheer or to help; delighted by the thrill of being included in something quite rare and wonderful. It was intoxicating.
And then, so suddenly, it was shattering. And horrific. And impossible to comprehend.
Such a contrast: The bright and beautiful human spirit and the ugly terror imagined and delivered by a tiny, pathetic few.
And so of course, along with millions of others, I needed to come back and stand with this strong community. To say “thank you” to this city and her people who, through sheer joy, had made me light as a feather for the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boylston Street.
There is an ocean of good bits as well as many tiny gems in my story. They all make me richer. Along with hope and anticipation and the usual pre-marathon nerves, there was a buzz of excitement in the starting corrals at Hopkinton this year. Someone asked if my name was Mikayla. She pointed out a friend over on the sidelines, standing there with one of those infectious proud smiles that just fills you up. That was a gem. Thank you, Jon.
|Kev pumps up the crowd! A whoop of delight and a deafening roar!|
One of the many strangers surrounding me at the start line was to run with me today. He very soon became a friend. His name is Kevin. (Although I have also referred to him as the “Middle of a Mexican Wave Man” because running alongside Kevin was like running in the middle of a never-ending Mexican wave. Perhaps Megan, my travel companion, support crew and best friend should be writing this as she is very good with words. She is also much better at the punch line than me and she is exceptional at coming up with nicknames. She nicknamed Kevin “Whoop Whoop” when I explained to her he was in his element whooping up delight and a deafening roar from the very best spectators in the world.
This was the first time Kev had pulled on a bib of his own as a runner for the Boston marathon. He had been dreaming of this day for a long time. As a child, growing up in Boston, he would turn up the TV on race day so he could hear the broadcast of the starter’s gun out on the street in front of his house. He would plan to run 52 laps of the half-mile around the block, and in theory, run his own Boston marathon. He only ever got to six laps. Pooped as a child, but determined to try again the next year.
|Running with Whoop Whoop, the Mexican Wave Man|
Kev said to me along the way “This is going to be the best day of my life…” He sounded surprised. And I remembered how I felt in 2013 as a first time Boston marathon starter: Completely overwhelmed and uplifted by the strength and joy the crowds along the route had given me. I knew exactly how he felt and I was so happy for him. I will never forget these moments. I feel so lucky to have them, and so thankful to you, for making them for me.
This is why I travelled 12,000 miles to be here today. To say “thank you” to you, Boston.
So with those words printed on the back of my singlet, I ran your 26.2 miles again.
But this time I delivered a few more high fives and yelled out a stack more thank-you’s. You were all there again; two-fold. The “Bikies” and the bikes and the black leather at the pub, the kids with oranges, the women who understand, with the tissues and the wet paper towels.
But you were louder and stronger and your faces were even more supportive and warm.
Your confusion about Commonwealth flags is as strong as ever, with “Go Great Britain!” getting much more frequent use than “Go Aussie”! Thank you, anyway, you made me laugh again. I loved every encouragement.
You cheered on Shelby, as she ran along with me matching my pace for a while: “You got this, Shelby!!!” I am sure she knew you would carry her when she wrote her name on her t-shirt. And you did, along with everyone around her. Thank you for supporting Shelby!
When I crossed the finish line last year, completely delighted, I shared a high five and a brief hug with a guy who was also there at 3 hours 17 minutes. Jim later tracked me down via my bib number and we have been in touch, via satellite, ever since. At about 15k, someone called out my name with confidence. It was Jim: Our second meeting. Tears threatened, but smiles won out at that moment in time. I lost Jim as he gathered a burst of energy from somewhere, but found him again at around 25k. I slapped him on the back and called out his name… Here we were, our lives completely unrelated, playing out so many thousands of miles apart, and yet we were united on this road again in this one very personal and determined quest. Thank you for this moment.
Just before we hit Wellesley, I had the pleasure of meeting Tom. I hoped to remember to remember him, when the marathon pain would come a bit later. Because mine would be nothing compared to his. Tom had just finished his last round of chemo, killing off the cancer in his brain. Tom had already won. When runners are running, there is not much talking, and when they are talking, there is not much eye contact. But we looked at each other when he said he was running for all the people that can’t. Our eyes were full of tears. Bloody hell! Go Tom!!! You got this!!! You are amazing!!!
Girls. Wellesley girls. You were DEFINITELY louder this year! I was so looking forward to seeing you. You are a joyous milestone! You lightened the mood and spurred me on again! Thank you!
I was a bit concerned when at the half-way mark, earlier than expected, I needed to concentrate more: One foot in front of the other. Whoop Whoop encouraged me. I apologized for my temporarily reduced excitement, I needed to gather a bit of determination. I pushed on. Tired and fatigued, and, yes, wanting to stop. But of course, that was not an option. Kev, light and effervescent, noticed a hand written sign telling us that Meb had won: The first American to win the Boston Marathon since 1983. Another little piece of inspiration, adding to the mountain of it needed to get to a marathon finish line.
It was towards the end the emotion started simmering. During one of Whoop Whoop’s Mexican wave moments, I stopped and hugged two Boston Policemen. Kissing each of them on the cheek, not wanting to let go…“Thank you, thank you.” Tears started. But one of them said “Keep on running, love”. So I did.
I reached the overpass, near Commonwealth, where thousands were stopped last year.
What they did with those bombs was not only immediate on Boylston St, but also dream shattering a long way from the finish line. Running under the overpass, exhausted and fighting my own battle of mind over body, I thought of my friends and all of these people with whom I shared a unique bond. I knew they would follow me this time and make it past the point where they were robbed of a dream last year. I was so happy for them today.
And more joy as Hereford Street came into sight and I knew I was so close to home. I searched the screaming crowd for Meags along Boylston Street, and then from the bleachers, heard a heart warming calling of my nickname “MIK, MIK!” There she was, my family. A joyous and thankful hug across the fence just before the finish line.
I knew there would not be any PB’s (PR’s) falling for me in 2014. My run was to say “thank you,” a year in the making. A return to the stomping ground of all the people who I wanted to embrace last year and could not. I wanted to say “thank you” for giving me the most amazing experience of my life. Thank you for the elation and euphoria, for helping me cross the line in 2013. Thank you for all you do for us Boston marathon wannabes. Because without you, we may as well do 26.2 miles anywhere. You make this place thrilling and completely amazing. So with my message printed on my back, I ran for you. For the spectators and supporters, for the volunteers and the BAA. For the shop assistants and the hotel staff. For Boston. To give you back what you so richly deserve. Joy, for delivering the world’s greatest marathon.
For me, crossing the finish line and walking the ¼ mile to Arlington Street, being thanked sincerely by volunteers with big smiling faces, and thanking them back… this was the most special moment: The priceless gem. The part I was looking forward to the most, knowing you would be there. I stopped and hugged as many of you as I could, thanking YOU. And then, at the end, a teary, back slapping embrace and the words from a big burly bloke: “Thank you for coming back and giving us back our marathon.” And in reply, “No, thank you.” Thank you Boston.
Hawthorn East, Australia
April 21, 2014
Age – 40
Bib # 10433