It's my favorite time of the day, the quiet of the morning before the rest of the house starts stirring. I thought that I'd still be snoozing this morning since it is school vacation week AND the marathon was yesterday, but no such luck. I am enjoying the peacefulness, drinking a cup of coffee and reflecting on the 2011 Boston Marathon, the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge, and the path to get to today....one day post marathon. It was an emotional, inspired, uplifting, motivational, yet bittersweet run on a beautiful April day in Massachusetts.
The Dana-Farber runners start the day together in Hopkinton....getting ready for running, taking a team picture, signing posters for the Jimmy Fund kids who are patient partners. For me, that time full of a lot of emotion. It is the big reminder of WHY I am running for Dana-Farber, but also a time when I try not to think too hard about that or I will be a puddle of emotions on the floor and not be able to find my way to the start line. Many of the runners are survivors of cancer themselves. Many more have lost a family member to cancer. Everyone has someone close to them that has received the diagnosis of cancer. We are running for the same purpose....a cure.
I was part of the third wave of runners to start, so we headed down to the starting line around 10:20 for our 10:40 start. There was a tailwind blowing from the west, and the sun was shining trying to warm the temps up from a chilly 45 to 60 at the finish. A perfect day for running, and off we went. 9000 runners starting at the same time makes for a crowd, and there is jockeying around early on. I was able to settle in to my pace after about 2 miles, and some mental talks with myself. "You feel fine." "No pain." "You've got this." "Settle in, get comfortable, relax, and just run." And that's what I did. I really felt good yesterday, and the miles went by pretty quickly.
The scenes, the crowds, the runners, the signs....there is so much support and so much to see out on the course. I wish I could run with a camera, but I am not coordinated enough. It's a celebration for 26 miles. I was lucky enough to see some friendly faces along the way, and I thank you for getting my attention. It's hard to see people along the way if you don't know where to look. There are constant screams of "Go Dana-Farber" and "Thank you for running, Dana-Farber," always bringing a smile and a thumbs up. All of the action allows you to take in the sights and focus on something other than each step or each minute. There are people dressed in costumes like gorillas and Sonic, or in tutus or crazy hats. There are reports of the Red Sox score (which was a win) and offers of beer. There are oranges, and Flav-or-Ice, and pretzels and licorice. Thousands and thousands running, and thousands and thousands offering support.
I'm a list maker, which helps me break things down into manageable pieces. Just like I do at home, I was able to break the run down into smaller chunks, happy to get through each part and move onto the others, checking the miles off my list. At 5 miles, one-fifth of the way there (well almost....but don't tell my running self that it's actually a little short). At 9 miles, one third of the way. Halfway there in Wellesley. Three miles of flat and then a big downhill. Another, 1.5 miles to see my family which is my biggest lift. Then 3 miles and over the hills. 4 more miles to the Dana-Farber Cheering section near Kenmore Square. And then 1.2 miles until the finish. Check! I finished in 3:48:59. My personal best. A Boston Qualifying time for next year. One minute and one second under my goal.
I spent a lot of time thinking about Molly, Mary, and John yesterday. I had a lot of time to do that. I talked to them while I was running. I thanked them for showing me what strength is. What it means to give it your all. I thought of them as I chugged it up the hills, actually feeling truly strong, knowing they were giving me a little lift. I missed them with every step, and felt deep sadness that they could not be there with us to take steps to kick cancer in the ass. My mantra for the race yesterday turned out to be the Jim Valvano quote "Don't give up. Don't ever give up." I like to have some words to concentrate on during the more trying times during a run, and wasn't sure what it was going to be yesterday until I saw a sign during the early miles with that quote on it. I repeated it when my steps felt difficult, when I was starting to feel like slowing down. I have had 3 beautiful, living examples of what it meant to never give up, and that carried me yesterday. We learned it from my parents and I will carry that lesson with me today and tomorrow and the next day. Don't ever give up. Don't ever, ever, ever give up.
Thank you for all of your messages of support. For caring about this cause on behalf of my family. For your contributions to Dana-Farber. For your notes and your pictures. For being out there and cheering. For your balloons and signs that were waiting for me at home. For the hugs. For understanding how important this has been for us. For caring about all of us. I remembered this all while I was running. I truly did. It helped to carry me along on a beautiful day.
My goal for the race was 3:50. I beat it by one minute. My original goal for DFMC was to raise $20,000 and have raised over $34,000 so far. Two check marks on my "to do" list. It's been a hell of a crazy ride, and a blur of a crazy emotions. But yesterday. Yesterday was an incredible day.
Be good. Be strong.
To Make a Donation to the 2016 team
Please visit my fundraising page to make a donation to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (www.runDFMC.org/2017/jennies). Please help me reach my goal of $50,000 to fund important basic cancer research! With your support, we have already provided over $312,000 to Dana-Farber researchers over the past 8 years. Please give as generously as your means allow!